Friday, March 04, 2016

PLoS ONE Intelligent Design Paper on Grasping Hand Retracted

A paper published in the journal PLoS ONE has raised a huge ruckus with the scientific community and has led to (apparently successful) calls for its retraction.  Doug Bolton of the Independent writes:
The paper, titled: 'Biomechanical characteristics of hand coordination in grasping activities of daily living' was written by a team of four researchers, three from Huazhong University in China, and one from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.

Published in the PLOS ONE journal, the fairly conventional study looked at the mechanics of how we grasp things, and involved the measurement of the hand movements of 30 participants.

However, members of the scientific community have demanded the paper be retracted, for its several perceived references to the pseudoscientific theory of intelligent design and a possibly divine 'Creator'.

In the opening sentences of the study, it claims the link between muscles and hand movements is the product of "proper design by the Creator."

Later, it says human hand coordination "should indicate the mystery of the Creator's invention," and concludes by again claiming the mechanical architecture of the hand is the result of "proper design by the Creator."
If you want a copy of this paper, you should probably hurry. It is going through the retraction process even as we speak:
“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 authors, themselves, have retreated to the excuse that the uses of language that appear to support intelligent design were “translation errors.”

Hat Tip to Rob Mitchell.

UPDATE: There is now a retraction notice on the page that reads thus: 
Following publication, readers raised concerns about language in the article that makes references to a 'Creator', and about the overall rationale and findings of the study.

Upon receiving these concerns, the PLOS ONE editors have carried out an evaluation of the manuscript and the pre-publication process, and they sought further advice on the work from experts in the editorial board. This evaluation confirmed concerns with the scientific rationale, presentation and language, which were not adequately addressed during peer review.

Consequently, the PLOS ONE editors consider that the work cannot be relied upon and retract this publication.

The editors apologize to readers for the inappropriate language in the article and the errors during the evaluation process.

4 Mar 2016: The PLOS ONE Staff (2016) Retraction: Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0151685. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151685
I am quite sure the Discovery Institute will weigh in at some point about this.

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