“Handgate” fever grips the scientific community. Sigh…

I am rather amused by the Twitter storm that has erupted around the mention, in an otherwise inoffensive paper out of China in PLoS One on the function of the human hand, of the influence of a “Creator” in the design of said  body part.  This has lead to threats by PLoS editors to resign, of threats of boycotts extending even to citing papers in PLoS One – and eventually to the paper being withdrawn by the journal.

As a committed atheist myself, 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, that should not have been open in the first place if a decent refereeing / editing job was done. And if THAT didn’t happen, then all the ordure belongs firmly within the vast and cavernous stable that PLoS One has become.

As an aside, my grandmother used to translate scientific papers from Russian and German for the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute in what was then Northern Rhodesia, in the 1950s.  She had to patiently explain to irate scientists who accused her of being anti- Soviet, that it really did say “We acknowledge the contribution of Comrade Stalin” on every paper. I’ll bet you papers out of the PPRK still thank Kim Jong-Un, too – and that does not detract from the science.

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.


About Ed Rybicki

Ed is a 60-ish virologist and biotechnologist, formerly a Zambian and presently a South African. He is into family, virology, biotechnology, science in general, science fiction in particular, photography, red wine, wearing loud shirts, 70s rock, blues and smooth jazz...and telling stories. Sometimes, interesting ones. And writing for his own amusement.
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