EDITOR PERSECUTED FOR INTELLIGENT DESIGN STUDY
When Richard Sternberg, editor of the scientific journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, decided last year to publish a paper making the case for “Intelligent Design” he had no idea what he was in for. Despite scrupulous attention to correct peer review procedures, Sternberg, who holds two Ph.D.’s in Biology was accused of being a shoddy scientist and a Bible thumper and of taking money under the table from fundamentalists. “I was basically run out of here,” he recalls. Now the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency whose job it is to protect federal officials from reprisals, has found that senior scientists with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History did indeed retaliate against Sternberg for running the article.
According to the Washington Post, the Special Counsel investigators examined e-mail traffic from the scientists and noted that “retaliation came in many forms . . . misinformation was disseminated through the Smithsonian Institution and to outside sources. The allegations against you were later determined to be false.” James McVay, the principal legal adviser in the Office of Special Counsel, wrote to Sternberg, “The rumor mill became so infected that one of your colleagues had to circulate [your résumé] simply to dispel the rumor that you were not a scientist.”
Now, thanks to significant coverage from mainstream papers like the Post and the Wall Street Journal, the scandal has gained considerable notoriety. For more detail on the original incident see “The Intelligent Design Controversy” (A.R. #53).
The Sternberg controversy publicly exposes a common tactic of the so-called mainstream science establishment (epitomized by organizations like PsiCop)—the use of ad hominem attacks which have nothing to do with the merits of the arguments presented. Frequently heard is the accusation that Intelligent design advocates are closet creationists masquerading as scientists. The argument made is that intelligent design theory is not science but theology. Whether science or not, though, the controversy is certainly not without irony. A point long made by critics of the Darwinian/materialist establishment, but seldom publicized, is that many arguments offered by so-called mainstream science are essentially metaphysical and theological in nature (i.e., assuming that the true nature of the universe is materialistic and random), yet, those questionable assumptions have been presented in schools and colleges as if they were settled, scientifically verified, truth, despite an absence of suitable evidence. To the detractors, such invocations of scientific authority for unproven assertions appear to be nothing less than an unlawful usurpation of power by charlatans. Not surprisingly, they have gone to war. The present squeals of outrage by self-righteously indignant scientists at the growing challenge to their authority seems to many to be more hypocrisy than legitimate complaint.
Just as the celebrated Scopes “Monkey trial” in 1925 had the effect of revealing the weaknesses in dogmatic fundamentalist beliefs about the origins of the human species on earth, the trials of Richard Sternberg now appear capable of doing something similar to the credibility of the entrenched Darwinian/materialist establishment.