I just want to forcefully reiterate something Brian said yesterday in his blog. Mohan Matthen had written.
[H]ere is the summary [of what transpired]: Special Issue [of Synthese] consisting of critiques of intelligent design; Editors-in-Chief correspond with author of Special Issue paper, demanding changes, after that paper has been published on-line; they make these demands without the consent of the Guest Editors; most shocking of all, E-in-C’s insert a disclaimer regarding the Special Issue.
It seems clear that whatever their motives or exculpations, the E-in-C’s acted unprofessionally. Surely they should admit this and apologize. Nobody wants to participate in a “boycott” of philosophers as distinguished as they are, but they made an error in their public capacity, and they should simply make things right, with as little fuss as possible.
To which Leiter responded:
This leaves out only the role that intensive lobbying and threats of 'libel' from the ID crowd played in producing this outcome. . .
This is an extremely important point, possibly the central one.
As philosophers we cannot give an inch here. The very possibililty of what we do is under threat. And this is why I've come to the view that Leiter is not being hyperbolic in his consideration of a boycott. Again, I have the highest philosophical and moral regards for the Synthese editors. So we should wait for their letter. But the letter must openly address Leiter's other issue of whether there were even insinuations of libel.
And given what Fetzer has written, combined with Beckwith's documented (by Leiter) history of truly malignant ass-hattery, it would surprise no one to find that Beckwith directed minions to bully the Synthese editors with insinuations of libel. This does need to be aired.
[Some other points about which I'd be happy to hear debated:
- I'd be really happy if design arguments were fairly and critically taught in high school philosohy classes, but
- The last thing the "intelligent design" movement wants is for high schoolers to take philosophy classes; by this point it should be clear to anyone paying attention to the politics in the United States that their goal is to harness misleading little bits of philosophy in the service of replacing science with religion,
- I can't help but feeling like Plantinga's truly awful "Advice to Christian Philosophers" is lurking in the background here, since it provides coverage for using philosophy just to support beliefs you never intend to call into question, something I think of as neither Christian (and like Plantinga I am a member of a Reformed church) nor philosophical (this much should be clear); it can't be an accident every philosophy professor I know who believes transparent absurdities such as the literal truth of the Bible (and there are shockingly many now) both cite Plantinga as one of the main reasons they decided to make a career of academic philosophy and also try to argue that Plantinga's epistemology somehow makes it O.K. that their (demonstrably false!) religious beliefs are non-revisable (please note that this is exactly the opposite of what "reforming" is supposed to mean in the Calvinist and Presbyterian tradition!), and
- When I read Fetzer's account of what transpired I couldn't help but remember the classic Onion story "ACLU Defends Nazis Right to Burn Down ACLU Headquarters"; No, we do not have to placate people who sophistically use little bits of philosophy in an attempt to destroy the very possibility of philosophy. Some people are such nice people that they let bad people take advantage of them and others. Right now something like this is the only explanation that makes sense to me. But this very thing is the signal failure of otherwise morally praiseworthy people, trying to seek a morally decent consensus that will please everyone in situations where the perfidy of one party makes such a thing impossible. But if this happened, then it makes me even angrier at Beckwith and his cronies, because it involves taking advantage of other people's virtues in the service of anti-philosophy.]