Despite this retraction, and the fact that the paper doesn’t provide good evidence for a Creator, and the fact the authors admitted as such, some still claimed this was idealogical censorship.
However (the time I last wrote about this) no young-earth creationists were making this argument. I hoped they wouldn’t given how the paper – and the authors – obviously didn’t agree with them.
I’m sad to report that I was wrong. Unsurprisingly, the YEC has not let facts get in the way of a good argument.
Claims of censoring creationists
As the outrage at the PLoS paper grew; there were already some taking it as evidence of idealogical censorship by the scientific community. One comment on a Nature news story noted:
As well as these individual comments, the large creationist outlets (and personalities) have waded in on the issue. And they all agree with the idea that this is a clear case of ideological censorship.
Ken Ham, kingpin of Answers in Genesis, writes:
Creation Ministries International make a similar point
Far from giving due consideration, the so-called scientific community does the exact opposite: they scorn and bully anyone who would dare attempt to suggest a Creator, and do their best to prevent any such evidence from seeing the light of day
And Dr Wile takes the point to a next level, drawing disturbing historical parallels:
What strikes me as strange is the pro-freedom, anti-intolerance and anti-censorship narrative in these posts. Yes, those are generally good things. But not necessarily in science. Whilst science should be as free from personal bias as possible, it still takes a strong, intolerant stance on many things.
After all, most people would be more than happy to “censor” the “freedom” of flat-earthers to “express their worldview” (as Ken Ham so aptly put it) in a scientific journal. Science is indeed biased against things which aren’t true (or at least, not backed up by current evidence).
And that’s not the end of it. Just take a look at Retraction Watch and you’ll find science isn’t tolerant of:
- Research conducted without ethical approval
- Research that plagurises others.
- Research which fabricates data.
Guilty authors have all been “censored” through retractions. Yet I think these are perfectly valid principles to have. I’d wager most creationists do too. It’s only when their pet pony gets criticised that they get angry.
This same pattern is seen in psuedo-science everywhere. Science’s bias against bad data caused the retraction of Wakefield’s research linking autism and vaccines. But to the people who agreed with Wakefield, that was censorship!
Science is just intolerant of things without evidence. No rabble rousing talk about “freedom” is going to change that. And it isn’t going to make up for the lack of evidence for their position.
Was it right to retract?
Clearly science has a justified bias against bad ideas. But do these references to a “Creator” count as bad ideas?
Certainly the people quoted thus far think not. Their language all downplays the significance of this “offence”. For example, Dr Wile notes:
But remove the emotional context of this term and it becomes obvious that it does deserve retraction. After all:
- The claim the hand was designed which was not justified by the research, something the authors have admitted. Making unjustified claims is often a retractable offence.
- The reference to the “Creator” was unsourced. Failing to cite relevant research is often a retractable offence (or at least, cause for the paper to be rewritten).
- It’s a claim that is contradicted by all other research in the field. If your findings aren’t replicated in other research is often a sign the claim is flawed and thus it’s a retractable offence.
Perhaps more worryingly, it raises doubts about the rigour of the peer review the paper went through. If such an obviously bad claim made it through the editing process, how many others in the paper also did? As such I’d rather the entire paper be removed and re-evaluated than just go through minor corrections.
To prove the point, replace the “Creator” with any other pre-modern idea that has failed to find support in current science. Imagine NASA published a paper on a satellite they’d just launched. They described the rocket, orbit, etc. all perfectly. Then they concluded that this satellite should “shed light on the various spheres – such as the sun – that orbit the earth“. The furore would be astounding and the paper would rightfully be retracted.
That’s the place we’re at the Creator. Until more research fixes these aforementioned problems, it remains a bad idea that has no place in published literature.
Science doesn’t like bad ideas. Just because you like bad ideas doesn’t make science evil for not liking them.
In case you didn’t notice, I’m experimenting with using screen-grabs of quotes; rather than simply quoting them. I’d be very interested to hear any thoughts of readers on the two approaches (if it’s even something you care about enough to have an opinion).