A peer-review scandal has been all over the internet, and we’ve been hearing about it from our clandestine operatives. Nature had an article about it: Paper that says human hand was ‘designed by Creator’ sparks concern. They said, with our bold font:
Researchers who wrote “design by the Creator” in a paper about the function of the human hand have triggered a debate over the quality of editing and peer review at the journal that published it. The paper by Cai-Hua Xiong of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, and his co-authors appeared in the journal PLoS ONE on 5 January.
After the social-media storm, PLOS issued an initial statement to the media saying “PLOS has just been made aware of this issue and we are looking into it in depth. Our internal editors are reviewing the manuscript and will decide what course of action to take. The PLOS publishing team is also assessing its processes.”
Later, the journal added an online statement to the paper: “A number of readers have concerns about sentences in the article that make references to a ‘Creator’. The PLOS ONE editors apologize that this language was not addressed internally or by the Academic Editor during the evaluation of the manuscript. We are looking into the concerns raised about the article with priority and will take steps to correct the published record.”
This is the paper that generated the controversy: Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living. You can read it online. Besides the text of the paper, even the abstract says, with our bold font:
Hand coordination can allow humans to have dexterous control with many degrees of freedom to perform various tasks in daily living. An important contributing factor to this important ability is the complex biomechanical architecture of the human hand. However, drawing a clear functional link between biomechanical architecture and hand coordination is challenging. … The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way. The clear link between the structure and the function of the human hand also suggests that the design of a multifunctional robotic hand should be able to better imitate such basic architecture.
There wasn’t anything we could say that hadn’t already been said elsewhere, so we decided to wait for the reaction from creationists. It didn’t take long. At the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute, they just posted Mob with Pitchforks Forms as Science Journal PLOS ONE Acknowledges “Proper Design by the Creator”.
It was written by David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
This would seem to bear out a remark by Chinese paleontologist J.Y. Chen, recounted in Darwin’s Doubt, “In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government; in America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”
Yes, there’s no place a creationist can hide from the wrath of the Darwinists. The witch-hunt is global. Let’s read on:
Some startling language appears in a paper by Chinese researchers published in a very mainstream journal, PLOS ONE.
We know, so we’ll skip that. Klinghoffer continues:
By the time I had picked myself up off the floor, I also saw that the journal’s editorial staff was in high emergency alert. A note at the top of the Reader Comments section states:
[Klinghoffer quotes from the journal’s note:] A number of readers have concerns about sentences in the article that make references to a ‘Creator’. The PLOS ONE editors apologize that this language was not addressed internally or by the Academic Editor during the evaluation of the manuscript. We are looking into the concerns raised about the article with priority and will take steps to correct the published record.
Klinghoffer is enjoying himself. Here’s more:
This is followed by a list of sputtering denunciations [in the comments section of the journal]. A mob with pitchforks demanding retribution is predictable, and here they come. I too wonder what the editor was thinking. But these people are not going to be satisfied until someone has been punished. And of course they are not even going to consider the argument of the paper.
When you read the paper, you’ll see no evidence of a creator. Klinghoffer quotes several of the highly critical comments, and then he says:
It goes on. The note of career anxiety — no, panic — is telling. These folks don’t want to be rendered ritually impure by contact with a bit of injudicious language. Predictably, Twitter is aflutter. And the ever-useful website Retraction Watch has already reported on it. The paper’s editor apologized: “I am sorry for this has happened. I am contacting PLoS one to see whether we can fix the issue.”
Then Klinghoffer lectures us about intelligent design:
Let’s be clear on a point of science: Researchers associated with the intelligent design movement agree that the scientific evidence alone tells you only of a design behind nature, teleology, not a Creator. Identifying the source of the design with God is a religious conclusion not compelled by the scientific evidence, including the architecture of the human hand.
Yeah, there’s a big difference. He concludes with this:
So far the journal article stands as is. I feel for the authors and the editor, who probably also weren’t looking to spark a riot. I guess it will be retracted and that one or more parties will be battered and humiliated — the censors will accept nothing less. So it goes in the calcified world of science. We’ll keep an eye on the situation and let you know what happens.
Yeah, the “calcified world of science.” Meanwhile, a new development occurred after Klinghoffer posted. PLOS ONE has retracted the paper — see Follow-up Notification from PLOS Staff, which says:
The PLOS ONE editors have followed up on the concerns raised about this publication. We have completed an evaluation of the history of the submission and received advice from two experts in our editorial board. Our internal review and the advice we have received have confirmed the concerns about the article and revealed that the peer review process did not adequately evaluate several aspects of the work.
In light of the concerns identified, the PLOS ONE editors have decided to retract the article, the retraction is being processed and will be posted as soon as possible. We apologize for the errors and oversight leading to the publication of this paper.
No doubt, the Discoveroids will seize upon the retraction as “proof” of the conspiracy to suppress The Truth™. Very predictable, and we look forward to it.
Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.