Field of Science

The Journal of Cosmology does it again!

Remember the Journal of Cosmology?  Earlier this year they published a paper by Richard Hoover that claimed to find microbial fossils in a meteorite.  They splashed this claim all over the media, but I wasn't impressed.  Nor was anyone else with any expertise.

Well, they have a new treat for us.  They've just put out a press release announcing a paper by Rhawn Joseph and N. Chandra Wickramasinghe, with the title Genetics Indicates Extra-terrestrial Origins for Life: The First Gene.  Did life Begin Following the Big Bang? (scroll down past the flashy ads to see the text).

Here's the top of Dr. Joseph's web page.  You really must click on it and scroll down, to see the full glory of his accomplishments (and read his poetry...).  Be sure to also click on the link to his censored paper titled Sexual Consciousness: The Evolution of Breasts, Buttocks and the Big Brain.

Wickramasinghe's bio is here; sadly it's not nearly as over-the-top as Joseph's.

Anyway, about the paper.  Here's the data:

Yes, if you make the not-entirely-unreasonable assumption that the gene numbers typical of modern organisms were also typical of the first members of these clades, you can plot gene number as a function of  time.  Of course you can fit a line to these points, and if you also make the totally unreasonable assumption that changes in gene number have always been governed by a molecular clock, you can claim that this line shows the changes in gene number over time.  You can extrapolate your line back to zero genes, and if you make the absurd assumption that this hypothetical gene-number clock applies before the origin of life on Earth, you can conclude that the first gene arose 10^10 - 10^13 years ago, close to the time of the Big Bang.

(Why are there three graphs?  Well, the three graphs use different earliest (hypothetical) data points, of course.   I suppose the only reason that they didn't put the two earliest points in the bottom graph into two different graphs was that a line using the 'first eukaryote' value would have extrapolated back to before the Big Bang!)


  1. Thanks for posting this. Joseph's censored article is hilarious.


  3. They seem to be what people in the blog biz calls "crackpots", for instance they are or have been big bang denialists.* Wickramasinghe associated with Hoyle and his steady state theory, Joseph has written an article "Myth of the Big Bang" according to a Bad Astronomy thread. (Which makes it odd that they self censored their plots.)

    Btw, I hate that type of plot. (Ladder of being fan; never mind Lane's energy hypothesis predicting eukaryote genome size abilities.) Another trick of the trade is to use gene number as a measure of "complexity" and then extrapolate in the other direction. (Kurzweil fan.)

    Gene family data shows the complicated balance between birth, duplication, horizontal transfer and loss, and problems of such non-discriminatory clocks over large periods.

    [Turns out you can't do this well.

    Interestingly here: except as an idealized assumed one between abiogenesis and the Archaean Expansion. If you do that first order estimate you get the first gene well within Earth age, after the Moon impact even.

    Jospeh and Wickramasinghe, hoist by their own petard.]

    * It is hard to verify causality here, but my impression is that Hoyle's insistence on steady state seemed at least partly based on his creationism. These people may instead be motivated to use similar types of "biology" to impugn big bang.

  4. Say, this is odd.

    Do you all remember how JOC promised to end by May? From David Dobb's, another prominent "arsenic life" criticist:

    "The J of Cosmology has been quite a ride. It's ending.

    Their press release, received today:

    Feb 14, 2011

    Journal of Cosmology To Stop Publishing--Killed by Thieves and Crooks

    JOC will publish its last edition in May of 2011. [...]

    Truly, Lana Tao

    PS: Permission is granted to quote from and reprint this article."

  5. "The eukaryote genome appears to have been duplicated every 100 million years (Lynch et al., 2001; Lynch and Conery 2000)"

    Funny, I'm in that lab, working on something with serial recent-ish whole genome duplications, and this is the first time I ever hear of that factoid. OH RIGHT, because neither paper says that, you sleazy fuckwits. It doesn't even fucking make any sense!

    Ok, I'll admit to being rather tired of seeing the Lynch genome work and models so mercilessly abused and willfully misinterpeted by all sorts of crooks and crackpots. The junk DNA denialists are particularly prominent in that category...

  6. Also, figure 1 seems oddly familiar to me for some reason. It's as if I've seen it somewhere else... in that exact form. While it's already poor practice, very poor practice, to use previously published figures in a scientific paper* without *explicit* permission of the authors, not citing it at all it is outright plagiarism, my friends!

    *even a pretend one

  7. Agree on the absurdity of this. I know that using molecular clocks to extrapolate backwards to time the divergences deep in the tree of life is controversial (to say the least)... but even other, highly controversial work is much more sane and rational than this.

  8. Oh wow, that is hilarious. Thank you for posting about it! I don't know how such garbage can even be published...

    And thank you for coming to speak to my SCIE 300 class today. :)


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