A journal that published a study claiming the human hand was designed by "the Creator" has caused widespread controversy. The study, published by PLOS One in January, was looking at hand coordination and how its structure allows humans to perform a wide variety of tasks.
The team, from the Huazhong University in China, and one from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, were trying to find out if biomechanical characteristics are responsible for hand coordination by examining people's hand movements during everyday tasks. Their conclusion: that our hands are the result of "design by the Creator".
The study refers to this Creator throughout: "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 introduction says.
In the discussion, they add: "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 remodelling of the ancestral hand for millions of years."
Concluding, they write: "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."
Following its publication, members of the scientific community called the paper into question, with many asking how a study claiming intelligent design (the pseudoscientific idea that some features of life are the result of a higher power, not evolution) came to be published in a reputable journal like PLOS One.
Reactions on Twitter include:
The authors of the study have since said the references to the Creator were a result of errors in translation and that they do not believe in intelligent design. One of the authors, Cai-Hua Xiong, told Nature magazine: "We are not native speakers of English, and entirely lost the connotations of some words such as 'Creator'. I am so sorry for that."
Since the backlash, PLOS One has said it will retract the study after following up on the "concerns raised" over the study. "We have completed an evaluation of the history of the submission and received advice from two experts in our editorial board," a statement said. "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 apologise for the errors and oversight leading to the publication of this paper."