The reaction to a poorly-translated Chinese word sets off a firestorm of anti-creation protest among scientists.
Early Victorian scientists (and their predecessors) would have had no qualms about references to a Creator in scientific writings. That was then. Now, “Creator” is fightin’ words. Pro-evolution bigots react to it like Code Pink at a traditional-marriage rally, screaming, disrupting, and threatening anyone who mentions the C-word in a scientific context, even inadvertently. Evolution skeptics, consigned to their own tents outside the walls of the Science Castle where Darwin is enshrined like a god (2/01/07 commentary), may only utter the C-word in their own dwellings. There is no malfeasance more likely to get one Expelled out of secular science than to appear to give aid and comfort to the enemies of naturalism, the consensus worldview inside the castle where no divine foot can get in the door.
The open access journal PLoS One learned this all to well when Chinese researchers wrote the deplorable word in a paper, even though they are evolutionists. In a paper exploring the capabilities of the human hand, they wrote:
- The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.
- Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention.
- 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.
Yikes! Three times they wrote the C-word. Their references to “design” were bad enough, but “Creator”? That was beyond the red line. Evolutionists went nuts, flooding the comments with calls for retraction, calling the references “shameful” and “nonscientific” and “extremely distressing” and “an embarrasment.” One said that “retraction should be just the first step” in the journal’s punishment; others said “PLoS One is now a joke… an absolute joke of a journal.” At Evolution News & Views, David Klinghoffer likened the protestors to a mob with pitchforks. Nature got out in front to join the condemnation while trying to bring some order to the situation. Retraction Watch put the paper up on their watch list and was soon flooded with dozens of comments. Readers can only imagine what PZ Myers said about it without our having to quote him; this is a family-friendly website, after all.
One of the authors, pledging allegiance to Darwin, attributed the mistake to a translation error, saying that the word translated from Chinese into “Creator” actually meant something like “nature.” After all, didn’t they acknowledge “evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years”? It was too little too late. The holy war was on again (2/19/09).
The editors at PLoS One, seeing the firestorm, said they would look into the situation. Soon after, they caved. They issued the following retraction for having sinned by uttering “inappropriate language”—
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.
(See Evolution News & Views response.)
Not all of the critics were beside themselves over the “Creatorgate” scandal. One “committed atheist” made the following comment to the Nature report:
…I find such comments as “Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention.” to be naive rather than horrifying, or a reason to withdraw the paper. Seriously: was the data OK? If it was — no problem; ask them to consider removing mention of a “Creator”. Were the conclusions warped to include influence of a deity? If so — ask them to reword / rethink. But to pull the paper?? That smacks of post hoc closing of stable doors.… A little more tolerance, people: I have seen Indian scientists in the ICGEB in Delhi make offerings to the highly impressive statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity, in the Institute courtyard — and no-one thinks their science is shoddy.
Another wrote to Retraction Watch, “Where has tolerance and respect for the beliefs and opinions of others gone? One doesn’t need to agree, but bringing in a different idea in a civil manner seems more appropriate for an academic discussion.” Doug Bolton at the UK Independent found a little hypocrisy in the intolerance by academics. Such calls for tolerance, however, were drowned out by the vociferous calls to punish the journal for their indiscretion in letting the C-word slip through.
Theistic evolutionists shouldn’t kid themselves into thinking they’re safe by putting the Creator into a front-loading position, letting Darwinian evolution do the rest of the creating. At best, they will be given one less lashing.
So, all you leftist liberal Darwinian materialists, are you proud of yourselves? Remember in 1874 when your Darwin disciple John Tyndall pled with the British Association to be tolerant of materialist explanations? Now you are the bigots. You cannot have a rational discussion about evidence, even when the science is good. And the hand is a great example of intelligent design inexplicable by blind, unguided processes (see medical doctor Randy Guliuzza’s article on ICR). No matter. Darwin Sharia demands lex talionis: a hand for a hand.
So think about this: according to your own evolutionary theory, this is not about facts, evidence or logic at all. It’s an evolutionary game. Your own materialist brethren view the evolution of altruism as an emergent phenomenon involving cooperators and cheaters (see recent example in Science Advances). You were once the cheaters; now you are the cooperators punishing the cheaters. Accordingly, your position is about power, not truth, and it can oscillate back and forth. If you want your position to be true, you have to find a source for Truth that doesn’t evolve. In other words, you have to believe in a truthful, reliable Creator. With your materialism thus self-refuted, your best option is to abandon materialism and become a creationist—if you can avoid hating yourself. Q.E.D.
Exercise: Download the paper while you can (it may be come a collector’s item). Read it with a focus on the data. Does the evidence support design? Do the authors provide any plausible evidence for emergence of the hand by unguided processes of mutation and selection? If not, what’s the problem?