Richard Sternberg Evolutionary Biologist
Smithsonian Controversy

Response to The Scientist

Response to Questions from The Scientist

From: Richard Sternberg
To: Trevor Stokes
Date: Wednesday – September 1, 2004 10:10 PM
Subject: Re: Interest in commentary.

Dear Dr. Stokes,

With regard to your story on the article by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, I’m happy to answer a few questions.

First, Dr. Meyer’s article was submitted to the PBSW in the normal way and was then passed along to three scientists for review. All three reviewers hold faculty positions in biological disciplines at prominent universities and research institutions, one at an Ivy League university, one at a major U.S. public university, and another at a major overseas research institute. There was substantial feedback from reviewers to the author, resulting in significant changes to the paper. The reviewers did not necessarily agree with Dr. Meyer’s arguments but all found the paper meritorious, warranting publication. The reviewers disagreed on specific details but all agreed that the issues raised by Meyer were worthy of scientific debate.

Furthermore, while I too disagreed with several important aspects of the paper, I concurred in the view that it was worthy of publication and debate. Since the time of the publication of the paper, several members of the Biological Society of Washington have told me that they found the paper “stimulating” and “informative,” that it brings to the fore complex and important issues that most biologists want to avoid.

Second, I’m surprised at some of the outrageous rumors that seem to be swirling around the publication of this paper. In addition to baseless questions about the peer review process, the rumors have labeled me a “creationist.” As a matter of fact, I am a structuralist who has given several papers and presentations critiquing creationism. Dr. Meyer has also been accused of being a “creationist,” which judging from the paper is a highly inaccurate description of his views. It’s fascinating how the “creationist” label is falsely applied to anyone who raises any questions about neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory.

I’m a scientist, not a politician. I have a PhD in evolutionary biology and another PhD in theoretical biology, and have published more than 30 papers in peer-reviewed scientific publications (my vita is available on request). I have always followed the principle that scientists should be open to pursue all scientific questions and not be shackled by convention and authority. The reaction to the paper by some extremists suggests that the thought police are alive and well in the scientific community.

Rick Sternberg