Friday, February 04, 2005

Coddington Responds to "The Branding of a Heretic"

Jonathan Coddington, one of the persons mentioned in this Opinion Journal piece, responded in the comment section of this entry. I've put it here in its own entry because I don't want it to slip off into the archival sunset. Coddington writes to correct errors in the Opinion Journal piece on Richard Sternberg about the controversy over the article on Intelligent Design he published. I reproduce his comments in full:

Although I do not wish to debate the merits of intelligent design, this blog seems an apt place to correct several factual inaccuracies in the Wall Street Journal’s Op Ed article by David Klinghoffer, "The Branding of a Heretic" (Jan. 28, 2005). Because Dr. von Sternberg has filed an official complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, I cannot comment as fully as I would wish. NOTE: This is my response, not that of the Smithsonian Institution.

1. Dr. von Sternberg is still a Research Associate at the National Museum of Natural History, and continues to have the usual rights and privileges, including space, keys, and 24/7 access. At no time did anyone deny him space, keys or access.

2. He is not an employee of the Smithsonian Institution. His title, “Research Associate,” means that for a three year, potentially renewable period he has permission to visit the Museum for the purpose of studying and working with our collections without the staff oversight visitors usually receive.

3. I am, and continue to be, his only “supervisor,” although we use the term “sponsor” for Research Associates to avoid personnel/employee connotations. He has had no other since Feb. 1, 2004, nor was he ever "assigned to” or under the “oversight of” anyone else.

4. Well prior to the publication of the Meyer article and my awareness of it, I asked him and another Research Associate to move as part of a larger and unavoidable reorganization of space involving 17 people and 20 offices. He agreed.

5. I offered both individuals new, identical, standard Research Associate work spaces. The other accepted, but Dr. von Sternberg declined and instead requested space in an entirely different part of the Museum, which I provided, and which he currently occupies.

6. As for prejudice on the basis of beliefs or opinions, I repeatedly and consistently emphasized to staff (and to Dr. von Sternberg personally), verbally or in writing, that private beliefs and/or controversial editorial decisions were irrelevant in the workplace, that we would continue to provide full Research Associate benefits to Dr. von Sternberg, that he was an established and respected scientist, and that he would at all times be treated as such.

On behalf of all National Museum of Natural History staff, I would like to assert that we hold the freedoms of religion and belief as dearly as any one. The right to heterodox opinion is particularly important to scientists. Why Dr. von Sternberg chose to represent his interactions with me as he did is mystifying. I can't speak to his interactions with anyone else.

Sincerely yours,
Jonathan Coddington

I'd like to thank Mr. Coddington for responding here. Though my intent was not to single out Mr. Coddington in the entry I wrote, it's true that the Opinion Journal piece I quoted did present Mr. Coddington in a poor light and did, in fact, present only one side of the story. I'm sorry I did not point that out when I discussed the issued. David Klinghoffer should have included Mr. Coddington's side of the story in his original piece, but I'm glad that Mr. Coddington presented it here, and again, I thank him for that.


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