Email From: Steven Lehar March 24, 2004. sent link to this on-line letter.
To: Professor Paul Bloom, Editor, Behavioral & Brain Sciences.
In response to this article rejection.
Dear Professor Bloom,
I would like to lodge a formal complaint to the editorial board of the Behavioral and Brain Sciences journal over the handling of my paper,
I submitted this paper in hard-copy triplicate by post, as was then the submission standard, to Stevan Harnad, editor of Behavioral & Brain Sciences back in September 1999. I never received a formal acceptance, rejection, nor even acknowledgement of receipt, only a curt email note suggesting that only one submission was permitted per author at a time. Is this really the official policy at BBS? I don't see any mention of it in the on-line documentation. In any case I put my paper in abeyance and waited. Four and a half years later, in March 2004 my first paper at BBS was finally published, and I resubmitted the harmonic resonance paper referenced above. On March 19 2004 Paul Bloom, editor, wrote to say that "after consulting with two experts in the area" he decided that he could not accept it for review at BBS. ( http://cns-alumni.bu.edu/~slehar/webstuff/hr1/Rejected.html)
The whole purpose of a peer review system, and even more so of an open peer system, is to bring the review process out in the open for all the world to see, rather than have papers be quietly rejected after consultation with anonymous and undocumented "experts" who are not even required to provide a written report. A quick email note would be sufficient, just for the sake of transparency of this most vital cutting edge stage of the whole review process.
Secondly, this paper was rejected without consideration of the larger picture presented jointly by the Harmonic Resonance theory together with my first paper just published in BBS,
Gestalt Isomorphism and the Primacy of Subjective Conscious Experience: A Gestalt Bubble Model. BBS 26(4) 375-444.
These two papers are not independent, but they are two aspects of a single story, phenomenological and neurophysiological. That is why I tried initially to submit them simultaneously. The Gestalt Isomorphism paper argues that since visual experience appears in the form of volumetric spatial "pictures," this is direct evidence for some kind of volumetric imaging mechanism in the brain. Naturally the chief criticism of many of the reviewers and commentators was that the theory was neurophysiologically implausible. No "pictures" have been found in the brain. Either that means that there are no pictures in the brain, or it means that neuroscience is in a state of serious crisis, because it offers no hint of an explanation for how the brain constructs the volumetric spatial pictures that we know to be there! In the words of David Lloyd George, "You can't cross a chasm in two small steps." BBS has now published the first step but not the second, leaving its readership suspended over the void, between a demonstrably failed old paradigm of spatial representation in the brain devoid of any kind of pictures, and no alternative on the other. Your readership deserves the right to be at least exposed to this alternative paradigmatic proposal of how spatial patterns might emerge in brains to account for the spatial patterns of our experience.
Editor Paul Bloom complains that the research program is "not yet developed" and that it lacks "scientific rigor and empirical support." What he means is that I have not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that standing waves encode spatial structure in the brain. That is true, although there is much suggestive evidence supporting a resonance view of the brain, from synchronous oscillations between neurons, to the "brain waves" of EEG, as cited extensively in the paper. But even if there were no supporting evidence for standing waves in the brain, the mere possibility that standing waves can in principle serve as a mechanism for spatial representation in brains is already a novel and unique hypothesis to account for the missing "pictures" in the brain, that bears on a number of crucial topics such as mental imagery and hemi-neglect.
The fact that nature employs a standing wave representation in that other unrelated biological function of embryological morphogenesis (as explained in the paper) offers an existence proof that harmonic resonance both can and does serve as a spatial representation in biological systems. It would be unconscionable to leave unexplored the possibility that nature uses the same kind of resonances to construct spatial structures in the brain, especially in the context of the missing "pictures". The idea that standing waves of electrochemical oscillation across the tissue of the brain define volumetric spatial patterns, and that those patterns are what we experience, is sufficiently unique, controversial, and potentially significant, that it warrants at least an actual review by reviewers who report on their judgments, and preferably open peer commentary with everyone's identity out in the open for all the world to see.
I am sorry to sound brash, I do not mean to bully and bluster my way to preferential consideration. All I am requesting is fair consideration. This theory deserves it. I'm not asking that this theory be accepted at face value, only that it deserves to be heard. Is that asking too much from a journal that seeks to publish "Particularly significant and controversial pieces of work"?
I would be completely satisfied if you would either reconsider your decision, and accept the Harmonic Resonance theory for normal review, or failing that, if at least you could badger your two "experts" to provide a brief email summary of the process of reasoning by which they decided that this paper was not worth further consideration or review. Something I can post on my web site as an explanation for the final fate of this ill-fated paper.