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A Brief History Of Dubious Science

Benveniste’s “high-dilution” experiments are not the first to raise concern about science journals’ proper response to unconventional results. Twice before, Nature published papers dubious enough to warrant accompanying editorials questioning the results. And in one eerily parallel precursor incident, Nature’s then editor actually swooped down on a yet another Paris lab with “The Amazing” Randi and a third party to debunk unorthodox results—and

Bernard Dixon

Benveniste’s “high-dilution” experiments are not the first to raise concern about science journals’ proper response to unconventional results. Twice before, Nature published papers dubious enough to warrant accompanying editorials questioning the results. And in one eerily parallel precursor incident, Nature’s then editor actually swooped down on a yet another Paris lab with “The Amazing” Randi and a third party to debunk unorthodox results—and decided not to publish. How do the sharp eyes of hindsight view these decisions now?

The first case was a paper from Hungarian-born neurobiologist Georges Ungar, then working at Baylor College of Medicine, on an alleged memory molecule. According the report, which was co-authored by D.M. Desiderio and W Parr, a 15-amino acid peptide was extracted from mice trained to choose a light chamber over a dark one. When the substance, dubbed scotophobin, was injected into untrained mice, these new rodents made the same choice (Nature...

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