Paper Used in Creationist Teaching Retracted After 30 Years
Paper Used in Creationist Teaching Retracted After 30 Years

Paper Used in Creationist Teaching Retracted After 30 Years

Criticism of the paper first surfaced in 1994, and its author was accused of scientific misconduct.

Nov 11, 2019
Ashley Yeager

ABOVE: A bank vole species, Myodes glareolus (formerly Clethrionomys glareolus), used in the retracted study. WIKIMEDIA, ANEMONEPROJECTORS

A 1989 paper by Russian researcher Dmitrii Kuznetsov on the genetics of wild timber voles has been retracted, decades after a scientist alerted the journal to concerns, according to Retraction Watch. The paper, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, has been touted by creationists as evidence of their beliefs, and Kuznetsov has repeatedly been accused of scientific misconduct, The Scientist reported in 2013. 

In the paper, Kuznetsov reportedly identified an mRNA from one vole species that blocked protein synthesis in a related vole species. That same mRNA, however, did not block translation in the original vole species or another species that was more distantly related. The finding, Kuznetsov wrote in his report, supported “the general creationist concept on the problems of the origin of boundless multitudes of different and harmonically functioning forms of life.”

Five years after the paper was published, Dan Larhammar, a cell and molecular biologist at Uppsala University in Sweden, wrote to the journal editors discounting Kuznetsov’s paper, saying “his approach goes against established scientific experience and his claimed results are not qualitatively demonstrated,” and that “Kuznetsov’s critique of ‘a modern molecular-genetic concept of biological evolution’ has no scientific basis whatsoever.” Larhammar learned last year that despite his criticism more than two decades earlier, Kuznetsov’s paper was still available without a retraction label, he tells Retraction Watch, which was especially concerning given that repeated accusations of fraud—allegedly making up citations and fabricating the sources of samples—led to Kuznetsov’s ouster as editor-in-chief of two journals in 2013.

See “Editor Quits After Fraud Allegations

After a series of emails between Larhammar, now president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and the International Journal of Neuroscience’s editor, the Kuznetsov paper now has a retraction stamp, which states: “The above article has been retracted due to the unreliable nature of the experimental results presented.”

Ashley Yeager is an associate editor at The Scientist. Email her at ayeager@the-scientist.com.