News Articles

CULTURE DIGEST: Special Counsel finds Smithsonian is wrong over ID paper; ‘Silver Ring Thing’ defunded

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Following an extensive investigation, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel has concluded that senior scientists at the Smithsonian Institution created a “hostile work environment” in order to force the resignation of one of its own who published a paper supportive of the Intelligent Design theory.

Richard Sternberg, who holds two PhDs in evolutionary biology, filed a complaint with the Special Counsel last year saying he was subjected to discrimination on the basis of perceived religious beliefs and prompted to resign his post as editor of the “Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington” after he included a controversial peer-reviewed paper.

The paper, by Stephen Meyer, a fellow at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, was titled “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories” and laid out the evidential case for Intelligent Design by citing mainstream scientists from schools like the University of Chicago, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford.

Scientists at the National Museum of Natural History, who are staunch evolutionists, retaliated against Sternberg by investigating his religion and smearing him as a “creationist,” according to a report by The Washington Post Aug. 19.

“The rumor mill became so infected,” James McVay, principal legal adviser in the Office of Special Counsel, wrote in a letter to Sternberg obtained by The Post, “that one of your colleagues had to circulate [your resume] simply to dispel the rumor that you were not a scientist.”

One example of the Smithsonian’s hostility toward any theory that questions evolution is an excerpt from an e-mail sent by a senior scientist, according to The Post: “We are evolutionary biologists and I am sorry to see us made into the laughing stock of the world, even if this kind of rubbish sells well in backwoods USA.”

The Smithsonian investigated Sternberg’s religious and political affiliations, looking for evidence that he was “a sleeper cell operative for the creationists,” as Sternberg put it.

But Sternberg, who is Catholic but does not consider himself devout and insists he does not believe in creationism, told The Post he included the Intelligent Design article because he wanted to “stir the scientific pot” since “science only moves forward on controversy.”

“I loathe careerism and the herd mentality,” he said. “I really think that objective truth can be discovered and that popular opinion and consensus thinking does more to obscure than to reveal.”

Bruce Chapman, president of the Discovery Institute, lamented the fact that Sternberg’s persecution is not unique in the scientific community today.

“These self-appointed defenders of the theory of evolution are waging a malicious campaign to demonize and blacklist anyone who disagrees with them,” he said. “Unfortunately, Dr. Sternberg is not alone. There are a number of scientists under similar attack across the country.”

“Free speech and academic freedom are cherished principles in America,” he added. “They are too important to be sacrificed to the intolerant demands of extremists on any issue.”

NEWSWEEK EXPLORES SPIRITUALITY IN AMERICA — The current issue of Newsweek magazine features a cover story titled “In Search of the Spiritual,” an extensive look at the growing popularity of being “spiritual” rather than “religious” in America today.

Writer Jerry Adler pegged his story on a 1966 issue of Time magazine which posed the question, “Is God Dead?” Adler concluded that instead of seeing God overtaken by technological advances that drown out His existence, America in the past generation has seen “a cycle of renewal that has played itself out many times since the Temple of Solomon … a passion for an immediate, transcendent experience of God. And a uniquely American acceptance of the amazingly diverse paths people have taken to find it.”

Adler wrote, “Whatever is going on here, it’s not an explosion of people going to church,” adding that a Newsweek poll found 45 percent of Americans said they attend worship services weekly, essentially the same number (44 percent) reported by Time in 1966.

The fastest growing category on surveys that ask people to give their religious affiliation is “none,” he said, “but ‘spirituality,’ the impulse to seek communion with the Divine, is thriving.” Among those Americans younger than 60, 79 percent claim to be “spiritual” while 64 percent label themselves “religious,” the poll found. And Americans are seeking many avenues, from Buddhism to Islam to Wicca and animism, to get in touch with a higher power.

“Along with diversity has come a degree of inclusiveness that would have scandalized an earlier generation,” Adler wrote. He said eight in 10 Americans, including 68 percent of evangelicals, believe that more than one faith can be a path to salvation.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., in his commentary on albertmohler.com Aug. 23, expressed disappointment that Americans “see spirituality as a means of self-development and as an avenue for expanding the consciousness. They want to get in touch with the universe and with their inner selves, but are not particularly concerned to know what the Creator would demand of them.”

“… All this serves to remind evangelicals that our missiological task is more complex than ever before,” Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote. “Our commission remains the same — to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In order to do that faithfully, we have to run against the grain of the contemporary bent toward ‘spirituality.’ After all, Jesus did not set His Gospel alongside other truth claims as one spirituality among others. Instead, He described Himself as the way, the truth and the life, and insisted that no man comes to the Father ‘except by Me.’ [John 14:6]

“For Christians, Newsweek’s cover story should motivate us to greater faithfulness in Gospel witness — knowing that most of the people we will meet consider themselves ‘spiritual.’ Spiritual, but lost,” he concluded.

‘SILVER RING THING’ DEFUNDED –A lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union has resulted in the Bush administration suspending a federal grant for the Silver Ring Thing, one of the nation’s more popular sexual abstinence programs, because it appears that organizers are using tax money for religious activities, The Washington Post reported Aug. 23.

A letter to the program’s director said the project funded with federal dollars “includes both secular and religious components that are not adequately safeguarded,” and the Department of Health and Human Services ordered the Silver Ring Thing to submit a “corrective action plan” in order to have its expected $75,000 grant reinstated this year.

Teenagers who participate in the program sign a covenant “before God Almighty” to remain virgins until marriage, and they are given a silver ring inscribed with the 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, which says, “God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor.”

Three months ago, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against HHS, claiming the government agency was using federal funds to advance Christianity through the program, The Post said, with activities, brochures and a website that are “permeated with religion” and use “taxpayer dollars to promote religious content, instruction and indoctrination.”

The Silver Ring Thing contends it is a faith-based nonprofit group that allows kids to choose a secular or religious route when participating in the program.

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry