In the beginning of March, social media erupted with a controversy around an article published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE that cited “the Creator” as a source for design of human hands. Now that three weeks have passed, what are some of the lessons learned?

The article and initial reactions

First of all, the source of the controversy. The article included a number of references to the Creator, including a following statement in the abstract: “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.” References to the Creator were further also made in the article itself, both in the introduction and conclusions.

hand

While the article was published online on January 5th, the public controversy only started early March, when James McInerney, Chair in Evolutionary Biology at University of Manchester, tweeted his outrage at the statements made in the paper, by calling the publication “a joke”. He later noted that his strong language was due to nuisance with creationism for over 20 years.

However, the publication that had been under the radar for about two months now got massive attention in social media. During a single day, 2nd of March, some rather strong responses were posted in the PLoS ONE article comments. A number of commentators who presented themselves as editors and reviwers of PLoS One threatened to withdraw from the journal. The same day, PLoS issued a statement that they would examine the concerns raised.