A scientific journal quickly retracted a peer-reviewed scientific paper that credits “the Creator” with designing the human hand — after Twitter users brutally mocked the publication.
Plos One is now a joke. "….proper design of the Creator" absolute joke of a journal https://t.co/AJexYjewoo# p #3_15 # ad skipped = true #
— James McInerney (@jomcinerney) March 2, 2016# p #4_15 # ad skipped = true #
McInerney explained that creationism had been annoying him for at least 20 years, and the research paper — titled “Biomechanical characteristics of hand coordination in grasping activities of daily living” — referred repeatedly to a supernatural creator.
The journal retracted the paper two days after the criticism was raised on social media.
The team of researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, recruited 30 volunteers to wear special gloves that tracked the movements of their hands as they performed various tasks.
The research team, led by Cai-Hua Xiong, wrote that hand coordination indicated “the mystery of the Creator’s invention,” and reflected the “proper design by the Creator.”
“Our study can improve the understanding of the human hand and confirm that the mechanical architecture is the proper design by the Creator for dexterous performance of numerous functions following the evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years,” the researchers concluded.
The authors blamed a language barrier for their repeated references to a supernatural creator.
“Our study has no relationship with creationism,” explained lead author Ming-Jin Liu. “English is not our native language. Our understanding of the word Creator was not actually as a native English speaker expected. Now we realised that we had misunderstood the word Creator. What we would like to express is that the biomechanical characteristic of tendious connective architecture between muscles and articulations is a proper design by the NATURE (result of evolution) to perform a multitude of daily grasping tasks.”
But the incident highlighted what many scientists see as a widespread problem in the editorial and peer-review process — but many cheered PLOS ONE’s relatively quick response to criticism by social media users.
“Science took ages to address blog and social media criticisms of incorrect information because they only respond to formal criticisms,” said Jonathan Eisen, chair of PLOS Biology’s advisory board. “PLOS ONE is responding to social media, which most journals pretend doesn’t even exist.”