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.
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.