Thursday, March 09, 2006


South Carolina: Sternberg's Tortured Testimony

Richard von Sternberg was one of the two intelligent design "experts" shipped into South Carolina by the Discovery Institute to testify on behalf of "critical analysis" before the Education Oversight Committee.

Now, the Discovery Institute has published Sternberg's testimony. Before we get to that testimony, however, a little history is in order.

In 2001, Sternberg joined the editorial board of the Baraminology study group, a group of young earth creationists who want to identify and classify the created kinds mentioned in Genesis 1:12-24:
And God said, let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind … And God created great whales and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind … And God said, let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind, and it was so.

Although Sternberg maintains he's an outside critic who remains skeptical of young earth creationist beliefs, he is also a fellow of the intelligent design creationist organisation, the International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design.

Sternberg's morbid fascination with subjects such as creation science and intelligent design extended to publishing a review article by a leading intelligent design advocate, Stephen Meyer, in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a journal that normally publishes descriptions of newly-identified species, without bothering to mention it to his colleagues on the editorial board.

Naturally, the publication of Meyer's article caused a storm of controversy among the members of the Biological Society of Washington -- who quite naturally felt Sternberg abused the trust they'd placed in him -- and in the next issue, Meyer's article was withdrawn.

In his South Carolina testimony, Sternberg, like so many bible thumpers these days, continues his tortured relationship with simple, unadorned truth by saying, "... in no way am I advocating any religious or philosophical view. Nor will I be mentioning anything even remotely close to Intelligent Design."

Sternber then proceeds to do just exactly what he promised he wouldn't, telling the committee:
"... Carl Woese, one of the fathers of molecular phylogenetics, thinks the data support multiple, independent origins of organisms—that the notion of a Universal Common Ancestor is erroneous."

This highly misleading testimony is not so intelligently designed to challenge common descent while leaving the door open to the creationist and intelligent design notion, presented in the ID textbook Of Pandas and People that:
“Creation/Intelligent design [take your pick, RSR] means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact: Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, et cetera.”

Sternberg's testimony was consciously designed to mislead the committee about what Woese really believes about the universal common ancestor and its meaning for evolutionary theory. Like other creationists and intelligent design theorists, Sternberg unwillingness to deal honestly with the evidence exhibits an unsavory contempt for the members of the committee, teachers, scientists -- even his own supporters. He believes none of his listeners will not bother to find the truth for themselves.

Fortunately, the truth is easy to find.

There is an extensive correspondence on Pandas Thumb about Woese and his real views:
“To say that my criticism of Darwinists says that evolutionists have no clothes,” Woese says, “is like saying that Einstein is criticizing Newton, therefore Newtonian physics is wrong.” Debates about evolution’s mechanisms, he continues, don’t amount to challenges to the theory. And intelligent design “is not science. It makes no predictions and doesn’t offer any explanation whatsoever, except for? God did it.’"
There are many more distortions in Sternberg's dishonest testimony. They are all of the same quality.


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