Sternberg Peer Review Controversy - Smithsonian Controversy

Smithsonian Controversy

After the peer review controversy became public, Sternberg filed a religious discrimination complaint against the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, where he had an unpaid appointment as a research associate, while employed by the National Institutes of Health.

Sternberg claims that he was "targeted for retaliation and harassment" and subject to efforts to remove him from the museum in retaliation for his views in support of creationism. He continues to cite a letter by the United States Office of Special Counsel as supporting his version of events, despite the fact that the Office of Special Counsel did not proceed beyond its initial investigation. Pim Van Meurs and other critics observed that the Office of Special Counsel lacked jurisdiction over the matter and so his claim was unlikely to proceed, and that even though it made no official findings or conclusions, the response from the Office of Special Counsel provided Sternberg and the Discovery Institute putative evidence and talking points supporting their claim that the scientific community discriminates against intelligent design proponents. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed article, Discovery Institute Senior Fellow David Klinghoffer portrayed Sternberg as a martyr and victim of discrimination, a tactic used often by design proponents.

In response, Sternberg's supervisor at the Smithsonian, Jonathan Coddington, responded publicly disputing Sternberg's and Klinghoffer's depiction of events. Coddington states that Sternberg was never dismissed, nor was he a paid employee, and that he was never the target of discrimination, and remained serving at the museum up to that time.

In August, 2005 the Office of Special Counsel dropped Sternberg's religious discrimination complaint against the Smithsonian Institution. It was determined that as an unpaid research associate at the Smithsonian, Sternberg was not actually an employee, and thus the Office of Special Counsel had no jurisdiction. Nick Matzke, Jason Rosenhouse and other critics have commented that the Office of Special Counsel itself appears biased in its initial handling of the matter, given the links between the religious right and the Republican Party, with George W. Bush appointee James McVay authoring its opinion.

In a November, 2005 National Public Radio report on the affair Sternberg stated "I'm not an evangelical, I'm not a fundamentalist, I'm not a young earth creationist, I'm not a theistic evolutionist". Sternberg said McVay "related to me, 'the Smithsonian Institution's reaction to your publishing the Meyer article was far worse than you imagined'." Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR's religion reporter, said Sternberg himself believes intelligent design is "fatally flawed."

In December 2006 a partisan report was issued by Mark Souder, on the basis of information he and fellow Republican representative and intelligent design advocate Rick Santorum (author of the pro-ID Santorum Amendment) had requested, calling into question the Smithsonian's treatment of Sternberg and repeating many of Sternberg's claims. The report was commissioned by Souder in his capacity as subcommittee chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, written by his subcommittee staff, but published by Souder as an individual representative without it being officially accepted into the Congressional Record. This is contrary to oft-repeated claims by the Discovery Institute and other design proponents that the report represents an official position by the Committee supporting Sternberg's claims of discrimination.

Observers have said that facts of the case simply do not support the conclusions of the report nor is the report an official report of the committee. They say that the Discovery Institute is using the report to portray Sternberg specifically, and design proponents in general, as victims of persecution. They also say the Souder report is a repackaging of the Office of Special Council's previous findings from August 2005 and contains nothing new, consisting of "the OSC findings restated and used as a form of evidence in and of themselves" and attacks the Smithsonian for "not accepting the OSC's findings at face value." They cite as evidence of a biased motive behind the report the longstanding connections of the report's instigators, Congressmen Souder and Santorum, to the Discovery Institute, whose Program Director is Stephen C. Meyer, author of the paper Sternberg published. In 2000 Souder co-hosted a congressional briefing on behalf of the Discovery Institute intended to drum up political support for intelligent design and read a defense of intelligent design prepared by the Discovery Institute into the congressional record. Santorum worked with the Discovery Institute's program director Phillip E. Johnson in 2000 and 2001 drafting the pro-intelligent design Santorum Amendment and in March 2006 wrote the foreword for the book, Darwin's Nemesis: Phillip Johnson And the Intelligent Design Movement a collection of essays largely by Discovery Institute fellows honoring Johnson as "father" of the intelligent design movement. Contained in the appendix to the Souder report is a letter from the director of the Smithsonian where it is revealed that Sternberg demanded that they give him a $300,000 grant to make up for his allegedly lost research time; he was turned down. Sternberg's appointment as a Smithsonian Institution research associate was from January 2004 through January 2007. Research associates are not employees of the Museum and appointments are typically awarded for up to three years.

As one of the Discovery Institute intelligent design campaigns, the Institute conducted extensive lobbying and public relations efforts on Sternberg's behalf, including arranging for articles by Institute Fellows to be published in the mainstream press. The April 2008 film featuring Ben Stein promoting intelligent design, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, included interviews with Sternberg and claims that his "life was ruined". Both Scientific American and the National Center for Science Education state that the film misrepresents key facts.

Read more about this topic:  Sternberg Peer Review Controversy

Famous quotes containing the words controversy and/or smithsonian:

    And therefore, as when there is a controversy in an account, the parties must by their own accord, set up for right Reason, the Reason of some Arbitrator, or Judge, to whose sentence, they will both stand, or their controversy must either come to blows, or be undecided, for want of a right Reason constituted by Nature; so is it also in all debates of what kind soever.
    Thomas Hobbes (1579–1688)

    Compare the history of the novel to that of rock ‘n’ roll. Both started out a minority taste, became a mass taste, and then splintered into several subgenres. Both have been the typical cultural expressions of classes and epochs. Both started out aggressively fighting for their share of attention, novels attacking the drama, the tract, and the poem, rock attacking jazz and pop and rolling over classical music.
    W. T. Lhamon, U.S. educator, critic. “Material Differences,” Deliberate Speed: The Origins of a Cultural Style in the American 1950s, Smithsonian (1990)