One of the things I love most about living in the DC area is the proximity to the many museums, libraries, conferences, memorials and schools. The free flow of ideas is part of what makes this nation so wonderful and vibrant, yet solemn and reverent as well.
People here, for the most part, share a love for learning along with a general respect for the history of this great country.
This is why I was so shocked to see an article this morning outlining the egregious means some of the leaders of the very learning institutions I so admire, have gone to in order to stifle a certain area in this exchange of ideas.
The article states that some of the top "senior scientists at the Smithsonian Institution" have circulated emails throughout the Smithsonian Institution and to outside sources that are filled with false and defamatory claims against a fellow scientist in order to discredit him. The misinformation runs the gamut from claims that he had accepted bribes, was a sleeper cell spy, even that he wasn't even a scientist at all. The effect of all this malicious character assasination was the "running off" of this previously highly praised scholar.
Why? What had he done to be driven by this torch carrying mob from the halls of learning?
He dared to question something that in their minds was "thoroughly understood."
(Case closed. No more discussion. Any further inquiry into this area will be met with extreme retribution and ostracism. Everything that can be discovered has already been discovered. We might as well shut down the labs and universities and turn them all into museums for what we already know.)
This editor, who holds two PHD's in the questioned area, who draws high praise from his former professors, and was awarded a highly-prized and coveted research associate appointment at the Smithsonian Institution in 2000, has now been ostracized from the same community that had so warmly embraced him.
Apparently, he touched on a very raw nerve for the scientific community to go to such underhanded efforts to discredit him. An independent agency came to the conclusion that he was, in fact, smeared as retaliation.
What could cause such an unethical reaction from those who claim to constantly be searching for truth:
This scientist, Dr. Richard Sternberg, published an article written by a Cambridge University educated philosopher of science in a journal he had been asked by the Smithsonian to edit. Before allowing it to print, he sent the article to three separate scientists for peer review. The consensus among the peer reviewers was that the article should be printed in order to air the views within it and open up the topic for discussion.
The article in question, written by Stephen C. Meyer, argued that "evoluionary theory cannot account for the vast profusion of multicellular species and forms in what is known as the Cambrian "explosion", which occurred about 530 million years ago. (new paragraph) Scientists still puzzle at this great proliferation of life. But Meyer's paper went several long steps further, arguing that an intelligent agent -- God, according to many who espouse intelligent design-- was the best explanation for the rapid appearance of higher life forms." (taken from the Washington Post Article I read this morning.)
But what was the effect of the printing of this article on the Smithsonian leadership? One of the senior scientists in an email stated that Sternberg
"..has made us the laughing stock of the world, even if this kind of rubbish sells well in backwoods USA."
Well, I guess I am from backwoods USA. But I am also an American citizen and I live here in DC-- I frequent the Smithsonian's museums. Why is my opinion one that should be held up as "laughing stock" material? Sure, I'm not a scientist. But, when someone who has spent his entire career as an evolutionary biologist thinks the idea should still be open for discussion, why is it seen as an embarassment that needs to be placed into cement shoes and dumped into the Potomac?
The article closes with what I think is an amazing quote by Dr. Sternberg:
"I loathe careerism and the herd mentality. I really think that objective truth can be discovered and that popular opinion and consensus thinking does more to obscure than to reveal."