Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Worst Paper Yet: Vendramini 2005

ACK! I just finished reading, slowly and painfully, the worst "scientific" paper I have yet encountered.

Vendramini D. 2005. Noncoding DNA and the teem theory of inheritance, emotions and innate behaviour. Medical Hypotheses 64: 512-519.


I'll just post the abstract here; anything more would push me over the edge to permanent dain bramage. I feel stupider having read the whole Crick-damned* thing. Yes, the whole thing, front to back. I even took notes (in which the letter F appears very frequently).


The evolutionary function of noncoding ‘junk’ DNA remains one of the most challenging mysteries of genetics. Here a new model of DNA is proposed to explain this function. The hypothesis asserts the DNA molecule contains not one, but two separate modes of inheritance. In addition to exons that code for proteins and physical traits, it is argued noncoding repetitive elements code for the inheritance of emotions and innate behaviour in metazoans. That is to say, noncoding DNA functions as the medium of a second, hitherto unknown evolutionary process that genetically archives adaptive information, configured as emotions and acquired during the life of an organism, into an inheritable form. This second evolutionary process, here called ‘Teemosis’, is a selectionist process, but paradoxically, because it does not affect physical traits, it has no maladaptive Lamarckian consequences. The medical implications of the hypothesis are discussed.

Did I mention his book? Apparently, he wrote a full book about this, and a collection of essays, too. His website is here. I will NOT be sending him an email; I doubt I could contain my incredulous rage.

*He fucking cites Crick in this paper! That's basically an atrocity!

13 comments:

Carlo said...

Yeah, evolutionary psychology wins again! This is as bad as the 'Facial Attractiveness is an Honest Signal of Average Genomic Heterozygosity' paper I once read. Frickin' brilliant!

Ungh.

Carlo said...

Oh, and ironically, the very first thing I read on his website:

"Co-discoverers of the 'natural selection' evolutionary process."

is wrong. Wallace never claimed to have formulated a theory of natural selection. He always credited Darwin. Ungh.

TheBrummell said...

I was going to ask you about that Facial attractiveness one, but after reading this shyte, I don't think I can handle another truly horrid paper this year.

I had a look at the journal (Medical Hypotheses). Go read their mission statement - apparently, they're SUPPOSED to publish complete dreck, on the (very) off chance that some good idea is being neglected by the rest of the scientific community.

As you said: Ungh.

King Aardvark said...

Why did you bother reading this thing. Holy freakin crap.

I think I've heard someone else mention the Medical Hypotheses journal (Orac possibly, maybe PZ, can't remember). They seem to confuse complete bullshit for legit weird off-the-wall research.

Was the paper at least well written or did it read like my dining room table assembly instructions?

TheBrummell said...

The paper was not horribly written, from a purely grammar-and-spelling point of view. The style was pretty much par for the course (i.e. not very different from the average scientific journal style, whatever that is).

There was one, repeated, spelling mistake: he uses the non-word "quantums" in at least two places. My brain is currently shutting down minor functions as I try to recall other aspects of the paper; possibly he used the non-word "mediums" (where he should have used "media" - scratch that, what he should have done involves a note, a bathtub, and some electrical fiddling). So I can't actually think straight right now because my self-preservation software is ramping up from "Blue" to "Orange".

Benard said...

Dear Mr Brummell

I am having some difficulty interpreting your unqualified denunciation of Mr Vendramini's paper on his theory of what he calls Teemosis. My copy of the Oxford English Dictionary does not list the word "ACK." Is that a Canadian scientific term?

You offer no explanation of your view that his was "the worst scientific paper" that you had encountered. Why? An ostensibly intelligent person would at least attempt to justify such a sweeping assertion, if only to avoid being labeled puerile, over emotional, unprofessional and clearly autointromissive.

As far as I can ascertain you did not read the section of his website where a number of scientists offered their views on his hypothesis.

Instead you expressed the doubt that you could contain your "incredulous rage," and offered the
considered view that the author should have topped himself with 220 volts in the bathtub.

What a disciplined scientific and inquiring mind you must have, along with a charitable disposition and an appreciation of professional courtesies.

Perhaps you feel threatened by new and challenging ideas? You know, like the Vatican when that other upstart scientist suggested that the world was round!

Irrespective, Mr Vendramini's ideas certainly seem to have upset your intellectual equilibrium. I do not think I have read anything more fundamentalist than your view that "He fuckin quotes Crick in his paper. That's basically an atrocity." An "atrocity"? Do you understand the meaning of that word? Does one need to be licensed by the Supreme Canadian Council of Evolutionary Scholars to even mention the great man's name? Down here in the Antipodes we call a Crick a Crick.

Are you really a graduate student? Or are you really more at home in your other world of "Random Battles?"

You admit yourself that your only scientific paper has been cited by your M.Sc advisor, who also just happens to be the "co-author." You still call it "your" paper.

Mr Vendramini wrote his own.

TheBrummell said...

Thank you, Benard, for re-invigorating an old blog post comment thread.

I'll start out ignoring your polite-but-sarcastic tone, and simply compliment you on your excellent writing skills (seriously, there's no sarcasm in my statement), skills which are often in short supply on the internet.

I remind you that we are, in fact, on the internet at this time, for this discussion. Thus, I may well make hypertrophied statements, sweeping generalizations, and other rhetorical devices not fit for regular publication. Please feel free to do likewise in this new and exciting, and chaotic, medium.

An ostensibly intelligent person would at least attempt to justify such a sweeping assertion, if only to avoid being labeled puerile, over emotional, unprofessional and clearly autointromissive.

Ignoring the insult inherent in your statement, I point out that I am not concerned with being labelled any of those things, big scary words and otherwise. Again: it's the internet, and as such carries a severe handicap in terms of intellectual weight.

As far as I can ascertain you did not read the section of his website where a number of scientists offered their views on his hypothesis.

And now we begin the dissection of the logical fallacies you present in your comment.

The above qualifies as argument from authority. I remind you that in science, who says a thing is irrelevant: only the statement itself is valid. Were Einstein, Newton, Crick and Darwin all to rise from their graves and declare Vendramini's hypothesis the greatest scientific writing of all time, I would still not be swayed from my opinion, stated above, that Vendramini's "Teem Theory" is a very poor theory.

Show me the evidence that there is anything to Teem Theory at all that corresponds to observable reality.

...and offered the
considered view that the author should have topped himself with 220 volts in the bathtub.


Alright, I'll apologize for that one. I'm sorry that I suggested Dr. Vendramini should kill himself. I wish him no physical or emotional harm.

What a disciplined scientific and inquiring mind you must have, along with a charitable disposition and an appreciation of professional courtesies.

Perhaps you feel threatened by new and challenging ideas? You know, like the Vatican when that other upstart scientist suggested that the world was round!


You base your musings, your opinion, of my personality on a single blog post on the internet in which I admit to recently entering a state of emotional disequilibrium?

And then, you compare me to the 17th century Vatican, and Dr. Vendramini to Galileo. Logical fallacy number two: Dr. Vendramini is not Galileo. Yes, the world reacted rather negatively to Galileo and several of his contemporaries (if you really want to work the martyr angle, use the name of someone who was executed for his views, rather than tortured and placed under house arrest). There's a famous quote from Carl Sagan:

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

I laugh here at Dr. Vendramini's ideas, not the man himself, but the sentiment is the same - the fact that other great ideas initially met with strong resistance does not imply in any way that a new idea currently being resisted qualifies as "great".

Irrespective, Mr Vendramini's ideas certainly seem to have upset your intellectual equilibrium.

"seem to"? I would agree that Mr. Vendramini's ideas have most certainly upset my intellectual equilibrium. This is not to imply that when my intellect returns to equilibrium (whatever that may mean) it will be any closer to the ideas of Mr. Vendramini.

I do not think I have read anything more fundamentalist than your view that "He fuckin quotes Crick in his paper. That's basically an atrocity." An "atrocity"? Do you understand the meaning of that word? Does one need to be licensed by the Supreme Canadian Council of Evolutionary Scholars to even mention the great man's name? Down here in the Antipodes we call a Crick a Crick.

I like your subtle insult of calling me a fundamentalist. Self-professed fundamentalists of various religions are in the frequent habit of accusing atheists, such as myself, of being fundamentalist, a tactic I view as a symptom of a psychological event known as "Projection". While I doubt that you, yourself, are a fundamentalist of any stripe, it amuses me that you accuse me of such.

One more time: this is the internet. Yes, I am aware that the term "atrocity" describes behaviours only of the greatest degree of horror and repulsiveness, and I apologize for equating Mr. Vendramini's writings with real atrocities too numerous to mention. We tread dangerously close to Godwin's law, here, so I will leave it with my apology. I was, after all, emotionally disturbed when I wrote that; an explanation, not an excuse.

You admit yourself that your only scientific paper has been cited by your M.Sc advisor, who also just happens to be the "co-author." You still call it "your" paper.

Mr Vendramini wrote his own.


Check out the submission and peer-review guidelines of the journal Medical Hypotheses. The journal's willingness to publish nearly anything remotely biological in subject without any sort of rejection-of-obvious-crap process speaks volumes about Mr. Vendramini's very own paper.

How is my publication record in any way relevant? How is my citation record in any way relevant? If we're going to bring up publication records, perhaps we should consider the relative ages of myself and Mr. Vendramini, and the durations of our respective careers to date. I don't know how long Mr. Vendramini has been active in his field of research.

You asked for some elaboration of my opinions, especially why I feel that this paper is the worst I've ever met. To wit: the hypotheses and predictions that make up Teem Theory do not, as far as I am aware, correspond in any way with any observed natural phenomena. I know of zero cases of demonstrated inheritance of behaviours via directed mutations, possibly through the actions of transposable elements, on non-coding DNA. I know of no molecular, chemical, or physical mechanism that could explain such mutations were they observed. I can see no reason to distinguish animal behaviour from other phenotypes by re-categorising it as non-physical; there are many documented cases of mutations in protein coding sequences leading to observable, heritable changes in behaviour in animals, but no observed cases of, for example, scaring a juvenile bird with a novel predator, then measuring the response of that bird's offspring to that novel predator - a direct test of the predictions of teem theory; an experiment very nearly described in the paper, if I read all that stuff about baby turkeys correctly. The fact that such research has not been yet carried out certainly does not constitute a failure of Teem Theory - but why has Mr. Vendramini not published the exciting results of such work himself?

In short: I see no evidence at all in support of Teem Theory, and quite a large body of evidence counting against Teem Theory. I see no sign that experiments to test the central tenets of Teem Theory are forthcoming from independent researchers. I see one paper from Mr. Vendramini published in a journal that has an editorial policy making a mockery of the concept of peer-review, along with a pair of books that nobody has claimed were peer reviewed.

Benard, if I publish in Medical Hypotheses, and in a couple of books, my conviction in the overall correctness of Invisible Pink Unicorns, Last Thursdayism, or the legendary Prophecies of DragonLord ZalRa'Zzznick, will you defend my ideas as strongly with your wonderful wit as you do Mr. Vendramini's ridiculous ramblings?

LokaSamasta said...

Start here@

silencedbysilencedbyageofautism.blogspot.com/2012/02/secret-diary-of-lored-gnode-cremasteric.html

Then enjoy the rest if you please,

silencedbysilencedbyageofautism.blogspot.com/search/label/Aetiology

Looking for feedback :)

TheBrummell said...

LokaSamasta, since you say you're looking for feedback:
1. Your writing is hard to follow. Posts frequently refer to unnamed persons or entities by simple pronouns or generic lables, such as "She" or "The child". Who or what are being discussed?
2. Junk DNA is junk. It has no function. There is no write function for DNA - changes to DNA sequence occur by a number of processes, collectively referred to as mutations, none of which have any foreknowledge, purpose, planning, or intelligent consideration associated with them.
3. Your critiques and descriptions of publications are hard to follow. Are you describing the findings of the authors of the paper, or are you describing your own knowledge and reactions to the paper? It is frequently difficult to tell.
4. Once more, for emphasis: Teem theory is utter bullshit, without the slightest hint of supporting evidence. It is indistinguishable from the ravings of a madman.

LokaSamasta said...

1. That's either because I'm asperger's or because I'm 'trying to write from the perspective of' my last half billion years of 'matrilineage' (SHE) if such a composite creature's perspective is permitted to exist in your strict view of things. It's an animistic god's eye perspective.

2.a) long range order has been found in 'junk' DNA - I'm still trying to re-find the actual paper.
b) A team has recorded sound onto junk DNA. Again, trying to find the paper!

3) I really don't know why 'SHE' is doing it. I think she thinks science is getting fun nowadays.

4) Call me anal, but my evolutionary game theory scenarios say that something along the lines of 'teem theory', some sort of conative drive is encoded into some of that 'spare' 1.5 GB in every fertilised ovum.

Certainly at first DV's offerings are madness-inducing, but that's not the same as him being mad.

Thanks for the feedback :)

LokaSamasta said...

Also, teem theory is probably full of mistakes from a technical perspective, but it's the only 'mess' in science that even attempts to explain this:

http://www.jstor.org/pss/10.1086/650443

!!!! wtc?

TheBrummell said...

LokaSamasta, please go away. I am not interested in debating the relative merrits of small portions of a large stupidity.

LokaSamasta said...

o, i c