Saturday, March 05, 2016

That Didn't Take Long...

Sure enough, the Discovery Institute's David Klinghoffer has penned a response to the ruckus involving the retracted paper in PLoS ONE about the human grasping hand.  Called Mob with Pitchforks Forms as Science Journal PLOS ONE Acknowledges "Proper Design by the Creator", complete with picture of an angry mob from what looks like the 1930s. In this post, he recounts some of the comments that appeared in response to the publication of the paper:
Another self-identified editor: "As an editor of PLOS ONE, I am ashamed this ever got to be published, and I am ready to resign if this is not retracted immediately."

Still another: "There is no room in the scientific literature for Intelligent Design. This is more than just a 'language issue'."


"Plos One must here intervene to avert damage from all Plos ONE publishers."

"I published three times in P One. Is my career ruined?"

"It is assumed by the scientific community that PLoS ONE is a science-driven journal. If so, this manuscript must be retracted."

"PLoS must remove this article in total, along with the Editor who handled the manuscript."

"I am appalled by this paper and its reference to a 'Creator'. This paper should be retracted immediately."

It goes on. The note of career anxiety -- no, panic -- is telling. These folks don't want to be rendered ritually impure by contact with a bit of injudicious language. Predictably, Twitter is aflutter. And the ever-useful website Retraction Watch has already reported on it. The paper's editor apologized: "I am sorry for this has happened. I am contacting PLoS one to see whether we can fix the issue."
To be sure, a good bit of this is hyperbolic. This paper ruined nobody's career. It did, however, give pause because, briefly, science is in the business of explaining the natural world in terms of natural causes. As Dennis Lamoureux once remarked (paraphrased), it is quite possible that the socks that are missing from my dryer were taken by fairies, but it is much more likely that they got sucked out the drain tube and that is something we can test.

The position that the grasping hand reflects the genius of the creator is broadly analogous to the claim made by Ray Comfort that the Banana must have been crafted by God rather than by evolution because it fits perfectly in the hand, although no such anti-evolutionary claim was made by the authors of the hand paper and Ray Comfort's claim was idiotic, in light of what we know of artificial selection of the banana.

The problem that is giving people the vapors is that the grasping hand claim is baldly non-scientific.  Science is simply not capable of determining whether or not the hand's ability to grasp is divinely bestowed or not.  That is a matter of faith.

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