Saturday, February 12, 2005

Kristof on The God Gene

Also in today's Times is is this column from Nicholas Kristof. He discusses Dean Hamer's book The God Gene. It's pretty familiar stuff, but one paragraph caught my eye:


Of course, none of that answers the question whether God exists. The faithful can believe that God wired us to appreciate divinity. And atheists can argue that God may simply be a figment of our VMAT2 gene.


Now, I have no opinion on whether Hamer is right about a proclivity for religious belief having a genetic component. The idea currently resides somewhere between “not ridiculous” and “not proved” in my opinion.

But if Hamer is correct then it would be hard for religious people to argue that such a gene is simply God's way of making us appreciate divinity. Presumably some people would have, and others would lack, such a gene. Would we conclude that God arranged things so that people lacking the gene would find it difficult to appreciate divinity?

The discovery of such a gene would be harmful to religion in another way. One of the main reasons evolution is viewed as a threat to religion is that it robs the argument from design of most of its force. Confirmation of Hamer's hypothesis would rob religion of another of its key arguments: that the widespread belief in the supernatural reflects the reality of something beyond nature. If that widespread belief could be attributed to genetics, then this argument would have no impact.

Whatever. A question of more immediate import is how the people who defended Larry Summers will respond to this column. Do you think they will praise Kristof's courage for raising a potentially disturbing hypothesis in a public forum? Don't hold your breath.

Alberts on Behe

Today's New York Times contains another letter in respone to Michael Behe's asinine pro-ID op-ed from Monday's Times. It's author is Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences. We reproduce it in its entirety:


In “Design for Living” (Op-Ed, Feb. 7), Michael J. Behe quoted me, recalling how I discovered that “the chemistry that makes life possible is much more elaborate and sophisticated than anything we students had ever considered” some 40 years ago. Dr. Behe then paraphrases my 1998 remarks that “the entire cell can be viewed as a factory with an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines.”

That I was unaware of the complexity of living things as a student should not be surprising. In fact, the majestic chemistry of life should be astounding to everyone. But these facts should not be misrepresented as support for the idea that life's molecular complexity is a result of “intelligent design.” To the contrary, modern scientific views of the molecular organization of life are entirely consistent with spontaneous variation and natural selection driving a powerful evolutionary process.

In evolution, as in all areas of science, our knowledge is incomplete. But the entire success of the scientific enterprise has depended on an insistence that these gaps be filled by natural explanations, logically derived from confirmable evidence. Because “intelligent design” theories are based on supernatural explanations, they can have nothing to do with science.

Bruce Alberts
President
National Academy of Sciences


I'm glad someone finally got around to stating the obvious: that there is nothing in the complexity of biochemical systems to challenge the validity of evolution.

Incidentally, descriptions of biochemical systems as astoundingly complex have always bugged me a little. They remind me a bit of the phrase “quantum weirdness,” which is sometimes used to describe the odd and counterintuitve behavior of various atomic and subatomic particles. Of course, the particles involved don't think they're being weird. They're just doing whatever it is that they do. It seems weird to us only because such particles seem to behave in ways that are very different from what everyday experience teaches us to expect.

So too with biochemical complexity. More complex than we might have expected? Sure. Surprisingly complex? Perhaps. But complex in some absolute sense? Nah. Actually, these systems are so simple that a clumsy, inefficient, lumbering process like natural selection was able to craft them in a few hundred million years. They only seem complex because the practical difficulties involved in figuring out how they work are considerable.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Etzioni

Blogger Amitai Etzioni has weighed in with this delusional blog entry on the subject of evolution and ID. He is responding to a commenter to a previous blog entry of his:


According to the above comments, facts are based on “careful, controlled experiments.” But no fact about evolution is the result of an experiment. Need I say more?

The writer immediately retreats to rely on what the “vast majority of scientists” tell him. But evidence, as his previous line correctly points out, is not a democratic process. And by the way, the scientists that claim that they conducted experiments to prove their point? They didn’t.


This statement is preposterous even if Etzioni thinks that the term “experiment” must refer to a contrived situation in a laboratory. Spend five minutes browsing through the science periodicals in any university library and you will see how full of it Etzioni really is. His casual accusation of fraud against the entire scientific community really ought to be enough to have him dismissed from all serious consideration.

Etzioni prattles on a little longer, but P.Z. Myers has already undertaken the thankless task of responding.

But Etzioni was unimpressed with that blog entry. So he posted this amazing reply to Myers. We reproduce it here in its entirety:


I asked why not use the comparison between evolution and intelligent design, in science classes, to show students the difference between a theory supported by scientific facts and those that are not? When I was a student, granted a long time ago, we were told that there were those who BELIEVED in flat earth theory (which was promoted by the Church), and then we were asked to view ships coming in over the horizon. It was noted that if the earth was flat, the ships would look small but all of their parts would show. However, given the earth's curve, we first see the smokestacks, then the upper deck, and so on. Other observable data were provided. We thus learned not only that the earth was round but also that some theories, promoted by true believers, are without scientific merit. Why not accept the challenge in this case?

In responses on your blog, I was showered with abuse. I was called names and “damned,” and all kinds of ugly attributes were attached to my personality. Why? Is this a way to settle a scientific argument or any argument at all? I have encountered such responses before (especially when I called for the removal of guns from private hands), but only from people who did not have any other way of trying to get people like me to shut up and not to show that their emperor has no clothes. I believe evolution can do better. Right?


Like most ID-proponents, Etzioni immediately assumes the martyr pose as soon as he gets called on his ignorant and false statements.

Of course, the post Myers was responding to said nothing about comparing evolution to ID, so that students could see the difference between a theory supported by facts and one that is not. Myers was responding to a post that accused the entire scientific community of fraud, which made a blatantly false statement abut the evidential basis of evolution, and which went on to make other silly statements beyond that. Etzioni deserved every ounce of abuse Myers heaped upon him.

Media Bashing

Here's a lovely little news brief from U.S. News and World Report:


While Fox News Channel remains the favorite network of Republican lawmakers, NBC's new anchor, Brian Williams, is the one turning GOP heads. Message guru and former MSNBC contributor Frank Luntz says in a confidential memo to Hill leaders that Williams has emerged as the “go-to network anchor” because of his brains and “lack of detectable ideological bias.” Luntz credits NBC Executive Producer Steve Capus for “a flawless transition to a new generation of news anchor.” Still, Fox and CNN lead the nets when it comes to GOP loyalty.


In Republican-ese, “lack of detectable ideological bias” means “hard right-winger.” As noted by Salon, Williams has recently publicly expressed his admiration of Rush Limbuagh, and slanted coverage of Social Security to be favorable to Bush.

Meanwhile, also at Salon, we have this charming item about pseudojournalist Jeff Gannon:


When President Bush bypassed dozens of eager reporters from nationally and internationally recognized news outlets and selected Jeff Gannon to pose a question at his Jan. 26 news conference, Bush's recognition bestowed instant credibility on the apparently novice reporter, as well as the little-known conservative organization he worked for at the time, called Talon News. That attention only intensified when Gannon used his nationally televised press conference time to ask Bush a loaded, partisan question -- featuring a manufactured quote that mocked Democrats for being “divorced from reality.”

Gannon's star turn quickly piqued the interest of many online commentators, who wondered how an obvious Republican operative had been granted access to daily White House press briefings normally reserved for accredited journalists. Two weeks later, a swarming investigation inside the blogosphere into Gannon and Talon News had produced all sorts of damning revelations about how Talon is connected at the hip to a right-wing activist organization called GOPUSA, how its “news” staff consists largely of volunteer Republican activists with no journalism experience, how Gannon often simply rewrote GOP press releases when filing his Talon dispatches. It also uncovered embarrassing information about Gannon's past as well as his fake identity. When Gannon himself this week confirmed to the Washington Post that his name was a pseudonym, it only added to the sense of a bizarre hoax waiting to be exposed.


And this comes on the heels of the revelations that the Bush administration was paying columnists Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher to shill for them in their writing.

Yet, despite this, you can find the cable chat shows debating, almost every night, whether there's a liberal bias in the media. The fact that such political biases as exist in the media are overwhelmingly right-wing is neither here nor there.

Cable news is plainly rihgt-wing. The prime-time line-up at Fox News is: O'Reilly at eight (right-wing), Hannity and Colmes at nine (which should really be called the Sean Hannity show, since Colmes is an ineffective jellyfish), and Greta Van Susteren (who mostly deals with legal issues).

On MSNBC we have Chris Matthews at seven (right-wing, but not as bad as O'Reilly), Keith Olberman at eight (the only anchor who could plausibly be called left-leaning), Pat Buchanan at nine (right wing), and Joe Scarborough at ten (right wing),

On CNN we have Paula Zahn at eight (right wing, though mostly she just parrots whatever the day's script is), Larry King at nine (non-political, though he does give an inordinate amout of time to religious fundamentalists and phony psychics), and Aaron Brown (who's far too boring and arrogant to actually watch). CNN is also home to Lou Dobbs, who's right-wing bias is legendary.

Now we find out that NBC news is in the hands of somebody the Republicans perceive as friendly (for good reason). And we see that the Bush administration feels no shame in using plants during press conferences, or paying off columnists to do their bidding. Meanwhile, Peter Jennings on ABC is no one's idea of a liberal. And you can be sure that CBS will be leaning rightward for the forseeable future, after having been bitten by the “Rathergate” scandal.

To continue to prop up their patently ludicrous charge of left-wing bias, conservatives reflexively point to The New York Times. Considering that it was the Times who kept alive the Whitewater scandal for eight years, that their coverage of the build-up to the war was cartoonishly slanted in Bush's favor, and considering that they are perfectly happy to give over a big chunk of their op-ed page to a lot of pro-ID lies, that charge rings rather hollow.

The same goes for The Washington Post, incidentally. For every article you can point to in these papers that can be described as left-leaning, you can point to plenty of others that are right-leaning.

Occasionally conservatives point to television personalities like Tim Russert or George Stephanopoulos, both of whom have had ties to the Democratic party in the past. But as anyone who actually watches these shows will tell you, both (especially Russert) are far harder on their Democratic guests than their Republican guests. And Stephanopoulos is blanced by the odious George Will.

NPR? Please. Most of their line-up is non-political.

Even pundits who are nominally left-wing are routinely unfair or dishonest in their coverage of the Democrats. For example, Time's Joe Klein often plays the liberal on television. As reported by Columbia Journalism Review, here's an excerpt from a recent essay of his, reporting on the State of the Union:


Finally, there was the boorish and possibly unprecedented hooting of the President by Democrats during the [State of the Union] speech.

"No! No! No!" they shouted, inaccurately, when Bush asserted that the Social Security trust fund would, in a decade or so, start paying out more money than it takes in. If nothing is done, it surely will.


CJR goes on to point out:


Beyond the fact that such “hooting” was far from unprecedented, Klein's short-term memory must be playing tricks on him. Democrats did not start crying out “No! No! No!” when the president asserted that the trust fund would soon start paying out more money than it takes in. Rather, the Democrats accurately started calling out “No! No! No!” when the president inaccurately asserted that “By the year 2042, the entire system would be exhausted and bankrupt.” You can hear for yourself on the White House video of the address (Real Media or Windows Media) -- the moment in question is about 15 minutes into the speech.


See the original post for the links.

Another example is CNN pundit Margaret Carlson. She's supposedly a liberal, but have a look at her last three columns for the Los Angeles Times:

Today's column is a silly puff-piece comparing Washington to Hollywood. Last week came this silly puff-piece about Hillary Clinton's political skills. It's a column filled with backhanded compliments. Two weeks ago she got off to a good start by praising Barbara Boxer for her tough questioning of Condoleeza Rice, but then goes on to describe the entirely conventional point that aggressive women are treated differently from aggressive men.

Right-wing columnists find some left wing bogey to hammer, even if they have to concoct it out of whole cloth. Left-wing columnists sit on the sidelines and look bemused.

So there's no question that the mainstream media is overwhelmingly right-wing. The reason it is that way, to borrow a line from James Carville that I have quoted before, is that people now use the media “the way a drunk uses a lamppost. For support, not illumination.” The simple and sad fact is that too many people just don't care about learning the truth about anything.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Creationism and Holocaust Denial

From Salon:


Let's imagine that there was a writer who took as his subject World War II. And let's suppose that because of his ability to amass and cite journals, transcripts, paperwork and all manner of documents, he gained a reputation as a meticulous researcher. Now let's say that the conclusion the writer drew from all of his research was an unshakable conviction that World War II never happened. It was, he insists, a massive fraud, and he declares under oath, “No documents whatever show that World War II had ever happened.”

Now let's allow things to get curiouser and curiouser.

Despite this writer's farcical conclusion, historians of World War II, men who have spent their professional lives studying and documenting the war, still insist on the soundness of his research. It is possible, they say, to draw faulty conclusions from solid fact-finding. They do not bother themselves with the obvious question of how good the quality of any research can be if it can be used to support what is patently false. One historian says he and his colleagues should be able to admit the view of those with whom they may not be “intellectually akin.”

When journalists began writing about the work of this WWII debunker, they refer to it as an alternate interpretation or a controversial point of view. One suggests that the writer has opened a useful dialogue around the question “Who decides what 'happened' in the first place?”

Eventually, a historian, aware of the esteem in which some of his colleagues hold this writer, agrees to put the writer's famed research to an intensive examination. What he finds is a consistent pattern of deliberate misquotation, misinterpretation and outright lies designed to support the writer's conclusions. Anything that hasn't supported those conclusions has been either discarded or altered. This historian concludes that “deceptions ... had remained an integral part of his working methods across the decades.” Even this does not deter other historians from continuing to profess admiration for the WWII debunker. One even writes that the debunker possesses “an all consuming knowledge of a vast body of material.” And another, apparently unaware of how he is defaming his profession, announces that no one “could have withstood [the] kind of scrutiny” that the historian had subjected the debunker to.


If not for the title of this entry, wouldn't you think the author was talking about creationism here?

In reality this is from the beginning of a review of the book History on Trial, by Deborah Lipstadt, about the author's experiences in taking on famed holocaust denier David Irving.

Creationists hate the comparison to holocaust denial, partly for good reason. I think creationists are guilty of many things, but systemic anti-semitism is not one of them.

But the broader point is spot on. Cranks all read from the same playbook. They rely both on the ignorance of the public, coupled with the public's innate sense of fairness, to win sympathy from non-experts. If they are sufficiently well-financed, they eventually atract the attention of media outlets. The media is burdened by a misplaced sense of objectivity, coupled with substantial ignorance of their own in covering the issue. The cranks only need a handful of bona fide experts to say something not overtly negative about their ideas to give them enough credibility to be taken seriously.

And that is exactly, exactly, what proponents of creationism and ID do as well. The reason creationism is so much more dangeorus than holocaust denial is that the former, in one form or another, already has widespread popularity. Holocaust denial, so far, does not.

Like holocaust deniers, creationists of all sorts can only make their case by distorting the work of real scholars, dealing dishonestly with the public, and manipulating the weaknesses of the media. Where they can not make their case effectively is in front of audiences of experts, or in courtrooms. Those are venues in which substance actually matters.

I recommend reading the whole article (you may have to watch an ad), but I will close with one further quote:


For this, Irving brought a libel suit against Lipstadt and her British publishers, Viking Penguin, in British courts, a suit Irving offered to settle for 500 pounds and a promise not to reprint Lipstadt's book. Lipstadt and Viking Penguin declined, even though facing off against Irving in London meant operating under the asinine British libel laws in which the burden of proof is placed on the accused. After a four-month trial adjudicated not by a jury but by Judge Charles Gray (both parties decided the material was too complex for a jury to digest), Gray handed down a decision that, to anyone sentient and breathing, ended the myth of David Irving as a historian. In his judgment, Gray not only said that Irving was an “antisemite” and a “racist” but that his “falsification of the record was deliberate and ... motivated by a desire to present events in a manner consistent with his own ideological beliefs even if that involved distortion and manipulation of historical evidence.”


In any venue where substance matters, cranks lose. It's just too bad that substance seems to be in ill repute these days.

Letters

Today's New York Times has eight letters to the editor replying to Michael Behe's op-ed from Monday. The letters vary quite a bit in terms of quality, but none really gets at the heart of the matter.

Before looking at specifics, this may be a good time to remind people that letters to the editor are frequently edited substantially before publication. So it is possible that the blame for the low quality of the letters is attributable to the editor, and not to the letter writers themselves.

Anyway, here's the best of the bunch:


Michael J. Behe demonstrates why the so-called theory of intelligent design should stay out of our science classrooms. His claims of physical evidence are spurious. We see clocks and outboard motors in cells not because they are clocks and motors, but because we have no better analogy.

A century ago, the astronomer Percival Lowell described water-filled canals on Mars for the same reason. When confronted with the unknown, we first perceive it in terms of the known. Perception, however, does not make it so.

Science alone cannot sustain our society; philosophical speculation like Dr. Behe's is vital to our understanding, too. But trying to pass one off as the other serves only to undermine them both.

Jon Sanders
Monterey, Calif., Feb. 7, 2005


Of course, I don't agree that Behe's speculations provides anything that can be construed as “understanding.” But I love the point about analogies.

Here's another good one:


I must have missed the concept of “if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it's a duck” in my studies of the scientific method.

Yes, scientists describe their observations, but this is not the scientific method. Employing experiments aimed at discovering the “compelling evidence to the contrary” is.

That is the trouble with the design - intelligent or otherwise - theory. Description is not enough in science. That is for religion.

Melissa Henriksen
New York, Feb. 7, 2005
The writer is a research assistant professor, Laboratory of Molecular Cell Biology, Rockefeller University.


Sadly, several of the writers followed this approach:


The basic principle of intelligent design is that life is just too complicated to occur by chance, and thus there must be some intelligent entity guiding the process.

A much more likely explanation is that our inability to comprehend these phenomena that appear “designed” merely reflects our own limitations as a species. We only recently discovered fire and the wheel and remain a basically savage society. Why not recognize our own limited capacity to understand complexity?

Our perception of complexity derives from our sense of scale in daily events. Is it any surprise that from this perspective, the evolution of life is beyond our grasp to comprehend? Intelligent design, like other creation myths, is just another way for us to make sense of our world.

A simpler alternative is to embrace our limited ability to comprehend and move on from there.

Richard W. Grant, M.D.
Boston, Feb. 7, 2005


A rather more obnoxious version of the same thought was this brief missive:


It is time for both dogmatic evolutionists and adamant religionists to show some humility in the face of the grand mysteries of the universe.

Jay Winer
Brooklyn, Feb. 7, 2005


The view expressed by Mr. Winer, and to a lesser extent Dr. Grant, is often considered very clever and sensible. Only crazy extremists would actually take a stand on this issue. More reasonable people see the big picture and are properly awed by it.

I'm all in favor of showing humility in the face of grand mysteries, it's just that the evolution of life is not one of those mysteries. Evolution is a modest theory about the development of life once it appeared, not a grand theory of everything.

The fact is that we are perfectly capable of understanding the major processes of evolution, Dr. Grant's ruminations notwithstanding. You can find the basic facts in any textbook on the subject.

But the real reason I found the letters dissatisfying was that no one got around to making the obvious point: Behe is wrong when he claims that complex molecular machines pose a fundamental challenge to evolution as we know it. He is wrong to claim that there are no plausible scenarios for describing how specific biochemical systems came to be. He is wrong when he suggests that we can infer design in biological systems by the same process we use to infer that Mt. Rushmore was designed. Behe's arguments should be rejected not because they are unscientific (which they are), or because he is arguing from ignorance (which he is), but because the assertions he is making are demonsrably false.

But no one pointed this out (no one who got published, anyway). And this is in the New York Times, for heaven's sake.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Behe in the NYT

ID proponent Michael Behe managed to get this silly op-ed published in today's New York Times. Liberal media indeed. I'll be surprised if the Times runs a pro-evolution op-ed to counter Behe, and if they do it will surely be littered with too many caveats and punch-pulling to be effective.

Over at The Pandas Thumb Nicholas Matzke has already given Behe a proper fisking.. P.Z. Myers does likewise in this post.

Nonetheless, let me add a few comments of my own.

First, nowhere in the fairly lengthy op-ed does Behe mention irreducible complexity (IC). He has made it clear elsewhere that Darwinian mechanisms can account for some complex systems. But IC was supposed to be a special kind of complexity that could not, even in principle, be plausibly explained by Darwinian mechanisms. Yet here he is suggesting that it is mere complexity that allows us to infer design.

Second, he continues to make statements like this one:


Darwinists assert that their theory can explain the appearance of design in life as the result of random mutation and natural selection acting over immense stretches of time. Some scientists, however, think the Darwinists' confidence is unjustified. They note that although natural selection can explain some aspects of biology, there are no research studies indicating that Darwinian processes can make molecular machines of the complexity we find in the cell.


Behe knows this claim is false, of course, but he repeats it anyway. What he meant to say was that there are no such studies that he finds compelling. That is a far different assertion. See Myers and Matzke for the relevant links.

Finally, the way we know that ID is about religion and politics, and not science, is that ID proponents make no attempt to examine the consequences of their ideas. They seem to lose all interest in the subject as soon as they have established the existence of the intelligent designer. If they were serious, they would take the logical next step: They would ask what living organisms were designed for, and what we can infer about the designer by examining them. Considering this question would force them to confront the fact that no one not already holding certain religious views would conclude from the structure of organisms that they were designed by an omnipotent, omnibenevolent intelligence.

There is much more to say about Behe of course, but, alas, I have an evening course to teach. Until tomorrow...

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Dim-Witt

Discovery Institute blogger Jonathan Witt is not happy with my recent blog entry about the travails of Richard Sternberg. He writes:


Another point we half agree with is Evolutionblog's statement that the quality of the paper in question “as a work of scholarship is certainly relevant to assessing whether Sternberg has been treated unfairly.” It's curious, then, that the blogger, Jason Rosenhouse, dismisses Meyer's peer-reviewed article with a website critique (there has been no peer-reviewed critique of Stephen Meyer's article), but Rosenhouse doesn't mention this incisive defense of the Meyer's paper published here and here at our website. Perhaps the blogger encouraged readers to review it at another post.


See the original post for the links.

Of course, the reason I didn't link to the DI's “incisive” defense of Meyer's paper is that I was not writing a post about the merits of Meyer's work. Instead, I was merely using the “website critique” to respond to a specific charge made in the op-ed under discussion. Let me remind you that the op-ed made the following assertion:


The offending review-essay was written by Stephen Meyer, who holds a Cambridge University doctorate in the philosophy of biology. In the article, he cites biologists and paleontologists critical of certain aspects of Darwinism--mainstream scientists at places like the University of Chicago, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. Mr. Meyer gathers the threads of their comments to make his own case.


To rebut that assertion I cited the work of three people I trust on these issues, namely Alan Gishlik, Nick Matzke, and Wesley Elsberry, the authors of the critique in question. I wrote:


As documented by Gishlik, Matzke and Elsberry (see here), many of Meyer's citations were inaccurate or distorted. He was also very selective in his choice of papers to cite. The fact that Meyer's paper was very bad as a work of scholarship is certainly relevant to assessing whether Sternberg has been treated unfairly.


In citing Gishlik, Matzke and Elsberry in this way, I hardly think I'm obligated to also provide links to all the people who disagree with them. The DI was hardly the only website that took issue with their critique, after all. Was I expected to link to all of them?

However, just so there are no hard feelings:


  • Follow this link to read Meyer's paper.


  • Follow this link to read the critique written by Nick Matzke, Wes Elsberry and Alan Gishlik.


  • Follow this link and this link to read the incisive defense of Meyer referred to by Witt.


But since Witt seems terribly concerned about matters of blog etiquette, let me point out that when quoting from someone else's blog entry it is customary to provide a link to the entry being quoted from. This is especially true when attaching your own beginning to someone else's half-sentence. Yet Witt provided no link to my blog.

For that matter, the DI's bloggers have almost never provided links to The Panda's Thumb, despite the fact that contributors to PT routinely link to the DI blog when appropriate. Indeed, as Ed Brayton points out in in this post, the original version of Witt's post did not link to Gishlik, Matzke and Elsberry, even while linking to the DI's responses to it. A link was added after Ed pointed this out.

And while I'm at it, let me close with some other choice words from Ed Brayton.
It seems that Witt bungled several things in his blog entry:


Equally as important, you might also notice the strange claim in Witt's post that Coddington's response to Sternberg's accusations have something to do with criticism of Sternberg's publication of Meyer's article in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. After admitting that there are "two sides to the story", Witt says that Sternberg's side of the story is here, and he quotes from it. But what he quotes is in fact Sternberg's response to accusations from others (not from Coddington) that he violated the normal peer review procedure in publishing the Meyer article. Coddington's response to Sternberg's accusations has nothing to do with that.

There are two entirely different questions involving Sternberg. The first is whether he circumvented the normal peer review procedure at PBSW to insure that Meyer's article would be published in the last edition for which he was the editor and could do so. The second is whether Sternberg has been the victim of religious discrimination at the Smithsonian, where he is a Research Associate (which is not an employee, but merely access and workspace at the National Museum of Natural History). Sternberg has made accusations against Coddington involving the second situation, and Coddington's response on Panda's Thumb was to those accusations. Witt bizarrely seems to think that Sternberg's response to the accusations against him in situation #1 and Coddington's response to Sternberg's accusations in situation #2 comprise the “two sides” of the story. False. They are in fact entirely independent statements on entirely independent situations and they have little to do with each other. That's not bad - false implications and hypocrisy in a single post.