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Trying to publish 'The Neurons In The Brain Cannot Implement Symbolic Systems'

This text chronicles my attempts to publish the Brain-symbols papers. The main point of this is that is shows that while all the reviewers and the editors have rejected my paper, none of them could come up with any sensible criticism of the argument I present. This proves that that there isn't such criticism, because otherwise at least some of the reviewers or editors would have pointed it out.

It is also worth noting what kind of garbage the reviewers have allowed themselves in the reviews, and that this did not seem to bother the editors too much.

Here is the original paper as submitted to 'minds and machines' on 18Apr96. It is difficult to expect that a paper that shows that most of the current theories in cognitive psychology are wrong will have an easy ride. However, I didn't expect the response to brain symbols to be as stupid as it turned out. In brain symbols 'review' you can read the text of the 'review' as it came to me. In brain symbols response to 'review' the mail message that I sent to the editor with my comments. The editor responded by saying that he will wait to the second review (7Oct96).

[28Oct96: message from the editor: 'it was sent to an excellent referee'].

[15Feb97] The 'excellent referee' also recommend to reject the paper. The review. The main argument is based on the vacuous assertion that it is possible that there is 'a suitable higher level of organization at which one can implement symbolic processes'. This is obvious nonsense, but just in case the next reviewer will also pretend to be stupid like this one, I added a section explaining why this is nonsense. The newer version of the paper is here.

The rest of the comments of this reviewer are not relevant to the main argument, but it is interesting to note how petty, and sometimes straightforward stupid, they are.

I submitted this paper to Cognition on 24Feb97. I am still waiting for the referees' report. The version that actually went to Cognition is here.

[18Oct97] After calling and faxing the editor of cognition, I got a letter rejecting the paper, explaining that many potential reviewers refused to review the paper, and the only one that did took a lot of time. Here is the review. I suspect it was written by the editor himself (he works with symbolic models), and it scales new heights by claiming that images are transferred from Jupiter to earth by stochastic channels. I sent to the editor this response, explaining why this is rubbish. I didn't get an answer.

I now submitted to the European Journal of Cognitive psychology. It was assigned to Axel Cleeremans, who works with connectionist models. I think that gives it an even chance.

[12Jan98] Fat chance. He gave it to two symbolic fanatics, which did not even consider reviewing the text seriously. Instead, they did their best to reject it, using ignorance and blunt demagogy. Here is the Editor letter and reviews (exact text as I got it), and my Response. It is a good exercise in critical reading to read first the editor letter and reviews, see what you make of it, and then read my response. [30Jan98] Here is the editor response in E-mail. He read it, but cannot accept that the reviewers can really be so nonsensical.

It now goes to Journal of Computational Science. [28Mar98] Here are the reviews as I got from them, and my response. The first reviewer is a symbolic system fanatic that clearly hasn't read sections 2-6 of the paper. The second did read them and actually tries to argue. His argument based on ignorance of neurobiology, naive belief in ordered connections in the cortex, and pretending to be stupid. The latter reach new heights when he pretends to fail to figure out that two consecutive sentences (in the same paragraph) are related to one another (his point (3)).

It now goes to Journal of cognitive neuroscience. [11May98] Here we have a completely new strategy: The editor rejects the paper without review, because 'the extent of general interest to the readers of Journal of cognitive neuroscience would be modest' (Full letter). It is worth noting that none of the reviewers until now was bold enough to claim that this paper is not important, but the editor of JOCN is (but not bold enough to actually sign the letter).

It now goes to Psycoloquay. [ 16Aug98 ] The response is an impressing demonstration of narrow-mindness. Here is the mail message as I got it from the editor. Here is my response.

I am sending it now to International Journal of Neural Systems. [ 2Oct98 ] Letter from IJNS saying: "Thank for submitting the above paper for publication in our International journal of neural systems. After consultation with our editorial board, I regret to say we decline to publish the paper." That is the entire text, without anything like a reason.

It now goes to Brain research Bulletin. This is the text that was actually sent. [27Apr99] That was quite interesting. I got a letter from the editor saying that the paper contains material "which can be acceptable to publication in Brain Research Bulletin after substantial revision." It was accompanied by three reviews. Two of these were positive but vague. One was very negative, saying "I doubt that this manuscript can be improved enough to warrant publication in an international journal." His main argument was based on rejection of the assertion that we know that the connectivity in the brain is stochastic. To make his ignorance of neurobiology even clearer, he brings as an example of "the best studied synapse in the brain" synapses that are in the spinal cord. The editor also sent a copy of the paper with annotation from this reviewer.

I sent this response. I got back a letter from the editor saying that I must revise the paper according to the review, which was done by the reviewer that rejected it the first time with the quote above. Again, he refuses to accept that we know that the connectivity is stochastic, and the suggestions he made would basically eliminate the whole point of the paper. I send the editor a letter, suggesting that the point of disagreement would be reviewed by some neurobiologists, with my comments on the suggestions by the reviewer. I then got this mail message from the editor (my comments on it).

[27Apr99] It is now going to the Journal of Intelligent systems. [3Dec99] Here is the editor letter and review (worth reading). Here are my comments. I e-mailed the editor asking for the other two reviews that he didn't send me.

Yehouda Harpaz