A Second Dimension to “Sternberg vs. Smithsonian”

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This is a cautionary tale about the dangers of leaping to grand conclusions on the basis of hearsay. It started back with the publication of Stephen Meyer's article in the August 2004 issue of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, which we took note of in the post Meyer's Hopeless Monster. In that post, we considered the political ramifications of that publication, leading us to say then:

The important issue is whether or not the paper makes any scientific contribution: does it propose a positive explanatory model? If the paper is primarily negative critique, does it accurately review the science it purports to criticize? The fact that a paper is shaky on these grounds is much more important than the personalities involved. Intemperate responses will only play into the hands of creationists, who might use these as an excuse to say that the "dogmatic Darwinian thought police" are unfairly giving Meyer and PBSW a hard time. Nor should Sternberg be given the chance to become a "martyr for the cause." Any communication with PBSW should focus upon the features that make this paper a poor choice for publication: its many errors of fact, its glaring omissions of relevant material, and its misrepresentations of the views that it does consider.

But martyrdom of Sternberg has been a topic of discussion for the past week... and the person accused of martyring him, Jonathan Coddington, has spoken out in a comment posted to a thread here on Panda's Thumb.

The martyrdom of Sternberg was broadly announced in an opinion piece by David Klinghoffer published in the Wall Street Journal. Entitled "The Branding of a Heretic", the piece pounced upon Jonathan Coddington of the Smithsonian Institution as the villain of the story, claiming that in several ways Coddington wronged Sternberg, and further asserting that he did so because of his animosity to what he perceived as Sternberg's religiosity.

Klinghoffer's article makes many allegations for which there is no independent corroborating evidence. Yet there has been an outpouring of outrage on various weblogs and web discussion boards on the basis of Klinghoffer's article. Analogies linking the experiences of Sternberg and Galileo have sprung up like mushrooms after a spring shower.

Here at PT, we had little to say about Sternberg's complaint for the simple reason that there wasn't much information to go on, as we pointed out in Sternberg vs. Smithsonian. But that article apparently caught the attention of one of the principals in the dispute, Jonathan Coddington. He responded in the comments, offering a brief statement taking on several of the allegations made in Klinghoffer's article. I will reproduce it here:

Comment #14871

Posted by JAC on February 3, 2005 09:36 AM

Although I do not wish to debate the merits of intelligent design, this forum seems an apt place to correct several factual inaccuracies in the Wall Street Journal's Op Ed article by David Klinghoffer, "The Branding of a Heretic" (Jan. 28, 2005). Because Dr. von Sternberg has filed an official complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, I cannot comment as fully as I would wish.

1. Dr. von Sternberg is still a Research Associate at the National Museum of Natural History, and continues to have the usual rights and privileges, including space, keys, and 24/7 access. At no time did anyone deny him space, keys or access.

2. He is not an employee of the Smithsonian Institution. His title, "Research Associate," means that for a three year, potentially renewable period he has permission to visit the Museum for the purpose of studying and working with our collections without the staff oversight visitors usually receive.

3. I am, and continue to be, his only "supervisor," although we use the term "sponsor" for Research Associates to avoid personnel/employee connotations. He has had no other since Feb. 1, 2004, nor was he ever "assigned to" or under the "oversight of" anyone else.

4. Well prior to the publication of the Meyer article and my awareness of it, I asked him and another Research Associate to move as part of a larger and unavoidable reorganization of space involving 17 people and 20 offices. He agreed.

5. I offered both individuals new, identical, standard Research Associate work spaces. The other accepted, but Dr. von Sternberg declined and instead requested space in an entirely different part of the Museum, which I provided, and which he currently occupies.

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.

Sincerely yours,
Jonathan Coddington

I have confirmed via email correspondence that Jonathan Coddington at the Smithsonian is the author of the comment posted here at PT.

Klinghoffer and Coddington

Here are the various claims made by Klinghoffer that are disputed by various of Coddington's points made in his response above. I'll quote Klinghoffer and note the point or points from Coddington that dispute each allegation by "Cn", where n is the number from the quote above.

(Klinghoffer wrote:)

He has been penalized by the museum's Department of Zoology, his religious and political beliefs questioned.

[C1 and C6 dispute this.]

(Klinghoffer wrote:)

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Zoology Department, Jonathan Coddington, called Mr. Sternberg's supervisor. According to Mr. Sternberg's OSC complaint: "First, he asked whether Sternberg was a religious fundamentalist. She told him no. Coddington then asked if Sternberg was affiliated with or belonged to any religious organization. . . . He then asked where Sternberg stood politically; . . . he asked, 'Is he a right-winger? What is his political affiliation?' "

[C3 and C6 dispute this.]

(Klinghoffer wrote:)

In October, as the OSC complaint recounts, Mr. Coddington told Mr. Sternberg to give up his office and turn in his keys to the departmental floor, thus denying him access to the specimen collections he needs.

[C1 directly disputes this.]

(Klinghoffer wrote:)

Mr. Sternberg was also assigned to the close oversight of a curator with whom he had professional disagreements unrelated to evolution.

[C3 disputes this.]

(Klinghoffer wrote:)

"I'm going to be straightforward with you," said Mr. Coddington, according to the complaint. "Yes, you are being singled out."

[C6 disputes this.]

(Klinghoffer wrote:)

Mr. Sternberg begged a friendly curator for alternative research space, and he still works at the museum.

[C3, C4, and C5 dispute this.]


It is still premature to make judgments about this case. What is notable, though, is that we see that a second dimension does exist concerning the situation that Klinghoffer wrote about. The overwrought reactions (including those on a now-pulled thread on the "Free Republic" web site; see below) were based on taking the statements of the Klinghoffer article as gospel.

It seems that there is dispute over the facts in the case, and I hope that those in the "intelligent design" advocacy camp will take this opportunity to "teach the controversy" and make sure that Coddington's response is as widely disseminated as the initial media frenzy.

The Rush to Judgment

There's a few categories of sites that simply took Klinghoffer's opinion as authoritative on this matter. The sites listed below are a sampling.

The sites listed below took the Klinghoffer article and ran with it, deploying Galileo's ghost in so doing:

Others credulously repeating Klinghoffer:

And, for completeness, folks who accepted Klinghoffer's account but felt Sternberg was just getting his due. For my part, if Klinghoffer's account were correct (which is as yet disputed), it would be a large breach of ethics and a justified complaint.

8 TrackBacks

The Smithsonian Responds from Dispatches from the Culture Wars on February 4, 2005 10:19 AM

Some of you are aware, I'm sure, of the controversy that has been raging throughout the right side of the blogosphere concerning Richard von Sternberg and the Smithsonian. Based solely on an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, everyone... Read More

Mr. David Klinghoffer, a columnist for Jewish Forward, published an Op-Ed in the Wall St. Journal a week ago that touched off a major controversy. He alleged that a reputable research scientist, Richard Sternberg, had been fired from a job at the Smith... Read More

The main lesson of the news of these frauds is not that Professor Protsch perpetrated frauds or that he tried to sell his university's chimpanzee skull collection (likely to feed his own lavish lifestyle) or that Neanderthals may not have... Read More

The main lesson of the news of these frauds is not that Professor Protsch perpetrated frauds or that he tried to sell his university's chimpanzee skull collection (likely to feed his own lavish lifestyle) or that Neanderthals may not have... Read More

The main lesson of the news of these frauds is not that Professor Protsch perpetrated frauds or that he tried to sell his university's chimpanzee skull collection (likely to feed his own lavish lifestyle) or that Neanderthals may not have... Read More

The main lesson of the news of these frauds is not that Professor Protsch perpetrated frauds or that he tried to sell his university's chimpanzee skull collection (likely to feed his own lavish lifestyle) or that Neanderthals may not have... Read More

The main lesson of the news of these frauds is not that Professor Protsch perpetrated frauds or that he tried to sell his university's chimpanzee skull collection (likely to feed his own lavish lifestyle) or that Neanderthals may not have... Read More

The main lesson of the news of these frauds is not that Professor Protsch perpetrated frauds or that he tried to sell his university's chimpanzee skull collection (likely to feed his own lavish lifestyle) or that Neanderthals may not have... Read More

113 Comments

OK, so if anyone sees any of those 15 sources that were parroting Klinghoffer/Sternberg retract their claims and apologize for jumping the gun, post the link here…

Readers should feel free to also link other instances of jumping to grand overrarching conclusions based solely on Klinghoffer’s opinion piece.

Here’s another one, this one comparing scientists to the Inquisition:

Weapon of Mass Distraction

This looks far worse for Dr. Sternberg than the original publication of Meyer’s piece. That merely involved publishing work he seems to be sympathetic to without proper review. But if Dr. Sternberg has really attempted to falsely portray himself as a martyr, Dr. Coddington has grounds for legal action. On the other hand, if the story has been distorted by Mr. Klinghofer, his reputation as a journalist is (or should be) toast after this.

Bryson, first of your claim ‘without proper review’ seems at odds with what is known since there were three reviewers who commented. One may question the quality of the peer review but the peer review step was not skipped here. Secondly, we do not know the full story although/because we have now two sides of the same story. Let’s not jump to conclusions either way until we have sufficient data to make an educated decision.

Maybe this whole mess is the result of one person not liking another. It is possible that either Sternberg does not like Coddington or Coddington does not like Sternberg and their political and religious differences are simply fodder for the rumor mill. Perhaps this is a row that these two grown-up, mature chaps should resolve on their own without the papers gossiping about it. Maybe a trip to pub is due and after a few vittels and grog they will see that the other is really not such a bad bloke in the first place. Why get the papers involved? Sternberg has not been fired or sacked. He should just get one with his work (whatever that might be). If the papers call, Sternberg should tell them to go chase an ambulance and then eat some crow. However if Sternberg is the one who called the papers in the first place, then he should either publish a formal apology or resign his position at the museum.

Michael, do you feel that Sternberg should resign if details show that Sternberg called the papers, even if his description of what happened is found to be credible and supported by evidence? Just for ‘calling the papers’? Let’s not blow things out of proportions until a clearer picture arises. Perhaps the WSJ or the author of the original piece will be able to contribute their side(s) of the story? So many unanswered questions remain and such little data we possess. Let’s not rush to judgement.

When I read Klinghoffer’s piece a week ago, the quotes Klinghoffer attributed to Dr. Coddington and his colleagues sounded like something from a grade B Hollywood detective movie, too perfect for the piece to be real. In real life, such quotes would reflect more contradictions and inconsistencies than they did. And I seriously doubt that the Smithsonian professional staff would say anything so stupid, to Sternberg or Klinghoffer. It also seemed, with his many errors in describing ID and evolution, that Klinghoffer understood little about the issues involved and was in all likelihood an ID sympathizer. But extrapolating from Coddington’s claims in his posting, there seems to much more to Sternberg’s relationship with the Smithsonian than his handling of the Meyer paper. Given the proclivity of ID backers for martyrdom and persecution, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Coddington’s brief statement is much closer to the truth than Klinghoffer’s.

Incidentally, I wonder how the Wall Street Journal came to publish the column. Klinghoffer is not a WSJ staffer, nor do I recognize his name (I’ve subscribed to the WSJ since the early ‘70’s) as an occasional contributor. They must have had some doubts about the piece because it was not on the editorial/op-ed pages but on the opinion page that graces the last page of their weekend section on Fridays, a section filled with fluffy articles about trivial subjects and ads for expensive vacation houses and over priced objects.

When I read Klinghoffer’s piece a week ago, the quotes Klinghoffer attributed to Dr. Coddington and his colleagues sounded like something from a grade B Hollywood detective movie, too perfect for the piece to be real. In real life, such quotes would reflect more contradictions and inconsistencies than they did. And I seriously doubt that the Smithsonian professional staff would say anything so stupid, to Sternberg or Klinghoffer. It also seemed, with his many errors in describing ID and evolution, that Klinghoffer understood little about the issues involved and was in all likelihood an ID sympathizer. But extrapolating from Coddington’s claims in his posting, there seems to much more to Sternberg’s relationship with the Smithsonian than his handling of the Meyer paper. Given the proclivity of ID backers for martyrdom and persecution, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Coddington’s brief statement is much closer to the truth than Klinghoffer’s.

Incidentally, I wonder how the Wall Street Journal came to publish the column. Klinghoffer is not a WSJ staffer, nor do I recognize his name (I’ve subscribed to the WSJ since the early ‘70’s) as an occasional contributor. They must have had some doubts about the piece because it was not on the editorial/op-ed pages but on the opinion page that graces the last page of their weekend section on Fridays, a section filled with fluffy articles about trivial subjects and ads for expensive vacation houses and over priced objects.

Here are some YEC (young earth creationist) comments following a repost of Klinghoffer’s accusations.

Oh, no! The eviloutionsts must be wringing their ape like hands as they now converge to cannibalize him - one of their own, no less!

Still the evilutionist must dig in their heels and continue to defy the religion of evolution. Their pride and name are at stake. They must band together and marginalize and vilify this person since their PRIDE and credibility are at stake. All of the premises an evolutionist has are based on NO GOD at all hence, God or “Intelligent Design” must not be given credence much less mentioned. After all why would an atheist want to give credit to the masterpiece of the universe to Someone he/she doesn’t believe in? God? It would make more sense to credit something else and rob Him of His credit and deny His words in Genesis.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, evolution is a religion. It’s commonly called atheism. Even some “Christians” have their ears tickled by the idea of evolution - most unwise .…

Very interesting, God keeps trying to make Himself known even to unbelievers through His Creation. They are certainly not scientifically minded for they should want to know the truth even if it is in war with their long held beliefs. That is what science is all about. Researching all aspects even those that are “distasteful” to our views. Look at what has happened in the past when Mankind was not open minded to the truth. We would still believe the planet is flat along with the idea that the earth is the center of the universe if scientifically minded people did not buck the “known truths” of the time.

As science continues to explore biology and the stars there are more than enough reasons to question Darwinism now than ever before. One has to ask, what are they afraid of? Why is this fear not any different than the fear the church had centuries before when centralized earth was in question?

All this reminds me of the garden of eden … Eve takes the fruit and Adam eats some of it - all to be WISE. It is the foolish “wisdom” of man and his pride that is pushing evolution … certainly not scientific facts. God is not the author of confusion and that is what godless evolution and origins are based on - random confusion made into order.

PvM speaketh wisely…

There’s a second freeper thread on the subject. The first was pulled as it was a duplicate of this one:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f[…]osts#comment?q=1

No mention of the Panda’s Thumb thread (yet)

As this story develops, I will be especially interested in the eventual resolution of one particular discrepancy between Klinghoffer’s account and Coddington’s.

Coddington says (C3, supra) that he was von Sternberg’s only “supervisor”. Klinghoffer reports, however, that Coddington “called Mr. Sternberg’s supervisor” to ask questions about von Sternberg. Klinghoffer uses a feminine pronoun to refer to the person Coddington purportedly called.

OK. This is good. We now have a Mystery Woman, and I for one would like to know who she is and hear her side of the story directly.

The Wall Street Journal published four letters today re Klinghoffer’s report on the Sternberg/Meyer affair. One straightforwardly supported evolution, describing ID as failing “ … to add anything to our understanding.” Another mentions Sternberg’s membership on the editorial board of the Baraminology Study Group, the nature of that organization, and the shortcomings of ID as science. A third support Sternberg, likening him to Galileo. The fourth, which follows, sheds some actual light on the circumstances of Sternberg’s presence at the Smithsonian, to wit …

To set the record straight:

It should be noted that Richard Sternberg is not a Smithsonian employee. He is a staff member of the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the National Institutes of Health. As a research associate he has permission to study collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History for a three-year term.

Dr. Sternberg’s characterization of his work conditions and treatment at the Smithsonian is incorrect. He was never denied office space, keys or access to the collections. More importantly, the private religious beliefs of employees and research associates are respected by the museum, and have no bearing on their professional standing within the museum.

Randall Kremer Director of Public Affairs National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution Washington

Enough said.

I also came across a web site include Sternberg’s CV, a letter from the BSG’s organizer, and Sternberg’s relating in detail of how he handled Meyer’s paper, the events following its publication, and some narrative about his position at the Smithsonian and his relationship with colleagues there. I neglected to note the URL, but one should be able to turn it up via Google.

Thanks for the interesting link, Les.

My most intense reaction to [Klinghoffer’s] book, however, was stark disbelief that someone as intelligent as Klinghoffer could be fooled by some of the bad logic he presents in this book. Every argument Klinghoffer makes regarding the need to believe in the divine authorship of the Torah and the Talmud I could refute on simple basic logic.

So, it seems we have another fundamentalist eager to characterize scientists as anti-religious, and religion as scientific fact. Yawn.

I also came across a web site include Sternberg’s CV, a letter from the BSG’s organizer, and Sternberg’s relating in detail of how he handled Meyer’s paper, the events following its publication, and some narrative about his position at the Smithsonian and his relationship with colleagues there. I neglected to note the URL, but one should be able to turn it up via Google.

Or via The Meyer 2004 Medley, which links to Richard von Sternberg’s home page, as well as a lot of related information.

ACW Wrote:

Coddington says (C3, supra) that he was von Sternberg’s only “supervisor”. Klinghoffer reports, however, that Coddington “called Mr. Sternberg’s supervisor” to ask questions about von Sternberg. Klinghoffer uses a feminine pronoun to refer to the person Coddington purportedly called.

OK. This is good. We now have a Mystery Woman, and I for one would like to know who she is and hear her side of the story directly.

I would presume she is Sternberg’s supervisor at the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), where he is apparently employed as a staff scientist. In fact, having noted in Reed Cartwright’s earlier posting that he was so employed at NCBI, I first assumed that his supervisor there was the one being referred to in the extract from his complaint quoted in Klinghoffer’s article. But a subsequent part of the quotation seemed to throw some doubt on this. The “supervisor” is quoted as having said “There are Christians here, but they keep their heads down.” The presence of Christians who keep their heads down at NCBI would seem to me to be irrelevant to an understanding of the goings-on at the Smithsonian.

There is one other curious thing about Coddington’s response. He says

I am, and continue to be, his only “supervisor,” although we use the term “sponsor” for Research Associates to avoid personnel/employee connotations. He has had no other since Feb. 1, 2004, nor was he ever “assigned to” or under the “oversight of” anyone else.

But the NMNH’s own list of research associates names one Brian Kensley as Sternberg’s staff sponsor, not Jonathon Coddington.

Another example is Salvador on ARN who ‘argues’

Well, I edited to take the word Darwinist out, if you care to I can list the the organizations like the NCSE, NAS, PandasThumb, bloggers who are professors at universities, etc. who are officially sympathetic to ensuring Sternberg and friends views are permanently silenced in the scientific community…

RBH has asked Sal for some evidence, so far Sal has done little to support his claim, but we should at least admire his leap in logic in the Topic: Official Declarations that Sternberg and Friends should be silenced

Sal states: Official Declarations that Sternberg and friends views should be silenced pertaining to intelligent design.

Example quoted

These encouraging signs tend to get lost in the ongoing hullabaloo over “intelligent design creationism: (IDC). Creationism “and this is true of all its guises” is an antiscientific worldview. It rejects the fundamental precept of science that phenomena in the natural world should be interpreted through naturalistic explanations that are accepted (always tentatively) or rejected by reference to observation. Followers of IDC are no different from the creationists of old; at some point each wants to back away from rational scientific inquiry and explain phenomena by appeal to supernatural causation.

Joel Cracraft

Sal: If ID is unscientific, Cracraft implicit declares appeals to Intelligence are not within the scope of science. Appeals to Intelligent are by definition unscientific in his view therefore should be suppressed. ———-

Thanks Sal…

In comment #15001

I Wrote:

… having noted in Reed Cartwright’s earlier posting that he [Sternberg] was so employed at NCBI, I first assumed that his supervisor there was the one being referred to in the extract from his complaint quoted in Klinghoffer’s article. But a subsequent part of the quotation seemed to throw some doubt on this. The “supervisor” is quoted as having said “There are Christians here, but they keep their heads down.” The presence of Christians who keep their heads down at NCBI would seem to me to be irrelevant to an understanding of the goings-on at the Smithsonian.

I have just realised that if the supervisor is Sternberg’s superviser at NCBI then this observation of hers would make perfect sense if it were made to Coddington in response to his alleged queries about Sternberg’s religious and political views. It seems to me that the words used in Klinghoffer’s article could be interpreted as saying this—though I must admit I don’t think it’s the most natural way of reading them.

Speaking as someone who is probably the most brutally, harshly atheistical and flamingly left-wing of all of the contributors to the Panda’s Thumb, I gotta say that Klinghoffer’s account of religious persecution was patently absurd. I would never declare that a colleague should be singled out for harassment because they were religious or conservative, nor would I try to get them fired for their beliefs. Most scientists are far more respectful of the religious perspective than I am, so my bullshit detector was ringing loudly throughout that entire WSJ piece–it simply doesn’t jibe with how scientific institutions are administered, but does fit with the right-wing extremist’s caricature of academia.

Wilson Wrote:

But the NMNH’s own list of research associates names one Brian Kensley as Sternberg’s staff sponsor, not Jonathon Coddington.

I suspect that Kensley was Sternberg’s old supervisor and the NMNH’s listing hasn’t been update.

You left off Evangelical Outpost, in the credulousness AND attacking scientists department…check out my link in the trackback there.

The ARN moderators, who are quick to ban critics seem to be a bit clueless when it comes to behavior by Sal or other ID proponents

Originally posted by RBH: Provide specific references to support the charge of “officially sympathetic to ensuring Sternberg and friends views are permanently silenced in the scientific community” or withdraw it. RBH

RBH,

ARN Moderator 6: Are you objecting to the word “permanently”?

——————– the original comment by Sal was

Well, I edited to take the word Darwinist out, if you care to I can list the the organizations like the NCSE, NAS, PandasThumb, bloggers who are professors at universities, etc. who are officially sympathetic to ensuring Sternberg and friends views are permanently silenced in the scientific community.…

So far Sal has provided little supporting evidence relevant to his claim. For instance PT authors have been very clear on this topic.

PZ writes

Speaking as someone who is probably the most brutally, harshly atheistical and flamingly left-wing of all of the contributors to the Panda’s Thumb

I support a cap on personal income at $1,000,000/yr. Top that, bro’! ;)

As far as Sal’s comments are concerned, they are completely over-the-top. Sternberg is free to say whatever he wants about any scientific topic. And scientists (and non-scientists) are free to laugh out loud, ignore him, or praise him as a brave genius fighting to save modern biology from itself.

As Pim and others point out, the facts regarding Sternberg’s lawsuit are mostly unknown to us.

But Sternberg has admitted to other facts which, in my mind at least, indicate a lack of sound judgment that can’t be waved away by appeals to “healthy skepticism”. All this assumes, of course, that a reasonable scientist is not interested in promoting the agendas of groups who seek to pull the rug out from under basic principles of biology.

Salvador Cordova Wrote:

Well, I edited to take the word Darwinist out, if you care to I can list the the organizations like the NCSE, NAS, PandasThumb, bloggers who are professors at universities, etc. who are officially sympathetic to ensuring Sternberg and friends views are permanently silenced in the scientific community.…

While this sort of thing royally pisses me off, you’ll hardly find a better demonstration of how ethically bankrupt the ID crowd is. This statement is slander, plain and simple. Our “official” statement, if you can call it that, is in fact the exact opposite of what Sal claims. And since Sal has seen it mulitiple times, he has no excuse. I can only assume that this kind of behavior is the result of small-minded malice. If this is not the case, then Sal is welcome to come here and apologize profusely, if he has any honor or decency.

$1 MILLION? What are you, some kind of plutocrat? Who needs more than $100K?

I say let’s be semi-plutocratic, split the difference and cap wages at $550 G’s a year.…

But getting back to the issue at hand, why hasn’t anyone pointed out that Klinghoffer’s piece of (pseudo)news never even bothered to attempt to find out what the Smithsonian’s side of the story was? He took Sternberg’s story as “gospel” truth, and that was that.

I would like to see how well a WSJ journalist fares if they were to print a story from a person who claims they were abducted by aliens and the government is conspiring to cover up the whole incident.… After all, one person’s claim of a truthful story is just as valid as another person’s!

I’m not equating Sternberg to an alien abductionist, but why print a story without even attempting to find out if the facts are true???

jeff-perado Wrote:

But getting back to the issue at hand, why hasn’t anyone pointed out that Klinghoffer’s piece of (pseudo)news never even bothered to attempt to find out what the Smithsonian’s side of the story was?

In the article, he claims he attempted to contact Coddington and the other guy he smears (Sues?). He says they didn’t return his phone calls. I wouldn’t have either. But either way, he should have made it clear that Sternberg’s allegations were nothing more than that – allegations. One gets the impression that Klinghoffer had throughly vetted his source, when it turns out that the materially important claim (i.e. Sternberg’s loss of access) was flat-out false according to the museum.

Steve Reuland Wrote:

One gets the impression that Klinghoffer had throughly vetted his source, when it turns out that the materially important claim (i.e. Sternberg’s loss of access) was flat-out false according to the museum.

It gets worse with the retelling, too. Take a look at the WorldNetDaily article. There is nothing more in it than what appeared in Klinghoffer’s opinion piece, but it is written to give the impression of an independent report. Notably, WND left off the bits about trying to contact the Smithsonian. Probably didn’t even cross their minds as something to try.

WorldNetDaily Wrote:

“I’m spending my time trying to figure out how to salvage a scientific career,” Sternberg told David Klinghoffer, a columnist for the Jewish Forward, who reported the story in the Wall Street Journal.

The above is as close as the WND writer comes to crediting his source. Klinghoffer wrote an opinion piece, but to the WND that becomes a report in the Wall Street Journal.

I’ll be happy to make a public apology to the anonymous WND author if he can demonstrate that he had actually accessed Sternberg’s OSC complaint prior to writing the article. Somehow, i don’t think that circumstance will arise.

I think it’s very surprising that the Smithsonian Institution came out so quickly, and officially, on Coddington’s side. It would have been much safer for them to simply say that an investigation is under way, state some abstract principle about freedom of expression and declare they do not tolerate workplace discrimination. That was either entirely foolish on their part, or they have very good evidence that Sternberg’s claims, at least as presented in the WSJ, have no substance.

Mike s. you are quite right. It is easy for me to forget those things even I know they are all true. To me, ID is an attempt to turn the clock all the way back to a time before all modern science, to the 16th Century and before. The great 17th Century scientists of the Royal Society thought they were discovering God’s grand design with each new discovery of how the natural world works. The Newtonian revolution which confirmed Kepler’s theory of planetary motion revealed an orderly universe which meant we mere mortals did not have to rely on supernatural explanations for everyday occurrences because we could discover what was actually going on. For those people, their faith in God was strengthened with each new advancement in science because they thought the knowledge they gained brought them closer to the face of God. ID is really a form of blasphemy, in my view, because it is an attempt to stop any further learning of how the world works, and thus to remain ignorant of God’s design.

Since ID seems to me to be anti-religion as well as anti-science, I have a hard time remembering that some conservatives are drawn to it for those reasons Mike S. mentions. If religious conservatives truly want to understand God I think they should be eagerly studying every new development in biological evolution. It doesn’t matter to me that Richard Dawkins is an atheist. I can still believe that what I learn by reading his books gives me a deeper understanding of God. Don’t tell him, he may stop writing.

Great white wonder, yes that was a rather strong statement. Now I know this is not a politics board so I’ll only go here this one time, but consider that conservatives are in favor of allowing people to have personal retirement accounts they actually own and are also in favor of allowing individuals to have medical savings accounts with high deductible health insurance so they can manage their own health care costs, not to mention allowing people to have some meaningful choice of what schools to send their children. The left, or liberals, are against all those things. I think I could go on and on. Everytime there is a proposal of any kind to allow individuals to have more control over their own lives, it is conservatives who support it and liberals and leftists who are opposed. So my statement may be a little over the top, but not by much.

Steve Reuland, I think there has been a paradigm shift. It used to be as you say. But now it is liberals who are clinging to the status quo and have to be dragged kicking and screaming for every change. Social Security is just one example. Conservatives are now at the vanguard of every change in social policy from welfare reform to smaller government to tort reform, and on and on.

When I describe liberals as leftists I should always add that of course that does not describe every liberal. You are correct, there are a few liberals still around who probably believe in a strong military, personal responsibility, hard work, etc. And no doubt you are one of them, but your heros are JFK, Scoop Jackson and Hubert Humphrey, and those guys aren’t around anymore. Ronald Reagan was one of those liberals but switched to the other side because as he said, he didn’t leave liberalism, it left him. Your party has been taken over by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Edward Kennedy and Howard Dean, leftists all.

BTW, I was a registered Democrat until 1993. My mother is 99 and I still do not tell her that I started voting Republican. It would kill her.

I suspect that Kensley was Sternberg’s old supervisor and the NMNH’s listing hasn’t been update.

It has been updated, with the same sponsor. I find this puzzling. Why would Coddington get such a basic fact wrong? That is, either he or the website. He also said “He has had no other since Feb. 1, 2004, nor was he ever “assigned to” or under the “oversight of” anyone else” in his rebuttal.

Steve No. 1, you make a great point. I have a book titled “Intellectual Morons–How Ideology Makes Morons Out of Smart People.” Joseph Schumpeter said that some highly intelligent people fall down to thinking on a lower level on political topics. He could have added religious topics as well.

Steve No. 2, I think the point you were going to make before Steve No. 1 aced you out was also great.

Ken Willis,

Conservatives are against freedom on the issues of abortion, gay marriage, marijuana, etc. Who passed the Patriot Act? I know this is off topic, but nonsense is nonsense…

In comment #15001

I Wrote:

There is one other curious thing about Coddington’s response. He says

I am, and continue to be, his only “supervisor,” although we use the term “sponsor” for Research Associates to avoid personnel/employee connotations. He has had no other since Feb. 1, 2004, nor was he ever “assigned to” or under the “oversight of” anyone else.

But the NMNH’s own list of research associates names one Brian Kensley as Sternberg’s staff sponsor, not Jonathon Coddington.

In comment #15012

Reed Cartwright Wrote:

I suspect that Kensley was Sternberg’s old supervisor and the NMNH’s listing hasn’t been update.

In comment #15842

ogmb Wrote:

It has been updated, with the same sponsor. I find this puzzling. Why would Coddington get such a basic fact wrong? That is, either he or the website. He also said “He has had no other since Feb. 1, 2004, nor was he ever “assigned to” or under the “oversight of” anyone else” in his rebuttal.

The page which I had looked at already claimed to have been updated in December 2004, so the continued appearance of the same discrepancy on the page supposedly updated on February 4th isn’t really all that much more puzzling.

In any case, all such an “update” really means is that someone has replaced the previous page, and presumaby incorporated changes to those pieces of out-of-date information which they have been told about. It’s not all that uncommon for web pages of organisations I have had dealings with to preserve out-of-date information across several such supposed “updates”. So Reed Cartwright’s explanation seems reasonable to me.

The NMNH’s list of Research Associates gives the term of Sternberg’s appointment as running from January 2004 to January 2007. But from his curriculum vitae and account of the Meyer affair, it would appear that he had already had one previous appointment, starting from the end of 2001. Since Coddington claims to have been his sponsor only since February 2004, it looks like a change of sponsor might have coincided with the renewal of his appointment.

Ken, I don’t want to get into a political debate, but what you say about the status quo is true only because the Right has become increasingly reactionary, forcing liberals into a position in which they can only prevent the loss of progressive reforms that they once took for granted. I think there’s little doubt that it’s the Republican party which has been moving toward the ideological fringe. Consider that Nixon wouldn’t have dreamt of touching Social Security and had what would today be considered a liberal economic outlook.

I know lots of liberals and none of them are against a strong military, hard work, personal responsibility, etc. That’s simply a strawman weilded by the Right. And it’s quite ironic given the personal history of their hero in the Whitehouse.

As for the Democratic party being taken over by “leftists”, Harry Reid, who you mention by name, is well known as a pro-life conservative. I’m not sure how the others would compare because I still don’t know what you mean by “leftists”.

But whatever the case, consider whom the Republican party has been taken over by: Rick Santorum, Tom Delay, George W. Bush, etc. These people are reactionaries. They’re also the ones pushing creationism and ID. Since you’ve been wondering how the leaders of your party could be pushing this stuff, the answer might be that they’re much further to the Right than you give them credit for.

Santorum has inserted pro-ID language (non-binding) into a Bill, but I’m not aware of anything Delay or Bush has done to support ID or attack evolutionary theory. I don’t think they care much (or know much) about it either way. It’s true that a significant portion of their political base cares about it, so they periodically make sympathetic noises about it, but it’s pretty low on the list of priorities.

It’s interesting to see the categorizations people on different parts of the political spectrum make. Liberals, generally speaking, characterize themselves as either on the left or left of center, the Democratic party in the middle, the general public (in aggregate) in the middle, and the Republican party far to the right. Conservatives typically characterize liberals as to the left, the Democratic party between the left and the center, the Republican party in the middle, and the bulk of the populace (and themselves) to the right. Of course, it depends upon the particular issue. But I agree with Ken that the Democratic party has shifted significantly to the left (with respect to the general population) over the last 20 years or so, and that is why they’ve been regularly losing elections for the past decade. The idea running around liberal/Democratic circles that if they a) push their progressive ideas more forcefully and/or b) criticize Republicans/conservatives more loudly, they will win elections is a dead end. Note that Hillary is smart enough to recognize this, and is trying to push her image to the right, not be more agressive about pushing liberal policies.

What I don’t agree upon is that there should much of a correlation, if any, between evolution and a person’s political outlook. Evolution has been used as an ideological tool, or whipping post, for people of all ideological stripes. Science itself is apolitical. The academy, on the other hand…

Ken, my dear conservative friend!

Now I know this is not a politics board so I’ll only go here this one time, but consider that conservatives are in favor of allowing people to have personal retirement accounts they actually own

So am I. And, in fact, everyone in the US is free to have their own personal retirement accounts. That doesn’t change the fact that Social Security is still a great safety net for the unlucky and less intelligent among us (and it’s the Democrats program, which is why conservatives want to “fix” it).

The left, or liberals, are against all those things. I think I could go on and on.

I’m sure you could but it wouldn’t be prudent. There’s nothing to be gained by making inaccurate sweeping statements about leftists or fascists.

Mike S. Wrote:

Santorum has inserted pro-ID language (non-binding) into a Bill, but I’m not aware of anything Delay or Bush has done to support ID or attack evolutionary theory.  I don’t think they care much (or know much) about it either way.  It’s true that a significant portion of their political base cares about it, so they periodically make sympathetic noises about it, but it’s pretty low on the list of priorities.

Delay has made antievolution statements before, though I can’t remember any specific ones off-hand. Bush, when asked about teaching evo vs. creationism, said something to the effect of, “The jury is still out on where the Earth came from,” demonstrating both his creationist sympathies and his cluelessness at the same time.

In general though, creationism is a state issue, since education is a state issue. Pro-creationism and ID legislation is invariably introduced by Republicans, and makes headway in states where Republicans hold a majority. It also comes from Republican dominated school boards. But that doesn’t stop US congressmen from sometimes getting involved. Aside from Santorum, two of Ohio’s Republican congressmen wrote an Op-Ed supporting Ohio’s recent flirtation with ID. The fact that they’re starting to get involved on the Federal level shows just how bad things are.

But I agree with Ken that the Democratic party has shifted significantly to the left (with respect to the general population) over the last 20 years or so, and that is why they’ve been regularly losing elections for the past decade.

I find it hard to believe that anyone who follows politics could see things this way. On what issues have the Democrats shifted to the left? Trade? Welfare? Taxation? On almost every issue, Democrats have shifted to the right or otherwise softened their stance in the last 20 years. The only possible exceptions that come to mind are the cultural wedge issues.

Delay has made antievolution statements before, though I can’t remember any specific ones off-hand.

Delay is way out there check this out.

Bugman Delay writes

our school systems teach our children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have evolutionized out of some primordial soup of mud, by teaching evolution as fact.

The guy is a stain on humanity. The only interesting question is whether his face lift will outlast his political career.

Ralph Said:

Comment #15854

Posted by Ralph Jones on February 11, 2005 07:02 AM

Ken Willis,

Conservatives are against freedom on the issues of abortion, gay marriage, marijuana, etc. Who passed the Patriot Act? I know this is off topic, but nonsense is nonsense …

Sadly:

U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 107th Congress - 1st Session

as compiled through Senate LIS by the Senate Bill Clerk under the direction of the Secretary of the Senate

Vote Summary

Question: On Passage of the Bill (H.R. 3162 ) Vote Number: 313 Vote Date: October 25, 2001, 01:54 PM Required For Majority: 1/2 Vote Result: Bill Passed Measure Number: H.R. 3162 (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001 ) Measure Title: A bill to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory tools, and for other purposes. Vote Counts: YEAs 98 NAYs 1 Not Voting 1

(from http://www.senate.gov/legislative/L[…]p;vote=00313)

Sadly, we liberals didn’t fight that at the time. Perhaps we were too busy trying to illegalize christianity, or writing our manifestoes against personal responsibility.

But I agree with Ken that the Democratic party has shifted significantly to the left (with respect to the general population) over the last 20 years or so, and that is why they’ve been regularly losing elections for the past decade. The idea running around liberal/Democratic circles that if they a) push their progressive ideas more forcefully and/or b) criticize Republicans/conservatives more loudly, they will win elections is a dead end.

It’s not true that Dems have shifted hard in the last 20 years. There was a big shift left from about 1950-1970, but not much movement since then. If anything, they’ve moved a little right as communisms failed. It is true that they won’t win by going hard to the left. And big city liberals like me have to realize that the Dems have attracted all the big city liberals. They’re not going to get more votes by simply appealing to us more. Much of the country isn’t like us. That doesn’t mean the Dems have to embrace conservative ideas, either. Dems have been regularly losing elections because the republicans have fashioned a coherent message, they’re disciplined about it, they’ve built institutions to refine and promote it. It’s a movement with a vision. My Dems are at this point mostly selling a grab bag of tweaks. Matt Yglesias is starting to talk about this:

What’s needed, in short, is a real ideology that, as such, has adherents. The adherents would, of course, specialize to some extent as people always do. But what we have right now is really a coalition of lots of micro-ideologies and micro-interests that happen to collaborate with one another from time to time on this or that.

http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew[…]ogy_not.html

It’s an easy problem to diagnose. I’m not a conservative, but I could quickly tell you what ‘conservatives’ stand for. If you asked me what ‘liberals’ stand for, I might be able to come up with some general statements, but it would take a few minutes.

steve Wrote:

That doesn’t mean the Dems have to embrace conservative ideas, either. Dems have been regularly losing elections because the republicans have fashioned a coherent message, they’re disciplined about it, they’ve built institutions to refine and promote it. It’s a movement with a vision. My Dems are at this point mostly selling a grab bag of tweaks.

Yeah, my sentiments exactly. It also doesn’t hurt that the conservative movement spends upwards of $400 million a year to promote their message. There’s nothing comparable on the Left. What little infrastructure there is is still in its infancy, and it’ll take at least another decade to compete on a level playing field.

Steve Reuland Wrote:

“The jury is still out on where the Earth came from,”

Well, isn’t it? Do you know where the Earth came from? ;) Bush’s malapropisms crack me up. But’s its almost as funny watching some of his political opponents get themselves so worked up over them. If I kept getting beat by someone, I wouldn’t be in such a hurry to label him an idiot, even if he sometimes mangles words.

Both Steves object to the idea that the Democrats have moved left recently. But notice that I said ‘with respect to the general population’, so it could be the case that the general population moved right, and the Dems stayed in place. The reason I claim that Dems have moved left has to do with the fact that they’ve removed more conservative Dems from power (or they’ve retired). (Reid may be an exception) The Republicans have probably shifted to the right (although in many ways Bush is to the left of Reagan), but they still have room in the party for relative liberals like Specter, Guliani, McCain, and Arnold. Who are the relative conservatives in the Democratic party? Joe Lieberman comes to mind. Anybody else?

Well, I’m a little overwhelmed. All good comments. I agree with a few of them. I seem to have whipped up a firestorm. I’d love to answer them all, try to convert Ralph Jones, Steve Reuland, and Great White Wonder. I know, I know. It would never happen. Still be fun to try. Thanks to Mike S. for the support on part of what I said.

There is one good thing. We all agree that ID is a load of horse manure. I am with all of you on the science. Politics will play itself out as it usually does. No doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Now I see there is a whole lot more interesting stuff on Panda’s Thumb that I haven’t checked out yet. This is a great candy store.

Another columnist weighs in on the Sternberg/Smithsonian affair. Although he basically repeats the claims made in Klinghoffer’s article.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 3, column 179, byte 267 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

Today’s Washington Times also has a story on the Sternberg/Smithsonian affair.

Beat you to it again. :-)

As a throwback mutant redneck conservative, the Washington Times article and the Times/Herald of Vallejo, CA article are a real disappointment to me. I don’t know why my fellow conservatives find it too much to ask that the proponents of ID just tell us how it works and show us their evidence.

Since they insist that ID is science and not religion I can’t figure out for the life of me why they think it should not be subject to the standards of scientific proof. We conservatives are supposed to be defenders of truth, not charlatans making lawyer arguments for junk science.

mp3NUT is cool

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on February 3, 2005 3:39 PM.

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