Saturday, March 31, 2007

Why Horowitz Published in Medical Hypotheses

Sorry to you guys who havent gotten to hear the 'debate' yet, but I am going to be focusing on some of his claims for the next few posts :) Sorry for the spoilers :)

So the fellow I 'debated' last night was so upset because when I searched his name in PubMed, nothing came up (search 'Horowitz, Leonard').

Turns out he publishes under Horowitz LG.

He wanted an apology for not being able to find his paper, published in a relatively obscure journal*.

Well folks, Id love to rip up his paper for you, but unfortunately, even at a major medical research institution, I dont have access to this particular journal. Thats certainly telling, in and of itself, but lets take a look at a few details.

1. Who sponsored/supported Horowitzs article?
"Tetrahedron Incorporated, Sandpoint, Idaho, 83864, USA."

Who publishes Horowitz's books?
"Tetrahedron Incorporated, Sandpoint, Idaho, 83864, USA."

Thats what we call a conflict of interest, ladies and gentlemen. For someone who was so concerned about pharm companies, this fellow sure doesnt mind using the same tactics.

2. What is the mission statement of 'Medical Hypotheses'?

Medical Hypotheses takes a deliberately different approach to peer review. Most contemporary practice tends to discriminate against radical ideas that conflict with current theory and practice. Medical Hypotheses will publish radical ideas, so long as they are coherent and clearly expressed. Furthermore, traditional peer review can oblige authors to distort their true views to satisfy referees, and so diminish authorial responsibility and accountability. In Medical Hypotheses, the authors' responsibility for the integrity, precision and accuracy of their work is paramount. The editor sees his role as a 'chooser', not a 'changer': choosing to publish what are judged to be the best papers from those submitted.
Translation: "We're a journal for conspiracy theorists to publish in to proclaim they have a published peer reviewed article."

lol Lame, dude! Ill apologize when you publish in Journal of Virology.

*If youll excuse a touch of boasting, turns out this side project Im doing is going to be published before my main project (I think). While Im not going to be the first author, just some schmuck in the middle, its going to be PNAS. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Holy Fuck. Um, yeah, Ill take that for my first publication.


Tyler DiPietro said...

What I find funny is that the journal mission statement says this...

"Most contemporary practice tends to discriminate against radical ideas that conflict with current theory and practice."

... as if it were some kind of irredeemably abhorrent practice to do such a thing. Of course professional publications discriminate against "radical" ideas. Science is deliberately piecemeal and conservative for a reason: grandiose claims that flatly contradict every aspect of a well established framework are, with rare exception, utterly lacking in empirical merit.

But never mind that. I've been arguing against pseudoscience and crankery for long enough to know that just about any rejection feeds into the cranks Galileo complex.

Kristjan Wager said...

Medical Hypotheses is also the journal of choice for the Autims-mercury crowd, if they don't publish in the even worse Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Medical Hypotheses might be justified, since it allows some alternative ideas to get published and then get tested by others. However, it's worth remembering that everyone can publish there, and that just about everyone does publish there.

Oh, and as you can see from the description, it's not a peer-reviewed journal. So, Mr. dentist hasn't published as we understand it.

ERV said...

Glad youre back, Tyler!

The mission statement is a dead give-away its a crank journal! That note I have at the bottom-- it is on a relatively radical subject. Its a novel kind of histone modification that people dont believe exists, and it causes an effect that shouldnt really happen. While it doesnt involve the CIA or secret Cancer Biological Warfare programs, its pretty damn radical. We're publishing in PNAS because we have the results to back up our claims. If you really say something radical, and you have the data, the scientific community will eventually recognize you. They have to. We're all slaves to what the data says. If you need a *special* journal to publish in, I dont believe you have the data to back up your claims.

I didnt know it was the Mercury Militias favorite journal, however. I really couldnt find any articles by Horowitz before the interview, but I would have loved to bring that up.

ERV said...

Oh yeah-- you all will love the end, when he starts talking about his paper.

Early in the interview I make it clear that he hasnt done a PubMed search in the past 5 years, and pointed out those papers from the last post to him. He dismissed them, and I was like "You havent read the papers! What are you talking about! You didnt even know they existed 5 seconds ago!"

Later he brings up his paper (or maybe I did, how he hadnt published) and I dismiss it because I havent heard of the journal and it was from 2001. He tried to pull "Well you havent read it... Why would you believe a paper published last year instead of mine?"

**bangs head against the keyboard**

Brandon said...

Just got done with the show. Great job in the "debate." It's hard to confront so much pseudo-science all at once especially at the rate he was throwing stuff out. I picked out about 6 from the skeptics guide top 20 fallacies in about a 10 - 15 minute period.

Kristjan Wager said...

I have only listened to some of the debate (skipping along after having downloaded it), and will listen to it in dept later. However, I notice that Horowitz is a firm believe in winning arguments by shouting.

Did I mishear, or did he threaten to hang up on the debate?

ERV said...

Thanks brandon! I didnt entirely mind the shouting and Gish Galluping, it kinda *proved* his nuttiness to everyone. But it robbed the listeners (and me) of a better learning experience.

Kris-- Three times. He almost hangs up three times. hehehehe!

Chris Noble said...

I wouldn't characterise everything in Medical Hypotheses as junk but certainly a fair percentage is.

The basic idea is a good one. If you have a novel idea, some degree of plausibility and no evidence you can get it published.

The problem is when people try to pretend that publishing in Medical Hypotheses gives credibility to somebodies claims. It doesn't. Statistically it probably means that it is junk.

drpsduke said...

He almost got to talking about the "New Biology" of sound, light and spirit driving evolution. The new ager take on "intelligent design" is pretty well summed up in the _What the Bleep do we Know_ and _Quantum Evolution_ lines...

I bet lots of Reggie's listeners are rushing out to Horowitz's web site to buy the Holy Tuning Forks today, to heal their damaged DNA and evolve to a higher level.

Kristjan Wager said...

chris, can you think of any legitimate new ideas that got started through Medical Hypotheses? I haven't come across any, but I'll freely admit that I haven't looked at the actual journal.

Chris Noble said...

chris, can you think of any legitimate new ideas that got started through Medical Hypotheses? I haven't come across any, but I'll freely admit that I haven't looked at the actual journal.

You've got me there.
Peer review isn't perfect. It does a very good job of separating the wheat from the chaff but some wheat is probably thrown out. In principle the idea of a journal with lower standards that might catch some wheat that might be otherwise rejected. In practice I don't know if it actually produces anything worthwhile.

My only experience with Medical Hypotheses is HIV denialist that refer to articles published in this journal as being peer-reviewed.

How HIV-1 causes AIDS: implications for prevention and treatment.

Would Montagnier please clarify whether HIV or oxidation by the risk factors is the primary cause of AIDS?

A critique of the Montagnier evidence for the HIV/AIDS hypothesis.

These are all definitely chaff. There is a very good reason why they are not published in Science or Nature.

Perhaps my point is that an article in Medical Hypotheses should not be rejected out of hand. Certainly any claim that you have to take an article seriously because it appears in this "peer-reviewed journal" is a baseless claim. In the vast majority of cases something is published in Medical Hypotheses for the singular reason that all other journals have or would reject it.

ERV said...

Chris: In the vast majority of cases something is published in Medical Hypotheses for the singular reason that all other journals have or would reject it.
And there is zero data in Horowitzs paper. Zero. He did no original research, and yet it wasnt a 'review' either.
Duke got it right in an email to me (hope he doesnt mind me paraphrasing him here)-- his paper is basically an ad for 'Emerging Viruses.' Makes sense considering his book publisher 'sponsored' the paper 'research'.

Chris Noble said...

And there is zero data in Horowitzs paper

I seem to remember reading in Medical Hypotheses that they do not require experimental evidence. The title says it all.

Anybody that is scientifically literate recognises that being published in medical Hypotheses does not lend credibility to a theory. Unfortunately, the supporter base for Horowitz and other HIV "rethinkers" are mostly not scientifically literate.

The Perthies also got their paper cliaming that HIv does not exist published in Medical Hypotheses. I wonder if Horowitz thinks that their article is therefore credible.

Kristjan Wager said...

The Geiers had one of their "autism is mercury poisoning, and only our product can cure your chidlren" articles published in Medical Hypotheses as well

Chris Noble said...

You can look at the top 25 downloaded articles from Medical Hypotheses

Not much wheat amongst the chaff!

There is yet another theory about the real origin of HIV.

AIDS: Caused by development of resistance to drugs in a non-target intracellular parasite

In this version SIV or as the author labels it primate T-cell retrovirus PTRV was circulating in human populations for thousands of years but only became virulent after wide spread use of chloroquinine.

I wonder how many mutually exclusive theories about HIV?AIDS have been published in Medical Hypotheses How many of their authors insist that they must be credible because they are published in a scientifioc peer-reviewed journal.