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Andrew Sullivan, Meet Richard Sternberg

Richard Sternberg
Photo: Richard Sternberg, by Nathan Jacobson.

There’s an outcry on behalf of journalist Andrew Sullivan today over how he was canceled by New York Magazine, where he had a writing perch. His offense was publishing an excerpt from Charles Murray’s controversial book The Bell Curve — 25 years ago in The New Republic. I may not be sympathetic to the argument about race and genetics in Murray’s book, but I am sympathetic to Sullivan and the way he is still being punished for his editorial decision. 

Bullied by the Smithsonian

It reminds me of my own point of entry into the intelligent design debate, in 2004, writing about biologist Richard Sternberg’s own canceling at the Smithsonian for publishing a peer-reviewed biology journal article by philosopher of science Stephen Meyer. Sternberg was a researcher and editor with an open mind to intelligent design. That was his crime. You can read about what happened to him at the Free Science website.

A New York Times writer profiled Sullivan and still holds his feet to the flame because of Murray — again, something that happened a quarter century back. Rod Dreher, among other commentators, is outraged:

Here’s the important thing about this Times attempted hit job on Andrew Sullivan: he refused to say what they wanted him to say, and for that, he deserves the support of all of us who value free thought and free expression, even if we think he’s wrong about this issue.

I mean, think about it: Sullivan is one of the most interesting and (because of his role in the gay marriage issue) influential journalists of his generation, and now he is once again pioneering new paths in journalism with his substack — but the Times dispatched a writer to interview him, who made the center of his piece Sullivan’s refusal to repent for an issue of a magazine he edited twenty-five years ago. Times media columnist Ben Smith declares him not worth defending because of something published when Ben Smith (b. 1976) was eighteen years old.

What a chickensh*t move. I hope this gets Sully 50,000 more subscribers (you can become one here). The left media mafia is going to do whatever they can to silence, smear, and otherwise discredit anyone who violates its orthodoxies — and that often means the most interesting and provocative writers.

Canary in the Coal Mine

One can’t help but agree. Now, let me clear: There is NO RELATIONSHIP between Murray’s argument and Meyer’s. In fact they are opposites — one materialist and evolutionary, the other teleological and finding purpose in biology, not to mention affirming the exceptionalism of universal human dignity. But this is another illustration of what Michael Egnor and others have said: intelligent design was the “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to cancel culture. ID scientists were being bullied and silenced by the censors, in academia and the media, already decades ago. Some wider acknowledgment of that fact would be healthy and welcome.