Sternberg Peer Review Controversy - Criticism


In a review of Meyer's article The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories, Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry claimed it contained poor scholarship, that it failed to cite and specifically rebut the actual data supporting evolution, and "constructed a rhetorical edifice out of omission of relevant facts, selective quoting, bad analogies, knocking down straw men, and tendentious interpretations." Further examination of the article revealed that it was substantially similar to previously published articles co-authored by Meyer.

Critics of Sternberg believe that he was biased in the matter, arguing that Sternberg's close personal and ideological connections to the paper's author suggest at least the appearance of conflict of interest. They cite as evidence Sternberg's presentation in 2002 of a lecture on intelligent design at the Research And Progress in Intelligent Design (RAPID) conference where Stephen C. Meyer, the author of the paper Sternberg published, also presented a lecture. The explicit purpose of the RAPID conference was to "form new collaborations among scientists seeking to do research on the interface between science and faith, particularly within the context of ID". Only intelligent design advocates spoke at it, and at least one intelligent design critic was expressly forbidden to attend it. It was organized and hosted by the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design (ISCID), a group dedicated to promoting intelligent design, of which Sternberg is a Fellow. ISCID is affiliated with the Discovery Institute, hub of the intelligent design movement, where Meyer serves as the Program Director of the Center for Science and Culture. Critics also note that Sternberg also sat on the editorial board of the Baraminology Study Group, which studies "creation biology" and whose website is hosted by Bryan College, a conservative Christian school named after William Jennings Bryan, who famously opposed Clarence Darrow in the Scopes Trial.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, in a position statement describing the events around the controversy, said "Given these associations, Dr. Sternberg would appear to be, at very least, an advocate for 'intelligent design' and critical of standard peer review processes as they bear on the scientific assessment of the 'intelligent design' hypothesis." Critics describe Sternberg's explanation of events, that a pro-intelligent design paper just happened to find its way to a publication with a sympathetic editor ultimately responsible for ensuring proper peer review and editing of his last issue, and that he decided it was appropriate to deal with the review process in person on a subject in which he has a personal interest, as improbable and that "people who want us to believe that the publication process outlined was transparent and only had to do with science" are "disingenuous."

Journalist Chris Mooney has compared the Sternberg controversy to that of a paper published by climate change skeptics Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas in Climate Change, where a sympathetic editor Chris de Freitas allowed it to be published, despite its lack of scientific merit.

Read more about this topic:  Sternberg Peer Review Controversy

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