An amusingly suspicious “paper”

There is a site called ScienceBlog, at Note that it is a little different from — it lacks the "s". There are a few other differences, too: it's a site that simply reprints press releases. Send 'em anything, and they'll spit it back up on the web for you.

One such example is a press release titled Life on Earth came from other planets. It purports to be a summary of a peer-reviewed, published research paper.

This one:

"Life on Earth Came From Other Planets," by R. Joseph, Ph.D. Cosmology, Vol 1. 2009.

There are a few funny things about this article. The journal Cosmology doesn't seem to exist. Then notice "Vol. 1"…this is the inaugural issue. It contains a grand total of one (1) paper, the aforementioned article by Rhawn Joseph.

Wait! It does exist! The "journal" exists as a web page only; go ahead, here's Cosmology, 2009, Vol 1, pages 00000. You can read the whole article, which you know was peer reviewed, because it says so in the upper left corner: "Peer Reviewed".

Guess who the web page can be traced to? Rhawn Joseph.

I think you begin to see a pattern here. If you can't get your crappy paper published in a legitimate journal, invent one!

The comments at are hilarious, too. To his credit, the author of the site, Fred Bortz, shows up to offer objections to the weird quality of the submission; someone named Joy Haiyan Wu, who works with Rhawn, pops up a few times to complain and threaten legal action. A comment by Christopher Coffee pretty much nails the phoniness of the whole effort.

What about the paper itself? Complete garbage. It presents nothing new, makes exaggerated claims about the likelihood of bacterial life surviving in space for hundreds of millions of years (it wouldn't), makes grand claims of revolutionizing our understanding of the origins of life, and offers nothing other than rehashed claims and denial of legitimate scientific hypotheses. You can get a taste of how poor this paper is from just the conclusion.

Life on Earth appeared while this planet was still forming. There is no proof life can be created from non-life. As only life can produce life, only panspermia is a viable scientific explanation as to the origin of Earthly life. The first life forms to appear on Earth were produced by other living creatures who were likely encased in debris ejected by the parent star nearly 5 billion years ago.

Well, life had to have come from non-life at some point, logically speaking. The claim that only life can produce life clearly had to have been wrong at some point, and panspermia doesn't get around the fundamental problem: where did the life at that distant exploding star come from?

I haven't even mentioned yet that the writing is incoherent and poorly organized, the paper is full of typos, and although it contains many citations, the references have been left off…and instead we get a repetition of ten ads flogging Rhawn Joseph's self-published book.

I look forward to issue 2 of volume 1 of Cosmology. Perhaps it will have another paper by Rhawn Joseph?


More like this

No. No, no, no. No no no no no no no no. No, no. No. Fox News broke the story, which ought to make one immediately suspicious — it's not an organization noted for scientific acumen. But even worse, the paper claiming the discovery of bacteria fossils in carbonaceous chondrites was published in ……
When last we heard from Rhawn Joseph, he was playing with photoshop and trying to sell off his online journal, the Journal of Cosmology. The Journal of Cosmology has been plugging away, claiming to have found bacteria in meteorites and then diatoms in meteorites — give them a blurry, vague photo of…
I'm Walt Crawford. This is another blog in ScienceBlogs' new Information Science channel. As with the pioneers, John Dupuis and Christina Pikas, it's not a new blog. And as with those two--both of whose blogs I've followed for years--I was pleasantly surprised when ScienceBlogs contacted me, in the…
I was thinking about the timeline that brought us here, today, from the origin of the Universe up through the present day. I realized that the most uncertain thing that we know of, the step that we have the least information about, is the origin of life on Earth. All hypotheses about how life on…