You see these gels, and you worry. So you contact the author, and he tells you, “Hey, relax — I’m a natural cause, just like you are. These are all natural events. Don’t fuss. Whatever happens, happens.”
Are you going to let the publication stand?
No. As a recent editorial in the Journal of Biological Chemistry points out, the manipulation of images by deliberate intent or purpose compromises the integrity of scientific inquiry. Science itself depends on our ability to detect natural versus intelligent causes. While the author of a manipulated image is of course natural, in familiar senses of that word — you can kick him, for instance — he is also intelligent, meaning that an effect he caused points back to him, as an agent, uniquely as its source.
Intelligence as a causal category does not collapse into the natural.