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+--Forum: The ID-files
+---Topic: Richard von Sternberg and Antievolution started by Wesley R. Elsberry

Posted by: Wesley R. Elsberry on Feb. 06 2005,06:59

Richard von Sternberg has this to say about his own stance on antievolutionary issues:


Although it is irritating to have to respond to ad hominem arguments rather than arguments on the issues, I will state for the record that I do not accept the claims of young-earth creationism. Rather, I am a process structuralist.

(Ref: < Sternberg's home page >)


This is a remarkably unhelpful statement. There are lots of ways of being an antievolutionist and creationist; young-earth creationist is just one, and "process structuralism" doesn't do much in the way of refining where Sternberg's personal views lie.

Under a linked article outlining "process structuralism", Sternberg offers some further information on his personal viewpoint.


I subscribe to a school of biological thought often termed “process structuralism.” Process or biological structuralism is concerned with understanding the formal, generative rules underlying organic forms, and focuses on the system architectures of organisms and their interrelationships. Structuralist analysis is generally ahistorical, systems-oriented, and non-evolutionary (not anti-evolutionary). Both creationism and neo-Darwinism are, in contrast, emphatically historicist with one positing extreme polyphyly (de novo creation of species) and the other radical monophyly (common descent). Since the structuralist perspective runs somewhat perpendicular to the origins debate, creationists and evolutionists tend to see it as inimical to their positions. The truth is structuralism has little at stake in the origins issue, leaving a person like myself free to dialogue with all parties. For this reason, I frequently discourse with ultra-Darwinians, macromutationists, self-organization theorists, complexity theorists, intelligent design advocates, theistic evolutionists, and young-earth creationists without necessarily agreeing with any of their views.

Structuralism does, however, provide an important perspective on the origins debate. Structuralists' lack of commitment to an historical theory of biology allows them to explore the historical evidence more objectively. Moreover, because they focus on formal analysis, struturalists are far more open than neo-Darwinians to the powerful evidence for continuity within species (forms) and discontinuity between and among species. They also allow themselves to wonder about the cause of the amazing repetition of forms across the biological world rather than being forced by prior commitments to accept a major neo-Darwinian epicycle known as "convergent evolution."

(Ref: < Sternberg's page on process structuralism >)


Process structuralism is an < anti-Darwinian view >, though not necessarily antievolutionary. The second paragraph of Sternberg's prose briefly notes, though, that Sternberg's process structuralism is "open" to common descent being false.

Sternberg says in the above that he has discourse with people of various viewpoints, both evolutionary and anti-evolutionary. What I am interested in, though, is what Sternberg's actions tell us rather than simply relying on Sternberg's words.

This thread is for gathering together information on what Sternberg has done that bears upon antievolution. People have limited time and energy to spend during their lives, and how they choose to spend it tells you something about them that is far more informative than the content of what they might say about themselves. For example, I received email from someone saying that Jonathan Wells had advocated Darwinian evolution and common descent earlier in his career. I asked for some documentation or references to where I could see this advocacy for myself and my correspondent stopped corresponding. In Wells's case, his current antievolutionary advocacy is easy to find and his earlier alleged advocacy of evolutionary biology is apparently difficult or impossible to find.
Posted by: Wesley R. Elsberry on Feb. 06 2005,22:43

Some instances of Sternberg's interactions

Given that Sternberg indicates that he has "discourse" with people on all sides of the issues, one might expect that his time and effort would be more or less evenly distributed across those viewpoints. You know, a period spent in the leadership of some atheist materialist group here, editing a skeptical magazine there, giving talks about how criticism of the faults of "intelligent design" was well-founded here and there... as well as the instances of interaction with antievolution given below. However, I don't seem to be coming up with much along those lines. Anyway, here are the bits of antievolution involvement for Richard von Sternberg, the ones that are publicly available.

The Baraminology Study Group

Sternberg holds a position on the BSG's editorial board. Sternberg has < a letter on his website from Todd Charles Wood > that is careful to say that Sternberg's involvement is despite his not agreeing with the young-earth creationist position. (As mentioned before, not believing in man-walking-and-talking-with-dinosaurs, a global flood, and a less-than-20,000-year-old earth still leaves a lot of creationist and antievolutionist terrain.)

But Sternberg's involvement with "baraminology" goes beyond simply agreeing to provide constructive criticism, as Wood's letter's implies. Sternberg is also involved in legitimizing the analysis methods that the BSG favors, specifically "analysis of pattern" or "ANOPA".


Cavanaugh, D.P. & R. v. Sternberg (2004). Analysis of morphological groupings using ANOPA, a pattern recognition and multivariate statistical method: a case Study involving centrarchid fishes. J. Biol. Systems 12: 137-167.


Note also Wood's reference to his introduction to Sternberg being via email. One wonders what email list would bring together such disparate people. The "phylogenist" list makes for a simple hypothesis about this, as an antievolution/"intelligent design" closed list.

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