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PLOS ONE "Creator" Scandal Enters Witch-hunt Territory

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The move by major science journal PLOS ONE to pull a peer-reviewed paper over mentions of a "Creator" and "design" looks worse and worse. The Chronicle of Higher Education quotes Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch who says the decision to retract the article on hand biomechanics was "knee-jerk." This too caught my attention:

Even Elsevier, a leading publisher of subscription-based journals, has had papers that were "clearly intelligent design-driven," Mr. Oransky said.

That is a strange off-handed admission. We're always told there is no mainstream support for intelligent design in peer-reviewed science journals. Suddenly there is.

Meanwhile, the Chinese editor of the paper by Chinese researchers is smeared for being an Evangelical Christian. Regarding the claim that the unfortunate language stemmed from mistranslation:

Chinese-language experts contacted by The Chronicle gave differing assessments of whether the problem might have been largely a matter of translation. One suggested the use of "creator" rather than "nature" could be a reasonable explanation. Another was less sympathetic and noted the academic editor listed on the paper, Renzhi Han, an associate professor of surgery at Ohio State University, appears from a web listing to have had an affiliation with the Chinese Evangelical Church in Iowa City, where he previously worked.

The editor, Dr. Han, should be expecting some significant professional retribution right about now. It may or may not be a coincidence that clicking on the People tab at the Han Lab that he directs at Ohio State currently produces an error message -- "not found on this server." Speaking to the Chronicle, a PLOS ONE spokesman declined to comment on whether Han has been pushed aside in his editorial role. But the same source is reported to have told another website, For Better Science, that Han has in fact been "asked to step down."

As we enter the familiar witch-hunt territory, I wonder if Darwinists have done damage to their cause, not for the first time. What are uncommitted bystanders to think when they read about a case like this? And it has indeed been widely covered. Scott Ott at PJ Media observes, "Thank goodness scientists know how to jointly exercise message discipline and enforce doctrine with an iron fist."

Sure, it feels good to denounce "creationists" but the impression of "message discipline" and doctrine enforcement is undeniable. If I were advising evolutionists, I would suggest that they cool it with the censorship and the invective, leave aside scapegoats like Dr. Han, and instead have an honest argument with high-level design advocates. But this they refuse to do.

Image: Witch burning, by mullica [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.