A Question of Power

Last fall, I commented on the uproar over an article on intelligent design that was published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Since then, the uproar has only escalated. Dr. Richard Sternberg, the editor who accepted and published Stephen Meyer's article, has now filed a discrimination complaint. As an employee of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Sternberg spends a lot of time as a research associate for the Smithsonian. But he's probably the only research associate there whose access to the research collections he needs is limited, and who was asked to give up his office space -- at least, that's what Sternberg charged in his official complaint to the Office of Special Counsel. Dr. Jonathan Coddington, Sternberg's supervisor at the Smithsonian, is denying that any of this took place. The Office of Special Counsel hasn't yet made a determination in the case. But it is taking Sternberg's complaint seriously enough to investigate. And as Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, observes, it's hard to believe Sternberg would make all these things up. It's not as if making groundless accusations could benefit his career with the government or his standing in the scientific community. At this point, no one can state for certain what the actual facts of the case are -- nobody, that is, except those who are directly involved. What I can say is that the kind of ostracism Sternberg describes in his complaint is an all too common experience for intelligent design theorists. Ironically, Sternberg -- a biologist who describes himself as a Catholic "believer with a lot of questions" -- doesn't even consider himself an advocate of intelligent design. But all that he had to do to incur the wrath of his superiors was to work with them and to publish Meyer's writing. What exactly happened at the Smithsonian may still be in dispute, but it's no secret that many scientists condemned the article before they'd even read it -- even though it went through the standard peer-review process before publication. It's also a matter of public record that the Biological Society of Washington, publishers of the journal in which the article appeared, declared that no further articles on the subject would be allowed to appear in the journal. And remember, it took years before the intelligent design movement -- which boasts some highly gifted scientists -- was able to publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal at all. Isn't it nice to know that we have so much scientific freedom of inquiry in this country, and that so many of our scientists keep such open minds? All the Darwinists' grandstanding on this subject merely shows how desperate many of them are getting. Some Darwinists are afraid that if they let intelligent design theory become part of the debate, they will end up on the losing side of history. Just like the recent flap over Harvard President Larry Summers's comments on gender, this isn't a question of what's true or false; it's a question of power. And if Darwinists have to abuse their power like this in order to keep it, it makes you wonder just how much confidence they have in their own theories.


Chuck Colson


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