Thursday, December 28, 2006

How to Cheat at Cleaning

My brother Jeff Bredenberg is about to release his new book, "How to Cheat at Cleaning." Jeff has been starting to generate a lot of exposure with his books. He's been on Letterman and is scheduled to be on the CBS morning show Jan. 3, 2007. Plus, his publisher Taunton Press is arranging a 10-city book tour in Q1 2007.

"How to Cheat at Cleaning" is kind of a lazybones guide to keeping your house clean enough. The book is scheduled for release January 2, but you can pre-order it an Amazon now. This video on Jeff's site is a real hoot, and has an amazing shot of how to fold a shirt quickly.

AB -- 12/28/06

Monday, December 25, 2006

Article That Sparked Flap at Smithsonian

I recently learned about an article by Stephen C. Meyer, "Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a peer-reviewed biology journal connected with the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution (SI) (4 Aug 2004, vol 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239).

It's a useful article setting out some of the arguments in favor of intelligent design models from the perspective of information science, with corresponding arguments against orthodox Darwinism.

But what was most interesting to me was that this article made it into a peer-reviewed journal published at the Smithsonian, and that the editor who allowed it to be published was subsequently vilified and subjected to what he felt was a hostile work environment. At his web site, that editor, Dr. Richard Sternberg, tells his side of the story. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) issued a report on Sternberg's complaints but ultimately did not have authority to take action.

I believe some arguments have been made that this journal is not actually published by the NMNH and that Richard Sternberg was only a research associate and not an actual employee. It looks to me as if the Smithsonian has not given much public comment on the issue. An NPR article, "Intelligent Design and Academic Freedom," says a spokesman told NPR: "We have no public comment, and we won't have one in the future." Jonathan Coddingham, Sternberg's sponsor at NMNH, published his own response to Sternberg's complaints on The Panda's Thumb.

This issue got my attention because one of the arguments I have heard against intelligent design models is that their advocates have not been published in scholarly peer-reviewed journals. Reading Sternberg's complaint and the OSC letter sheds light on some of the obstacles a scientist would face in trying to get these non-orthodox ideas published in peer-reviewed journals.

I was struck by this quote from an SI employee, appearing in the OSC report:

"Scientists have been perfectly willing to let these people alone in their churches, but now it looks like these people are coming out and invading our schools, biology classes, museums and now our professional journals. These people to my mind are only a scale up on the fundies of a more destructive kind in other parts of the world. Depressing. Oh, if we only still had Steve Gould to lead the counter-attack."

To me this sounds ironic. Stephen J. Gould always struck me as a fair-minded thinking person who was willing to challenge entrenched orthodoxies. Would he have resorted to the kinds of dirty tricks recounted by Sternberg?

Wikipedia provides a useful account of the Sternberg controversy, with links to many relevant resources on both sides.

AB -- 12/25/06