No one here at EvC has mentioned this yet, so I'd like to bring attention to a recent paper that was published by PLOS ONE, entitled "Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living."
A glance at the title of the paper reveals nothing particularly strange. However, one need only read the abstract to come across this:
"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."
Of course, the broader scientific community took to Twitter in a valiant effort to understand how such a paper could have been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Fortunately, PLOS ONE has retracted the paper, immediately apologized, and appears to be going in a frenzy in an attempt to clean up this mess. See here for some discussion and comments regarding PLOS ONE.
I'd like to use this thread to:
1. Discuss any bad science papers that somehow make it to print.
2. Stimulate broader discussion of the peer-review process and how it can be improved.
Here are all three sentences in the paper containing the word "creator":
quote: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. [from abstract] ... Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention. [from introduction] ... In conclusion, 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 remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years. [from discussion]
I don't know anything about PLOS ONE, but they seem fairly embarrassed, so I assume they're a respectable peer-reviewed journal. The questions raised in discussion deserve answers. It's hard to see how something like this could happen. One has to suspect an inside job along the lines of Richard Sternberg's complicity as editor in placing Stephen C Meyer's paper in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. I bet we still don't know who Sternberg's reviewers were. Yep, looking up Sternberg Peer Review Controversy, we still don't know the identities of the reviewers, other than Sternberg himself.
There is a blog on this subject on The Sensuous Curmudgeon's site. Included in the comments are the following four discussing possible translation errors from Chinese to English:
Paul D. | 3-March-2016 at 10:39 pm |
Yes, the author has apparently acknowledged a translation error. The Chinese term in question means something akin to “Nature”, and the author is not a Creationist. ...
LiGuangming1981 | 3-March-2016 at 11:33 pm |
I’ve been scouring my Chinese-English dictionary to try to find what word the author might have used in the original Chinese, but with little luck. I’d be very interested to know what Chinese term is being translated here.
caligulathegod | 3-March-2016 at 11:52 pm |
One commenter on the paper suggests “Zao hua” is the word.
LiGuangming1981 | 4-March-2016 at 12:09 am |
Yes, upon looking for that term, that does appear to be the correct one. It appears that it can have a naturalistic sense and a supernatural sense, and my dictionary says that it is a formal term, the type you’d use in a scientific paper.
I became curious when I saw your comment about a Chinese translation error, because my first thought was "I don't know any Chinese words that could be mistranslated that way."
I've never heard the word "zao hua" ( 造化 ) before, but I can tell what it means by context. "Zao" (pronounced "dzao") means "make" or "create: it's the second character in the word "chuang zao" ( 创造 ), which means "create," and is the word used for "Creation" in the biblical sense. "Hua" (pronounced "hwah") is a character that means "change," but I always understood it as being kind of like the English suffix "-ization."
So, I might have understood it as "create-ization" or "the process of being made" or something like that. My Chinese isn't top-of-the-line anymore, but I'd give the authors the benefit of doubt and assume it was intended to mean some evolutionary process.
Still, it seems like an awfully bizarre translation error to make if it was completely innocent. I guess it's possible that a naive graduate student thought "by the Creator" was just a flowery English phrase, but the addition of "proper design" and such makes it hard to write off as an honest mistake. Does anybody know who did the translation?
quote:We are sorry for drawing the debates about creationism. Our study has no relationship with creationism. English is not our native language. Our understanding of the word Creator was not actually as a native English speaker expected. Now we realized that we had misunderstood the word Creator. What we would like to express is that the biomechanical characteristic of tendious connective architecture between muscles and articulations is a proper design by the NATURE (result of evolution) to perform a multitude of daily grasping tasks. We will change the Creator to nature in the revised manuscript. We apologize for any troubles may have caused by this misunderstanding. We have spent seven months doing the experiments, analysis, and write up. I hope this paper will not be discriminated only because of this misunderstanding of the word. Please could you read the paper before making a decision.
Competing interests declared: I am the author of paper.
Still, it seems like an awfully bizarre translation error to make if it was completely innocent. I guess it's possible that a naive graduate student thought "by the Creator" was just a flowery English phrase, but the addition of "proper design" and such makes it hard to write off as an honest mistake.
This is how it strikes me, too. If the original paper was in Chinese, and if all the reviewers were Chinese, and if the problem is all the fault of the translator, then in that case PLOS ONE can't be faulted, but it seems a stretch.
Maybe I shouldn't comment further since I know no Chinese, but looking again at those sentences containing the word "Creator" it is hard to believe it's a translation problem. It's hard to imagine a technical translator who can accurately render words like tendinous, biomechanical and kinematic from the Chinese, but somehow mistranslates the Chinese phrase "zao hua" into "Creator," making sure to capitalize it, plus the word fits smoothly into those sentences. It isn't forced or illogical at all, and what other concept could be meant if not "Creator."
What an absolute scientific outrage and disgrace to science that someone has affirmed the law of non-contradiction in an article by saying that a wonderfully graceful, supple and miraculously intelligently designed hand, with specified complexity, contingency planning and all of the rest of it, was therefore designed by a creator.
Whatever will they tell us next in science articles, that a beautifully baked cake was created by a cake-baker, or that a wonderfully imaginative painting was painted by an imaginative painter?
What a disgrace, that they suggest to us that we should heed the law of non-contradiction in this way when the publishers have brainwashed me into believing for so long that I am both Mike, AND not Mike.
To suggest brilliant design is designed is just the height of pseudo-science and I am outraged, for if there was a creator God we would not expect evidence of design we would expect evidence of, "not design", just like we would expect that if you are a qualified scientist you should have no scientific credentials and if you are a human male you should have female genitalia.
"Khan.....I'm LAUGHING at the superior evo-intellect." - Captain Kirk, The wrath of Khan.
Maybe I shouldn't comment further since I know no Chinese, but looking again at those sentences containing the word "Creator" it is hard to believe it's a translation problem
I know the feeling, but then why don't you just blindly believe by faith that it was just a translation error, like you blindly would believe that when you look at a hand, it's design is only an illusion despite how it seems. Come now Percy, we both know that a hand doesn't have a use, any more than a carburetor. That would be silly.
What you need to do to get back your ability to fool yourself is to perhaps read origin-of-species a few times. Then you will feel as right as rain again.
It's hard to imagine a technical translator who can accurately render words like tendinous, biomechanical and kinematic from the Chinese, but somehow mistranslates the Chinese phrase "zao hua" into "Creator,"
It's not all that hard for me to imagine. Most authors don't use translators, so the only "translation service" they would get is from a peer-reviewer or journal typesetter who's willing to spend time on it (which is not very common). I know a fair number of foreigners who are extremely conversant in English with their specific topics of expertise, but struggle with everyday English. As a parallel, when I was a missionary in Taiwan, I could take fluently about anything related to the gospel, but frequently made mistakes and misunderstood conversations about sports or cooking or other things like that.
...making sure to capitalize it, plus the word fits smoothly into those sentences. It isn't forced or illogical at all, and what other concept could be meant if not "Creator."
I agree with this: it seems like a very specific reference to a very specific cultural concept that would be hard to innocently mistake for something else. I'm still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt --- after all, I'm not sure what kind of filters are between the average Chinese scientist and the concepts of Western religious traditions --- but it still feels really odd.
Interesting, but it still doesn't feel right to me. One of the sentences was, "Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention," and according to them that will become, "Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of Nature's invention." Not making sense to me.
Why do I have the feeling that desperate conversations are taking place in China right now:
"Dude, how could you make those edits to what was supposed to be the final version? You've screwed us!"
"No I haven't. It's important for the world to understand the gifts of our Creator."
Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of Nature's invention." Not making sense to me.
So you think that nature inventing something would make no sense to say? But I have read that many times in scientific literature, they often say things like the, "genius of evolution" or "evolutionary genius". Or, "nature's cleverness". These are all superb oxymorons, akin to saying, "fugacious pine trees".
If he meant to say "nature's invention", that would be the mistake of anthropomorphism, because it would be to endow nature with creative abilities of intelligent design as though it is a thoughtful, omnipotent, omniscient, person. Personifying nature is actually quite common in scientific articles, I think one scientific magazine banned the use of such terminology because they didn't want people to think that scientists were alluding to God being the creator when in fact what they were actually doing was TACITLY admitting to design in nature and then giving the kudos to evolution.
Years ago I was asked to review an English translation of a Japanese book about dragonflies. The translator was an American living in Japan who had no knowledge of entomology or biology. There were some very odd sentences in English and in some cases a dozen or more back and forth discussions to understand what the author was saying. This was all complicated by the translator not using email and his handwriting was so small that I had to use a magnifying glass to read it.
The project took 2 years and I was supposed to get a copy of the $600 book. They claimed my copy was stolen in the mail so I never got one.
What if Eleanor Roosevelt had wings? -- Monty Python
One important characteristic of a theory is that is has survived repeated attempts to falsify it. Contrary to your understanding, all available evidence confirms it. --Subbie
If evolution is shown to be false, it will be at the hands of things that are true, not made up. --percy