Smithsonian Scientists Exhibit Hostility
David Klinghoffer, in an article posted earlier today on National Review Online, reports that Richard von Sternberg, a scientist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, has found himself in the midst of a "hostile work environment" simply because he published in a biology journal an article on Intelligent Design written by another writer.
Klinghoffer writes: . . .
What exactly was his offense? Some background is in order. In a January Wall Street Journal op-ed, I reported the story of how Sternberg, a Smithsonian research associate, suffered as a result of his editing a technical peer-reviewed biology journal, The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.
The journal is housed at the Smithsonian, though it's nominally independent. For his part, formally, Sternberg is employed by the National Institute of Health, though his agreement with his employer stipulates that he may spend 50 percent of his time working at the Smithsonian. So when the August 2004 issue of the Proceedings appeared, under Sternberg's editorship, Sternberg's managers at the Smithsonian took a keen interest in a particular article — the first paper laying out the evidence for ID to be published in a peer-reviewed technical journal.
The article was "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," by Stephen Meyer, a Cambridge University PhD in the philosophy of biology. He's currently a senior fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute. In the essay, Meyer reviewed the work of scientists around the world — at places like Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, and the University of Chicago — who have cast doubt on whether Darwinian evolution can explain the sudden infusion of genetic "information" and the resulting explosion of between 19 and 34 new animal phyla (body plans) about 530 million years ago — the Cambrian Explosion. Meyer argued that perhaps an unidentified designing intelligence played a role in the event.
However strong you think the argument is for Intelligent Design — and I'm no scientist — most reasonable people would agree that an ID theoretician should, without fear of retaliation, be allowed to state his case for the consideration of fellow scientists. This was the view held by Sternberg, who isn't himself an advocate of ID. However, according to the [U.S. Office of Special Counsel's] investigation, when the Meyer article was published, Sternberg's managers were outraged and a number of them sought a strategy that would make him pay.
According to a letter from an OSC attorney to Sternberg, which followed a review by the OSC of e-mail transmitted among top Smithsonian scientists, Sternberg's professional competence was attacked, lies were spread about him, a list of trivial offenses were compiled, and there were attempts to deny him access to his work space and other areas vital to his job, all in an effort to run him off following the publication of the article. His supervisor reportedly even called around the museum to check up on Sternberg's religious and political affiliations.
Despite the evidence revealed in the investigation by the OSC, an independent federal agency, the Smithsonian denies that Sternberg has been subjected to any retaliation from his colleagues.
Hat tip to Marvin Olasky at World Magazine Blog.