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.