Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The Sternberg saga continues, spurred by this podcast by the DI’s Rob Crowther. They’re still flogging this silly claim that the NCSE was “spying on” Sternberg; in fact, all they were doing was trying to find out whether he was in league with Meyer and the DI to surreptitiously get Meyer’s substandard and inappropriate article published (and of course, the evidence clearly suggests exactly that). I love the way they’re spinning this – it’s “spying” to do the same sorts of google searches that, I’m sure, DI employees do every single day. They use that word “spying” quite intentionally, of course; it evokes just the right sinister image of men lurking in the shadows and planting bugs in your house.

I know I’m not supposed to reveal this publicly, but with the crack research team at the DI on the case it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out anyway. The truth is that the NCSE is like the NSA or MI-6 of the Evil Darwinian Conspiracy. Glenn Branch is an expert at the spook game and a master of disguise. At any given moment, he could have disguised himself as a fossil in the crustacean collection and had himself planted in Sternberg’s office (you know, the one he falsely claimed was taken away from him) so he could listen to everything he said.

And Genie Scott? Well, Genie prefers electronic spying herself. With Wes Elsberry working down in their secret lair like Q, inventing cufflinks that double as cell phone hacking devices and chewing gum with a hidden camera in it, she has all the tools she needs for this kind of surveillance. And I’ve personally witnessed Nick Matzke looking in the mirror and saying “Bond…James Bond” before driving off in his rusted out Nissan pickup Aston Martin to break into Sternberg’s apartment and go through his personal belongings. And we would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky kids…

Anyway, back to the podcast. There’s one very interesting section of the audio where Crowther admits that if Sternberg had, in fact, misrepresented himself as a Smithsonian employee, that would be grounds for firing him. He says:

“Dr. Sues hoped that the NCSE could unearth evidence that Dr. Sternberg had misrepresented himself as a Smithsonian employee, which would have been groudns for his dismissal as a research associate. As a research associate, Sternberg is not allowed to represent himself as a Smithsonian employee and if he were to do so he would forfeit his appointment.”

In point of fact, the NCSE didn’t really do much research at all on that question. But I just did. And if the NCSE had really wanted to find information in this regard that might get Sternberg fired, it was easy to find. Ironically, while the DI is accusing the NCSE of trying to get Sternberg fired for misrepresenting his position with the Smithsonian, it turns out that it was the Discovery Institute, in multiple statements and articles and announcements over the years, who have represented Sternberg as a Smithsonian employee and thus put him at risk of being fired.

Sternberg has been on the DI’s Dissent from Darwin list from its earliest days, and his affiliation on that list has always been listed not as the National Institutes of Health, which is where he works, but at the Smithsonian Institution, where the rules regarding Research Associates forbid him from claiming he works. And it’s very interesting to see how the wording of that affiliation changes over the years. For instance, here is what it says on the DI’s press release when their list hit 100 names, in September 2001:

Richard Sternberg: Pstdoctoral Fellow, Invertebrate Biology: Smithsonian Institute

And in fact, that was correct. From 1999 to 2001, according to his CV, he was indeed a postdoc for the Smithsonian in the Department of Invertebrate Biology. Sometime in 2001, his postdoc ended and he went to work for the NIH, then got the Research Associate gig with the Smithsonian. So let’s see how the designation changed after that. Here’s the same list from June 2002, copied from the DI website:

Richard Sternberg, Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute

So 9 months later, after he’s left his postdoc position and is no longer employed by the Smithsonian, and is now a Research Associate, a position where the rules forbid him from representing himself as a Smithsonian employee, the DI’s list has now dropped the postdoc designation but is still representing him as a Smithsonian employee. One can only assume that Sternberg himself informed the DI that he was no longer a postdoc; one must also wonder why, in light of the rules, he did not also make sure that he was no longer listed as a Smithsonian employee.

Also in 2002, DI fellow Paul Nelson represented Sternberg as being from the Smithsonian as well, in a discussion on the ISCID page:

“There’s a research meeting in Southern California, scheduled for October, where this “how do we grow up” problem will be on the agenda. I’ll be there, as will Bill Dembski, Jed Macosko, Scott Minnich, Rick Sternberg from the Smithsonian, and several others. “

Also notice that he lists Sternberg as one of the ID advocates wrestling with the “how do we grow up” problem, so any question about whether Sternberg is an ID advocate really should be put to rest by now. As Behe likes to say, it walks like a duck. But here’s a very interesting thing: even after all of this controversy at the Smithsonian, after the DI knows that one of the questions raised was whether Sternberg had passed himself off as a Smithsonian employee during his RA appointment, the DI still is promoting him as a Smithsonian employee in their most recent press release for the latest version of the list. Here’s the press release for it:

“Prominent signatories include U.S. National Academy of Sciences member Philip Skell; American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow Lyle Jensen; evolutionary biologist and textbook author Stanley Salthe; Smithsonian Institution evolutionary biologist and a researcher at the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information Richard von Sternberg;

But they finally did change it on the actual PDF of the list, where he’s now listed as:

Richard Sternberg Ph.D. Molecular Biology Florida International University

Here’s what is so interesting about all of this. The fact that the designation has changed several times over the years as new versions of the list are put out clearly means that the DI has been informed of changes in his position. Sternberg must have informed them that he was no longer a postdoc, which is why that title was taken off the post-2002 versions of the list. But since the designation continued to be the Smithsonian, rather than the NIH, strongly suggests that when Sternberg corrected his affiliation, he intentionally did not tell them that he was now an NIH employee rather than a Smithsonian employee.


  1. #1 slpage
    January 2, 2007

    Is anyone surprised that the DI is labelling this as ‘spying’?
    I once had an IDcreationist proclaim that I was a ‘stalker’ because I followed a link that HE had provided, read his blog(where I had discovered that he had embellished his background), and provided a link to his blog on a discussion board. Not only did this guy label me a stalker, he also ‘wondered’ if I was a child molester and accused me of threatening him… for posting a link to… HIS public blog…

    That is how these people think. They are always the ‘victims’, even when they aren’t.

  2. #2 i_like_latin
    January 2, 2007

    Surprise surprise surprise (in best gomer pile accent).

    Now the only problem is none of the people that high on their morality horse will believe you. Wonder why the DI’s major misbehaviors never raise a flag with folks? I really really don’t get it.. Maybe it’s because evolution has screwed up my sense of morality (please note:SARCASM).

  3. #3 mark
    January 2, 2007

    This may be another case where Sternberg and DI are misrepresented and misunderstood by the ACLU and the media (and now, bloggers). Wait for Casey Luskin to issue another press release.

  4. #4 Rich
    January 2, 2007

    I_like_latin there are some evangelicals like myself who do believe Ed. The problem is most evangelicals do not have actual experience in the scientific world or followed this as closely as I have (I was challenging Denyse O’Leary on the American Scientific Affiliation e-mail list when this story first broke.) Mix in the Richard Dawkinses of the world and Sternberg’s cover story becomes extremely plausible. Look how long it took to describe the “employment” situation above. It is easier to believe that when there is smoke there is fire than your so-called friends are lying to you.

    The average evangelical trusts the DI spin because they believe it is the truth. Once they understand they have been lied to and things will change, albeit slowly. How slowly will be determined by how strident the “evangelical atheists” are. Richard Dawkins is the best thing that ever happened to the DI. Without that foil their misrepresentations of their “persecution” would be more easily discovered.

    So, Ed. please keep it up. It may feel like it doesn’t get through but it does. The leaders of ID may be a lost cause but the followers are most definitely not.

  5. #5 Bill Gascoyne
    January 2, 2007


    Your PT post has the comments enabled, even though you encourage comments here instead. You might wish to deny opportunity to the silly sods posting on long-dead threads there.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    January 2, 2007

    Ah, thanks Bill.

  7. #7 Steve Reuland
    January 2, 2007

    Just today I came across the term victim bully. With the Sternberg saga, the DI has perfected the art (and pathology) of victim-bullying.

  8. #8 Wobert
    January 2, 2007

    Perhaps instead of Sternberg and the DI, it should be
    Siegfried and CHAOS.May the cone of silence descend upon them.

  9. #9 Wobert
    January 2, 2007

    Whoops, I think that was meant to be KAOS, sorry about that Chief.

  10. #10 Nick (Matzke)
    January 2, 2007

    That’s a rusted out 1988 Ford Ranger Aston Martin, actually.

  11. #11 Ed Brayton
    January 2, 2007

    Nick Matzke wrote:

    That’s a rusted out 1988 Ford Ranger Aston Martin, actually.

    Oops, sorry. Burt’s drinking must have impaired my memory.

  12. #12 Hrafn
    January 2, 2007

    I could not find Sternberg in the FIU Faculty/Staff Directory (http://www.fiu.edu/phonebook.html), though his thesis comes up on a website search. Can anybody confirm what his position is there?

  13. #13 Wesley R. Elsberry
    January 3, 2007

    The DI “Dissent from Darwin” list puts up either the place where the signer got his terminal degree, or his current work affiliation. Sternberg could have been listed as NIH NICB, but they seem to have gone with his alma mater instead. The criterion for which affiliation is selected generally seems to be simply which institution “feels” more prestigious. For example, Stephen Meyer is shown in relation to Cambridge University, where he got his Ph.D., and not Palm Beach Atlantic University, his non-Discovery Institute work affiliation.

    Though what Stephen Meyer is doing on a list that is supposed to document scientists dissenting from “Darwinism” I have no idea.

  14. #14 Daniel Morgan
    January 3, 2007

    I actually pulled Sternberg’s dissertation via inter-library loan from NY last year around this time to see if he had any interesting stuff in the preface or throughout about evolution.


    Textbook evolutionary bio about some kind of shellfish and crabs — he refers to geologic eras and ancestral lineages…I guess he could argue it still doesn’t amount to “Darwinism”. Anyway, this was back when I was writing a bit on him and wanted to see if he hinted at any creationism in his work. Nope. Perhaps he’d now say he was “afraid” to, or that there was a conspiracy against him, or some other such common DI parlance.

  15. #15 Ken not ham
    January 4, 2007

    Isn’t funny how quickly the Idler’s unmask themselves into YEC or at least sympathic. Check out uncommonly dumb http://www.uncommondescent.com/archives/1917 for their response to the grand canon creationist post on this site. If we were ever to have another trail on whether ID is science or not we need only submit their own posts. It’s was amusing to read a genuine poster trying to keep idea on a scientific bases was being swapped by the creationist Ider’s on another thread a few weeks ago. I’m sorry I lost it was one of the funniest reads I’ve had in ages. Uncommonly dumb is now on par with AIG as great reads to pass the time when waiting for code to compile, Laughed….I laughed until I stopped.