Thirty years after publication, a paper cited by creationists is retracted

Dan Larhammar

A paper by a Russian researcher who has been dogged by allegations of fraud has been retracted, 30 years to the month after its publication, and 25 years after the journal published a strongly critical letter to the editor.

The 1989 paper on the genetics of wild timber voles by Dmitrii A. Kuznetsov in the International Journal of Neuroscience was, according to Dan Larhammar, a professor of molecular cell biology at Uppsala University in Sweden and now president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, being used by creationists as evidence for their beliefs. Larhammar published a letter to the editor about the paper in 1994 that concluded:

To summarize, Kuznetsov’s experimental concept is obscure, his approach goes against established scientific experience and his claimed results are not qualitatively demonstrated. The key methodological references cited by Kuznetsov have not been published in journals listed in Medline or CASSI. These, as well as many other, references are afflicted with complications: some authors could not be found, one author has not written the article ascribed to him, many articles have obvious grammatical errors in their titles, etc. I conclude that Kuznetsov’s critique of “a modern molecular-genetic concept of biological evolution” has no scientific basis whatsoever. 

Larhammar told Retraction Watch he was surprised, a year ago, to learn that the article was still available without a retraction stamp. Larhammar, who is chair of the Academy’s working group on research misconduct, contacted the journal’s editor in October of last year, and after an exchange of eight emails, the paper was retracted.

The retraction notice reads:

We, the Editor and Publishers of the International Journal of Neuroscience, have retracted the following article:

Dmitrii A. Kuznetsov (1989) In Vitro Studies of Interactions Between Frequent and Unique Mrnas and Cytoplasmic Factors from Brain Tissue of Several Species of Wild Timber Voles of Northern Eurasia, Clethrionomys Glareolus, Clethrionomys Frater and Clethrionomys Gapperi: a New Criticism to a Modern Molecular-Genetic Concept of Biological Evolution, International Journal of Neuroscience, 49:1-2, 43-59, DOI: 10.3109/00207458909087038

The above article has been retracted due to the unreliable nature of the experimental results presented. Concern was originally raised via a Letter to the Editor, Dan Larhammar (1994) Lack of Experiemental Support for Kuznetsov’s Criticism of Biological Evolution, International Journal of Neuroscience, 77:3-4, 199-201 DOI: 10.3109/00207459408986031. Concern was again raised recently and after an investigation by the journal’s current Editor-in-Chief and Associate Editors it was decided that the unusual methodology could not be validated by the references provided in the method section and the results section did not document the quality of the mRNA used nor of the protein products. Consequently, the conclusions were unfounded and could not support the main arguments of the article.

In accordance with the COPE guidelines on retractions we have made efforts to contact the author but have been unsuccessful in our attempts to do so.

We have been informed in our decision-making by our policy on publishing ethics and integrity and the COPE guidelines on retractions.

The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as “Retracted”.

Kuznetsov resigned as editor in chief of two journals — the British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research and the International Research Journal of Pure and Applied Chemistry — in 2013 after The Scientist reported on numerous allegations that he had committed scientific misconduct.

Thirty years is not, we should note, a record. There is a case of a paper — a hoax, it turns out — retracted 80 years after its publication.

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7 thoughts on “Thirty years after publication, a paper cited by creationists is retracted”

  1. What does the way this paper was used have to do with the fact that it had scientific issues and was eventually retracted? Shouldn’t this be titled “Paper criticizing biological evolution retracted 30 years after publication”? Or is RW’s go-forward policy to title retracted papers according to the people that cited them?

  2. The September 1995 issue of “Creation ex nihilo” magazine stated the following:

    “Kouznetsov concerns

    “References in two scientific papers by Russian creation scientist Dr Dmitri Kouznetsov have been called into doubt.

    “Geneticist Dan Larhammar, from Uppsala University in Sweden, tried to check sources cited in a 1989 Kouznetsov paper in the International Journal of Neuroscience. The paper was later published in a creationist journal with slight modifications.

    “Larhammar, and other researchers since, could not verify the existence of a number of journals listed in Kouznetsov’s references, despite worldwide checks of scientific and periodical reference directories.
    Creationist organizations which have promoted Dr Kouznetsov in the past, including Creation Science Foundation (publisher of Creation magazine), asked Dr Kouznetsov for an urgent response to this very serious charge. Despite repeated requests, he has failed to provide evidence that would clear him of these and other concerns.

    “Creation Science Foundation obviously cannot condone any suggestion of wrongdoing (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and therefore has now dissociated itself from Dr Kouznetsov, pending satisfactory responses from him.”


    That link is very plain, for everyone to see: Creationists disassociated from Kouznetsov and his 1989 paper way back in 1995, very soon after they discovered the fraud.

    Yet The Scientist states that the paper “has been touted by creationists as evidence of their beliefs,” making no mention that creationists long ago disavowed the paper and disassociated with the author.

    Likewise Retraction Watch calls it “a paper cited by creationists” which was “being used by creationists as evidence for their beliefs,” also making no mention that creationists long ago disavowed the paper and disassociated with the author.

    Yet it took 30 years for the International Journal of Neuroscience to get around to retracting the paper, even though they apparently knew about the fraud back in 1994 after Larhammar’s letter. And nobody seems to mind that.

    Good for the International Journal of Neuroscience for retracting the paper. Bravo. But it seems very unfair to attack people who had long-disavowed the paper and its author, and not recognize they had done so. It also seems like a very unfair double standard to attack creationists yet praise the journal, when the creationists officially disavowed the paper some 24 BEFORE the journal did!

    1. Yet The Scientist states that the paper “has been touted by creationists as evidence of their beliefs,” making no mention that creationists long ago disavowed the paper and disassociated with the author.

      That might be an issue to take up with The Scientist.

      Retraction Watch calls it “a paper cited by creationists” which was “being used by creationists as evidence for their beliefs,” also making no mention that creationists long ago disavowed the paper and disassociated with the author.

      I understand RW to be summarising Larhammar’s letter from 1994, and the experiences that motivated him to write that letter, a context in which the paper’s subsequent fall from favour is not relevant.

  3. ‘Creationists disassociated from Kouznetsov and his 1989 paper…’
    Well, the Creation Science Foundation hardly represent all creationists. In fact, who has ever heard of that foundation before?

  4. The International Journal of Neuroscience published 12 papers related to Transcendental Meditation (TM) between 1980 and 1990, which is a mental technique promoted by an organization that also has roots in a religious tradition. For the past few decades the TM organization has had an agenda of advancing certain aspects of that doctrine that are unsupportable by science, primarily by having the faculty of its own university produce and publish research, that’s often if not usually of rather poor quality, that attempts to advance that cause.

    One of those papers, authored by researchers with obvious connections to that organization, posits that individuals who were separated at a distance supposedly exhibited brainwave coherence between them, because of the meditative activity of a large group of people thousands of miles away.

    Seems to me the IJN had some more general issues in its evaluation of what was published around that time, as you’d have to throw out most of what is known about biology and physics to begin to believe that that sort of phenomenon could be true. Likewise, the publishing of this paper – and the comments made by the editor around that time – served to advance what’s fundamentally a religious agenda.

    Yes, these are the same people who have insisted that bouncing on foam rubber constitutes levitation. Their core doctrines claim, and some of their research efforts have attempted to support, the assertion that if only enough people practice TM and other mental techniques (sometimes for many hours a day) “world peace” will spontaneously occur. Alleged brainwave coherence that they claim is created through meditation is central to these points of dogma, thus getting published in a neuroscience journal advances what is essentially a religious agenda. References to these papers published in the IJN are frequently found in the TM organization’s promotional materials and websites today.

    Blog post outlining this story, which also includes reference to this retracted, creationist-supportive paper and the story behind that:

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