research slumming: the journal “Medical Hypotheses”

This guy thinks that heeled footwear causes schizophrenia. Lest you ascribe reasonableness to this, be aware that the association between colder places and schizophrenia has been much more plausibly hypothesized to be due to vitamin D deficiency.

I found that link via MindHacks, which mentions it at the tail end of reviewing a stupider and more offensive paper arguing that Asians and people with Down Syndrome might be genetically similar because they like similar sorts of arts and crafts, MSG, and like to see several dishes on the table at the same time. Apparently the founder created the journal that published both studies (Medical Hypotheses) because he wanted to encourage creativity in medicine by letting them publish any ideas, no matter how far-out.

So I went and looked them up. For more information on their review and publication process, see below.  But first, some other amusing and offensive articles that probably got rejected all the way down the journal food chain:

Latex causes autism (if we could just get all future parents to switch to lambskin!)

Symptoms of schizophrenia are an attempt to compensate for lack of life skills
She claims her paper is an attempt to “situate the actions of those with schizophrenia clearly within the normal range of human behaviors and, as a consequence, it diminishes the stigma that attaches to severe mental illness”. The abstract gives the impression that she thinks if we tell people that when schizophrenics act bizarre it’s because they’re electing to deal poorly with their social and cognitive deficits, then people will stop discriminating against them.

We might be able to treat some chronic fatigue symptoms with aspirin! PubMed doesn’t give the abstract, but (like most of these articles) there wasn’t actual research involved.

The evolutionary function of labor pain is to create emotional bonds between a mother, her husband, the midwife, and the baby.
Did this person ever come across (for example) the very basic evolutionary theory that newborns’ head size is a compromise between a bigger brain for better survival, and a smaller brain (and head) that will just barely fit through the birth canal? More importantly, do they realize that when the mother is in pain, the father and midwife are not also in pain? (Unless they’re in that one place where the husband has to sit up in the rafters above the wife and every time she gets a labor pain she pulls on a rope tied to his balls.)

Finally, a bit more about the journal, from its home page:

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.

Papers in Medical Hypotheses take a standard scientific form in terms of style, structure and referencing. The journal therefore constitutes a bridge between cutting-edge theory and the mainstream of medical and scientific communication, which ideas must eventually enter if they are to be critiqued and tested against observations.

Authors are required to pay page charges.


One Response to research slumming: the journal “Medical Hypotheses”

  1. Michael says:

    It sounds like a wonderful thing to me! Sort of like a portal site that organizes the best in wild speculation for your brain-nourishing pleasure. And it’s absolutely true that scientific orthodoxy often prevents the testing of otherwise good ideas. for example, scientists laughed at the early low-carb diets. They were never tested, and instead the most wacky or unscrupulous supporters of the ideas built them into a fad industry, and now we have warring fanatics on both sides and truth has been lost. Imagine how different things would have been if the basic biochemical ideas behind low-carb had gotten into rigorous tests, via this kind of halfway house for crazy ideas.

    What I don’t get is how the journal maintains any respect. Is the medical field really so open cool that they’d be willing to test “The matrix metalloproteinases as pharmacological target in osteoarthritis: Statins may be of therapeutic benefit” after it was published in the same journal as “Scientific discovery, peak experiences and the Col-oh-nell Flastratus! phenomenon”?

    PS – Col-oh-nell Flastratus is not just a weird title; it’s a thoroughly sophomoric article. You don’t need deep philosophical thinking to tell you “feeling awed and enlightened by an idea could mean that it’s a great idea, but not necessarily, so you should think about it, but don’t get crazy.” You just need to talk to anyone who took drugs in college.

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