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A book of ideas collected from Medical Hypotheses: Death can be cured by Roger Dobson

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Bruce Charlton


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A new collection of ideas from Medical Hypotheses by Roger Dobson is entitled Death can be cured and 99 other Medical Hypotheses. It consists of humorous summaries of Medical Hypotheses articles from the past 30 years. The book's humour derives mainly from the subject matter, although sometimes also from the 'unconventional' approach of the authors with respect to matters such as evidence, argument or inference. Medical Hypotheses has generated such a lot of apparently- or actually-bizarre ideas because it aims to be open to potentially revolutionary science. The journal's official stance is that more harm is done by a failure to publish one idea that might have been true, than by publishing a dozen ideas that turn out to be false. Bizarre ideas tend to catch attention, and may stimulate a valuable response - even when a paper is mostly-wrong. A paper may be flawed but still contain the germ of an idea that can be elaborated and developed. The journal review process is susceptible to both false positives and false negatives. False positives occur when we publish an idea that is wrong; false negatives occur when we fail to publish an important idea that is right, and a potential scientific breakthrough never happens. False positives are more obvious, since the paper will be ignored, refuted, or fail to be replicated - and often attracts criticism and controversy. Editors may therefore take the more cautious path of avoiding false positives more assiduously than false negatives; however, this policy progressively favours less-ambitious science. Consequently, in Medical Hypotheses the 'set point' of risk is nearer to the false positive end of the spectrum than for most journals - and the publication of many apparently-bizarre papers is a natural consequence of this policy. © 2008.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Charlton BG

Publication type: Editorial

Publication status: Published

Journal: Medical Hypotheses

Year: 2008

Volume: 70

Issue: 5

Pages: 905-909

ISSN (print): 0306-9877

ISSN (electronic): 1532-2777


DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2008.01.016

PubMed id: 18280670


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