Smithsonian-Sternberg affair

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Smithsonian Controversy

The Smithsonian controversy began with backlash over the publication of an article written by an intelligent design proponent in a peer-reviewed scientific journal loosely affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution (SI),[1] contrary, according the the publisher, to the journal's "typical" process of also having an associate editor involved in the peer-review process.[2] An article titled The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories by Intelligent Design advocate Stephen C. Meyer was published in the in the August 4, 2004 volume of Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, (PBSW)[3] Richard Sternberg was the managing editor at the journal, and also a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), and the issue was the last he was to work on (he had previously announced his resignation from PBSW).

Controversy ensued within hours of publication,[4] with senior Smithsonian scientists referring to Sternberg as a "shoddy scientist" and a "closet Bible thumper."[5] Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a think-tank that promotes evolution, defended the Smithsonian: "They don't care if you are religious, but they do care a lot if you are a creationist,"[6] and "Some [scientists] probably did speak intemperately,"[7] out of frustration and annoyance over Sternberg's role.

Although Sternberg had announced his resignation from PBSW before the controversy irrupted, he continued to work at the Smithsonian as a National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) Research Associate (RA).[8] Sternberg states that he was subjected to a hostile work environment as an RA, and requested that the United States Office of Special Counsel (USOSC) investigate his allegations.[9] The USOSC ultimately concluded in a letter obtained by three media outlets that Sternberg was subjected to a hostile work environment at the NMNH.[10] However, the USOSC closed the investigation without taking further action due to the jurisdictional issue of Richard Sternberg's salary, which was not paid by the Smithsonian.[11] Eugenie Scott, whose organization also consulted with the Smithsoian, countered that "[Sternberg] didn't lose his job, he didn't get his pay cut, he still has his research privileges, he still has his office....You know, what's his complaint? People weren't nice to him. Well, life is not fair."[12] U.S. Representative Mark Souder's staff subsequently issued a report findng that the allegations of a hostile work envirionment and other retaliations including demotion were backed by "substantial, credible evidence."[13]

Opinions on the Smithsonian Controversy

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed article, Discovery Institute Senior Fellow David Klinghoffer[14] portrayed Sternberg as a martyr and victim of discrimination,[15] a tactic used often by intelligent design proponents.[16]

References

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  2. Statement from the Council of the Biological Society of Washington
  3. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]].
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  5. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]].
  6. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]]., Statement to Washington Post reporter
  7. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]]. Recorded statement to National Public Radio
  8. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]].
  9. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]].
  10. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]]., {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]]. letter is referred to as a report in this article, but quotes make it clear that the report was addressed to Sternberg. See also {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]]. USOSC pre-closure letter to Sternberg
  11. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]]., {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]]., {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]]., USOSC pre-closure letter to Sternberg
  12. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]].
  13. {{{author}}}, {{{title}}}, [[{{{publisher}}}]], [[{{{date}}}]].
  14. Discovery Institute Fellows
  15. The Branding of a Heretic David Klinghoffer. OpinionJournal, January 28.
  16. "The "persecuted scientist against the establishment" hoax. Another plea often articulated by ID proponents is the idea that there is a community of ID scientists undergoing persecution by the science establishment for their revolutionary scientific ideas."Defending science education against intelligent design: a call to action Journal of Clinical Investigation 116:1134-1138 (2006). doi:10.1172/JCI28449. A publication of the American Society for Clinical Investigation. (10226K PDF file)