Nick Matzke posted Entry 1356 on August 19, 2005 01:22 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1354

Update: The OSC letter is going up on IDist websites, so we presume it is legit to post it here. Right-click, Save As for the PDF.

Late today, a reporter called NCSE and, asking for comment, told us that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel had dropped Richard von Sternberg’s religious discrimination complaint against the Smithsonian Institution. The short version is that Sternberg, as an unpaid research associate at the Smithsonian, is not actually an employee, and thus the OSC has no jurisdiction. This was not particularly surprising, considering that PT contributer Reed Cartwright noted way back on February 2 that exactly this might happen.

Legally, this appears to be the end of things. However, as the Panda’s Thumb has documented over the past year (Meyer 2004 Medley, google search), the Meyer/Sternberg/Smithsonian affair has been a piece of politics from the beginning. The OSC’s opinion guarantees it will be politics to the end.

In essence, the OSC opinion, authored by Bush appointee James McVey, seems designed to give the religious right another talking point about how any criticism of ID or the ID movement’s actions amounts to religious discrimination by the evil secular scientific establishment, even though ID is allegedly science, not religion. Somehow, it manages to do this (1) while telling Sternberg that OSC doesn’t have jurisdiction, (2) without any contrasting opinion from the accused parties, and (3) without documenting any actual injury to Sternberg, who still has his unpaid research position, an office, keys, and access to the collections. The opinion is therefore a pretty strange document to read. (We will see if we can post it on the web; it contains internal Smithsonian emails, which may make it confidential.)

There are a number of other details worth discussing, so I am sure there will be more post-mortem of the Meyer/Sternberg affair here on PT. There is already a pretty obvious campaign by the religious-right echo chamber to spin Sternberg’s loss – see Klinghoeffer’s latest screed at the National Review, and this not-exactly-fair-and-balanced news piece from the Washington Times.

However, one particularly entertaining part of the opinion occurs when NCSE’s advice to Smithsonian staff is discussed. Among the Smithsonian staff, there was evidently a fair bit of outraged email discussion of Sternberg’s actions – Sternberg had, after all, just involved the PBSW and the Smithsonian in an internationally-noticed scientific scandal, and had guaranteed that the PBSW and Smithsonian would now have their good names put on Discovery Institute bibliographies and talking points for the foreseeable future. In NCSE’s limited contact with individuals at the Smithsonian, we gave our usual advice (also found in the PT critique of Meyer’s paper), namely: don’t overreact, and instead focus on criticizing the scientific problems with Meyer’s article and Sternberg’s editorial decisions. In the OSC complaint, this gets portrayed as some kind of scandal. Keeping in mind that these sentences seem to involve the dubious procedure of the OSC somehow reading the minds of a group of people, I quote the OSC opinion:

Eventually, they [the Smithsonian higher-ups] determined that they could not terminate you [Sternberg] for cause and they were not going to make you a “martyr” by firing you for publishing a paper on ID. They came to the conclusion that you had not violated SI directives and that you could not be denied access for off-duty conduct. This was actually a part of the strategy advocated by the NCSE. (OSC opinion, p. 5)

How devious of NCSE, recommending that Sternberg not be fired from his unpaid position! Even more devious, the Smithsonian appears to have taken this advice! Will the crimes of NCSE never cease?

We’re still awaiting the thank you letters from Sternberg and the Office of Special Counsel. I’ll let you know when we get them.

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Comment #43455

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 17, 2005 9:45 AM (e)

In essence, the OSC opinion, authored by Bush appointee James McVey, seems designed to give the religious right another talking point about how any criticism of ID or the ID movement’s actions amounts to religious discrimination by the evil secular scientific establishment, even though ID is allegedly science, not religion. Somehow, it manages to do this (1) while telling Sternberg that OSC doesn’t have jurisdiction, (2) without any contrasting opinion from the accused parties, and (3) without documenting any actual injury to Sternberg, who still has his unpaid research position, an office, keys, and access to the collections. The opinion is therefore a pretty strange document to read.

The spin has already begun:
Washington Times: Scientist’s complaint backed

By Joyce Howard Price
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
August 16, 2005
A preliminary federal investigation supports a government scientist’s complaint that he was shown bias by Smithsonian Institution colleagues after a science journal he edited published a report on the theory of “intelligent design.”
However, the Office of Special Counsel informed the complainant, Richard Sternberg, that it is ending the probe into the case because of jurisdictional questions and the Smithsonian’s refusal to “voluntarily participate in any additional investigation” into his grievance….

National Review: Unintelligent Design

Hostility toward religious believers at the nation’s museum.
By David Klinghoffer

While the Smithsonian disputes the case, Sternberg’s version has so far been substantiated in an investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal agency….

Comment #43457

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 17, 2005 9:51 AM (e)

Washington Times


Mr. Sternberg said Mr. McVay “found strong support for my complaint” and cited “concrete examples” of where Smithsonian personnel demonstrated “discrimination” against him for perceived religious and political views.
Mr. McVay cited e-mail in which Mr. Sternberg was described as a “creationist.” He said one message asserted that Mr. Sternberg had “extensive training as an orthodox priest” and that the paper he published was a “sheer disaster,” which made the institution a “laughingstock.”

The only one of those that concerns Sternberg’s religion seems to be the second. The first, third and fourth are all true, and all are relevant to his science, not his religion.

In his complaint with the special counsel, Mr. Sternberg said he was belittled by a Smithsonian supervisor and other employees after the article appeared. He said museum authorities contacted his employers at NIH, seeking his ouster.

And he’s convinced that this is due to his religion, not to the incredibly bad science in the paper he weaseled into print.

Comment #43608

Posted by bill on August 17, 2005 8:01 PM (e)

Advice to Mr. Sternberg: check Monster.com for job postings at the Discovery Institute, Seattle. Qualifications optional.

Comment #43685

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 18, 2005 4:30 AM (e)

In a comment on Reed Cartwright’s piece Jonathon Coddington Richard Sternberg’s sponsor at SI included these words:

Link to Jonathon Coddington’s Comment

Jonathon Coddington wrote:

At no time did anyone deny him space, keys or access.

Jonathon Coddington wrote:

6. As for prejudice on the basis of beliefs or opinions, I repeatedly and consistently emphasized to staff (and to Dr. von Sternberg personally), verbally or in writing, that private beliefs and/or controversial editorial decisions were irrelevant in the workplace, that we would continue to provide full Research Associate benefits to Dr. von Sternberg, that he was an established and respected scientist, and that he would at all times be treated as such.
On behalf of all National Museum of Natural History staff, I would like to assert that we hold the freedoms of religion and belief as dearly as any one. The right to heterodox opinion is particularly important to scientists. Why Dr. von Sternberg chose to represent his interactions with me as he did is mystifying. I can’t speak to his interactions with anyone else.

David Klinghoffer says that James McVay reports:
Link to David Klinghoffer’s NRO piece

James McVay OSC Opinion wrote:

“…at the same time many other actions were taken during the uproar over the Meyer article, your [Sternberg’s] supervisor was questioning your friends about your personal political and religious background.”

James McVay OSC Opinion wrote:

“they denied your access by taking your master key.” The museum “prevented you from having the same access to the research specimens,” access “given to others [who] do not have the same hindrances.”

Am I right in thinking that one of the following is true?

1. David Klinghoffer is lying about James Mcvay’s Opinion.
2. James McVay is giving false testimony in his OSC Opinion
OR
3. Jonathon Coddington was wrong about matters that he should have known about when he wrote that comment.

I am very interested to know which is the truth.

Comment #43690

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 18, 2005 6:19 AM (e)

Papers that covered this who should follow up include the Washington Post and the New York Times – does anyone know whether they have anything brewing?

Their reporting should clear up a lot.

Comment #43700

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 18, 2005 9:18 AM (e)

Andrew,

There’s another option, the one where the same actions/events are perceived quite differently by Coddington and McVay.

Comment #43704

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on August 18, 2005 9:30 AM (e)

Andrew Rowell wrote:

I am very interested to know which is the truth.

I should also point out that McVay’s personal opinion draws mostly on Sternberg’s complaint and less on actual investigation because the Smithsonian didn’t cooperate with an investigation that had no jurisdiction.

Comment #43762

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 18, 2005 2:10 PM (e)

Thank you Wesley and Reed,
(BTW apologies for the duff NRO link above! it should be www.nationalreview.com/comment/klinghoffer200508160826.asp)

I got the impression that McVay had access to at least some internal SI emails (from David Klinghoffer’s article:)

Klinghoffer 'quoting' from McVay OSC wrote:

“Within two weeks of receiving the Meyer article in the Proceedings, four managers at the SI and NMNH [National Museum of Natural History] expressed their desire to have your access to the SI denied.” A typical internal e-mail on the subject fumed, “I hope we are not even considering extending his access to space.” (All quotations from e-mails given here are taken from the OSC’s letter to Sternberg.) Another expresses frustration that a good pretext for dismissing him had so far not been identified: “As he hasn’t (yet) been discovered to have done anything wrong,… the sole reason to terminate his appt seems to be that the host unit has suddenly changed its mind. If that’s OK w/NMNH, let me know and I’ll send him a letter stating so.” One manager huffed, “Well, if you ask me, a face-to-face meeting or at least a ‘you are welcome to leave or resign’ call with this individual is in order.” The same e-mail indicated that a manager had been compiling trivial offenses by Sternberg that could be cited in telling him to get out. Among other things, the Smithsonian staffer had gone over Sternberg’s library records. He “has currently 50 books checked out from the SI library (I checked this with the library).”

Do SI deny that there was a serious attempt to restrict or reduce Sternbergs access following the publication of the Meyer paper?

Does Jonathon Coddington maintain that he was unaware of this attempt?

Also given McVay’s statement (quoted by Klinghoffer)

Klinghoffer 'quoting' from McVay OSC wrote:

…your [Sternberg’s] supervisor was questioning your friends about your personal political and religious background.”

Is McVay simply taking Sternberg’s word for it?

Does Jonathon Coddington maintain that he did not phone Sternbergs friends asking about his political and religious background?

If SI were keen for the truth to come out fully and cleanly regarding this episode would they not have cooperated with McVay… how else are confused spectators to know what was going on?

If McVay is simply a “biased Bush appointee” how is SI going to clear up the public misunderstanding of this episode?

Comment #43784

Posted by Mike Patton on August 18, 2005 3:33 PM (e)

Gentlemen, why didn’t you just pull the article before it was published? Why didn’t you fire von Sternberg for thinking, writing, publishing arrant nonsense? Why didn’t you just say, “The Smithsonian refuses to publish anything that is contrary to received Darwinian orthodoxy and will do what we can to stop other people from printing and spreading DI, including making sure anyone who tries to publish it, or the peer-review committeees that approve it, are roundly drummed out of the scientific community”. Why not sign and publish a statement that you don’t believe in DI?

But if I understand rightly, you planned instead to get rid of von Sternberg by subterfuge.

You planned to do it by stealth because you lack the courage of your convictions and didn’t want anyone to know your beliefs.

When you learned that your efforts and emails would become public, you backtracked and made the approved noises about academic freedom, religious discrimination, ad nauseum. All of which is painfully absent from your emails.

Maybe it is just me, but the Smithsonian’s behavior just seems gutless, backstabbing and plain unmanly.

In the future, rather than post here anonymously and make secret plans in interoffice emails, stand up. Show the courage of your convictions. Say it out loud: “No religious cranks at the Smithsonian! No DI believers here! No DI articles! No DI publications.”

And to you of Pandas Thumb, rather than whining and fashioning yourselves as pathetic victims of some nationwide uber-Republican uber-hillbilly uber-Christian conspiracy, show some character and courage and say what you believe.

If the Smithsonian staff did that right away, they would have accomplished precisely what they most wanted to do: suppress publication of the article, preserve the reputation of the Smithsonian, get rid of von Sternberg, and trash his reputation.

Instead, they wind up skulking around like wormboys, mouthing groveling PC expressions of religious freedom and free access, as thought McKay’s letter and their emails were still a secret.

They tried to silence von Sternberg until they realized they would get caught, and then, lacking all conviction, they quit.

People who lack the character to say nonsense is nonsense do not deserve to keep their jobs or reputations.

Comment #43791

Posted by MrDarwin on August 18, 2005 4:12 PM (e)

Mike Patton, I’m not sure which “you” you are speaking to but while I agree with the broad gist of what you say, I think you need to read up a little more about this case before spouting off about it. Sternerg was not, and never was, a Smithsonian employee; the journal he edited is not a Smithsonian publication, and the Smithsonian has no editorial control over it. It’s clear that the editorial board of the journal was unaware of what Sternerg was doing, and they did indeed publish a rather strongly-worded disavowal of the article in the following issue of the journal. (At any rate, even before the article was published Sternberg had already, for unrelated reasons, turned in his resignation as editor, although he was still acting as editor until his replacement could be found.)

And it’s still not entirely clear just what the Smithsonian’s “behavior” was, but as an institution dependent in large part on funding by Congress I suspect it wants to avoid even the appearance of religious discrimination.

Comment #43797

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 18, 2005 4:27 PM (e)

Mr. Patton,

If someone borrowing access to your business were discovered to be a forger of semi-great art, what would be your duty toward art lovers? What would be your duty toward the art forger?

Why do you pettifog about actions that would be indefensible in any other realm?

Comment #43807

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on August 18, 2005 5:05 PM (e)

Just for the record, it is entirely appropriate, indeed wise and recommended, for the supervisor(s) of a scientist suspected of having engaged in scientific misconduct, to at the very least consider and discuss the opportunity of carefully monitoring/restricting access of said scientist to research material, files and documents. This is done to avoid tampering with evidence or other retaliatory actions by the scientist under investigation.

If I understand it correctly, Sternberg had a “master key” that allowed unchecked access at any hour to any (or most) parts of the relevant SI research facilities, including other people’s spaces. In these conditions, considering withdrawing some access would not have been so out of the ordinary.

I have no idea what restrictions were discussed or implemented, whether they were appropriate and fair, or whether the accusations against Sternberg are true or not, but let’s not forget that at the time the e-mails were sent Sternberg was (and still may be, as far as I know) suspected of having engaged in pretty serious misconduct (“piloting” the Meyer paper to friendly reviewers), not just “having expressed ideas contrary to Darwinian orthodoxy” (which, according to his publication record, he had been freely doing for a while before this affair broke out).

Comment #43859

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 18, 2005 8:10 PM (e)

Mike Patton wrote:

And to you of Pandas Thumb, rather than whining and fashioning yourselves as pathetic victims of some nationwide uber-Republican uber-hillbilly uber-Christian conspiracy, show some character and courage and say what you believe.

I’d be hard-pressed to think of something that was less applicable to me than this.

I don’t recall “fashioning” myself as a “pathetic victim”, except perhaps of two decades of colitis. I’ve been forthright in stating what I believe. Use Google. (Google, BTW, is not very forthcoming on where our “Mike Patton” might stand on things.)

And most antievolution I see as distinctly anti-Christian (that mendacity quotient, don’t you know), in any case, not “uber-Christian”.

Comment #43871

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 18, 2005 9:01 PM (e)

Andrew,

Does Jonathon Coddington maintain that he was unaware of this attempt?

What attempt? It seems clear that there are people at the Smithsonian who would be happy to see Sternberg end up with no sponsor, and therefore no continuation of his Research Associate status when his current appointment ends in another two and a half years. I don’t see that as an “attempt” of anything. Was there anything in either article that substantiated any sort of actual reduction in Sternberg’s access to the specimens he studies?

Is McVay simply taking Sternberg’s word for it?

Does Jonathon Coddington maintain that he did not phone Sternbergs friends asking about his political and religious background?

If SI were keen for the truth to come out fully and cleanly regarding this episode would they not have cooperated with McVay… how else are confused spectators to know what was going on?

If McVay is simply a “biased Bush appointee” how is SI going to clear up the public misunderstanding of this episode?

1. I have no idea.

2. I suspect Dr. Coddington won’t be talking much about these matters. He’s already said that he staked out a responsible position on Sternberg’s status at SI.

3. I’m not sure how to put this delicately, but this event is not being staged for the edification of the onlookers. The SI and its employees were accused of serious misconduct. Whether the public in general gets satiated on the details is, I’m sure, well down on the priorities.

4. I don’t think that the Smithsonian is in a good position to clear up public misunderstanding of the episode. Let’s consider this in terms of a nuisance complaint apparently filed mostly for publicity purposes. The Smithsonian’s public statements have been that Sternberg’s complaint is without merit. Yet our legal system doesn’t reward parties for being open with information relevant to ongoing legal matters. Quite the contrary. If the Smithsonian is correct, we still won’t be hearing from them on this because of the potential of legal involvement, and the accusation will have its intended effect. The only way that we will hear more is if the parties come to some sort of agreement, and one that doesn’t require each party to keep mum about the details. So my advice is, “Don’t hold your breath.”

Comment #43874

Posted by MrDarwin on August 18, 2005 9:46 PM (e)

The Washington Post has an article in Friday’s newspaper (free registration required):
Editor Explains Reasons for ‘Intelligent Design’ Article

Comment #43898

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on August 19, 2005 12:12 AM (e)

Hmm, in Powell’s Washington Post article Sternberg adds another twist to the peer-review story:

He mailed Meyer’s article to three scientists for a peer review. It has been suggested that Sternberg fabricated the peer review or sought unqualified scientists, a claim McVay dismissed.

“They were critical of the paper and gave 50 things to consider,” Sternberg said. “But they said that people are talking about this and we should air the views.”

Now I’m left wondering if the reviewers actually approved the paper. We know Meyer didn’t make many changes to the text in response to all of these just-revealed reviewer criticisms, since the heart of the paper was copied directly, without substantial changes, from several previous Meyer articles.

Comment #43913

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 19, 2005 5:48 AM (e)

Wesley,

Sorry to bother you still further….
1. Have you got access to the OSC report?
2. Having in view the data of the report in your view is Jonathon Coddington’s comment (3rd February) a fair insight into what had been happening with respect to Sternberg at SI for the previous several months?

David Klinghoffer thinks that this comment is directly contradicted by the OSC report.
3. In your view are the two texts contradictory or not?
4. If they are and the OSC is wrong does Jonathon Coddington have any way of defending his testimony against McVay’s report under US law?

Comment #43916

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 19, 2005 6:28 AM (e)

I’ll take up the last bit now…

“If they are and the OSC is wrong does Jonathon Coddington have any way of defending his testimony against McVay’s report under US law?”

Defending against what? The OSC dropped the complaint.

Comment #43919

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on August 19, 2005 7:01 AM (e)

Did McVay actually have access to the peer review files? Is he qualified to judge whether the paper was appropriately peer-reviewed? Was that even something he would be in charge of assessing? If not, how can he “dismiss” anything? That just sounds strange - perhaps the WaPo journalist got that wrong?

Comment #43922

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 19, 2005 7:13 AM (e)

Andrea,

As far as I can tell and in my opinion, no, no, no, and political convenience. If the review process were less than spiffy, that would provide a legitimate basis for various of the actions at issue in the complaint. Therefore, asserting that there was nothing at all wrong with the review process, even without having anything other than the assertions of the complainant to go on, is simply par for the course.

Comment #43928

Posted by Art on August 19, 2005 8:09 AM (e)

I have a possibly related question - would the actual reviews of Meyer’s paper, including the names of the reviewers, be revealed as a part of any further inquiry into this matter? Or do these items fall out of the purview of the investigation?

Comment #43932

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 19, 2005 9:17 AM (e)

Wesley,

The OSC dropped the complaint because SI was not the employer not (as far as I can see) because there was no case. If SI had been the employer would OSC have dropped the case?

I said
“If they are and the OSC is wrong does Jonathon Coddington have any way of defending his testimony against McVay’s report under US law?”

you said
Defending against what? The OSC dropped the complaint.

The OSC report (as I understand it) contradicts Coddington’s defence of his own and SI scientists honourable conduct towards Sternberg. For me it looks like McVay is saying that Coddington lied. (David Klinghoffer implies that.) I don’t like being called a liar… If I was Coddington and I was telling the truth I would be furious and I would want to see justice done and my good name vindicated. What I meant was… does Coddington (and the other people at SI) have any way of contesting the conclusion that it was only becuase Sternberg was not technically their employee that they are off the legal hook?

Comment #43955

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 19, 2005 11:59 AM (e)

The OSC report (as I understand it) contradicts Coddington’s defence of his own and SI scientists honourable conduct towards Sternberg. For me it looks like McVay is saying that Coddington lied. If I was Coddington and I was telling the truth I would be furious and I would want to see justice done and my good name vindicated. What I meant was… does Coddington (and the other people at SI) have any way of contesting the conclusion that it was only becuase Sternberg was not technically their employee that they are off the legal hook?

Contradiction has a very specific meaning, and I don’t see that it applies in this case.

Given that there hasn’t been any word of an agreement between the parties, and Sternberg could at any time start a civil lawsuit against the SI, no, I don’t expect that Coddington will be waxing eloquent on this, even if he is in the right. It simply is not legally expedient for him to do so.

Comment #43961

Posted by RBH on August 19, 2005 12:43 PM (e)

There’s some interesting information about the OSC here. Regarding James McVay, who wrote the letter, it says

According to insiders, under Bloch, sexual-orientation cases must be sent directly to OSC attorney adviser James McVay, a political appointee of Bloch’s. This is a highly unusual, perhaps unique policy, which has placed all sexual-orientation discrimination cases — like Levine’s — beyond scrutiny, and into the hands of McVay, a former Marine drill sergeant and insurance attorney with no experience in employment law, whistleblower law, or federal-sector work.

Nor, it seems, any experience with or knowledge about science.

RBH

Comment #43965

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on August 19, 2005 12:56 PM (e)

I have a possibly related question – would the actual reviews of Meyer’s paper, including the names of the reviewers, be revealed as a part of any further inquiry into this matter? Or do these items fall out of the purview of the investigation?

I have no idea what the legal precedent is for the confidentiality of reviews in lawsuits, but I suspect that at least the reviewer reports, and perhaps with the identity of the reviewers under seal, would come out very quickly if the Sternberg affair ever actually went to court, since they are at the heart of the matter of who was being reasonable vs. who was gaming the system. So, given that Sternberg and the Biological Society of Washington are not talking, at this point, probably the only thing which would make those reviews public would be further legal action by Sternberg.

There is no evidence that James McVay saw the reviewer reports: as with many other declarations in the letter, McVay simply takes Sternberg’s word for it. No quotes from emails or other documents are included to document the appropriateness of the review, etc. Given McVay’s obvious agenda, it seems certain that he would have said something like “I have reviewed the editorial files for Meyer’s paper and found that all of the reviewers approved the final draft of the paper,” if in fact he had the documentation to do this.

(The other alternative is that Sternberg did give the OSC the reviews, and they didn’t support the OSC’s desired narrative so they were not discussed, but if this were the case I would have expected spin rather than no discussion of the reviews.)

Comment #43979

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 19, 2005 2:24 PM (e)

The actions of the OSC in this affair are most unusual. Any report should have been made first to the head of the Smithsonian, and then to whoever that person reports to. These reports should have been done before any report was made to Dr. Sternberg.

I’m not so expert in inspector general-type actions as I was when I staffed the Senate, but the OSC’s actions strike me as way out of bounds.

Working solely from my memory and a dozen investigations in the departments of Labor, HHS and Education, I believe that if there was no jurisdiction, the OSC would have no reason to have investigated any of Dr. Sternberg’s allegations at all, and so no comment should have been made about them in the letter.

Who is the inspector general who oversees this particular OSC?

Comment #43982

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 19, 2005 3:07 PM (e)

Answer to my question: The inspector general who would have jurisdiction is the Smithsonian’s Inspector General:
http://www.si.edu/oig/

Why didn’t Sternberg take his complaint to the proper office? Odd. Very, very odd. Why didn’t the Washington Post pick up on that problem? It’s probably their science or museum reporter covering the issue, not their government investigations experts covering the Hill or administrative agencies.

If I had to file a report today on what I know, I’d say Dr. Sternberg is very difficult to work with, and he made some serious misjudgments in publishing the article by Meyer, and in filing a complaint about actions that were not taken against him. This seems to be a story of bad judgments. It is odd that the spin comes out appearing to blame the Smithsonian and NCSE (!) for their good judgment in doing nothing to retaliate against those who exercised bad judgment.

It would be opera, except that with the stakes as they are, it would have to be comic opera.

It’s also worth worrying about the Whistleblower Effect. With the notable exception of Ernie Fitzgerald (who blew the whistle on the C-5A cost overruns), most whistleblowers are a bit off when the news makes it out. With the whistleblowers we worked with, I wondered whether they became odd because they were ostracized, or if their oddness was what caused them to see things differently in order to blow the whistle. Also, about half the whistleblowers tweet about irrelevant, insignificant, or wholly appropriate things that they just disagree with. The WP’s story about Sternberg leads me to believe he may be bucking to fall into the category of whistleblower.

Comment #43986

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 19, 2005 4:02 PM (e)

I just read the letter. Fascinating.

The letter, while claiming that it supports Dr. Sternberg’s claims, also makes a strong case against him. It’s clear that his colleagues (not coworkers, we need to be careful to note) felt they had been rather stabbed in the back by pubication of the article. The comments in one e-mail, in which it was explained that one worker wanted his office re-keyed to be certain Dr. Sternberg did not have access to his materials, indicates the depth of the breach of trust: Apparently in this division people trusted each other to have keys to each others’ private offices, even Research Associates. Dr. Sternberg’s breach of this trust is certainly no indictment of Smithsonian, and the OSC’s suggestion is quite telling against Sternberg, that changing the access rules away from the previously trusting atmosphere to one that, while it denied Sternberg access to others’ private offices, was more in line with Smithsonian’s security policies.

In short, he’s got no gripe about having the rules he agreed to enforced against him. It wasn’t as if others rifled his office – there is no such allegation. The facts of the matter show that a very collegial research community felt a previously-welcomed member had betrayed their trust. In their wisdom, they did not retaliate beyond tightening up their security to prevent greater betrayal.

This leaves the Meyer article twisting in the wind where it has been since it was published. The only defense of the article would be solid science backing it. Neither Meyer nor Sternberg has offered such a defense, nor can they, it appears.

But what a spin from Sternberg’s cabal!

I note that Sternberg has until Sunday to respond. I’d gamble he makes that response public by Monday. In a fair world, the OSC would offer Smithsonian a chance to respond, too. Anyone want to wager on that?

Comment #43990

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 19, 2005 4:12 PM (e)

the evidence of Sternberg’s actions just presented tend to support my hypothesis that there exists a psychological pattern that seems to predominate amongst supporters of ID that includes self-deceit, lying, and backstabbing as common features of it.

fascinating, indeed.

I am very sorry to hear yet one more institutions’ trust violated in this fashion. Not only is this counterproductive to the furtherance of scientific knowledge, it is an affront to the standards of human behavior we all should adhere to.

Comment #43995

Posted by Gerard Harbison on August 19, 2005 4:58 PM (e)

Here’s an interesting issue. If OSC has no jurisdiction, as they claim, then why did they waste taxpayer’s money investigating the supposed mistreatment of Sternberg? Surely they should have settled the jurisdictional issue first, before investigating the factual basis of the complaint.

If I want to file a complaint against OSC, based on what looks like inappropriate use of taxpayer funds on an pointless investigation, whom do I complain to?

Comment #43997

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on August 19, 2005 5:06 PM (e)

Let me suggest we tone down the rhetoric, shall we? At this time, there is no evidence anyone lied to or “back-stabbed” anyone else.

Hopefully, at some point all the details of the Meyer paper review process and the Smithsonian reactions to its publication will be properly investigated (unlike the odd mixture of second-hand personal interpretation of events, mind-reading, elements from Sternberg’s testimony and transparent political agendas that Mr. McVay’s letter attempts to pass for “preliminary inquiry”). At that point we may know if any ethical and professional rules were violated, and by whom.

Gerald:
I have a feeling the Smithsonian lawyers may be considering that (or should), together with the inappropriate disclosure of the content of personal communications which the OSC, by its own judgement, had no right to access in the first place.

Comment #43998

Posted by edward on August 19, 2005 5:23 PM (e)

The upshot is, but for a legal classification (which wasn’t even fully determined at the time of the complaint) which placed Sternberg just outside the protection of the OSC, the OSC would probably be issuing court orders for further compliance by the SI in the second stage of a federal investigation into willful discrimination and persucution of a federal employee.

Comment #44005

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 19, 2005 5:53 PM (e)

edward wrote:

The upshot is, but for a legal classification (which wasn’t even fully determined at the time of the complaint) which placed Sternberg just outside the protection of the OSC, the OSC would probably be issuing court orders for further compliance by the SI in the second stage of a federal investigation into willful discrimination and persucution of a federal employee.

Spin, spin, spin. The OSC is off of its turf. The rest is rhetoric by McVay, to which you wish to add your own rhetoric.

Comment #44007

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 19, 2005 5:59 PM (e)

From the Washington Post article

Another [e-mail] labeled [Sternberg] a “Young Earth Creationist,” meaning a person who believes God created the world in the past 10,000 years.

This latter accusation is a reference to Sternberg’s service on the board of the Baraminology Study Group, a “young Earth” group. Sternberg insists he does not believe in creationism. “I was rather strong in my criticism of them,” he said. “But I agreed to work as a friendly but critical outsider.”

Sure, I believe that. I would comment further, but I have to run now to seal a deal on a bridge I’m buying.

Comment #44020

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 19, 2005 6:36 PM (e)

Funky. The WaPo reporter missed the fact that Sternberg was a presenter at a closed ID-advocates-only conference in 2002. People who weren’t known ID supporters could not even register. (I tried, but got told to try again at one of the public ID conferences.)

Comment #44024

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 19, 2005 6:58 PM (e)

uh oh, looks like you finally made their permanent sh*t list wes; you’re doomed now… DOOOOOMMMED, i tells ya!

*snort*

Comment #44028

Posted by tytlal on August 19, 2005 7:43 PM (e)

sorry to hijack the thread but … who is really surprised by this?

Frist voices support for ‘intelligent design’
Senator encourages teaching of faith-based theory alongside evolution

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9008040/

Comment #44042

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 19, 2005 11:09 PM (e)

The Sheep's Crib wrote:

One thing is for sure, the naturalists are right, politics and science don’t mix! So why won’t they take their political crucibles off their Bunsen burners and quit concocting.

Those of us in the pro-ID camp are continuously asked what we are afraid of; I think it might be fair to ask the same of them. For a group so certain of themselves, as the Bard said, me thinks they protest too much.

“Sheep’s Crib”, don’t take us for stupid.

The anti-science folks, such as “Sheep’s Crib” (see the trackback), would just love it if scientists and concerned citizens simply went back to the mass somnolence of complacency, leaving the anti-science contingent as the only ones working in the political channels. I can see that that would make things a good deal easier for them. They would love it for other citizens who don’t share their narrow sectarian views to voluntarily opt out of the political process. (Ironically, the ID advocates have voluntarily opted out of actually working on seeing to it that their ideas pass scientific muster before urging their acceptance in K-12 classrooms.)

So, “Sheep’s Crib” thinks that the pro-science side of this are the folks who bring politics into the discussion. Why, then, is it a pro-ID governor (Taft of Ohio) who has been documented as turning the screws on his appointees on the Ohio State Board of Education? Hmmm? Why is it the anti-science crew setting up a Kangaroo Kourt in Kansas? Hmmm? Why is it that an anti-science political action group held a Congressional briefing back in 2000? Hmmm? And why is it that a prominent ID advocate actually wrote the text of an proposed amendment to a piece of national legislation, right about the same time that he assured an interviewer that legislating viewpoints was a bad thing that the other side did? Hmmm?

Every year sees anti-science measures being proposed in state legislatures around the country, ranging from straight-out young-earth creationism to “evidence against evolution” to “evolution is racism” in one notable case. There have been anti-science incidents at just about every level, from individual students and teachers right up to our national legislature. There is a voluminous historical record showing that good science education is unquestionably at risk via the political process. No, sir, we in the pro-science camp are far from “protesting too much“. We’ve done far too little protesting so far. But I’m hopeful that I can do my bit toward getting those who care about good science education to protest more, and more effectively, in the political process.

What are we afraid of? I’m afraid that anti-science types may “game the system” politically to insert their narrow view of religion and their brand of “ends justifies the means” politics into science classes such that what science instruction is done in our public schools becomes even less effective than it is now. I’m afraid of students becoming confused about what science is and how it is done, since ID and its synonym, “evidence against evolution” require redefining science in order to “wedge” their specious stuff into the classes. I’m afraid of our society being increasingly dependent on technology as the engine of our economic prosperity, while the anti-science activists do everything possible to make sure that our educational system is crippled in dealing coherently with science. I happen to think that these are pretty good reasons for fear. And for action.

Pro-science folks: You’ve had your wake-up call. Just as a flexing exercise, how about going to the media contacts page and writing a letter to a newspaper out there. Pick a topic; there’s plenty of hot ones now. It’ll hack off “Sheep’s Crib” no end. Oh, and how about pasting in the text of your letters in comments here? That should hack them off some more.

Comment #44044

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 19, 2005 11:29 PM (e)

“(Ironically, the ID advocates have voluntarily opted out of actually working on seeing to it that their ideas pass scientific muster before urging their acceptance in K-12 classrooms.)”

now, now, you very well know that THIS week, the DI has decided that it is NOT urging the teaching of ID in the classroom… even tho they applaud president bush for encouraging the teaching of it in the classroom on their website…

i think my brain just popped.

Comment #44058

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 20, 2005 3:28 AM (e)

Sternberg has published his own report on the situation at SI (www.sternberg.net) which indicates that the peer review process was reviewed and found in order by Dr McDiarmid who found that

Dr McDiarmid wrote:

“they support your decision to publish” (according to a quote from his email to Sternberg)

Comment #44063

Posted by Paulo Cavalcanti on August 20, 2005 6:30 AM (e)

What was done to Sternberg was wrong, whether or not it was illegal is irrelevant, it was wrong. If he were an editor of a physics journal who had let pass a anti releatvity articile he might be sniggered at and regarded with disdain, but nothing like this would happen to him. Clearly world views are at stake, and both sides are playing dirty. Yet it’s those caught in the cross fire I feel sorry for. Honesty demmands that we admit Dr Sternberg has been mistreated, however one phrases it one cannot justify workplace harrasment and abusive emails.

Comment #44066

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 20, 2005 7:43 AM (e)

Paulo, what happened to Sternberg? Can you detail it? Other than his key being replaced so that he no longer had access to private offices of others at Smithsonian in violation of the rules, what did he lose? He still has his job. He still has his research access.

On the other hand, do you think that the peer review process should be so abused as to allow the publication of articles that are outside the subject matter of a journal, and in a way that the memebers of the society are embarrassed by the action because the article is substandard, or wrong? What would be the appropriate penalty for someone who published such an article?

The issue should be dead. The article is published. Notably, no one in the ID camp is defending the article or the science it should have presented to be published there.

What Sternberg DID was wrong. That it’s not illegal is not really irrelevant, it was wrong. If he had been the editor of a commercial journal, he’d have a pink slip.

How, exactly, is it “playing dirty” to insist that honor and honesty be maintained in the peer review process? This whine from the defenders of ignorance always tees me off.

Honesty demands that, first, Dr. Sternberg admit that the processes were, at best, bent irreparably when he published the article without fully informing the board of the society and without using a more careful and rigorous review process.

Where can we expect to see his apology?

And, exactly how is it “harassment” to discuss the fact that, though someone has violated the ethics of his profession, he cannot be fired? Can I get you to explain that to a judge, who has a professional canon of ethics which requires that the judge avoid even the appearance of impropriety?

‘My client was wronged, your honor. He violated the ethics and procedures of his profession, he stabbed his colleagues in the back so that they no longer trust him to work with him, and he demands justice! They cannot fire him, so now he demands they be reprimanded!’

Chutzpah, indeed.

Comment #44071

Posted by Ron Okimoto on August 20, 2005 8:35 AM (e)

This is sort of off topic, but what was the story of Denton’s demise at the Discovery Institute? The other fellows didn’t like his last book and even posted a discussion of the book at ARN or ISCID that didn’t include Denton, and then Denton was out.

Since they keep a guy like Berlinski around, you’d think that it would be worth the Fellowship to keep listing Denton. Creationist are still citing Denton’s first bogus book, even though his second book pretty much makes it irrelevant.

Comment #44072

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 20, 2005 9:05 AM (e)

I just sent off a LTE to the New York Times. The whole thing took me maybe fifteen minutes. C’mon, folks, don’t be shy. Tell us when you’ve made your concerns known to a media outlet.

Comment #44074

Posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on August 20, 2005 10:26 AM (e)

Andrew, the link you provided doesn’t work.

Comment #44075

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 20, 2005 10:35 AM (e)

Ed,
You said:

Ed Darrell wrote:

Honesty demands that, first, Dr. Sternberg admit that the processes were, at best, bent irreparably when he published the article without fully informing the board of the society and without using a more careful and rigorous review process.

How can he admit that the “processes were, at best, bent irreparably” when even Dr. McDiarmid admits after seeing the peer review file that

Dr McDiarmid wrote:

“they support your decision to publish” (according to a quote from his email to Sternberg)

Comment #44076

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 20, 2005 10:42 AM (e)

Andrew,

That one can find three ID-friendly credentialed academics willing to give Meyer’s deeply flawed manuscript a pass is not surprising. McDiarmid’s comment doesn’t mean that all was well with the review process.

Comment #44077

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 20, 2005 10:42 AM (e)

Kevin,
Apologies….

Not having much joy with my links…

The link to Dr Sternberg’s updated version of the events is:

www.rsternberg.net

Comment #44079

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 20, 2005 10:55 AM (e)

Wesley,

Do you know who the reviwers are?
Do you know that they are ID friendly?

Comment #44082

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 20, 2005 11:47 AM (e)

Andrew,

No, I don’t know who the reviewers are. I didn’t say that I did. No, we don’t know that the reviewers *were* ID-friendly AND we do not know that they definitely *were not* ID-friendly. In the absence of that information, one can’t take the observation that three reviewers gave the deeply flawed manuscript a pass as meaning everything was OK in the review process.

Comment #44091

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 20, 2005 12:28 PM (e)

Mr. Rowell,

After reviewing the entire situation, Dr. McDiarmid joined in the letter from the Society saying the review process was inadequate and the publication was unfortunate, subsequent to his earlier comments.

Learning progresses. ID advocates and other creationists like to pretend knowledge remains static. It doesn’t. One wonders what the Society learned (which has not been revealed) that would lead Dr. McDiarmid to change his mind. Whatever it was, we’ll have to trust him, at least unless and until the full record ever gets out.

The best way for ID advocates to establish Dr. Sternberg’s integrity, of course, would be to go to the lab and produce some results.

Of course, as you well know, no ID advocate has offered to do that. I predict no ID advocate will step up to the Bunsen burner to defend Dr. Sternberg with real results. They know Meyer’s article was hooey as much as anyone else does, and such a defense would, in their view, be fruitless.

Comment #44097

Posted by frank schmidt on August 20, 2005 12:47 PM (e)

Given the tradition of anonymous and confidential reviews in scientific journals, we don’t know who the reviewers were, nor what they said. Let us assume that the reviews were favorable. The big question is whether they were qualified and impartial. For example, reviewers for reputable journals are not affiliated with the institutions of the submitting author(s), except in very rare cases.

So a legitimate question for Sternberg is: “Were the reviewers affiliated with the Discovery (sic) Institute, since that is Meyer’s employer?” As far as I know, copies of the reviews were forwarded to Dr. McDiarmid but not the identity of the reviewers. Were the usual correct processes followed in picking the reviewers for the Meyer paper? It seems pretty clear that they were not. Perhaps Meyer could release Sternberg from confidentiality and the reviewers could do the same.

A second point comes out about “scientific shunning” of Sternberg. I have creationist colleagues. I am currently collaborating intensely with a colleague who is a fundamentalist Christian, and definitely inclined to the YEC view. We argue in a friendly way about such things, but the ultimate test of our collaboration is whether it gets good science done. The scientific community is a remarkably tolerant meritocracy. As long as one plays by the rules of the game (i.e., doesn’t cheat), most anything short of criminality is irrelevant.

Sternberg’s colleagues were upset with him for publishing creationist non-scientific nonsense in a way that subverted the scientific process. He was free to do so in other forums, and I doubt his doing so inspired more than a little tongue-clucking and head-wagging. Nobelist William Shockley’s peddled dubious statistics purporting to show that African-Americans were intellectually inferior to whites and Asians. Eventually, the controversy died down, although it recrudesces periodically, as we got a better understanding of the multifactorial nature of intelligence, human genetic variation, and human evolution. It took up a lot of time and effort, though.

So how do we react when a colleague deliberately hurts the enterprise? One is to try being helpful if possible (see A Beautiful Mind) and the other is to make sure that the damage is limited. This may involve removing the colleague from the classroom, or from a position of authority (like an editorship), or repudiating the work by retracting or disavowing it in print. Which is what PBSW did at the first opportunity. It is not persecution when such things happen; it is the logical consequence of activities that cannot be tolerated if the community as a whole is to succeed. “Fixing” a propaganda piece so that it can be cited as science is one of those activities, and Sternberg is smart enough to know that.

We learned from Shockley and others (e.g., Gajdusek,) that a Nobel does not automatically confer virtue or even good judgement. Neither does a Ph.D., or even two.

Comment #44117

Posted by Donald M on August 20, 2005 2:17 PM (e)

In his report of the Sternberg complaint, Matzke fails to mention that the investigation found support for virtually all of Sternberg’s complaints. That it is recommended for dismissal on jurisdictional grounds is hardly cause for celebration at the SI or the NCSE for that matter. The fact is, neither group spared Sternberg from their diatribes, name calling, and guilt-by-association innuendos. For that, they should at the least show some contrition and apologize PUBLICLY to Sternberg for the trouble they have caused him. But I won’t hold my breath. As we all know, Darwinists are never wrong in their excoriations of anyone they deem a “creationist”.

Comment #44118

Posted by roger Tang on August 20, 2005 2:23 PM (e)

“As we all know, Darwinists are never wrong in their excoriations of anyone they deem a “creationist”.”

Correct. Because Creationists AREN’T DOING SCIENCE. If they were, they’d be doing it in the scientific arena and not playing these silly games.

Comment #44120

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on August 20, 2005 2:33 PM (e)

Donald M wrote:

the investigation found support for virtually all of Sternberg’s complaints.

No it didn’t. The personal letter from political appointee McVay did not identify any injury to Sternberg. It cited many emails where people were upset at Sternberg’s scientific misconduct but was unable to identify a single instance where anyone did anything to him about it.

Comment #44123

Posted by Eva Young on August 20, 2005 2:48 PM (e)

The anti-gay FRC had something about this in their Daily Bleating - and the Washington Post had a story that didn’t cover this well. People should write letters to the editor. The Family Research Council will go back to their regularly schedule of all gays all the time - but it’s interesting that this came up on their radar screen.

http://lloydletta.blogspot.com/2005/08/idiocy-from-family-research-council.html

Comment #44124

Posted by MrDarwin on August 20, 2005 2:52 PM (e)

What I can’t figure out is, if the pro-Darwinian scientific establishment has stacked the deck against them as much as they claim, why haven’t ID proponents created their own journal to publish high-quality peer reviewed articles that are favorable to ID?

Comment #44125

Posted by Eva Young on August 20, 2005 2:59 PM (e)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/18/AR2005081801680_pf.html

Post article at URL above.

Comment #44128

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 20, 2005 3:11 PM (e)

“What I can’t figure out is, if the pro-Darwinian scientific establishment has stacked the deck against them as much as they claim, why haven’t ID proponents created their own journal to publish high-quality peer reviewed articles that are favorable to ID?”

uh, they have in fact co-opted a journal to do just that:

Rivista di Biologia

in fact, check out another crank who can only publish in this journal as well:

http://www.uvm.edu/~jdavison/

and i do mean CRANK:

http://www.crank.net/evolution.html

Comment #44129

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 20, 2005 3:14 PM (e)

addendum:

not implying that the scientific community has “stacked the deck” against ID (or JAD for that matter) - the point being the reason they don’t get published in most peer reviewed journals is that what they do ISN’T SCIENCE. EOS

Comment #44130

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 20, 2005 3:25 PM (e)

Ed,

Saying that the review process was “inadequate” and the publication “unfortunate” is different from saying “the processes were, at best, bent irreparably.” Is there any clear evidence that Dr Sternberg “bent” any of the rules/processes laid down for the editor of the journal? I would like to see that evidence please. Is it simply that he broke an unspoken “rule” not to publish anything which disagrees with the overwhelming number of biologists on origins.

Comment #44131

Posted by PvM on August 20, 2005 3:27 PM (e)

Donald M wrote:

In his report of the Sternberg complaint, Matzke fails to mention that the investigation found support for virtually all of Sternberg’s complaints.

Actually the report does no such thing. It mentions that it has found some evidence ‘suggestive’ but that the review did not include data from the SI which could shine a different light on the issues. Other than quoting from some random email messages in which people expressed their outrage, there seems to be little evidence to support so far the various claims by Sternberg.

I can understand the anger by the SI scientists, for having one of their reputable journals being used for the publication of a paper which was not only unsuitable for the paper but also of questionable quality.

The Meyer paper has been reviewed by various people and many shortcomings have been documented.
Note also that Meyer does not propose any scientific alternative beyond. Well, I believe that science cannot explain the Cambrian explosion, thus some unnamed, unspecified intelligent designer(s) could have done it.
That’s not science by any standard.

And even ID proponents realize this more and more (Nelson, Gilder).

Perhaps Donald can specify which claims Sternberg made and which ones were supported?

Some details may be helpful…

Comment #44133

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 20, 2005 3:37 PM (e)

Ed,

You said:

Ed Darrell wrote:

The best way for ID advocates to establish Dr. Sternberg’s integrity, of course, would be to go to the lab and produce some results.

Over here (at the moment) we are innocent until proven guilty…. by the sound of it… over there …Dr Sternberg is guilty until proven to have real integrity …. not by his own actions or research efforts but by …others… I am sure you did not mean that did you?

Comment #44135

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 20, 2005 3:50 PM (e)

PvM

Dr. Sternberg’s Complaints… from his website

1. Efforts to remove me from the Museum. After Smithsonian officials determined that there was no wrong-doing in the publication process for the Meyer paper and that they therefore had no grounds to remove me from my position directly, they tried to create an intolerable working environment so that I would be forced to resign. As the OSC investigation concluded, “[i]t is… clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing you out of the SI.” In addition, it was made clear to me that my current position at the Smithsonian will not be renewed despite my excellent record of research and publication.

2. Efforts to get NIH to fire me. Pressure was put on the NIH to fire me.

3. Perceived political and religous beliefs investigated. Smithsonian officials attempted to investigate my personal religious and political beliefs in gross violation of my privacy and my First Amendment rights.

4. Smeared with false allegations. My professional reputation, private life, and ethics were repeatedly impugned and publicly smeared with false allegations by government employees working in tandem with a non-governmental political advocacy group, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

5. Pressured to reveal peer reviewers and to engage in improper peer review. I was repeatedly pressured to reveal the names of the peer-reviewers of the Meyer article, contrary to professional ethics. I was also told repeatedly that I should have found peer reviewers who would reject the article out-of-hand, in direct violation of professional ethics which require editors to find peer reviewers who are not prejudiced or hostile to a particular author or his/her ideas.

6. Creation of hostile work environment.
(a) Supervisor replaced. I was transferred from the supervision of a friendly sponsor (supervisor) at the Museum to a hostile one.
(b) Office space. I was twice forced to move specimens from my office space on short notice for no good reason, my name plate was removed from my office door, and eventually I was deprived of all official office space and forced to use a shared work area as my work location in the Museum.
© Unprecedented work requirements. I was subjected to an array of new reporting requirements not imposed on other Research Associates.
(d) Access to specimens limited. My access to the specimens needed for my research at the Museum was restricted. (My access to the Museum was also restricted. I was forced to give up my master key.)

OSC report gives evidence to substantiate at least 1,3,4 partially, 5, 6c and 6d partially as far as I can see.

Comment #44138

Posted by Russell on August 20, 2005 4:04 PM (e)

Rowell wrote:

Over here (at the moment) we are innocent until proven guilty…. by the sound of it… over there …Dr Sternberg is guilty until proven to have real integrity …. not by his own actions or research efforts but by …others… I am sure you did not mean that did you?

You’ve been watching too much television. “Presumption of innocence” is something that applies to criminal law. Ed was talking about perceptions of Sternberg’s integrity (and implicitly, I think, competence) among his colleagues. Call me unAmerican, but I don’t assume people are competent until proven incompetent.

I don’t know the details the case; in my mind the question is open. But for me the central puzzle is this: Three out of three reviewers, chosen on the basis of anything other than known friendliness to ID, deemed that paper publishable - if indeed they did. That sets off alarm bells as I pass it through the “Explanatory Filter”.

Comment #44143

Posted by roger Tang on August 20, 2005 4:20 PM (e)

“Over here (at the moment) we are innocent until proven guilty…. by the sound of it… over there …Dr Sternberg is guilty until proven to have real integrity …. not by his own actions or research efforts but by …others… I am sure you did not mean that did you?”

He sure as hell meant that.

We’re discussing SCIENCE, are we not? Stop trying to change the subject. Where are the research? Where are the results?

Comment #44144

Posted by PvM on August 20, 2005 4:50 PM (e)

Andrew wrote:

OSC report gives evidence to substantiate at least 1,3,4 partially, 5, 6c and 6d partially as far as I can see.

It would be helpful to present your case. So far I see some vague assertions and their links with the report seem tenuous to me.

You say that the OSC concluded ““[i]t is… clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing you out of the SI.””

When in fact the OSC report clearly states that this is a preliminary finding. In fact as far as I can tell, the OSC mostly repeats Sternberg’s assertions and provides at most some indirect evidence.

However, the SI is now refusing to cooperate with our investigation. OSC is not able to take statements and receive further paper discovery that would allow for final conclusions, The SI may in fact maintain documents that place our current information in a different context. As a consequence, I will detail only our preliminary findings below.

First amendment violations

Our investigation also shows that there is a strong religious and political component to the actions taken after the publication of the Meyer article.

A strong component?…

One senior S[ employee, when discussing the Meyer article stated, “The papet is a sheer disaster .., We are evolutinary biologist, and I am sorry to see us made into the laughing stock ofthe world, even if this kind of rubbish sells well in backwoods USA…Under no circumstances should the Institution support the journal with page-charges, which up to this point has been a mainstay of the Society.”

The question is, were SI officials motivated by religious reasons or were they motivated by reasons other than this?

SL Members of NCSE, furthermore, e-mailed detailed statements of repudiation of the Meyer article to high level NMNH officials.

Seems that the issue was a scientific one after all?

Or this one

You allege in your complaint that SI managers questioned people that they thought to be your friends at the SI, regarding your religion and your political affiliations. According to your complaint, this occuned on at leastwo occasions, You learned this through direct statements made to you by the individuals that were questioned. As stated above, our investigation has not been allowed lo proceed through the interview process. We have not been able to question the
individuals involved in the alleged conversations to determine if the facts would support a specified legal conclusion.

The letter then goes on to present some at most circumstantial evidence.

Retaliation

Much seems to have been made about removal of the master key but what was the motivation for such?

Why did the SI managers look into ways to see if Sternberg could be let go? Was this politically or religiously motivated or was this motivated by another reason?

Eventually, they determined that they could not terminate you for cause and they were not going to make you a “martyr” by firing you for publishing a paper on ID, They came to the conclusion that you had not violated SI directives and that you could not be denied accoss for
off- duty conduct.This was actually part of the suategy advocated by the NCSE,

Shame on the NCSE for giving this advice :-)

Undeterred, these same managers then embarked on a new strategy to change your working conditions and create a hostile working environment. Several e-mails complained that you should not be allowed to “live” on the same working floor with other scientists. Two very senior scientists wanted your supervisor to let you know that “you are welcome to leave or resign.”

Note the change from supervisor to ‘senior scientists’… But did the managers embark on a new strategy?… Or where these concerned co-workers?

Ono important thlng to keep in mind, however, ls the equal treatment of all RAs In the section. You must not impose more onerous restrictions on one particular RA than on other RAs in the section

Anyway, on tho core point, I obviously im not going to be able to find a sponsor for Sternberg, yet his oficcial-status is as a rescearch associate for the next three years, If you don’t want to make a martyr of him, I’ll sponsor him.

Seems that people did propose to sponsor him and not to treat him differently.

So why did the OSC ‘believe’ that they were still trying to get Sternberg fired?

Also, these indicate they are still attempting to find a reason to terminate you. You had not “yet” been found to have committed a terminable offense. They were still looking for a pretext,

A bit vague in my opinoin

Excuse me xxx, but I thought that we were addressing the issue of integrity of the museum’s scientific research. In that respect, your are responsible for the actions of your researchers as well as those scientists who uso the name of this museum in any way related to research or collections [which includes research associates and those of the, euphemistically named, affiliated agencies].

Again, a concern for the reputation of the museum is mentioned.

And what about reviewer anonymity?

Reviewer Anonymity, Don’t Stemberg tell you that reviewers names must remain a secret. Reviewer anonymity ls a request by a reviewer to an editor that the reviewer not be directly and immediately ldentified to the author of a manuscript under review. ln fact, during the l5 years I was assoclate editor, we published a list of reviewers of manuscripts for the year at the end of oach year as a way of advertizing our interest in a rigorous revlew process.

And the question about the reviewers?

So, were the reviewers people who could provide a balanced assessment of the manuscript and people who wero cited in the manuscript, especially those whose ideas were opinined to be wrong? Or were the reviewers peoplo who a priori support ID or structuralism, nuanced names for creationism?

In other words, I am not convinced that there is much of a case. Yes, people questioned motivation, yes people suggested to give Sternberg an face to face meeting or a “you are welcome to resign or leave” was considered tobe appropriate but it is unclear if this was a suggestion by Sternberg’s manager. Or perhaps merely a personal suggestion by one of his co-workers?

Of course, that is easy for me to say, and as bosses it is you who have to decide what to do.

suggests to me that this is a letter to the bosses by a co-worker.

So far the limited information that has been presented seems ambiguous to me.

Comment #44159

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 20, 2005 8:30 PM (e)

Ed,

Saying that the review process was “inadequate” and the publication “unfortunate” is different from saying “the processes were, at best, bent irreparably.” Is there any clear evidence that Dr Sternberg “bent” any of the rules/processes laid down for the editor of the journal? I would like to see that evidence please. Is it simply that he broke an unspoken “rule” not to publish anything which disagrees with the overwhelming number of biologists on origins.

I’m not sure how many times we’ll have to repeat this, but here goes again: The board of the Society that publishes the journal issued a statement noting that the topic was inappropriate for the journal. The article didn’t belong there. The board noted that usual processes were not followed.

Typically, in my experience (and I’d be happy to hear from others), if there is an article proposed for a journal that is known to be controversial, the review process is done more carefully. Specifically, especially for papers that cut across several science disciplines, someone from each of those disciplines is called in to look over the stuff. Wherever there are factional issues, generally someone from each faction is called on in each scientific discipline. This is done to prevent premature claims of breakthroughs, or faulty claims generally. The journal is a taxonomy journal. The article discusses genetics, population genetics, embryology, “evo-devo,” geology, paleontology, electronics, mathematics and philosophy. That broad a paper should have had at least a dozen cursory reviewers, and probably more, and several people from different disciplines to review it in some depth. Apparently it was reviewed by three taxonomists, which suggests that there was little serious attempt to review the science involved. Now, I think it would be a fair argument for Sternberg to advance that he could not possibly have foreseen that the Discovery Institute and the author would present the article publicly as anything other than a cursory review of some of the literature – but this guy has been in the secret meetings of IDists and creationists. How blind should we think he was? And if we accept the idea that he didn’t know what he was doing, what does that say about his claims that he’s been treated unfairly?

I know of no rule that says publication of an article disagreeing with widely-held or firmly-held views is to be avoided. When I worked in biology labs it was at an exciting time when serious questions were raised about major contributions of big guns all the time. But those who raised the questions typically did so on the basis of experimental results they had which did not fit expected patterns. For example, in the mid-1970s, air pollution theory held that upper atmosphere ozone and lower atmosphere ozone were two different entities, and that generally there was no mixing of ozone or other atmospheric components from the surface to the highest levels of the atmosphere, with the possible exception of helium (which rises to the top of the atmosphere and drifts off into space, to the frustration of creationists). Consequently, measurements in wilderness areas that showed high levels of ozone were difficult to explain, as were measurements that suggested some reactant was eating up ozone in the highest levels of the atmosphere. These findings were controversial since they ran headlong against statements made by the authors of texts and the officials of groups like the Air Pollution Control Association. How did those officials react? They convened conferences featuring the scientists with the new findings, and also featuring meteorologists and physicists who might shed more light – and they discussed the issues at length. They wrote papers suggesting hypotheses for what was going on, and they proposed dozens of experiments to confirm or deny the findings. They invented new machines to more accurately measure the atmosphere, and they measured the atmosphere, and they made more elaborate and more accurate models in their labs. Ultimately it was confirmed that fluorine compounds were drifting to the upper atmosphere from ground levels; these compounds are responsible for the ozone holes over the poles. Most importantly, the scientists who had the new findings did not claim the older evidence was gotten by fraud or philosophical bias – in fact they used some of the same methods to get different data. Our lab worked alongside one of the guys who was known for his arguments against mixing of upper and lower atmospheric components. I well recall his reaction to a paper that basically said he was dead wrong: “Terribly exciting!” A good science fight is fun. The contestants learn a lot; it’s like coming around the bend of an unexplored river and finding a mountain that was not on the map.

Do you see anything like that here? Dr. Meyer has scrupulously avoided science meetings for 15 years, as has every other advocate of intelligent design. Instead they have gone to churches and religious publications across the nation maligning scientists and science. Rather than put forth his view in a major publication for general science, such as Nature, or Science, either of which would love to publish something controversial supported by high quality data, Meyer sought out an almost-unknown, backwater journal in an extremely narrow discipline with which his paper had almost nothing to do.

“Inadequate” process and “unfortunate” events in the nature of accidents do indeed bend the processes irreparably.

The Meyer piece is out of the barn. It can’t be called back. Science charlatans have been trumpeting it as a science breakthrough for months. Peer review has been tarred, probably permanently. When scientists tried to fix problems to stop further erosion of standards, those who participated in the publication of the piece, rather than defend the science, called in politically-inclined government agencies, instead of going through proper science channels for the science, or proper legal channels for any legitimate legal claim. Good scientists have been smeared by ill-advised release of a preliminary legal letter that is itself inadequate and rash, in my legal opinion as a veteran of Senate investigations. And I’m not referring to Sternberg. Sternberg himself may have some complaints against Meyer for misrepresenting the paper to him, if it was represented as either uncontroversial or new. Tellingly, he’s not pursuing those.

I do not see any happy resolution of these issues. Sternberg’s decision has graced intelligent design with unearned and, IMHO, unmerited position in science indices.

Did you see the movie, “Private Ryan?” When a person is given precious gifts that are unearned and unmerited, if they are noble, or wise, or a bit of both, or otherwise just normal, they take actions subsequent to demonstrate merit after-the-fact. I keep hoping to see that. I don’t think Meyer is a hardened charlatan. I think there are people of good intent at the Discovery Institute. Why they don’t take action to get real science results has been a mystery to me for about a decade. That’s too long. They’ve spent more than $10 million in that time on press releases, films and books. They’ve fooled the president of the U.S. and the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. They’ve snookered boards of education in several states, inducing them to dilute education and put our nation further behind in the international race for science literacy and achievement.

I hope science in America isn’t broken beyond repair, so I said “bent.” I hope I’m not wrong; I hope we can pound out the dents and go on with mostly cosmetic injury.

Comment #44160

Posted by Eva Young on August 20, 2005 8:32 PM (e)

I read some of the opinion. It is depressing how the theocrats have taken over all aspects of the Bush administration. In HHS, somehow the Traditional Values Coalition was getting hold of the list of NIH studies - so they could tell which ones should get funded or not.

For all the loud pronouncements of being “christian” - these characters lie through their teeth.

Comment #44178

Posted by steve on August 20, 2005 10:20 PM (e)

That Washington Post article was picked up by MSNBC.

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9002297/

It’s really awful.

Comment #44179

Posted by steve on August 20, 2005 10:46 PM (e)

I hope science in America isn’t broken beyond repair, so I said “bent.” I hope I’m not wrong; I hope we can pound out the dents and go on with mostly cosmetic injury.

Lordy, Ed, why on earth would you think the situation so dire? When has American science been better funded? In what distant time was it a larger enterprise? PZ Myers is not going to find his lab padlocked tomorrow. Down the street at NCSU there’s no shortage of promising new undergrads. Carl Zimmer has not run out of people to talk to. In the large scheme of things, ID is a mosquito.
The significant threat to American science is the difficulty faced by foreigners trying to come here, post 9/11, to study and work as grad students, postdocs, professors, and technology entrepreneurs. When I was in physics, I knew Chinese guys who went to visit their parents over christmas, then couldn’t get back, or were delayed months getting back. Chinese guys! Come on. Imagine the problems faced by Turks, Somalis, Egyptians. A large percentage of our scientists are foreigners, so I expect this to have large consequences if it isn’t changed.

Comment #44181

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 20, 2005 11:08 PM (e)

“When has American science been better funded?”

there you go again, steve.

how bout 1975?

I keep telling you this, but you refuse to listen or do your own research.

actual useable dollar amounts for research have been steadily declining since 1980 (when Reagan took office).

go frickin look at the NSF reports before you keep spouting the same shit over and over again.

if you can’t figure out what the trends indicate, then don’t say anything.

Comment #44182

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 20, 2005 11:12 PM (e)

addendum:

the only thing i agree with in your statement is that it has little to do with ID specifically, and much more to do with the folks behind the ID movement; I wonder if you grasp that?

Comment #44183

Posted by steve on August 20, 2005 11:24 PM (e)

I’m going to continue to believe what I’ve seen before w/r/t science funding, despite the claims of a guy who calls himself Sir Toejam. In the past on this site I’ve provided links to data indicating increased real dollar funding over the last 50 years. If anybody disagrees, fine, maybe I’m wrong, but give me some data.

Comment #44184

Posted by steve on August 20, 2005 11:33 PM (e)

For example, here are two charts of NSF funds in 2004 constant dollars. Seems to support my point.

top of pages 3 and 4 at:
http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/nsf05c.pdf

Comment #44185

Posted by steve on August 20, 2005 11:37 PM (e)

I keep telling you this, but you refuse to listen or do your own research….
go frickin look at the NSF reports before you keep spouting the same shit over and over again….
if you can’t figure out what the trends indicate, then don’t say anything….
I wonder if you grasp that?

Who are you, Great White Wonder?

Comment #44218

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 21, 2005 9:57 AM (e)

Lordy, Ed, why on earth would you think the situation so dire? When has American science been better funded? In what distant time was it a larger enterprise?

In the Kennedy administration, in the Johnson administration, in the Nixon administration, in the Ford administration, in the Carter administration, and in the first year of the Reagan administration.

Since 1981 funding has been systematically cut out of the federal budget for research, especially the smaller research projects that used to undergird our graduate degree programs. Total spending is up in non-constant dollars – but NSF has less money and can fund less research, NIH has less money to send out to university and special laboratories. The Supercollider is dead, dead, dead. Research funding is up for nuclear weapons and for disposal of nuclear waste.

I staffed the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee from 1980-1985. There is no general area of research in that committee’s jurisdiction which is as well funded as it was – not in health, not in education, not in labor. Cuts and no-growth budgets in the past make some increases appear larger than they are. Increases don’t get us back to baseline 1981 levels, yet, except in a few areas, in constant dollars.

Comment #44221

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 21, 2005 10:55 AM (e)

Even if the environment at the Smithsonian became less friendly to Sternberg after publication of the Meyer article, I see no reason to presume that it was due to religious bias and not recognition of his scientific incompetence.

It seems hypocritical to claim that IDC is science and not religion, but when it is rejected in the scientific arena, this is due to religious discrimination.

Comment #44223

Posted by RBH on August 21, 2005 11:10 AM (e)

BB wrote

It seems hypocritical to claim that IDC is science and not religion, but when it is rejected in the scientific arena, this is due to religious discrimination.

That’s the core argument at the heart of intelligent design creationism. IDC embodies both scientific and theological implications. The scientific implication is that some phenomena in the biological world require intermittent supernatural interventions; the theological implication is that God is required to intermittently intervene in the world to keep his creation running. Would that more Christians were aware that intelligent design creationism thinks their God is incompetent to create a fully functioning universe on the first try. Of course, the Moonie’s (Wells’s church) teaching that Jesus screwed up first time around, necessitating the sending of a second Messiah in the person of Rev. Moon, might have something to do with that.

RBH

Comment #44225

Posted by steve on August 21, 2005 12:01 PM (e)

Comment #44218

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 21, 2005 09:57 AM (e) (s)

In the Kennedy administration, in the Johnson administration, in the Nixon administration, in the Ford administration, in the Carter administration, and in the first year of the Reagan administration.

Since 1981 funding has been systematically cut out of the federal budget for research, especially the smaller research projects that used to undergird our graduate degree programs. Total spending is up in non-constant dollars — but NSF has less money and can fund less research, NIH has less money to send out to university and special laboratories.

I’m not an economist, so I could be wrong, but the AAAS link I provided seems to show that spending is up in constant dollars. If that’s true, American science has more money than ever.

Comment #44233

Posted by frank schmidt on August 21, 2005 3:18 PM (e)

Steve, how about as a fraction of GNP? Waaaay down.

Comment #44235

Posted by steve on August 21, 2005 3:40 PM (e)

Irrelevant.

Comment #44236

Posted by steve on August 21, 2005 3:53 PM (e)

Irrelevant to my point, I should say. My original point is that American science is healthy, ID is no threat, and the real threat is the increased difficulties faced by foreign scientists. I based the claim about the health of American science on vague memories of graphs I’d seen in the past about funding. After a pointlessly rude challenge by some pseudonymous commenter–typical traffic on the internet–I found a couple of charts which demonstrate that adjusted for inflation, the NSF is giving out more money than ever, and this has been a trend for decades. I think my point is pretty firmly established, at least about that part. The part about ID not being much of a potential threat is not something I’d defend as strongly.

Comment #44242

Posted by Andrew Rowell on August 21, 2005 4:51 PM (e)

Ed,

Thank you for you helpful comment. There was a good lot in there that I didn’t know and had not seen before.

Do you know which usual procedures the board said were not followed?
Can I get hold of their statement somewhere?

Comment #44246

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 21, 2005 5:33 PM (e)

steve, maybe your not taking into account that per individual research budget (as per university department) funding has gone down? I can’t figure out how you can still think that funding has increased? how long have you been in the sciences?

I’m sorry if i get a little pissy about this, but i ran into several university adminstrators who also managed to convince themselves of your argument, to the detriment of departmental funding across most of the biological and basic science departments.

I’ll go ahead and dig up the reports this week and post them for you.

Comment #44249

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 21, 2005 6:00 PM (e)

btw steve:

“ a guy who calls himself Sir Toejam”

i often flush out those with less than robust thought processes by how they choose to address the posting names of others. as if a posting name reflects anything about the person doing the posting…

It’s actually one of the reasons i choose to post with that particular handle.

I certainly don’t make anything out of the fact that you post with the name “steve”, whatever that means…

Comment #44257

Posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on August 21, 2005 7:15 PM (e)

Andrew, the statement from the board of BSW was posted here on PT several months ago, but I am having a little trouble finding exactly where. It listed several procedures that were not followed.

Comment #44259

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on August 21, 2005 7:33 PM (e)

Want to know more about Meyer’s Hopeless Monster?

The Meyer 2004 Medley

Biological Society of Washington repudiation

Comment #44282

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 21, 2005 10:07 PM (e)

Steve and Andrew: It does indeed appear as though the total spending on research is up; the entire picture is more difficult. Defense research is a huge part of the increase, but medical research is up, too. Agricultural research really suffers in comparison.

In any case, for whatever reasons, federal research grants are tougher to come by than they used to be. Here is a link to the latest Statistical Abstract of the U.S. at the appropriate page:
http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/04statab/science.pdf

This issue merits more study, by me at least.

Comment #44284

Posted by Gordon Elliott on August 21, 2005 10:17 PM (e)

This business is getting wide publication. It even appeared in the Kansas City Star as Scientists accused of smear: Intelligent design article sets off government furor.

But the publicity machine has gotten the anti-science message through, but the background of all Sternberg’s problems don’t get the publication.

Comment #44290

Posted by bill on August 21, 2005 11:39 PM (e)

Consequences.

One must be prepared for consequences and apparently Sternberg wasn’t.

It appears that the big bad Discovery Institute didn’t fully inform Sternberg of the consequences of his actions. The Meyer paper is fiction from beginning to end. It’s clear that Sternberg short-circuited the review process and blind-sided the Journal’s board. Certainly, if that had happened in a corporation Sternberg would have been fired outright. Blind-siding is not a good thing.

I weep not for Sternberg. He’s chosen his path, however not a scientific path.

Comment #44291

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 21, 2005 11:54 PM (e)

don’t cry for me argentina…

Comment #44292

Posted by Russell on August 22, 2005 12:26 AM (e)

Ed Darrell wrote:

I do not see any happy resolution of these issues. Sternberg’s decision has graced intelligent design with unearned and, IMHO, unmerited position in science indices.

There are plenty of papers published every year, probably every day, that ought not have passed through the peer review system. The system can’t be expected to be foolproof. It’s only been a matter of time before one of those papers in an obscure journal happened to be by an IDist. It’s only a matter of time before the next one gets through. All we can expect from the system of peer review is that it will keep the level of crackpot science from representing more than an infinitesimal fraction of a given field’s literature. The other thing that should serve to protect science is that once a paper is published, refutations of it will surely follow and become part of the public record. You already see this in this case in the remarkable fact that the Society, in whose journal this was published, publicly repudiated and deplored its publication.

Comment #44319

Posted by Gordon Elliott on August 22, 2005 12:10 PM (e)

Another aspect is the “religious” persecution angle.

The problem is that the very standards used by the OSC for judging if there was discrimination against Sternberg are the ones that he appears to have violated.

The issue is not discrimination against Sternberg for his particular religious beliefs. Rather the issue is whether Sternberg used religion (whatever religion that might be) as basis for and involved in his decisions to publish the article without proper review or process and without the article actually having any scientific content.

It would not have mattered whether Sternberg published an article without scientific content which had an athiest purpose, or a Christian sect’s purpose. No matter the case he would have been out of bounds to publish an article without scientific merit and for such a religiously based reason. The key point here is the background political organization of Discovery Institute and various creationist groups in pushing such articles into the hands of someone like Sternberg for religious reasons.

Science discriminates against all religions in the sense that articles whose content is primarily of religious backing and of no scientific value are descriminated against. This is not a discrimination against any particular religion (or lack thereof), but is an inherent property of the scientific method.

Comment #44320

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 22, 2005 12:40 PM (e)

I weep not for Sternberg. He’s chosen his path, however not a scientific path.

Wanna bet that within 2 years he will be on the payroll of the Discovery Institute?

Comment #44321

Posted by Donald M on August 22, 2005 1:41 PM (e)

Responding to my comment #44117 wherein I stated that the OSC found support for virtually all of Sternberg’s complaints, Reed Cartwright writes in post #44120, “No it didn’t. The personal letter from political appointee McVay did not identify any injury to Sternberg. It cited many emails where people were upset at Sternberg’s scientific misconduct but was unable to identify a single instance where anyone did anything to him about it.” And PvM writes in post #44131: “Actually the report does no such thing. It mentions that it has found some evidence ‘suggestive’…”

I didn’t say the OSC identified injury to Mr. Sternberg, I said the letter indicated they found support for the complaint. From the letter from the OSC we read: “My decision is not based upon the substance of your allegations; in fact, our preliminary investigation supports your complaint.” And a bit further on: “During our initial investigations, OSC has been able to find support for many of your allegations. However, the SI is now refusing to cooperate with our investigation.” One wonders why the SI refused to cooperate if everything was on the up and up here. Pim should take note that word used in the letter is “support” not “suggestive” as he indicates.

A bit further on in the letter the OSC writes: “Nevertheless, the current investigative file reflects support for your allegations.”

You guys can back-peddle on this all you want, but the fact is, Sternberg was singled out to be on the receiving end of a whole range of bad behavior on the part of the Darwinian crowd. We still await the public apology to Sternberg for this unprofessional and unnecessary bad behavior.

Comment #44324

Posted by Mike on August 22, 2005 1:47 PM (e)

Chutzpah

Comment #44325

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 22, 2005 1:49 PM (e)

er “We still await the public apology…”??? who is we, donald?

Comment #44326

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 22, 2005 1:59 PM (e)

One wonders why the SI refused to cooperate if everything was on the up and up here.

As mentioned frequently in this thread, the OSC does not have jurisdiction. That seems sufficient reason to me not to allow them to investigate. You seem to have run out of substance if you are already repeating such fluff.

We still await the public apology to Sternberg for this unprofessional and unnecessary bad behavior.

1) Who are “we”?

2) That will probably come soon after Sternberg’s apology for his unprofessional bad behaviour in publishing the Meyer paper.

Comment #44336

Posted by slo-mo-joe on August 22, 2005 3:22 PM (e)

Donald:
that’s just spin. The SI did not “refuse to cooperate”, it simply did not have to, nor was McVay legally entitled to ask for and expect such cooperation. (In fact, they already did cooperate beyond their duty by letting McVay rummage through their e-mails). For McVay (and yourself) to insinuate that therefore the SI had something to hide is just a baseless allegation, and turns the law upside down.

As for the specifics, McVay’s claims are all essentially based on his own personal (and biased) interpretation of e-mails, without even interrogating the writers. For instance, this is McVay’s ludicrous claim of support for the allegation that Sternberg’s friends had been “interrogated” about his religious beliefs:

You allege in your complaint that SI managers questioned people that they thought to be your friends at the SI, regarding your religion and your political affiliations….
As stated above, our investigation has not been allowed lo proceed through the interview process. We have not been able to question the individuals involved in the alleged conversations to determine if the facts would support a specified legal conclusion.
Nevertheless, the current investigative file reflects support for your allegations. First, the e-mail traffic does show that there were meetings between the individuals in question during the
time frame that you allege in the complaint. [#1] For some reason there was no official record kept by the SI of what was stated in the meetings, at least based on what has been provided to OSC to
date.[#2] Further, a second e-mail drafted by this same manager several months later admits that one of these meetings took place [#3] and, more importantly, these issues were discussed.[#4] To put this in-context, at the same time many other actions were taken during the uproar over the Meyer article your supervisor was questioning your friends about your personal political and religious background.[#5]

In otehr words:
#1 The supervisor met with Sternberg’s friends - not surprising, since they probably met with a whole lot of potentially involved individuals. (The question that was considered at the time was: Did Sternberg commit scientific misconduct, and if so, could he do it again? Asking friends is relevant.)
#2 Lack of records is turned into an implicit allegation of malfeasance (as if scientists were supposed to keep legal notes of every meeting they participate in). I wonder if McVay asked Sternberg to provide minutes of all his meetings.
#3 Meeting took place - again, irrelevant, see #1
#4 “Issues were discussed” - totally vague. Note that it is clearly not claimed that the e-mail confirmed that the individual in question had been interrogated about Sternberg’s religious beliefs. Just “issues were discussed”. In reality, when dealing with Creationism, it is almost impossible not to “discuss issues” related to religious and political belief in one way or another (Creationism is a religious and political issue), but that’s not what was alleged to have happened - Sternberg claims specific and purposeful “interrogation”.

In summary, there isn’t even circumstantial, indirect evidence, let alone direct testimony in any of McVay’s “findings” that anyone at the Smithsonian interrogated anyone else about Sternberg’s religious and political beliefs. This doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen – but that there is no basis to believe it at this point other than Sternberg’s hearsay claim about what his friends told him. Which is exactly where we were before McVay’s “investigation” (some gumshoe job!).

That doesn’t stop McVay from assuredly concluding:
#5 “your supervisor was questioning your friends about your personal political and religious background”. Based on the information given, this claim has no basis in McVay’s “findings”.

This kind of reasoning would get any lawyer laughed out of court, if not worse.

Just read it again - pretty much the entire letter by McVay has this tone and content: innuendos and crude extrapolations. It is hard to find a single specific fact emerged during this “preliminary inquiry” that actually corroborates any of Sternberg’s specific allegations, except that people at the Smithsonian were royally pissed at Sternberg for having embarassed them, and therefore the workplace must have been generally hostile (duh!).

Comment #44337

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on August 22, 2005 3:25 PM (e)

Donald M wrote:

One wonders why the SI refused to cooperate if everything was on the up and up here.

Because the OSC had no reason to be investigating SI. It was obvious from the moment the complaint was filed that OSC had no authority to investigate Sternberg’s complaint. As is demonstrated by the personal letter sent by McVay to Sternberg, OSC’s involvement was entirely driven by anti-science politics. Take for instance Scott Bloch, head of the OSC, emailing people anti-SI news stories.

Why should the SI cooperate with political appointees who have no jurisdiction and a political axe to grind?

I said the letter indicated they found support for the complaint.

Too bad McVay provided no support for his rhetorical assertions. Saying they found support and demonstrating such support are two different things.

Comment #44339

Posted by Donald M on August 22, 2005 4:42 PM (e)

In comment 44326 Bayesean Bouffant writes: “2) That will probably come soon after Sternberg’s apology for his unprofessional bad behaviour in publishing the Meyer paper.”

And with that comment, you give away the game. It just bothers the heck out of the PT crowd that Meyer’s paper passed peer review. And you think it “professional” the way Sternberg has been treated? Sternberg owes no one an apology as he is the only one who has acted professionally throughout. His detractors on the other hand think a public flogging is perfectly acceptable if someone actually has the audacity to even question the Darwinian story. That seems highly unscientific and unprofessional to me.

Comment #44340

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 22, 2005 5:03 PM (e)

If the paper “passed” peer review, why is there no defense of the science by its author, its backers, or the editor, Sternberg? Donald M., this is a political fight. The trick for ID advocates is to get their press releases out as far and as fast as they can. In that task, they have no time for science, no time to observe nature, no time for experiment, no time for hypothesis.

If the paper “passed” peer review, can you kindly point me to the science it contains?

If the paper passed peer review, why did the board of the Society that published it call it “contrary to typical editorial practices?” Why did Sternberg go against policy and fail to present it to any associate editor? Why was any secrecy necessary if the paper were valid and capable of passing peer review without a behind-the-scenes goose from the editor?

You’ll notice that no one has pulled the paper back. It’s still there. It’s still available. There is no censorship from the side of science. Instead, as Wesley Elsberry noted above, there is much scientific critique of the paper. None of the scientific critique has been answered by the paper’s author or other ID supporters.

So, I think you need to get the facts straight. Sternberg bent the process to sneak the paper into the journal, inappropriately. Rather than consult with a broad number of editors and members of the board, as should be normal with any controversial paper or one that is outside the usual scope of the journal, Sternberg held it close to his own vest. He kept the size of the “review” team much smaller than is appropriate for proper peer review. He failed to tell associate editors or officers of the society.

Such variations from clear ethical paths do indeed bother the heck out of the PT crowd. Why is it that no defender of ID can get published within the ethical bounds of hard science? And why do you defend such ethical lapses as if they were of no consequence?

Those who have the “audacity” to question Darwin straight out, with observation, experiment, and loads of data, get famous – like the late great Ernst Mayr, like Niles Eldredge and the late Stephen Gould with punctuated equilibria. Such audacity, when done ethically, is breathtakingly fun, and informative.

Science depends on scientists acting appropriately. Scientists are understandably upset whenever anyone trashes the processes that are carefully molded over the past 200 years to prevent error, and to find error and eradicate it.

This is not a low-stakes, penny-ante game. Those who study history note the millions who starved when the Soviet Union sneaked articles into publication without proper peer review, against the experimental results of the real researchers in their societies. America’s agricultural industries depend on proper application of Darwinian theory in breeding of new foodstocks (both animal and plant), and in the eradication of pests and disease in agriculture and human medicine.

This ain’t mumblety-peg.

Comment #44341

Posted by Ed Darrell on August 22, 2005 5:10 PM (e)

One wonders why the SI refused to cooperate if everything was on the up and up here. Pim should take note that word used in the letter is “support” not “suggestive” as he indicates.

One wonders why the ID backers went to a politically-appointed agency instead of the one with jurisdiction and subpoena power to fully investigate the charges. What was not on the “up and up” was Dr. Sternberg’s complaint.

Smithsonian has nothing to gain by providing data to the wrong agency. It neither protects their legal rights nor fulfills their duty under the law. Federal officials are sworn to make things work correctly. Fair interpretations of the law suggest strongly that when someone of the wrong jurisdiction bulls their way in to “investigate,” the law requires the head of the agency to tell that “investigator” to butt out. Perhaps more salient, the agency which lacks jurisdiction is operating illegally if they investigate where they have no jurisdiction. Prosecutions are rare, but reprimands for the waste of money are made in such cases.

Why do you ask the Smithsonian to violate the law to protect Sternberg? Are his charges so spurious that they cannot stand up if things are done according to law?

Comment #44342

Posted by Mike on August 22, 2005 5:12 PM (e)

Donald, you obviously haven’t followed any of this story up until now. Why not actually educate yourself as to how Sternberg weasled the article in the paper? “Professional” is hardly the term I’d use to describe his conduct.

Comment #44348

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 22, 2005 5:46 PM (e)

“Why not actually educate yourself as to how Sternberg weasled the article in the paper”

because Donald is not interested in educating himself. He IS interested in ad-hominem attacks on the character of evolutionary biologists without knowledge of the facts, tho. seems de-rigeur for many supporters of ID.

Sad, really. they continue to paint themselves as victims of abuse, when the situations pertaining to such perceieved abuses are often contrived deliberately.

Comment #44350

Posted by Sir_Toejam on August 22, 2005 5:51 PM (e)

addendum:

I liken this to the equivalent of expecting someone to feel empathy towards someone who deliberately threw themselves in front of a car in order to fake injury and sue the driver. Moreover, in this case, there were plenty of witnesses to the illegitimate act, and the performer STILL expects us to buy into it. Bystanders who feel sympathy for those hit by cars can’t come by later, ignore all the witnesses, and expect to know the truth of the matter.

Comment #44356

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 22, 2005 6:03 PM (e)

Donald M. wrote:

And with that comment, you give away the game. It just bothers the heck out of the PT crowd that Meyer’s paper passed peer review. And you think it “professional” the way Sternberg has been treated? Sternberg owes no one an apology as he is the only one who has acted professionally throughout. His detractors on the other hand think a public flogging is perfectly acceptable if someone actually has the audacity to even question the Darwinian story. That seems highly unscientific and unprofessional to me.

Meyer’s paper passed peer review in the same way that a fake ID ‘passes’ if it gets you into a bar. Are you prepared to defend the ‘science’ in Meyer’s paper? Since you claim to know what is scientific and what isn’t?

And you never did answer: Who are ‘we’?

Comment #44591

Posted by Bayesian Bouffant, FCD on August 24, 2005 8:23 AM (e)

And you never did answer: Who are ‘we’?

I guess the world will never know.

Comment #44592

Posted by frank schmidt on August 24, 2005 8:54 AM (e)

Donald M wrote:

“It just bothers the heck out of the PT crowd that Meyer’s paper passed peer review.”

And it must bother the DI crowd that the paper has been repudiated (retracted) by the Board of the PBSW. This happens very rarely: in cases of fraud, or complete lack of scientific merit. The only only case of the latter that I can think of is Benveniste’s “Water-Memory” paper in Nature. See Nature 334, 287-290 (28 Jul 1988) News and Views

Any reputable scientist would certainly be embarrassed by having a journal admit its mistake in publishing his/her paper, and it’s a nasty pill for the editor to swallow, too. I note no such sentiment on the part of Meyer, the DI, or Sternberg.

Comment #44704

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on August 24, 2005 7:34 PM (e)

And it must bother the DI crowd that the paper has been repudiated (retracted) by the Board of the PBSW. This happens very rarely: in cases of fraud, or complete lack of scientific merit.

And if, as I hope, Meyer’s paper gets placed in front of the judge in Dover, right next to all the ICR crap about the “Cambrian explosion”, as an exhibit demonstrating how ID “theory” and creation “science” are one and the same thing, then that will probably bother the DI crowd even more.

Just as I am sure it bothers them that all the “letters to the editor” in Dover declaring that “ID is God-fearing” will be introduced into evidence as to the intent and effect of ID “theory”.

I am quite certain that even DI recognizes that ID “theory” will not survive Dover, and all their arm-waving has been for nought.

Time for a new scam, guys.

Comment #62973

Posted by Daniel Morgan on December 15, 2005 10:38 AM (e)

I just keep hearing about this Sternberg quasi-martyr crap, and got fed up enough to write a lengthy post outlining the facts, and referencing various sources. It’s high time the spin machine at DI gets a wrench named “facts” thrown in it…