The career of a prominent researcher at the
Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington is in
jeopardy after he published a peer-reviewed article by a leading
proponent of intelligent design, an alternative to evolutionary
theory dismissed by the science and education establishment as a
tool of religious conservatives.
Richard Sternberg says that
although he continues to work in the museum's Department of Zoology,
he has been kicked out of his office and shunned by colleagues,
prompting him to file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special
Sternberg charges he was subjected to
discrimination on the basis of perceived religious beliefs.
"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
Sternberg is managing editor of a nominally
independent journal published at the museum, Proceedings of the
Biological Society of Washington. His trouble started when he
included in the August issue a review-essay by Stephen Meyer, who
holds a Cambridge University doctorate in the philosophy of biology.
Hans Sues, the museum's No. 2 senior scientist, denounced
Meyer's article in a widely forwarded e-mail as "unscientific
According to Sternberg's complaint, which is being
investigated, one museum specialist chided him by saying: "I think
you are a religiously motivated person and you have dragged down the
Proceedings because of your religiously motivated agenda."
Sternberg strongly denies that.
he is a Catholic who attends Mass, he says, "I would call myself a
believer with a lot of questions, about everything. I'm in the
The complaint says the chairman of
the Zoology Department, Jonathan Coddington, called Sternberg's
supervisor to look into the matter.
"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
The supervisor recounted the
conversation to Sternberg, who also quotes her observing: "There are
Christians here, but they keep their heads down."
complaint, according to the Journal column, says Coddington took
away Sternberg's office, which prevents access to the specimen
collections he needs. Sternberg also was assigned to the close
oversight of a curator with whom he had professional disagreements
unrelated to evolution.
"I'm going to be straightforward
with you," said Coddington, according to the complaint. "Yes, you
are being singled out."
Meyer's article, "The Origin of
Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," cites
mainstream biologists and paleontologists from schools such as the
University of Chicago, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford who are critical
of certain aspects of Darwinism.
Meyer - a fellow at
Seattle's Discovery Institute, a leading advocate of intelligent
design - contends supporters of Darwin's theory cannot explain how so
many different animal types sprang into existence during the
relatively short period of Earth history known as the Cambrian
He argues the Darwinian mechanism would require
more time for the necessary genetic "information" to be generated,
and intelligent design offers a better explanation.
Journal notes Meyer's piece is the first peer-reviewed article to
appear in a technical biology journal laying out the evidential case
for intelligent design.
The theory holds that the complex
features of living organisms, such as an eye, are better explained
by an unspecified designing intelligence than by random mutation and
Klinghoffer notes the Biological Society
of Washington released a statement regretting its association with
Meyer's article but did not address its arguments.
Klinghoffer points out the circularity of the arguments of
critics who insisted intelligent design was unscientific because if
had not been put forward in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
"Now that it has," he wrote, "they argue that it shouldn't
have been because it's unscientific."