Retraction Watch highlights the paper I got retracted

Yesterday we were headliners at the watchdog site Retraction Watch (RW). This time it was about the creationist paper by Sarah Umer that was published in The International Journal of Ethnology and Anthropology, a Springer journal.  I complained bitterly about it on a post on this site, and then kvetched to the journal itself. They blew me off. I persisted. Eventually, I got to the higher-ups, who took a while but eventually retracted the paper, though leaving it on the website (I was sore about that, too, but apparently that’s policy). You can read about the journal’s excuses and Umer’s defense of her creationist nonsense at the link below (click on screenshot):

First, RW pokes fun at the journal and its lame excuse for “mistakenly” publishing Umer’s paper:

It’s become a sort of Retraction Watch Mad Libs: Author writes a paper that is so far, far, out of the mainstream. Maybe it argues that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Or that vaccines cause autism. Truth squads swarm over the paper, taking to blogs and Twitter to wonder, in the exasperated tone of those who have been here before, how on earth it was published in a peer reviewed journal.

Then, in something that approaches — but does not quite qualify as — contrition, the journal in question retracts the paper, mumbling something in a retraction notice about a compromised peer review process, or that ghosts in the machine allowed the paper to be published instead of being rejected.

This week’s parade float entry is a paper in the International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology.

The journal’s excuse and RW’s reaction:

. . . .The Editor-in-Chief has retracted this article [1], because it was published in error before the peer review process was completed. Further post publication peer review determined that the article is not suitable for publication in the International Journal of Anthropology and Ethnology. The author does not agree to this retraction.

Now, mistakes happen, and editors press the wrong button, and all that, but…really? We’ve seen this sort of thing before, almost always with controversial papers. That suggests at least two possibilities: This happens a lot, but no one notices when the papers are mundane, or it’s a convenient excuse that publishers trot out when they realize they’ve published something that was “bull shit.”

The “bull shit” bit comes from Umer’s response when she was contacted by RW. Here’s what the benighted author said to the site:

We asked [Umer] to share the peer reviews her paper had received, so that we could understand how, in the journal’s words, it was “published in error before the peer review process was completed.” She declined to share the reviews, saying that doing so would be unethical, but said that

nevertheless the only reason it was accepted was because my paper raised questions against the standing theories and tried to counter it with logical reasoning.I believe that I received undue criticism from people who did not believe in a divine force. Divine Force is a belief in a super natural power that is controlling the world and the universe. It is a force that almost all religions of the world believe in, whether it is Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc. However, I have quoted a couple of physical anthropologists and pure scientist, who also doubt this theory. Therefore, I still stand with my claim and findings and strongly believe that the only way I can be proved wrong is if the anthropologists find intermediate species, which they haven’t  since 1859, the date of Charles Darwin’s theory.

Now in support of my article, I would say that maybe it is against many physical anthropologists and it openly refutes Charles Darwin theory of evolution. But none of the critics refuted me by informing me that they have found intermediate species that counter my argument and endorses Charles Darwin’s theory. Although, they claim that the article is bull shit and I immediately need to remove it.

Finally, I would say that we had this theory of evolution since 1859 and I openly refuted it in 2018. I think only future fossil findings can either prove Darwin right and me wrong or vice versa.

Somebody should inform Umer that “bullshit” is one word.

But look at that garbage! Divine Force? Seriously?

If you think Umer’s article has any merit, I urge you to read it for yourself, for it doesn’t lay a hand on evolution or Darwinism. And of course there are gazillions of “intermediate species” that counter Umer’s argument: intermediates between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and mammals, reptiles and birds, and early primates to the H. sapiens ape. If Umer doesn’t know this, she’s ignorant or blinded by her faith (surely Islam), but either way she had no business publishing that article, and Springer had no business accepting it.

As for taking the paper offline, Retraction Watch has corrected me by noting that leaving a retracted paper up is accepted policy. As RW notes:

Coyne would like to see the article removed from the journal’s site entirely, which would not be in keeping with guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics.

I stand corrected, and am satisfied—except I think that this effort should earn me my second Censor of the Year Award from The Discovery Institute. Come on, folks: I deserve it!

h/t: Nilou


  1. Brujo Feo
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    PCC, I would LOVE to champion your candidacy for a 2nd Censor of the Year Award, but alas, right now all of my energies are focused on getting Cadet Bone Spurs his Purple Heart for his valiant service in Vietnam.

    Oh, and his Nobel Peace Prize, of course.

    • Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      If he and Kim Jong Un were to create peace on the Korean peninsula. Or just significantly move things in that direction over his remaining 2 or (gag) 6 years, Trump really could get a NPP.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 6, 2019 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        Shared with Kim Jong Un, presumably.

        Takes two to tango…


      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted March 7, 2019 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        I’d said the Orange Seems-To-Be-Criminal was welcome to it, if not he had tried to kill an estimated 1 million women across the world with mixing his/theocrats insane abortion/contraceptive policies with health initiatives. He is borderline genocidal added to his other entrumping traits.

  2. Jenny Haniver
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I provided links to Springer’s policies and excerpted quotes in my comments of 3/1. I repeat those comments here:

    this states their policies, but it doesn’t explain HOW COME:

    1)This on the Springer website under “ethical responsibilities of authors”

    3… in severe cases retraction of the article may occur. The reason will be given in the published erratum, expression of concern or retraction note. Please note that retraction means that the article is maintained on the platform, watermarked “retracted” and the explanation for the retraction is provided in a note linked to the watermarked article.

    The author’s institution may be informed

    A notice of suspected transgression of ethical standards in the peer review system may be included as part of the author’s and article’s bibliographic record.

    2) And this under “Frequently asked questions”, ”
    Can I still make corrections to my article after it has been published Online First?

    The online publication represents the official publication of research results. It is not simply a prepublication service on the part of the publisher. As soon as an article is published online, it is citable and quotable. If changes are then made, confusion can easily arise, with authors citing different versions of the same publication.

    Springer has therefore decided not to make systematic use of the technical possibilities that an online publication offers and not to simply replace a published document with an updated one. After online publication, further changes can only be made in the form of an Erratum, which will be hyper-linked to the article.

    Then I added this link re their stated “publication ethics” for their editors:

    Another interesting document from Springer, their handbook of ethics for journal editors: “Publishing ethics for journals…” This links to a PDF of a small handbook that addresses a number of pertinent ethical questions. The editor should have consulted it before publishing.

    Ulmer is a credulous doofus. She should seek publication in a journal such as the “American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences,” whee I found an abstract of an article titled “Ethical Objections to Evolution in Contemporary Muslim Thought.”

    • Posted March 8, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      That *might* be useful scholarship – exploring what Muslims believe, not what they should, etc.

  3. Posted March 6, 2019 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    “Somebody should inform Umer that ‘bullshit’ is one word.”

    Not to mention “supernatural.”

  4. Posted March 6, 2019 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    My guess is that even the discovery institute won’t touch this one

  5. Greg Geisler
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Bravo! Well done.

  6. Ty Gardner
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    What institution did this person earn a degree at and how ashamed are they by the inability to discuss science, and lack of knowledge of evolution, shown in the quoted statement?

    • Ty Gardner
      Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Oops, here it is:
      Department of Visual Arts & Graphic Design, Institute of Visual Arts & DesignLahore College for Women UniversityLahorePakistan

      How is that not a red flag?

      • DrBrydon
        Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        I am still questionning why The International Journal of Ethnology and Anthropology decided this was a topic that fit their journal’s remit.

  7. W.T. Effingham
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    “I think only future fossil findings can prove Darwin right and me wrong or vice versa.” Sorry, Sarah Umer, but your reach exceeds your grasp here. Most scientists involved in genuine research in this field are still quite impressed with Darwin’s work despite 150 plus years of scrutiny. It will not take 150 minutes to relegate “Divine Force” theories to the dustbin of failed footnotes.

  8. Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    When I was in grade school in the fifties I was told there was a missing link and scientists were searching for it. We would joke about friends being the missing link when they did something dumb, or someone found some strange bones or remains in the woods, or in the refrigerator or trash dump. Sounds like the same argument: the missing link.
    Nothing of science in the article. Maybe philosophy.

    • Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm, seems like philosophy is too complimentary here …

      • Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        Good reply. I was trying to give it something or put it somewhere.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 6, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes, the Missing Link. I remember that fondly. It used to be a popular meme or a trope or somesuch.

      So help me, there is a movie of that name about to come out. I didn’t expect that. So I guess the meme will revive.

      (Cynical Prediction: Someone will conclude that the movie Mr Link looks like a diverse person and there will be the standard howls of protest from the SJWoke brigade.)


    • Posted March 7, 2019 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      And when they found the missing link, creationists started claiming there were now two missing links.

  9. Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    You naughty censor, you! 🙂

  10. Posted March 6, 2019 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    I teach a class where undergrad students write a term paper. I would not accept a ‘sorry, the review process was incomplete’ excuse for an unacceptable paper.

  11. Posted March 6, 2019 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Umer needs to have done more study and reading. There are numerous works that trace the changes over time leading from one’s very ancient ancestors to oneself. Jerry Coyne. Richard Dawkins. Etc. There used to be a cast of Tiktalik at the Dinosaur Museum in Alberta, Canada.

    • Posted March 7, 2019 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      She does not look like a person willing or able to study. But she is right that the journal’s excuse is BS. To me, the journal and publisher are to blame.

  12. jhs
    Posted March 6, 2019 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Th Bullshitter of the Day Award goes to Sarah Umer.

  13. Posted March 6, 2019 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    Use the Divine Force, Luke! 😀

  14. Posted March 7, 2019 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Glad somebody is holding their feet to the fire. Jesus – the last thing we need is creationists being able to honestly say their work has been accepted in respectable, peer-reviewed journals. That’s just bull … shit. (Which reminds me of my ridiculous waste of time trying to have a meaningful discussion with Eric Hovind a few years ago. Fresh out of the Sye Ten Bruggencate school of idiocy and illogic, all he could talk about was presuppositional apologetics. He kept asking if I could say that I knew anything with 100% certainty. I finally told him I 100% knew bullshit when I heard it. He took that as a golden opportunity to pretend that I was an immoral heathen, out to corrupt the family values of creationists, as if it’s less moral to utter the word “bullshit” than to actually shovel the stuff into children’s heads.)

    • Posted March 8, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      “Bullshit” adequately describes presuppositionalisms.

  15. rickflick
    Posted March 7, 2019 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    One small retraction by a man. One giant leap for mankind.

  16. Posted March 7, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    You really deserve the award, Prof. Coyne!

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