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Friday, August 19, 2005

How not to write a news story

WaPo today has a curious story on intelligent design controversy at the SI

to cut a long story short: the editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington decided to publish a paper in intelligent design by Meyer. He is a Smithsonian RA, but paid by the NIH (huh?). The SI science staff objected. The editor was "basically run out of there". A special counsel investigated and slammed the SI and NCSE

So... first of all, I still don't know what was actually done to this editor/RA as a "retaliation", except people seem to have said mean things about him and cold shoulder him at work. It would help if the article said upfront what was done. Sternberg was let go as editor, but BSW is independent and the position was unpaid.

Sternberg is a PhD PhD. This is flagged in the article as a big deal; to me it flags as "WTF is with that?". Why waste time on a second PhD, much less so in the same field. here is Sternberg's CV.
This does not elucidate the matter much.

The article alludes to the special counsel report being a political hit by a political appointee - which is plausible given the subject and target; but it is presented anecdotally with no further evidence.

Sternberg is linked to Baraminology - which is nutso even by creationist standards.

So the upshot is that there is controversy, the SI is in political shit again, and the issue seems rather trivial but indicative of just what kind of idiocy science is facing. Not that you'd get much of that from the article.

WaPo reporters need to learn to use the web - here's the essentials at Panda's Thumb - 6 months ago

2 Comments:

Anonymous John said...

Sounds like the editor is into bioinformatics, which would explain the second PhD. He probably started as a postdoc and did enough work in informatics that he or his advisor decided he could do another thesis. Informatics is a hot topic in Biology, and probably exposed him to all kinds of irreducible complexity arguments or something.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Steinn said...

Yeah, could be.
The puzzle is matriculation - if he was a postdoc, how did he matriculate and satisfy candidacy. It is one thing to register for classes while doing research, it is quite another to jump through the loops for a doctoral candidacy. As a matter of pragmatism, I'd also worry about staff vs student status - most universities try to keep the distinction for benefit reasons.

But a info sci PhD on top of a lab base bio PhD sort of makes sense.
Still think it is gilding the lily.

2:29 PM  

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