A Science Journal Published An Article Mentioning "The Creator" And People Are Not Happy

The paper's authors wrote that hands show "the proper design of the Creator."

Originally posted on
Updated on

UPDATE: The paper has now been retracted and the journal has apologised "for the errors and oversight" leading to its publication.

PLOS staff said in a statement:

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.

Original story below.

Scientists are calling for the retraction of a scientific paper on the biomechanics of hand coordination because the paper mentions a "Creator".

The paper, titled "Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living", was published in the journal PLOS ONE on 5 January this year. The work was done by three academics from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China and one from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the US.

Nobody seemed to notice the apparently creationist language until 2 March, when comments began appearing online questioning it.

The paper is about the different ways we grasp things with our hands.

Liu et al / Via journals.plos.org

The researchers had 30 participants wear a glove that measured how their fingers and thumb moved to capture the different orientations of their hands.

The paper mentions "the Creator" several times, including in the abstract, introduction, and discussion.

journals.plos.org

The paper's abstract says the way our hands work is "the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way". The introduction states: "Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator's invention."

On March 2, the journal posted a statement in the comments section of the paper, saying it was "looking into the concerns":

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.

Professor Ricard Solé, a member of the editorial board of PLOS ONE, told BuzzFeed News that editors at the journal are "already aware (and worried) about what just happened."

"I think they will take serious measures about this and despite the unfortunate nature of this event (which reflects a rather lack of care from the editor in charge) I think what is needed is a clear response," he added. "This is a wake-up call for future submissions and how are they handled."

Several people on Twitter are calling out the oversight, too.

Sad for #science. DEEPLY disturbing lack of editorial oversight. How did a paper denying #EVOLUTION pass #peerreview https://t.co/2dKEeeEQRm

Article in @PLOSONE mentioned “creator” & creationist argument. Shitstorm ensues via comments: https://t.co/8oI7kG7NyH

Oops PLOS One - did you forget to read the paper before accepting it? Creator? Really? https://t.co/t7yLmzhDci

Someone at PLOS ONE dropped the ball. Which is weird because the Creator made hands really good at grabbing stuff. https://t.co/65diqhhGKd

Some are calling for a boycott of the journal.

Several @PLOSONE editors and authors are pledging to boycott the journal unless it deals with #Creatorgate swiftly https://t.co/LhzZomXNoT

BuzzFeed News has reached out to PLOS ONE and the paper's lead author for comment.