Monday, August 17, 2015

That is not what happened! Sternberg redux

Little davey klinghoffer, who I less-than-affectionately call 'klingy', is re-writing history . . . again.  In a recent post he whines about he Smithsonian's treatment of Evolution.  Nothing really new there, but this line caught my eye:

"That corollary is not stated in the museum exhibits, but the Smithsonian is the same national institution that drummed out evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg for admitting that doubts about Darwinian theory could have some merit."
Bullshit!  That is not what happened, and I think klingy knows it, but you don't sell being a victim by admitting when you have less-than-honest about the events, do you?  He even has a link to the DI's take on things, which he wrote!  Does he dare link to the Wikipedia page, the one called the "Sternberg Peer Review Controversy"?  Of course not, because that one certainly doesn't paint Sternberg as a victim, or him being 'drummed out' of the Smithsonian.

When I picture being 'drummed out', I picture a military ceremony where the offender, usually following a court-martial, is stripped of the badges of their office and summarily removed form the military post while a row of drummers perform a drum roll during the serious parts.  When I think of Sternberg's departure from the Smithsonian, I picture more a little boy running away thinking he got away with something. 

Sternberg, an unpaid research assistant and voluntary editor of the Biological Society of Washington, took it upon himself to be the sole reviewer of a paper by Stephen C. Meyer.  Not only was Sternberg not qualified to review the paper [based on his education and background], his relationship with the author meant he should have recused himself from the process.  In other words, Sternberg violated the established process in order to publish the paper in a respected peer review scientific journal paper that did not meet the standards of publication.  That's why I think of him as someone who thinks he got away with something.

Of course immediately upon publication, the Discovery Institute lauded over Meyer as having published the first Intelligent Design supportive article in a peer review journal.  And, of course, they immediately started whining and crying when the journal released this statement repudiating the article:
"The paper by Stephen C. Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," in vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239 of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, was published at the discretion of the former editor, Richard v. Sternberg. Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process. The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history." 
The journal wisely didn't publish a rebuttal, since the DI would have further crowed about it, more than likely claiming "See, there is something to ID because we have a paper and a rebuttal in a peer review journal!"

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) had this to say about ID:
 "Recognizing that the "intelligent design theory" represents a challenge to the quality of science education, the Board of Directors of the AAAS unanimously adopts the following resolution:
  • Whereas, ID proponents claim that contemporary evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the origin of the diversity of living organisms;
  • Whereas, to date, the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution;
  • Whereas, the ID movement has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims;
  • Therefore Be It Resolved, that the lack of scientific warrant for so-called "intelligent design theory" makes it improper to include as a part of science education;"

That's not the AAAS's complete statement, you can see the rest by clicking the link above.  What I found interesting is that they made that statement in 2002 and re-published it in 2013.  Doesn't look like much has changed in ID research, does it?
Some other interesting facts, Sternberg, who had already resigned as editor, kept working there in the same role as an unpaid research assistant for 3 years.   I will admit that some organizations move slow, but three years is an awfully long 'drumming out'.

In an interview with Barbara Bradley Hagerty, National Public Radio's religion reporter, said Sternberg himself believes intelligent design is "fatally flawed."   Hmmm, so according to klingy calling intelligent design 'fatally flawed' is the same thing as 'admitting that doubts about Darwinian theory could have some merit'?  I don't think so!

Sternberg is also signatory to the incredibly foolish petition "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism", which I usually refer to as the '700', you know the list that supposedly shows a bunch of scientists who scientifically don't like the current theory of evolution.  But in reality their dissent has little to do with actual science, but a more evangelical difference and often the affiliations were overly inflated.  I recall Sternberg was also mentioned in this post from a few years back:
"Also, in early editions of the list, Richard Sternberg was described as "Richard Sternberg, Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution" though Sternberg was never a Smithsonian staff member, but an unpaid research associate. At the time of signing the list Sternberg was the outgoing editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a minor biology journal, where he played a central role in the Sternberg peer review controversy. Later versions of the list dropped mention of Sternberg's affiliation with the Smithsonian in favor of Sternberg's alma maters, Florida International University and Binghamton University. At present Sternberg is a Staff Scientist with GenBank, the genetic database at the National Institutes of Health."

Do you know where Sternberg works now?  According to the DI website: 
"Dr. Sternberg is presently a research scientist at the Biologic Institute, supported by a research fellowship from the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute."
If you aren't aware, Biologic is the pet lab of the Discovery Institute.  So after publishing a paper by Meyer, who is one of head honchos at DI, Sternberg now works at the DI's pet lab and his funding comes from the DI.  The only thing that could make that look any shakier is if Sternberg was a relative of Meyer!

If this were a TV drama, I could easily see Meyer something like this to Sternberg:
"Yea, Richie, I know it'll put an end to your scientific career, but think of the brownie points you'll get from God!  We'll also get lots of mileage painting you up as the victim, like we did for Guillermo and Caroline.  Besides you've already quit so I'll hire you once the legal stuff blows over!"
OK, so now you know why I write a blog and not screenplays!

So what we have here is klingy's re-telling of the past, primarily to paint Sternberg as some sort of victim, a status klingy claims for all supporters of ID, regardless of the reality of their stories.  Spinning tales like this may make good press, but it does make it easy to see why the DI's publishings are usually in the Christian Fiction section of a bookstore.  To bad they do not use the same energy and zeal in performing science!

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