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Scientific journal cites a creator. Scientists say OMG

Technically Incorrect: The popular journal PLOS One publishes a paper that says the human hand was "the proper design of the Creator." The scientific community does a face palm.


Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

All the work of a Creator? Or at least the hands?

Fredrik Von Erichsen/dpa/Corbis

Intelligent design is a theory that enjoys some support.

Its proponents stand firm, even after some recent presidential debates have provided strong evidence that the way humans are designed may not be so intelligent after all.

Many scientists, however, don't seem fond of the notion that all things were created by a magical maker in the sky.

There's been something of an outcry, therefore, since scientific journal PLOS One published a paper called "Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living."

This doesn't seem like a title that would engender controversy.

However, within the study is wording that some found disturbing. For example, in discussing the very clever way in which muscles work with human hand movements, the paper attributes this to "the proper design of the Creator."

This isn't isolated phraseology. Later, the paper talks about how the fine coordination of the human hand "should indicate the mystery of the Creator's invention."

This has caused commenters on the article to rage against the creationist machine.

One comment is headlined "A shameful act." It reads: "Regretfully I have to withdraw my support for the journal as a reviewer. Also to bring this shameful incident to the attention of my academic colleagues and students who might consider submitting their work for publication at PLOS One."

The authors of the study were accused of "religious superstition." Three of those authors are from Huazhong University in China and one is from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Are they truly creationists?

PLOS One didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

But its editors did take to the comments section on Wednesday to air their regret. They said their internal review "revealed that the peer review process did not adequately evaluate several aspects of the work." The journal has retracted the article.

Of the wording "the Creator," PLOS One said in the comments, "the PLOS One editors apologize that this language was not addressed internally or by the Academic Editor during the evaluation of the manuscript."

Creationism or Intelligent Design finds itself very unwelcome in most scientific circles, especially when it's taught in public schools. Stephen Hawking, for example, has forcefully declared that there is no god.

Some scientists have, though, described religion as a taboo subject in academic circles. Still, one study suggested that 48 percent of scientists have at least some religious beliefs. Another concluded that 36 percent of scientists have "no doubt about God's existence."

How far those beliefs might stretch into the realm of their own work is unknown. Perhaps some scientists don't even know themselves.

In the end, neither side has complete answers. If they did, would life be quite so mysterious and enjoyable?