Sternberg complaint dismissed

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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.

2 TrackBacks

The Richard Sternberg story just keeps getting bigger - webs of deceit, cover ups, hit squads, name calling, retaliation, rumor mills, anonymous leaks, falsified documents ... sounds more like inside the beltway rather than inside the Smithsonian Ins... Read More

Lingering Questions re Sternberg from Get Busy Livin', Or Get Busy Bloggin' on December 23, 2005 7:17 AM

I want to present a positive spin on the Sternberg saga by offering some questions, which, when answered, will likely evaporate much of the lingering air of malfeasance. I think that if Sternberg really feels he is still being viewed as a "heretic", ... Read More

112 Comments

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. …

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.

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

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.

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.

Andrew,

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

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.

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?

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.

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.

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?

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).

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”.

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.”

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

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

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?

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.

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

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.)

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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

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.

don’t cry for me argentina…

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.

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.

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?

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.

Chutzpah

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

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.

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!).

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

“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.

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.

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’?

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

I guess the world will never know.

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.

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.

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…

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on August 19, 2005 1:22 PM.

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