William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Stream: #Creatorgate. Scientists Say ‘The Creator’ Designed The Human Hand, Biologists Go Ape.

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Today’s post is at the Stream: #Creatorgate: Scientists Say ‘The Creator’ Designed The Human Hand, Biologists Go Ape.

Who are the most dogmatic, inflexible, reactionary, unforgiving, monomaniacal set of people these days? Folks apt to go off half-cocked, act intemperately, respond to criticism with unthinking ignorant fury, people who call for their enemies to be purged, ostracized, punished?

If you said scientists, you speak the truth…

The reason for their attitude is obvious: many biologists believe not only that God has no role in the workings of the world, but that evolution itself proves that God isn’t necessary, and therefore probably doesn’t exist. None of these opinions are in the least scientific, as we’ll see below, but they are believed with a fundamentalist fervency that astonishes.

The latest proof of this came when the journal PLOS One published the paper “Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living” by Ming-Jin Liu, Cai-Hua Xiong, Le Xiong, and Xiao-Lin Huang. In the Abstract of that work, after words marveling at the complexity and versatility of the human hand, appears this sentence (emphasis added):

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.

The Creator! Later they say “Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention.” And still later this:…

But—ho boy! Many scientists sprung a mental cog and began to jabber like monkeys when told the grocery store is out of bananas. Several took to Twitter, creating the #Creatorgate hashtag so that the rabble would have a banner to rally behind.

A boycott of PLOS One was immediately called for. Liu et al.’s paper was called “pseudoscience”, that it was, somehow, akin to the “anti-vax movement”. Peer review was said to have failed. The paper was “beyond absurd.” A user going by the name @TheComplexBrain said, “Rarely have my eyes been so keen to bulge out of their sockets at a single word reading this abstract!” The poor dear.

Others said PLOS One’s credibility was marred, that the journal had “jumped the shark”. The journal was put on the defensive and issued a tweet, “PLOS ONE editors apologize that language wasn’t addressed pre-publication. We’re looking into concerns w/ priority.”…

The story wasn’t over. Bowing under the pressure, PLOS ONE retracted the paper (at 3 Mar 2016, 19:45 GMT)…

No errors in the paper were identified, and the editors gave no indication they even considered Liu’s explanation. They instead decided not to face the wrath of the mob…

And it is a question most scientists are ill-equipped to answer. That they don’t recognize this accounts for their becoming unhinged by the mere suggestion the Creator was behind the human hand. My suggestion: get a grip.

Go there to read the full article.

Also… thanks to Kip Hansen, who submitted a guest essay on this topic, not knowing I had one scheduled too.

Update I originally had this brief explanation showing that evolution is not inconsistent with God’s existence, but the editor thought it too complex.

Here’s a simple, crude, yet illuminating analogy about design in evolution. You’re asked to design a carnival game for kids, a sort of junior wooden pachinko device. Ball goes in at the top, rolls down a slide hitting posts along the way, bouncing to and fro, finally coming to rest in one of four slots at the bottom, A, B, C, and D, which, although it’s not part of the analogy, correspond to certain prizes.

Now before the ball is dropped nobody knows which of the slots will have the ball. All sorts of things will cause the ball to land where it does, from the friction of the ball, board, and posts, the bounciness of and wear on the ball itself, the humidity and temperature of the air, even the gravitational field; and many more things.

Nobody can track all these causes, yet they must be there, because otherwise how would the ball get where it’s going? One thing is clear, the ball can only land A, B, C or D. It cannot land E nor F nor any other letter because these slots do not exist by design.

Evolution is just like that. However changes occur to an organism, whatever mechanism causes genes to shift, the eventual organism must “land” in some slot, or biological niche if you like. Viable organisms are like the slots of the pachinko game, and non-viable ones—the beasts that cannot live because their genes will not produce a living being in a particular environment—are like the slots that aren’t there.

No scientist knows, and more importantly no scientist can know, that the slots we see weren’t designed, weren’t planned for. And the same is true for the slots we don’t see. The reason is simple: whether the slots were designed is not a scientific question, but a philosophical one. Science can tell us what we’ll see given a set of rules, but science must be mute on the big question: why these rules? To learn about design we need metaphysics, not physics.

Therefore, it’s harmless to say “The Creator” designed the human hand. After all, some power had to be the ultimate cause, the rule-giver that created the “laws” of Nature, even if it were Nature that produced the design (in the same way Nature produced the ball in one of the designed slots). The only reason to become exercised over this is because scientists are anxious to deny, without and contrary to evidence, that this power was God.

55 Comments

  1. One does’t need to introduce God. Just point out evolution is an unprovable theory, always will be, and the hissyfits explode. I know, I do it all the time and the snitfits are endless. Yet, truth be known and admitted, evolution is an unprovable theory. So is creationism. ALL theories of how the earth came into being are scientifically unprovable. So get over it.

    Should religion then not allow nonsensical intrusion of science into their turf? I believe that’s as true and rational as what the PLOS journal said. If religion has no place in science, how can science have a place in religion?

    Now science is intolerant of other languages and mistranslation and sees conspiracies everywhere?

    So PLOS is indeed a journal based on popularity of the articles and likability, not actual science. Glad we got that clarified.

  2. @Sheri
    One person with entrenched unreasonable views upsets other people with entrenched unreasonable views. Dog bites man 🙂

    All evolution needs is DNA, time and changing circumstances. Even if you think the world is 6000 years old, given the way DNA works evolution is still going to happen. Slowly and surely, and in a million years things will have changed as a result of evolution.

    If you’re more inclined to accept the evidence showing that the world is billions of years old and that there’s been life on it for millions, evolution is a perfectly reasonable theory for how things got the way they are.

    As for something to make evolution a fact… Never going to happen on any time scales we’re likely to experience, but there’s a lot of supporting evidence, enough to make me comfortable with accepting it as the best explanation we’ve got for the way life on this planet has and will continue to develop.

    I’m not using it to explain origins of life or any of that stuff, I’ve not gone completely Dawkins. Nor had a hissyfit.

  3. We’ve all observed here, many times, apparent failures of peer review. Such lamentations are a recurring theme of his blog.

    Now we see an example of a very rare instance where a journal has been informed of such a breach, has conducted its own independent inquiry, and has formally published its conclusions — admitting its mistake!

    One would think this kind of integrity would be praiseworthy, but such is not the case…here at least….

    There’s just no pleasing some people.

  4. I heard about this. The references to “the Creator” were weird. I’m glad they pulled it out. There is no evidence whatsoever that some higher being had anything to do with the evolution of hands, or anything else, or, regardless of Aquinas’ circular sophistry, that there is anything even remotely like “a Creator” in existence, let alone the ridiculous Nagging Nanny God of the Christians.

    JMJ

  5. “PLOS ONE editors apologize that language wasn’t addressed pre-publication. We’re looking into concerns w/ priority.”…
    These guys hadn’t thought about this potential controversy before hand, made editorial decisions about was acceptable given their audience, and done minimal proof-reading? Are they even qualified as editors?

    Many scientists sprung a mental cog and began to jabber like monkeys when told the grocery store is out of bananas.
    Lovely image this is. Like that CareerBuilders commercial of several years ago. So Darwinian, in a devolutionary sense.

  6. More phoney outrage from both sides.
    I have made a study of the human hand and am amazed at not just the complexity of it’s appearance but the various aspects of it’s structure and function, rather the functional anatomy that make it hard to see how this could have taken place piecemeal. One change at a time.
    I simply don’t believe evolution bears all of the weight of the explanation. Some of the evolutionary explanations make perfect sense.
    For the hand insert even less complex structures and the same is true. Not just human anatomy and physiology either.
    The more someone knows about the intricacy of the object the more one admires the creator that designs the thing.
    Leaving aside that evolution requires life to be there to stat with:
    that I have no idea what instigates change from unicellular to multicellular or asexual to sexual reproduction of unicellular organisms. These things are said to be replicating by means of the predetermined organic chemistry. Yet this preprogrammed cell one day decides to get together with another cell. I don’t believe this happens by chance. I don’t see the mechanism of this happening by chance.

    Life, if one follows the evolutionary argument develops from the simple to the complex but with no explanation of how cells have an output which includes information that was not included in it’s input. This works the opposite way to what we see elsewhere. The argument places infinite power upon organic compounds. That matter can come together rise up, develop and ask why it exists and conclude that it is a result of a random process.
    I don’t think it is fully explained.

    The argument that DNA is a form of language and that language implies a mind behind the language makes perfect sense.

  7. @Joy
    “I have made a study of the human hand and am amazed…rather the functional anatomy that make it hard to see how this could have taken place piecemeal. One change at a time.”

    If you’re prepared to accept the dating (and fact of) fossils then there’s evidence of hand-like structures going back many hundreds of millions of years and pre-dating the emergence of mammals. Even with a slow rate of change there’s still plenty of time for genetics & mutation to arrive at the type of hands we have today.

    Hands are both complex and marvellous, but just because *we* couldn’t design one from scratch doesn’t mean they didn’t evolve that way or that something else did design them.

  8. For the sake of argument, even if the paper’s results were to conclusively reject the theory of evolution by natural selection, why is the alternative the God-theory? Is it not possible to come up with an alternative theory – either now or in the future? It is akin to rejecting Ptolemy’s geocentric model because of observations inconsistent with it; and proposing a God-theory instead of an alternative.
    – All theories are false. So why would it be particularly surprising if the theory of evolution by natural selection is rejected?
    – “After all, some power had to be the ultimate cause”: My understanding is that this argument has been beaten to death at least since the time of the Greeks and has yet to be resolved.
    – Religious teachings may be useful and some may be better than others. What I see in your post is a person absolutely beside himself with glee because some scientists found results consistent with his own belief in a God. In other words, you love confirmation just as much as the scientists you criticize.

  9. Steve Crook,

    Perhaps true, but how did life/DNA come to exist in the first place. Evolution doesn’t and can’t answer that.

  10. JMJ,

    ” There is no evidence whatsoever that some higher being had anything to do with the evolution of hands, or anything else, or, regardless of Aquinas’ circular sophistry, that there is anything even remotely like “a Creator” in existence, let alone the ridiculous Nagging Nanny God of the Christians.”

    There is no evidence whatsoever that some kind of higher being had nothing to do with the evolution of hands or anything else. It’s rather hypocritical to complain of circular sophistry and respond with circular sophistry of your own.

  11. Steve E: If you use evolution to say that things change and some things survive and some don’t and that’s how we got here, okay. However, I don’t think that is what most people mean with evolution—everything changes, some survive, some don’t. As such, it’s obviously true. As an “explanation” for how life arrived where it is today, it cannot be proven.

    Ken: Perhaps because the objection may have been over improper translation of a term, not improper content.

    JMJ: There is no evidence for a lot of things, such as the government is the proper nanny for humanity, yet you obviously have no trouble believing that fiction.

    Gary: I agree. Who missed the language problem pre-publication? I thought peer-review was by experts who know these things. Maybe not?

    Steve Crook: Isn’t evolution saying “it just happened”? Is that really an explanation? Even if you throw in “survival of the adequately fit”, it still says “it just happened”? I can’t see physics or chemistry accepting that explanation, why biology?

    berserker: Of course another theory could be advanced that does not include God. It’s not an either/or.

  12. Of course there’s evidence for our “Nanny God.” (JMJ may intend the epithet as an insult, but there’s nothing wrong with Someone being a Nanny when we properly stand as children before Him {whether we properly should stand as children before our governments is another question, I suppose}).

    Viz, there’s a Man who claimed to be this very God who was put to death horribly for that very claim and Who rose then alive from the grave (I even know a lady who knows the guy).

    That’s evidence. You can’t even say it’s not credible evidence since millions, maybe billions have believed it–many thousands at the cost of their own lives (that is to say against interest), including, notably, the original witnesses to the event.

    All one can say is that it’s credible evidence that he personally is unable or unwilling to believe.

  13. Briggs,

    I agree that the retraction is an overreaction to a couple of harmless sentences that the editor could have asked to be removed or altered before publication if he had so desired. I wonder though if carpal tunnel syndrome had been investigated the authors would have criticized the creator for his oversight.

    Sheri,

    “Isn’t evolution saying “it just happened”? Is that really an explanation?”

    You are confusing the observation of a phenomenon with its possible explanation. For example since you mentioned physics, it is said that Newton began thinking about gravitation when he noticed the apple fall from the tree. Gravity just happened but it set him to thinking that the moon must also be falling to earth for the same reason as the apple. The rest is history. Darwin as well as others before him noticed descent with modification, called evolution. This just happened but it set him to thinking that it seemed very similar to the artificial selection of pigeon fanciers, to give one example. The rest is history.

  14. Gary

    These guys hadn’t thought about this potential controversy before hand

    Pun intended?

  15. How interesting that Jersey Mc. stipulates as false the hundreds of millions who experentially take God NOT to be a Nanny God but moves to scepticism about the one of maybe a small handful of possible answers to the origin of things that many non-Christians and thinkers have reasoned to.
    I was not always a believer but enough exposure to the Jersey of the worlds makes one come face to face with the basics: DO I EVEN CARE WHAT THE ANSWER IS ?

  16. Ye Olde Statistician

    March 7, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Did anyone even try to find out what the Chinese ideogram was that had been translated as “Creator”? Was it Google Translate that did it? Inquiring minds want to know.

    even if the paper’s results were to conclusively reject the theory of evolution by natural selection, why is the alternative the God-theory?

    Thank you. Few these days seem to understand the difference between fact and theory. Evolution is a fact. Natural selection is a theory put forward to explain that fact. It’s not entirely clear how it does so. Blyth had proposed it earlier to explain how species did not change. Empedocles of Akragas in Sicily had proposed natural selection in the fifth century BC. And, a generation before the Origin of Species, Scotsman Patrick Matthews laid out the whole Darwinian system in detail. (Alfred Russel Wallace probably did not know about it, but Darwin almost certainly did. His notes from the period walked with Jesus.)

    But through any finite collection of facts one can always draw multiple theories. Even quantum mechanics has at least four or five different theories. (Although the quantum mechanicals — Shut up and calculate! — call them “interpretations” and refer to the mathematical formalism as quantum “theory”!). Hence, there are multiple theories to account for the fact that different species have lived at different times. If natural selection were true we would expect to see in the fossil record a “glissando” of small incremental species changes. Instead, we see “step functions” of sudden changes. This suggests that evolution does not take place in small incremental steps. Modern genetics seems to support this: neither small changes nor long times are required.

    However, natural selection amounts to “survivors survive.” It’s a little like explaining the motions of the planets by tautologically citing “location change.” At least Newton provided some mathematics. You will notice there are no “Darwin’s Equations.”

    And now that we think of it, Newton also called on God to keep the planets stable. We wonder if these “biologists,” who can barely suit up when physicists are in the game, would have tried to suppress the Ptincipia on the same grounds that their deeply held beliefs had been traduced.

  17. This article reminds me of a thought device I have been considering with a similar vein of logic behind it. It’s a simple singular question:

    Why are the infants of every useful to mankind mammal cute and/or adorable to human sensibilities?

    Wolf cubs, donkey and horse foals, even piglets… The list of examples is long, and many grow up to be creatures of decidedly, “uncuteness.” A full grown sow or burro for instance.

    This attractiveness to humans does not provide the species with any benefits evolutionarily. After all, humans stealing your cubs away because they are cute doesn’t help your pack.

    We know that cuteness isn’t a consideration in animal behavior. Some of the ugliest creatures on the planet are still cared for, in a way we might refer to as lovingly, by their equally ugly parents.

    So, why do infants of animals who are able to fulfill useful functions in human societies appear cute to humans?

  18. YOS,

    Ptincipia->Principia?

    As in “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica”?

  19. Steve Cook,
    I do accept the dates and the fossils. I think the interpretation of the bible has been incorrect with respect to “days”. There are different meanings for the word and the interpretation which makes most sense is that “day” means period or phase of time.
    This is not my translation but I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve heard it said.

  20. John,

    “So, why do infants of animals who are able to fulfill useful functions in human societies appear cute to humans?”

    Why are you looking at the question backwards? I think it is far more likely that we perceive them as cute because of their potential usefulness as adults.

  21. Ye Olde Statistician

    March 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Yes, that is what is known technically as a “typo” of the third kind. Briggs’ enemies have turned their sights on me.

  22. “When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything,” he said. “However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness.”
    – Pope Francis

    “…converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on Earth.”
    – then-future-Pope Ratzinger

    Also consider:

    “The Catechism of the Catholic Church discourages literalism when it encourages believers to recognize the various literary genres found in the Bible.

    “Another issue is that science and religion are each a distinct tool for the discovery and explanation of truth. The realm of science is concerned with data that can be empirically demonstrated or proven. The realm of religion has to do with the meaning of life and existence in a way that surpasses the physical world. The religious believer and scientist both make the same mistake when they wrongly attempt to use their own tools to judge the other. Theology and science each have their own methodologies, their own instruments, for the discovery of their particular areas of truth.”
    – See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201508/do-catholics-believe-evolution-30288#sthash.WUtFGmcl.dpuf

    Given the above, a Catholic ought not have any issue whatsoever with PLOS pulling a purportedly scientific paper that co-mingles an article of faith with scientific assessment (and that faith viewpoint happens to be contrary to the Catholic Church’s own position regarding “creationism” vs “evolution”). The following assertion is just plain wrong relative to this facet of Catholic doctrine:

    “The only reason to become exercised over this is because scientists are anxious to deny, without and contrary to evidence, that this power was God.”

    And if one happens to be unconvinced about God’s role in nature, pulling the paper also makes sense as any attribution to a deity is unsupported.

    However, if one is an “evangelical,” a loosely defined group that generally applies literalism & denies evolution/support “creationism” (or “intelligent design”), then PLOS’ actions would seem controversial on the basis of denying the power of God (even though evangelicals, generally, believe that science and religion can coexist: http://www.livescience.com/50162-most-evangelical-christians-dont-feel-hostile-to-science.html).

    What’s interesting here is that a Catholic blogger’s stance–especially toward science/scientists–is consistent with an evangelical viewpoint, and/or, is contrary to the Catholic Church’s oft-stated position.

    If one is a R. Catholic, one is not supposed to participate in the religious activities of other denominations, etc., because such is how one unknowingly slides down the slippery slope to heresy. Here’s an example (and there are others):

    http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/should-catholics-go-to-non-denominational-bible-studies

    Here we see [again!] a purported Catholic blogger espousing heresy. Not necessarily by much, but too much just the same.

  23. YOS,

    “Did anyone even try to find out what the Chinese ideogram was that had been translated as “Creator”?”

    Do you have a reason to believe that an original was written in Chinese? As a reviewer it has been my experience that papers are submitted in English to English language journals from China and elsewhere. Of course you are not always serious, a character flaw no doubt. 😉

    John,

    Young animals often look cute because they look more human than the adult form. This is because neotism (retention of child like features into adulthood) was an important process in human evolution.

  24. Ye Olde Statistician

    March 7, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    @Scotian
    The authors contended that their native language is some variety of Chinese (I do not know which). As such, I suppose they must have written the paper in their own language and translated it into the foreign tongue for submission. Since terms in different languages often lie at divergent angles to one another this sometimes results in odd word choices. A Chinese-speaker is probably not aware of the touchy reactions of True Believers to seeing the term “Creator.” And Anglophones cannot comprehend that the rest of the world may not be party to their own obsessions.

  25. YOS, I too wondered about the translation aspect. Replacing the word might not be the solution, as there could also be a grammar difference between the thought process embedded in sentence structure in Chinese compared to rendering it in English.

  26. The paper, the commentary, and (except for Ken) the comments here, are Wrong, all wrong; so wrong, so off-point, that they’re not even wrong. They are so comprehensively and thoroughly not-even-wrong that it must set some kind of record. They are so not-even-wrong that even JMJ is half-right this time. For the true problem is lack of diversity:

    The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by CTHULHU to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.

    The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by PROMETHEUS AND ATHENA to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.

    The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by QUETZALCOATL to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.

    The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by PANGU to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.

    There. Problem solved.

  27. Hi WM. Thanks for this post. Almost 35 years alive and I think I finally understand religion.

  28. “The latest proof of this came when the journal PLOS One published the paper “Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living” by Ming-Jin Liu, Cai-Hua Xiong, Le Xiong, and Xiao-Lin Huang.” – Briggs

    I’m not familiar with these people, but if my assumption based entirely upon their names that these scientists are Chinese is correct, then it is statistically unlikely they are Christians, and therefore equally unlikely they are referring here to the Christian ‘Creator’ when they use that word.

    In any case, if there is a ‘Creator’ this creator is certainly not the one found in the Bible, or any other such religious text.

  29. Bye, bye Peter A. I wish I could say it’s been fun, but if it had been, I still be here.

  30. The points that YOS raises in his last post I generally agree with. There needs to be a ‘delete comment’ function; I jumped in too soon once again 🙁

  31. Sheri! 🙂

    Yes, I spend too much time here, arguing with people who have already made up their minds. I guess I need to do something a little more constructive with my time. I’ll ‘unsubscribe’.

    Have fun.

  32. YOS,

    A Chinese-speaker is probably not aware of the touchy reactions of True Believers to seeing the term “Creator.” And Anglophones cannot comprehend that the rest of the world may not be party to their own obsessions.

    Indeed. Also, as Peter A says, the Creator is probably not the one found in the Bible.

    Mr. Briggs,

    What’s funny about this is that there is nothing scientifically wrong with suggesting that “the Creator”, or even God, is ultimately the cause of the design of the human hand, and indeed the design of every creature.

    There is nothing scientifically correct with the suggestion!!!

  33. While the referees and the authors may not have the expertise on evolution, it’s obvious that referring to the Creator is unscientific. Regardless of what a Creator is to the Chinese authors and what’s going on beneath the surface, this incidence only emphasizes the importance of being a conscientious referee and editor.

    Comments by one of the authors –

    RE: What is the relation between “”the Creator”” and this study?
    Posted by Mingjin on 15 Feb 2016 at 09:53 PM

    Thanks for your comments.

    As we know, human hand is an amazing instrument … Although expended great attempts by scientists and engineers, there is no artificial hand matching the amazing capacity of human hand. The origins of human hand remain unclear. … The further discussion about the Creator is indeed out of place in our article.

    We have noticed the problems of the inaccurate measurement by CyberGlove. …

    RE: RE: What is the relation between “”the Creator”” and this study?
    Posted by alexwilcox on 02 Mar 2016 at 02:37 PM
    The origin of the human hand is actually very clear. You might be interested to read this review on the subject.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2409097/pdf/joa0212-0544.pdf

  34. Bottom line, none of this whatsoever has to with creationism. Whether or not is was an error in translation or cultural value differences does not matter either.

    What it does say loud and clear:
    1. Peer-review is hopelessly flawed. The word Creator is in the abstract and yet no one was bothered by this.
    2. The article was pulled, NOT because the theory was flawed, or anything like that, but “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 ONLY flaw stated was the use of Creator. So an entire study was thrown out because of ONE word the scienctific community did not like. Consider that this is equivalent to throwing out a drug study because someone used the word worship or something similar in it. Even if the rest of the study is 100% accurate and the drug works, no one cares. It is not science if ANY word is objectional. No matter how accurate the study, it is thrown out. That is NOT science—it’s politics, pure and simple. So PLOS is now about politics.

    In the future, expect articles that look at differences between sexes and not “gender” to be tossed, articles that look at straight versus gay, articles that might suggest sugar is not a killer, drug trials that contain gender groups of both men and women in the male group and femal group (there will be no knowing if drugs have a different effect on women than men because those terms will be rejected along with the article) and anything that contradicts Dr. Oz to be thrown out. Science, this is your future.

  35. Ye Olde Statistician

    March 8, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    What’s funny about this is that there is nothing scientifically wrong with suggesting that “the Creator”, or even God, is ultimately the cause of the design of the human hand, and indeed the design of every creature.

    There is nothing scientifically correct with the suggestion!!!

    That’s because as Briggs pointed out, it is not a scientific suggestion in the first place. One may as well claim that Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is scientifically correct, or that a recipe for baked chicken breasts a la russe is scientifically correct.

  36. YOS,

    uh? It’s indeed not a scientific suggestion, but, to put it in another way does make a different impression. Anyway, the point is that the claim/suggestion should not be stated in a supposedly scientific paper.

    Please note that “Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto” or “a recipe” is not a claim of any sort, but “the Creator is ultimately the cause of whatever” is.

  37. MattS
    Perhaps, but there are plenty of animals we see which, even when young, we do not consider cute. There is also the fact at one point a human first captured an animal to tame, leading to the question: Why? Especially if said human, at that point, had no idea what the creature could do for him.
    Of course this idea would concurrently clash with Scotian’s statement as well. Which assumes child-like features resort in cutie-feels (had to come up with some kind of word-phrase for it). If cutie-feels are generated as a result of after-the-fact knowledge, then they might (likely) not be generated by neotism.

    As many young animals, and even infant humans, do not elicit cutie-feels in others I cannot help but consider there is more to it than simply they have short arms and big heads.

    But then again, it’s just random musings.

  38. Sander van der Wal

    March 8, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    If you mention a Creator ( note the upper case) you need to be a bit more specific. Why no name, address? Why one and not many? One would expect som examples of creators for other bits of the animal kingdom. Are thre creators for plants too? For fungi?

  39. Ye Olde Statistician

    March 8, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    the claim/suggestion should not be stated in a supposedly scientific paper.

    Don’t tell me. Tell Newton.

  40. John,

    “There is also the fact at one point a human first captured an animal to tame, leading to the question: Why?”

    There are two possibilities. The first is that dogs, to take one example, choose us. That is proto-dogs, some common ancestor of the modern wolf, hung around human camps for scraps. The more compliant would be adopted which is facilitated by the similarity in group behaviour between humans and wolves (dogs). It would’t work for tigers. The cuteness factor is irrelevant to this but it does explain the breeding of small lap dogs. The second is that it takes a rare genius to see the future possibility. There is at less one weirdo in ever crowd. Different explanations may apply for different animals but not all animals are domesticable.

    A interesting insight to this can be seen in the recent domestication of the Red Fox.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Domesticated_Red_Fox

    Note the development of dog-like and cute features.

  41. YOS, OK. Give me Newton’s email address or phone number. There is no way to know what Newton’s opinion would be or whether he would be a believer if he were alive today.

  42. Chinese churches exist Some are extreme protestant.There are at least three here in this New Zealand city. It is believed thousands of Christians are in mainland China. Chinese people living in Hongkong and Singapore are often Christian .Christianity is widespread in the world .Perhaps U.S citizens should look outside their shores occasionally /sarc

  43. God-theory is not science. Sciences deal with secondary causation. That is, they investigate nature of things and not what Creator did or not.

  44. “Newton also called on God to keep the planets stable.”
    This is not what Newton is famous for.
    The recourse to God-of the-Gaps was not Newton at his finest.

  45. Ye Olde Statistician

    March 9, 2016 at 6:43 am

    Actually, it was not my impression from the excerpts quoted that the scientists investigated anything Creator-wise, but only made a pro-forma statement of awe at what had been accomplished. Late Moderns prefer to save their awe for the chisel, not the sculptor.

  46. Ye Olde Statistician

    March 9, 2016 at 6:45 am

    This is not what Newton is famous for.

    Perhaps not. But we do not demand that his Principia be withdrawn from publication because of it.

  47. It may not be what Newton was famous for but fame isn’t always an accurate picture of reality. Newton wrote more theological papers than science and he certainly isn’t famous for that.
    And based on what I’ve read of his writings I doubt he would retract his comments in his Principia today but would look at modern discoveries, not as fill ins of gaps he left open for God, but as justification for his remarks.
    And the comment about whether Newton might be an atheist today by JH is funny. Why would he be any different? There were atheists then and there are theists in cosmology, neurology, and biology now. He studied other world religions, commented on atheist works, and he was often at odds with his culture and his peers theologically and philosophically . He certainly wasn’t a pliable mind that conformed to his surroundings. So, tell me why would his worldview be so radically different now than then.

  48. My Comment earlier, thanks to my resident grue, was wiped when the page refreshed.

    “grasping activities of daily living”
    There are no other types of grasping activities.
    Let’s be clear there are grasping activities only.

    Articles make a Rubixcube out of the simple and others shamelessly simplify the complex.
    I particularly hate over complex explanations for the simple. There’s no excuse.

    Mechanical engineering is a repetitive process. Computer aided design masks the repetitive nature of design and people take design for granted.

    Design of a simple mechanism or housing of a mechanism takes place with redesign and tweaking to more than one component of the design to accommodate a change.
    There are many moving parts of not just the hand but a single complex joint that are precision engineered in appearance. They do not imply piecemeal step change because the rubbing out and starting again feature doesn’t appear in the natural selection process. Perhaps for lengths and colours and simple shapes just gross differences.
    The hand is but one example and an old favourite because of thumb opposition.

    If you know you’re designing a hand to knit or play guitar, crack an egg?
    that’s bad enough. If this took place by a mindless unguided process where the outcome was not preplanned but accidental and that all accidents were retained which were positive this is to me fanciful.
    Furthermore, some of the aspects of human design appear to be brilliantly convenient but often trivial. It’s hard to think of a reason for natural selection to have retained these small not life or death features.

  49. Seth,

    And the comment about whether Newton might be an atheist today by JH is funny. … So, tell me why would his worldview be so radically different now than then.

    Your question to me is funny. I wrote that I had no way of knowing. So same conclusion but rephrased – I don’t know whether his worldview would be under current social condition. Do you know for certain? You are speculating. Just like if Einstein were alive in 17th century, no one would really know for certain whether his views on religion or God would be any different.

  50. I don’t know WHAT his worldview would be under current social condition.

  51. I always thought Darwin’s apple on the head insight was that species which do not fit in their environments disappear.

    Christi pax.

  52. JH,
    Since I’m not a post-modernist nor a blank-slate/solely-nurture believer I don’t think we’re all just the sum of our personal experience of culture or social conditioning. Since I believe at least some pattern of thought you’re born with and that rationality and logic are objective and capable of being grasped by the human mind then this means some aspect of your being will hold regardless of what era you find yourself in. Obviously, there would still be room for diversity but the core foundation would be the same and limit what kind of different views one can have.
    Einstein in the 17th century? When the mechanical view of nature was growing stronger? And brought forth philosophers like Spinoza who’s description of God is the one that Einstein agreed with? I really fail to see much of a difference. Honestly, the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics is really the first empirical idea that was at complete odds with Einstein’s views. He helped create QM and he died thinking it must be incomplete because “God doesn’t play dice with the universe.” Living in the age of indeterminate QM that he helped create didn’t change his worldview why would living in an era that better complemented his views change them?
    Both Einstein and Newton believed that the order, rationality, and comprehensibility of the universe was evidence for God. Last I checked, current physical theories still rely on logic and math. Why would their belief in God alter in a different era when their justifications for their belief still hold?

  53. Ye Olde Statistician

    March 10, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Why would their belief in God alter in a different era when their justifications for their belief still hold?

    Because it flatters the self-image of the Late Moderns.

  54. One suspects that Einstein and Newton would never have gotten a paper published today, nor any kind of job above janitor.

  55. Milton Hathaway

    March 11, 2016 at 4:38 am

    I used to believe that the theory of evolution was science, whereas creation was religion, but I have been forced to abandon that notion, as a practical matter. The reason? Math. After playing around with a variety of optimization algorithms over the years in attempts to solve a variety of intractable problems, it seems obvious that optimization simply doesn’t work very well in any general sense. Proclaiming that given enough time and parallelism, optimization can surely solve any problem, reveals a naiveté that could only be exhibited by someone who has never actually got their hands dirty. I.e., a “true believer” in the all-powerful magical abilities of optimization to solve any problem, because the notion is so satisfying that it just has to be so.

    If evolution does explain the species, then it’s very hard to believe that the problem isn’t an “intelligent design” created to be solvable through optimization.

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