On one of my many bookshelves rests a copy of The Genesis Flood, by Henry Morris. It's the original edition, which my wife read in college. I've never read the book myself, having entered the origins debate a couple of decades after its publication. And I've always been more interested in biology than geology. Nonetheless, his book changed the course of my life.
Thanks to that book, and Morris' many other efforts, the question of origins entered once again into public awareness, sparking a resurgence of creationism in North America. The growing movement drew thinkers of many persuasions into the arena, which brought a richness and vitality to the debate. It was a mix that I found irresistible when I was first exposed to the debate in late 1984. I was soon devouring whatever I could get my hands on, and what began as an avocation eventually became my vocation.
I didn't share many of Morris' views, but I do owe him a debt of gratitude for his work. If it weren't for his work, I wouldn't have had mine.
I think something similar goes for many of Darwin's most prominent defenders. Thanks to Morris, many Darwinists have attained professional acclaim who would otherwise have spent their entire careers in obscurity. Of course, that's not exactly something any of them would care to acknowledge. Who'd want to admit that they owe their paycheck and visibility to the very "rabble" they're fighting.
Still, the Darwinists could show a modicum of decency in the wake of Morris' passing. Following the passing of Stephen Jay Gould, I wrote a largely sympathetic obit. But I was roundly chastised by Darwinists for a remark, made in passing, that his sometimes contradictory comments occasionally exasperated friends and foes alike: How dare I speak so disrespectfully of the dead!
Yet apparently, the same standard does not apply to creationists. When I visited talk.origins today I was appalled at the thread discussing Morris' death. I won't repeat the disgraceful things that were said. But the words and the celebratory tone spoke volumes about the writers' lack of character and humanity.
What have we come to when people can't put aside their arguments in the face of a human being's suffering and death? When they, in fact, vindictively celebrate that suffering? When their own petty grievances triumph over matters of life and death?
To put it another way, where's the profit in winning the debate if, in the process, you lose your very soul? That is indeed a loss to be mourned.
Decades ago, when I was a live-in counselor at a group home for teen boys, I used to be amused at the way they'd "nark themselves off." Far from being the street-smart kids you might see on TV or the movies, some of these kids were virtually clueless.
On my very first day on the job, I walked into one of the bedrooms where a couple of they guys were hunched over working on something. I didn't think anything of it until one of the kids looked up, saw me, and shouted, "B-u-u-u-sted!"
The other shot back, "Shut up, man! He didn't know what we were doing!"
He was right, I didn't. Turns out they were assembling a home-made bong in anticipation of scoring some good weed. I confiscated the bong, and they didn't have access to the outside world for awhile.
But over the years I've found that it's not just clueless boy's-home teens that bust themselves. Sometimes it's people whom you'd think would have every reason to keep their mouths shut. But a wagging tongue can be tough to still.
For example, back in 1989 or thereabouts, California approved an extremely controversial set of science standards that were calculated to silence criticism of evolution in public school classrooms. This was evident if you happened to know anything about biology and the philosophy of science. But the writer of some of the most controversial sections, Kevin Padian a Berkeley paleontologist and NCSE activist, couldn't help but boast of his and proudly proclaimed, in print no less: "As for the religious right, the new Science Framework leaves them totally disenfranchised from the public educational system in California."1
More recently, as I noted in my blog, "The Stricture of Scientific Resolutions," the Council that governs the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington provided another classic when it posted a statement regarding its publication of a major pro-ID paper by the Discovery Institute's Steve Meyer.
A brief passage from the statement is a marvel of self-indictment--all the more so when you consider that it's the result of serious deliberation among the Council's thoroughly self-conscious members. The passage reads: "The Council endorses a resolution on ID published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings."
In other words, because the AAAS says ID is untestable and without support, Meyer's peer-approved paper does not meet the journal's standards--a breath-taking display of devotion to scientific ideals, and as blatant an admission as you could ask for that ID-friendly articles will not even be accepted for review, let alone publication. Is it any wonder then, as the anti-ID community constantly laments, that critics "simply doesn't understand how science how science works"?
All together now: B-u-u-u-sted.
The most recent gaffe, however, is a real kicker. In a post on the Website of the anti-ID Kansas Citizens for Science (KCFS), Liz Craig, an officer and media contact for the group blurted out the following regarding the conservative members of the Kansas State Board of Education:
My strategy at this point is the same as it was in 1999: notify the national and local media about what's going on and portray them in the harshest light possible, as political opportunists, evangelical activists, ignoramuses, breakers of rules, unprincipled bullies, etc.
There may no way to head off another science standards debacle, but we can sure make them look like asses as they do what they do.
Our target is the moderates who are not that well educated about the issues, most of whom probably are theistic evolutionists. There is no way to convert the creationists.
Much has been made by ID foes--almost to the point of hysteria--of the Discovery Institute's "Wedge Document," a funding proposal that allegedly reveals a sinister religious agenda. Moreover, the same Web site where Craig posted her comment has a thread in its discussion forums called, "Damning Quotes," the purpose of which is to "to keep track of, and maintain, various 'damning quotes' that have been made in regards to ID, and it's religious nature."
But the "Wedge Document" and all the quotes that KCFS have scraped together simply don't compare to the sheer malice revealed by the above statements. What kind of person can express delight at having disenfranchised an entire segment of the population? What does it take to profess devotion to scientific principles, yet devise policies that amount to laughable non sequiturs and enforce profoundly irrational and anti-scientific behavior? And although smears, slanders and slurs are a disheartingly common element of politics, they somehow seem all the worse coming from an organization that purports to defend the integrity of science--sort of like a cop gone bad.
Which brings me to one final remark: Bu-u-u-sted.
1 Kevin Padian, "The California Science Framework: A Victory for
Scientific Integrity," National Center for Science Education Reports, Vol 9, No. 6, Nov-Dec 1989, pp 1, 10-11.
These last few months have troubled me deeply. And I have a request that I hope you'll have the courage and strength to honor: If I ever become like Terri Schiavo, please don't put me through what she has endured.
After fighting cancer for 10 years; after suffering through multiple courses of toxic drugs; after two stem-cell transplants and 16 dismal weeks in a hospital room, tied to tangles of tubes, I've only scratched the surface of her misery. I feel as if I've scaled great mountains of suffering only to find I'm in the foothills of a range that towers beyond sight.
Dear, if I'm ever forced to scale that range, if I ever become like Terri â€” whether through the myriad drugs I'm taking, future treatments or the cancer itself â€” please don't pull my feeding tube. Instead, if at all possible, take me and my tube home, where I can live out my days with you and the kids, and where friends can come and go as they wish.
Put me in a place where I won't be in the way, but can still sense the activity of life around me. Talk to me; share your hopes, fears and failures with me. Read me books. I may not understand, but perhaps I'll sense the warmth of a lover's voice. And I promise I won't interrupt, or give away your secrets. And deep down inside, perhaps I'll groan a wordless prayer for you.
And please, please, please don't crush what's left of me by taking another lover while I still live. You're my wife, Dear, my only lover. Apart from God alone, you're the one person who daily breathes confidence and acceptance into my life. You're the one with whom I can feel unashamed and completely at home. I can absorb the loss of many things. But please don't rob me of that. Abide with me, as you have done so faithfully through our many years of trauma and tears.
This is my wish, Dear. I hope to live with you a good many years. I hope to grow old with you and see our grandchildren. But if I don't, know that I love you and that I always will. I promise ... just as I did a quarter century ago.
With all my love,
Note to the reader: If you wish to contact me about this article, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted with permission from Boundless Webzine http://www.boundless.org/2005/articles/a0001064.cfm
It's hard to imagine a more innocuous statement than the one the Cobb County, Ga., school board recently ordered pasted into their biology textbooks: "Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."
Yet this disclaimer is the subject of a nationally publicized lawsuit, in which the plaintiff alleges that the wording violates the separation of church and state.
So what's the problem? After all, evolution is indeed a theory. And it seems ironic at best that calling for open-minded, critical thinking would somehow be construed as religious advocacy.
Nonetheless, there are many - folks who insist that evolution is a fact, or well-nigh to it - who read dark intentions between the lines. To them, any talk about critical thinking is simply religiously motivated rubbish.
We are told that the popular distinction between "fact" and "theory" - that one is certain and the other a matter of guesswork - is naive and conflicts with how scientists view the terms. In place, critics offer "more scientific" definitions of "theory" - which exorcise the notion of uncertainty. A theory is not a hunch, an educated guess or even a hypothesis, they tell us, but a well-substantiated naturalistic explanation for related facts.
Hence, evolution's status as a theory indicates strength and durability, not uncertainty. And if you want critical thinking about evolution, why not include other theories, such as germ theory or the theory of relativity? Indeed, we are told, singling out evolution smacks of a religious agenda masquerading as science.
To many, this is entirely plausible. But it is seriously flawed.
If you look in the science journals, you'll see that the use of the word theory often diverges from this definition. There, you can read of such things as tentative theories, failed theories, controversial theories, promising theories, and unconfirmed new theories.
Thus, contrary to the definition championed by Darwin's defenders, scientific theories vary greatly in their trustworthiness. And a school district is fully warranted in singling out such theories, especially when they have been a source of widespread, ongoing controversy - like Darwinism.
Not only is the theory controversial at the cultural level, but some pro-evolution scientists have nonetheless expressed skepticism about Darwin's theory: The processes that produce bacterial resistance to drugs or changes in birds' beaks, they say, simply can't generate the massive diversity that characterizes the living world - much less produce the bursts of wildly disparate animal forms found in the fossil record.
Such skepticism, long evident in scientific literature, has made its way into textbooks. Indeed, one major college text, Biology, reports that "many evolutionary biologists now question whether natural selection alone accounts for the evolutionary history observed in the fossil record."
There is thus every good reason to state that "evolution is a theory, not a fact," even in some popular senses of those terms. Of course, that doesn't mean the label's backers are free of religious motivation. But motivations notwithstanding, there's a legitimate secular purpose in urging kids to approach the theory with an open but critical mind.
That's far healthier than defining critical thinking out of the classroom. I only hope the judge agrees.
This article first appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The author can be reached here.
Sorry to visit the Meyer affair yet again, but a recent letter to Nature makes a point that bears highlighting. The letter, by Vladimir Svetlov, a microbiologist at Ohio State University, chides Nature for making such a big deal out of the fact that a pro-ID article was published in a peer-reviewed journal science journal.
â€œI cannot in all honesty share in the anxiety surrounding publication of a dubious paper on â€˜intelligent designâ€™â€”regarded by most scientists as a version of creationismâ€”in a journal with an impact factor of less than one,â€ says Svetlov. â€œYour News story "Peer-reviewed paper defends theory of intelligent design" (Nature 431, 114; 2004) suggests that getting an intelligent-design paper into a peer-reviewed journal is a huge achievement for creationism.â€
To the contrary, he argues, the real surprise is that ID proponents didnâ€™t get such a publication earlier.
Why? Because â€œone can publish just about anything if one goes far enough down the list of impact factors. There are papers all around us containing problems glaring enough to fail their authors in undergraduate midterm exams.â€
Svetlov may not understand why the publication of Meyerâ€™s paper was such a big deal. As I pointed out in my first piece on this topic, itâ€™s a big deal because the anti-ID crowd has invested so much in the claim that ID has never published in peer-reviewed publications (which is a canard to begin with; see â€œMedia Backgrounder: Intelligent Design Article Sparks Controversyâ€ on the Discovery Instituteâ€™s Web site). Itâ€™s also a big deal because ID proponents are consistently denied a level playing field. And getting published despite the unfairness is a significant accomplishment.
But Svetlovâ€™s point about the ease of publishing bad science is an interesting one. For one thing, it exposes the double standard of those who have dedicated their lives (and livelihoods) to defending the public from the allegedly â€œbad scienceâ€ of intelligent design while doing nothing about the genuinely bad science thatâ€™s published in many journals. (This is eerily reminiscent, by the way, of what happened with biology textbooks. While the anti-ID folks were out guarding the schools from the â€œbad scienceâ€ of intelligent design, they serenely accepted even the most egregious errors, as documented in Jonathan Wellâ€™s book, Icons of Evolution, in textbooks used by millions of kids.)
More interesting, however, is the conundrum Svetlovâ€™s letter poses for the anti-ID community. There have been signs that the anti-ID folks want to back away from making publication in peer reviewed journals a touchstone of good science. Not a bad idea. But doing so affirms the likelihood that peer-reviewed journals have published some rubbishâ€”maybe a good deal of it, as Svetlov asserts. And if thatâ€™s true, it diminishes the cultural authority that the science establishment has relied on to keep ID and criticisms of Darwinism out of public school science classrooms.
Anti-IDists seem to know this and are working both sides of the street. On the one hand, as Iâ€™ve noted elsewhere, they seem to be downplaying the importance and validity of peer reviewâ€”but only to a limited extent. On the other hand, theyâ€™re still trying make it look as if Meyerâ€™s paper was published only through chicaneryâ€”and therefore doesnâ€™t count as a peer-reviewed article.
Strategically, this is probably the best thing they can do. But if some enterprising team of young scholars decided to document Svetlovâ€™s claimsâ€”the way Jonathan Wells did on a smaller scale with biology textbook errorsâ€”the whole issue of ID and peer review could be rendered moot in the ensuing controversy.
Of course, this is just my speculation. But what if it really happened?
The Biological Society of Washington (BSW) has come up with a "new and improved" statement about the Stephen Meyer article that it published in its August 4, 2004 issue. The statement is reproduced below:
The paper by Stephen C. Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," in vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239 of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, was published at the discretion of the former editor, Richard v. Sternberg. Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process. The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history. For the same reason, the journal will not publish a rebuttal to the thesis of the paper, the superiority of intelligent design (ID) over evolution as an explanation of the emergence of Cambrian body-plan diversity. The Council endorses a resolution on ID published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (www.aaas.org/news/releases/2002/1106id2.shtml), which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings .
We have reviewed and revised editorial policies to ensure that the goals of the Society, as reflected in its journal, are clearly understood by all. Through a web presence (http://www.biolsocwash.org) and improvements in the journal, the Society hopes not only to continue but to increase its service to the world community of systematic biologists.
This statement mainly makes explicit what was implicit in the previous statement (though the president and current managing editor had been pretty explicit in their comments to the press). Since I covered the accusations against Sternberg in my previous Wedge Update, I won't rehash that material here.
Most interesting about the statement is the logic it employs. Near the end of the first paragraph it reads: "The Council endorses a resolution on ID published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ... which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings."
In other words, because a resolution by the AAAS board "observes" that there is "no credible scientific evidence" supporting intelligent design, the BSW has determined that Meyer's article "does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings." And that's despite the (apparently irrelevant) fact that three independent reviewers said it did. 1
It's also despite the fact that the AAAS resolution is a politically motivated document, put together by people who know relatively little about ID. Indeed, after the AAAS board initially released its resolution, the Discovery Institute's John West contacted board members by e-mail and found that the resolution was essentially based on a couple of books read by staffers and a few Web documents. The board members who responded indicated that they themselves had read nothingâ€”except for one who said sheâ€™d read some stuff on the Web but couldnâ€™t remember what it was. 2
These facts notwithstanding, the Council has announced that it has "reviewed and revised editorial policies," presumably to make sure that no paper like Meyer's is published in the journal again, no matter what its actual relevance or scientific merits.
Ironically, though, by publishing and then repudiating the Meyer paper, the BSW has done the seemingly impossible. Not only has it given ID proponents a publication in a peer-reviewed biology journal, it has also handed a smoking gun to those ID proponents who argue that the peer-review process is unfairly stacked against them.
Quite a feat for a single journal.
There's no telling how the controversy over Meyer's paper will shake out. But whether the anti-design camp wins or loses, the BSW has tarnished its imageâ€”not by publishing Meyer's paper, but by the bumbling, disingenuous way it has handled the fallout.
If I were them, I'd have to wonder: Was it really worth it?
1. Note: Some may claim that I am taking these last two sentences out of context. However, the previous sentences of the paragraph concern only the alleged "inappropriateness" of Meyer's article. That standard is also cited as the reason the journal will not run any rebuttals to the piece. Yet it's doubtful that the BSW would claim that such a rebuttal would fail to meet the scientific (as opposed to the relevancy) standards of the journal.
2. John West, personal communication.
The anti-intelligent design community has been bitten by its own rhetoric, and is doing all it can to stanch the woundâ€”by less than ethical means.
For years, now, the anti-ID party line has been that intelligent design should not be considered legitimate science because it has never been published in peer-reviewed scientific publications. This claim surfaces over and over againâ€”whenever the origins controversy makes the news.
Right now, however, many of them may be regretting that line. In the August 4 issue of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (PBSW), an obscure but respected peer-reviewed journal, appears an article by design theorist Stephen C. Meyer, titled "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories."
In that article Meyer argues that no current naturalistic theory of evolution can account for the massive amounts of complex, multi-level information needed to produce novel animal forms. He further argues that intelligent agents routinely exhibit all the capacities needed to produce such information. He thus proposes intelligent design as an explanation for the origin of biological information and the higher taxa.
Taxa are the particular groups into which organisms have been classified, whether species, genera, families, orders, classes and phyla. The latter of these are called the higher taxa because they are the most general and take in the most organisms. Thus, humans are classed in the genus Homo and the species sapiens, which are both lower taxa. But we also belong to the phylum Chordata, a higher taxon, which includes mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians and any other organism that has a hollow nerve chord running down its back.
As you might guess, opponents of design are in an uproar. Stories have appeared in The Scientist, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Science and even Nature.
Stung by Meyer's publication, the anti-ID community is responding with smear tactics. In particular, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a staunch advocate of naturalistic evolution, and the Biological Society of Washington (BSW) are trying to play off the article's publication as a thoroughly underhanded affair by which a â€œsubstandard articleâ€ evaded rigorous scrutiny. In a nutshell, the charge is that the PBSW was hijacked to promote a creationist agenda.
Although the article itself has received a share of the abuseâ€”mostly in the form of a "critique" published on the Panda's Thumb blogâ€”the main target has been the editor who published the piece, Richard Sternberg.
Sternberg is an evolutionary biologist with a Ph.D. in molecular evolution and another in systems theory and theoretical biology. He works for the National Institute of Health as a curator for the National Center for Biotechnology Information's (NCBI's) DNA database and as a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institute's Natural Museum of Natural History. His research and writing areas are evolutionary theory and systematics. He worked as managing editor for PBSW for three years.
Sternberg has been cast as the main villain behind the publication of Meyer's paper. He's essentially been accused of deviating from the journal's established review process to help Meyer score a coup for ID advocates.
So what were the alleged deviations?
1. Sternberg didn't clear the article with the BSW's Council.
On Sept. 7, the BSW issued a statement repudiating the article. In its statement, the Council alleges that the article, "was published without the prior knowledge of the Council, which includes officers, elected Councilors, and past presidents, or the associate editors."
Sounds serious. Problem is, there has never been a policy requiring the editor to show submitted articles to the Council.
On his Web site, Sternberg notes, "At no time during my nearly three years as managing editor did I ever ask the Council for its input on any editorial decision regarding any particular paper. Nor did the Council itself or anyone on the Council intimate to me that the Council ought to be in any way involved in editorial decision-making with regard to particular papers."
He backs it up with the text of the form letter that is sent to article contributors. The relevant portion of the letter reads:
The editorial system of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington is as follows: the Journal (Managing) Editor receives all manuscripts, provides editorial information regarding style, format, and organization, and selects the appropriate Associate Editor to handle the review process. Associate Editors select ad hoc reviewers, render decisions regarding acceptability of manuscripts, define the nature of the revision necessary, and if needed, edit the manuscript to improve precision and clarity. Manuscripts not accepted by the Associate Editors will be returned to authors. The Journal Editor receives accepted manuscripts, marks manuscripts for the printer, provides final editing, and organizes issues of the Proceedings. The Journal Editor is responsible for all matters about the publication of the Proceedings.
Not a word about the Council.
Thatâ€™s not to mention the fact that Sternberg, as managing editor, was himself a member of the Council. As will be noted later on, another Council member did know about the article.
2. Meyerâ€™s article was outside the scope of what the journal normally publishes.
The BSWâ€™s statement also alleges that Meyerâ€™s article â€œrepresents a significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124-year history.â€
The president of the BSW, Roy W. McDiarmid, repeated the allegation to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which depicted the journal as one that â€œnormally publishes papers describing species of plants and animals.â€
The intimation, of course, is that the paper should have been sent to a journal with editors and reviewers who were better qualified to judge its merits. The Chronicle comments:
[O]pponents of intelligent design and creationism say that Mr. Meyer should have submitted his paper to one of the several journals that normally deal with the origin of animal forms.
"People who would be appropriate to review the paper would be evolutionary biologists, and I doubt that any evolutionary biologists reviewed the paper," said Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education.
However, the official description of the journal, found in each issue, is considerably broader than what the BSW has been telling the press. It declares that the journal "contains papers bearing on systematics in the biological sciences ( botany, zoology, and paleontology)."
And, indeed, Sternberg notes that the journal has regularly published articles that go beyond pure taxonomy. The kinds of studies published include:
â€œIn addition,â€ says Sternberg, â€œevolutionary scenarios are frequently presented at the end of basic systematic studies.â€ (A sample list of titles from the journal can be found here.)
According to Sternberg, â€œMeyer set forth a reasoned view about an issue of fundamental importance to systematics: the basis of taxa.â€
Sternberg explains: â€œDarwin set forth â€¦ common descent with random modification â€¦ as being the basis for the discipline of systematics (understanding the interrelationships of taxa). In other words, according to Darwin and most subsequent biologists, taxa at all taxonomic ranks (phyla, classes, orders, families, genera, species) can only be understood as historical accidents, the unplanned product of random variation and selection. Evolutionary theory, then, is the basis of modern systematics. Meyer argues that some kind of deep purpose (which he characterizes as â€˜intelligent designâ€™) underlies living systems; if he is right, the whole basis of systematics would be radically altered. Instead of being a historical record of â€˜successfulâ€™ (surviving) accidents, systematics becomes the study of the putative designer's plans and their interrelationships.â€
Thus, Meyerâ€™s paper was well within the scope of the journal.
And contrary to what Eugenie Scott claimed, it was also well-refereed. In addition to being an evolutionary biologist himself, Sternberg chose three referees, â€œall of whom are evolutionary and molecular biologists teaching at well-known institutions.â€ Although they all demanded significant revisions, which were made, they thought the article was worth publishing.
3. Sternberg didn't show the paper to the journal's board of associate editors.
In one of its Web reports, the NCSE charges, "According to the PBSW's instructions for contributors, 'Manuscripts are reviewed by a board of Associate Editors and appropriate referees.' It seems, therefore, that Meyer's paper was not published in accordance with the journal's established review procedure."
Again, sounds serious. But it misrepresents the way the process works.
"What the sentence means is that manuscripts are reviewed by some member of the group of associate editors," says Sternberg on his home page. "At no time in the past has the board as a whole (or even more than one associate editor) ever reviewed any paper, nor has that practice and policy changed as a result of the recent controversy."
The above letter to contributors backs him. What's more, associate editors have different areas of expertise and are not qualified to make decisions on every paper that comes down the line. So it wouldn't make sense to require all the associate editors to review a given piece.
4. Sternberg didn't show the paper to any of the associate editors.
Science magazine reported that the PBSWâ€™s current editor, ornithologist Richard Banks, â€œsays Sternberg deviated from the journal's practice of assigning every submission to an associate editor.â€
Sternberg counters that sometimes none of the associate editors has the expertise to handle a paper. At such times, he had the option of assigning an ad hoc associate editor or taking the article himself. Since he has two Ph.D.s in evolutionary biology, he took the article himself. This was entirely within the range of acceptable practice.
An e-mail message from McDiarmid backs him up. The e-mail describes a Council meeting in which the Council members discussed Sternbergâ€™s handling of Meyerâ€™s paper. McDiarmid wrote: â€œThe question came up as to why you didn't pass the ms on to an associate editor and several examples were mentioned of past editorial activities where a manuscript was dealt with directly by the editor and did not go to an associate editor and no one seemed to be bothered â€¦â€
Moreover, Sternberg didnâ€™t go solo: â€œIn order to avoid making a unilateral decision on a potentially controversial paper â€¦ I discussed the paper on at least three occasions with another member of the Council of the Biological Society of Washington (BSW), a scientist at the National Museum of Natural History. Each time, this colleague encouraged me to publish the paper despite possible controversy.â€
Even if he had failed to consult with the Council member, the fact remains that the article went through peer review. And the peer reviewers approved it. The president of the BSW acknowledged this, also.
As Sternberg recounts, â€œafter the controversy arose, Dr. Roy McDiarmid â€¦ reviewed the peer-review file and concluded that all was in order. As Dr. McDiarmid informed me in an email message on August 25th, 2004, â€˜Finally, I got the [peer] reviews and agree that they are in support of your decision [to publish the article].â€™â€
At every point in the process, then, Sternberg acted ethically and adhered to customary practice at the journal. Because of this, Meyerâ€™s piece is a bona fide peer-reviewed article.
And thatâ€™s the real problem.
ID opponents have invested heavily in portraying ID proponents as being unable to publish in peer-reviewed literature, which allegedly proves that ID is inherently bad science. Theyâ€™ve invested so heavily, and for so long, the actual publication of such an article 1) would inevitably be a big deal and 2) would naturally lead many people to conclude that ID is legitimate science.
The first has already happenedâ€”as witnessed by the fact that even Nature and Science have reported on it. The second is what ID opponents are doing their bestâ€”or worstâ€”to prevent. Hence, the smear tactics, which are aimed at stigmatizing Meyerâ€™s paper so that they can claim that it â€œdoesnâ€™t count.â€ They are also aimed at making an example of Sternberg, lest anyone consider publishing another pro-ID paper.
Whether they succeed in stigmatizing Meyerâ€™s paper and making an example of Sternberg, ID opponents know theyâ€™re in trouble. As the ID movement continues to grow, adding new talent to its ranks, there will certainly be more peer-reviewed ID publications. ID opponents understand this and are perhaps backing away from the peer-review gambit.
Biologist Kenneth Miller, listed on the NCSE Web site as one of their â€œsupporters,â€ told Nature that more such articles would undoubtedly appear. Nature reports:
Meyerâ€™s article has attracted a lengthy rebuttal on The Pandaâ€™s Thumb, a website devoted to evolutionary theory. But Miller says that, despite criticism of the journal, versions of the theory will find their way into the scientific literature at some point. Arguments for it can be written, he says, as reappraisals of certain aspects of evolution rather than outright rejection. â€œPeer review isnâ€™t a guarantee of accuracy,â€ he adds. â€œThat is especially true of review articles.â€
So despite the travail, real progress has been made here, and will continue to be made in the future. Thereâ€™s still a lot of work aheadâ€”not to mention suffering. But the ID movement is gaining ground.
Count on it.
 In fact, such publications already exist, including the book, Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA, published by Cambridge University Press. But I wonâ€™t list off any more because the authors and journals donâ€™t need the kind of treatment Sternberg has been receiving.
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Evolution has become a favorite topic of the news media recently, but for some reason, they never seem to get the story straight. The staff at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture started this Blog to set the record straight and make sure you knew "the rest of the story".
A blogger from New England offers his intelligent reasoning.
We are a group of individuals, coming from diverse backgrounds and not speaking for any organization, who have found common ground around teleological concepts, including intelligent design. We think these concepts have real potential to generate insights about our reality that are being drowned out by political advocacy from both sides. We hope this blog will provide a small voice that helps rectify this situation.
Website dedicated to comparing scenes from the "Inherit the Wind" movie with factual information from actual Scopes Trial. View 37 clips from the movie and decide for yourself if this movie is more fact or fiction.
Don Cicchetti blogs on: Culture, Music, Faith, Intelligent Design, Guitar, Audio
Australian biologist Stephen E. Jones maintains one of the best origins "quote" databases around. He is meticulous about accuracy and working from original sources.
Most guys going through midlife crisis buy a convertible. Austrialian Stephen E. Jones went back to college to get a biology degree and is now a proponent of ID and common ancestry.
Complete zipped downloadable pdf copy of David Stove's devastating, and yet hard-to-find, critique of neo-Darwinism entitled "Darwinian Fairytales"
Intelligent Design The Future is a multiple contributor weblog whose participants include the nation's leading design scientists and theorists: biochemist Michael Behe, mathematician William Dembski, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, philosophers of science Stephen Meyer, and Jay Richards, philosopher of biology Paul Nelson, molecular biologist Jonathan Wells, and science writer Jonathan Witt. Posts will focus primarily on the intellectual issues at stake in the debate over intelligent design, rather than its implications for education or public policy.
A Philosopher's Journey: Political and cultural reflections of John Mark N. Reynolds. Dr. Reynolds is Director of the Torrey Honors Institute at