Readers will note that we have published a response from the editors of Synthese regarding their recent issue on “Intelligent Design”. This issue became public through Brian Leiter’s blog, where he posted a letter from the guest editors of the ID issue – Glenn Branch and James Fetzer – alleging various forms of misconduct, and where he (Brian) also called for a boycott of Synthese until an adequate response was forthcoming. We have not endorsed or condemned the call for a boycott; we have instead asked for debate on it.
Here, we open the issue for comments, and note the crucial gaps in the published response.
In our view, most of the serious charges in the Branch-Fetzer letter were not addressed at all.
Branch and Fetzer claim that the editorial disclaimer calls into question their professionalism. Do the editors-in-chief of Synthese acknowledge this? Stand behind it? Deny that this was intended?
Branch and Fetzer claim that they were twice assured by one of the editors-in-chief that there would be no disclaimer. Do the editors-in-chief deny this? Do they endorse this behavior?
Branch and Fetzer and others have raised the issue that the allegations of professionally improper tone are attributed vaguely rather than specifically, implying that the latter would be more appropriate in this case. This vagueness is not changed by the current response. The editors-in-chief say this: “we judged that several articles included in the special issue contained language that is unacceptable: neutral readers of the issue will find no difficulty in identifying such passages.” Given the heated discussion on the matter, one has to say that this claim has been empirically refuted, at least unless “neutral” is being used in some very substantive manner. If this is a charge of professional "unacceptability" – as opposed, say, to some suggestion that an optimally polite and kind writer would write differently – then it is certainly not clear what is being charged. Do the editors-in-chief deny that in making charges of professional inappropriateness they ought to identify who is being charged and on the basis of what comments? If not, are they willing to make the identifications now?
Finally, as Jon Cogburn emphasized recently, there is the huge outstanding issue of whether the editors-in-chief were pressured by supporters of ID, specifically whether there were implied threats of legal action. This is, for all the reasons Jon pointed out, a crucial issue for the profession given the underlying political issues.
These as we see them, are some of the issues not addressed in the response. We invite discussion.