PLOS ONE, a popular peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science decided, Thursday that it would retract a paper it published earlier this year that credits the "Creator" with the design of the human hand.
The paper, titled: "Biomechanical characteristics of hand coordination in grasping activities of daily living," was written by a team of four researchers. Three of them are affiliated with Huazhong University in China while one, Le Xiong, is affiliated with Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.
PLOS ONE's decision to retract the article came after a global coalition of scientists revolted against the journal for embracing what they say is the theory of intelligent design reflected in the article.
"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," began the California-based journal in a statement Thursday.
"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," the statement ended.
In the 16-page journal article, the word Creator is used three times, including once in the conclusion.
"In conclusion, 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," it said.
It further noted: "Thus, hand coordination affords humans the ability to flexibly and comfortably control the complex structure to perform numerous tasks. Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator's invention."
The Christian Post reached out to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts on Friday where Le Xiong, the only one of the four authors living in the U.S., attends school. A staff member confirmed with CP that Xiong is a student at the school while another official said they could not release any information about her.
A link to the article was shared in the biology section of Reddit Thursday and it sparked a heated debate among a global coalition of scientists.
Jorge Soberon, distinguished professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Kansas State University confirmed with CP that he posted this comment in opposition to the study: "I find the use of religious language in a scientific paper totally unacceptable. I will be watching this paper closely, and distributing it to colleagues. If PLOS ONE does not do something about it, like asking the authors to retract the paper, or at the very least publishing an explanation, I will stop reviewing papers for PLOS ONE."
Zachary Throckmorton, assistant professor of anatomy at Lincoln Memorial University, also condemned the mixing of science and faith.
"Utilization of an Intelligent Design Creationism framework for explaining human anatomy is not acceptable for a scientific journal," noted the comment attributed to him on the Reddit thread. CP reach out to Throckmorton at Lincoln Memorial University to verify this comment but he was not available.
"As a PLOS editor I am used to the relentless emails from PLOS staff including all kinds or reminders. In this case I am ashamed that the journal staff, the editor responsible for the paper, the reviewers, all ignored this more than obvious red flag resulting in a Creationist argument embedded in a scientific paper. I will consider resigning unless exemplary actions are taken by PLOS," added Dante Chialvo, an adjunct professor of physiology at Northwestern University who also was not available to verify the comment.
Retraction Watch, an organization that tracks retraction of scholarly papers, said someone claiming to be one of the authors said they misinterpreted the word "Creator," and asked to correct — not retract — the paper.
"We are sorry for drawing the debates about Creationism. Our study has no relationship with Creationism. English is not our native language. Our understanding of the word Creator was not actually as a native English speaker expected. Now we realized 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," said the alleged author who made the comment under the alias Competing interests.
"We will change the Creator to nature in the revised manuscript. We apologize for any troubles may have caused by this misunderstanding," the statement continued.
"We have spent seven months doing the experiments, analysis, and write up. I hope this paper will not be discriminated only because of this misunderstanding of the word. Please could you read the paper before making a decision," the statement ended.