Peer-to-Peer, one of Nature‘s many blogs, has a post on pseudoscience on preprint servers. The post is in response to a post from another blog (creationists using nature precedings to pre-publish junk science) that pointed out a potentially pseudoscientific article on Nature‘s preprint server, Nature Precedings (The saltational model for the dawn of H. sapiens, chin, adolescence phase, complex language and modern behavior). The article in question came off as creationist tripe to selena, who blogged about it at Tending the Garden.
This brings up a couple of questions. Taking a narrow focus, is the article pseudoscience? While I know a little about the study of human origins, I do not feel comfortable to judge this article. I also lack the time to read anything more than the abstract:
A new model may contribute to resolve the origin problem of H. sapiens. According to our new viewpoint, Neandertals were neither one of our direct ancestors nor a different species. Their origin was not in Europe 150-200 or 300 thousand years ago. As for the origin of H. sapiens, it was neither in Africa roughly 2 million years ago nor roughly 200 thousand years ago. In other words, both the Multiregional model and the recent African origin model seem wrong. Our own species arose in the Middle East approximately 150 thousand years ago and split into two subspecies: Moderns and Neandertals. Rapid and radial expansion of H. sapiens from the origin implies a revolution (see Figure 1). Complex language, modern behavior and even adolescence phase plus chin might be included into the revolution. This possibility seems consistent with the data and could also be tested via; 1-the origin of complex language based on the modern human form of FOXP2 gene 2-the origin of adolescence or adolescent growth spurt 3- the genetic origin of the Flores hobbits. If all of these three origins appeared in the Levant about 150 thousand years ago then our model is true in all aspects. This speciation seems an unexpected revolution or macroevolution occured in several thousand years. The last pre-sapiens hominids may be extinct due to OIS 6 namely without replacement by sapiens.
Well, the FOXP2 point seems to be moot — Neandertals have the same protein sequence as moderns — although regulatory differences aren’t well understood. Aside from that, does anyone who knows better want to take a look at the paper and figure out if it’s good science, pseudoscience, or just plain crap?
The other question that comes up is what is the role of editors in managing preprint servers? Should they remove pseudoscience? Or should it be the responsibility of commenters, acting as sort-of-peer-reviewers, to flag the dreck? But what happens when preprint servers don’t get many comments? If the comment traffic is low on all articles, then it’s hard to imagine that the pseudoscience ones will be flagged by many readers.