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14 May 2011


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Jonathan Birch

This strikes me as a fairly extraordinary way to respond to a petition from 460 concerned fellow philosophers.

I guess maybe an apology or retraction was too much to hope for. But I still expected a detailed explanation of what happened, and a detailed response to all four of the demands in the petition.

Ingo Brigandt

The editors’ statement fails to address the concerns raises by the petition signatories, and is a slap in the face of the special issue authors. The editors imply that they will neither retract the disclaimer, nor dissociate themselves from Beckwith’s response in its present form (which uses the disclaimer which does not name Forrest as an argument to undermine Forrest’s paper and calls her work “professional embarrassment” and “literary misconduct’), so that the editors’ continue with their refusal to apply the ‘improper tone’ policy to Beckwith’s article that they invoked for the special issue (after its publication).

The editors do not even answer some of the major questions raised, e.g., how the publication of Beckwith’s response was handled and why he (as a third party) was apparently made aware of the publication and content of the disclaimer while the special issue authors and guest editors were not informed. Beckwith appears to be the first one to post the editors’ response on his blog (yesterday, on May 13), while to date none of the two special issue authors that have been blogging on the Synthese affair have mentioned the editors’ response on their blog. It may well be that the editors have communicated their response to all special issue authors and guest editors in addition to Beckwith (who is not an author of the special issue), but -- taking also into account that the editors’ statement singles out Forrest -- the editors do fuel the impression that they still side with Beckwith over Forrest and collaborate more with Beckwith (as a Synthese author) than the special issue authors.

The editors indicate that they will improve their editorial policies, especially to how to handle future special issues. This is laudable, but should not distract from the actual problem. Even if a different handling would have led to improved special issue content, the editorial handling and publication of the special issue did not result in problems. No harm was done by the online publication of the papers in April 2009, and there was no public impression of a problem -- even those who now assert that in their mind the tone or content of some papers was unacceptable did not publicly voice this earlier. The harm to the special issue authors and the reputation of Synthese (or at least its editors) was done by the publication of the disclaimer and Beckwith’s response -- as witnessed by the public outcry that only at this point ensued. For this reason, the revision of editorial policies does not address the actual problem (and thereby may not even prevent future problems of the same kind).

While in their statement the editors acknowledge that they did not inform the special issue authors and guest editors about the publication of the disclaimers, they do not view this as a fault on their part. They do not even apologize to the special issue authors. An editor either has to generally support all papers published in her journal (possibly by declining to comment on individual publications) or to retract it. The very publication of a disclaimer attached to published papers (in this instance having the effect of tarring all papers in the issue) is a serious instance of editorial misconduct (apart from being unheard of). So far the editors have refused to acknowledge any problematic behavior on their part. In my view, this means that a boycott has to follow, either individually (by individual persons not submitting to and refereeing for Synthese any longer), or in an organized fashion. Given the refusal by the editors to acknowledge (lest address) charges of misconduct, the suggestion for a call for the resignation of the editors in chief should also be considered.

Christopher Bailey

So, if I might inquire, who is making legal threats if it is not the folks in the ID community?

Mohan Matthen

Interesting question! They don't actually say "legal": they say something like "could be construed as legal."

Oh, and Ingo: I don't think it's laudable that they are going to re-examine their editorial policies. What they mean is "We are going to re-examine the policies that led to Forrest's article being published." Unfortunately, this is not what the present flap is about.

Mark Lance

I have no inside information, but my money is on Fetzer.

Ingo Brigandt

I actually agree with you on this point, as shown by what I wrote before and after the acknowledgement that it is always good to try improve editorial policies. What I wrote right after hints at the fact that the editors blame the guest editors but themselves only to the extent to which they permitted the publication of some of the special issue papers (which is not the problem to your and my mind), rather viewing their subsequent handling of the situation resulting in the disclaimer and Beckwith's response as problematic.

Concerning future editorial policy, given how many individual papers and special issues are published by Synthese, more editorial oversight should always be welcome, but I fear that the upshot of their revision will be to impose a policy on tone and topics that can be discussed that will just lead to no papers on issues with ramifications for science education, science policy, and the social context of science being published.


Notice that the response asserts that there have been no legal threats from 'Christian philosophers,' whereas the petition is asking about threats (or complaints) from 'supporters of Intelligent Design.' Since not all supporters of ID are 'Christian philosophers,' I suspect evasion here.

John Pieret

As I replied to your comment at the previous post:

"The response says that there were no legal threats from Beckwith's side, but implies that there were quasi-legal threats from others."

Not quite. They say "As far as meaningful legal action is concerned, we have received messages that we take seriously as legal threats but these have not come from Christian philosophers." Now, whatever they mean by "Christian philosophers," it hardly rules out friends and supporters of Beckwith as those making threats and certainly doesn't rule out "supporters of Intelligent Design," a group that the petition also mentioned.

Incidently, if you want a copy of the statement that can be copied and pasted, you can find it at my blog:

Mohan Matthen

John Pieret: Great post on your blog. As you say: "Hmm".

So, is this the sequence?

1. EICs included the Guest Editors in the discussions during the oscillatory phase.

2. Then Synthese received some kind of legal threat from someone other than a Christian philosopher.

3. "Eventually the editors arrived at a shared position, in consultation with the publisher, based on what we judged to be the offending language in two papers." (What is "the" offending language? See below.)

4. "We were unable to properly communicate later stages of our decision-making process to the guest editors."


5. "We have a duty to help create procedures to prevent situations of the sort we saw here from recurring."

Apparently, then, the EICs were going to let things go, but then the threats arrived. The phrase "the offending language" must refer to something that these legal complainers cited. (Without a specific reference, unfortunately hidden from us, the definite article makes no sense.) At this point, the publishers decided to dodge the bullet, and the editors caved.

5 sounds a bit ominous. What situations? In the light of the publishers' intervention, one might be worried.

Ingo Brigandt

Thanks a bunch for transcribing the statement! It was posted as a jpg-image apparently so that the text cannot get archived by search engines and web archives. Yet soon the response to the petition sent to Synthese will be in Google's cache.

Mohan Matthen

This is so interesting. They post their statement on an island website that has no other content. And they post it as a jpeg!

It is so great that all of you savvy people can see through this.

John Pieret

I think that sequence is probably right. Of course, the very failure of the EICs to be forthcoming makes this somewhat speculative but it fits the known facts and the less-than-clear "response" by the EICs.

There was initial concern by the EICs, probably initiated by the complaints of Plantinga, Clark and Beckwith, as documented in the New York Times story:

But the EICs decide that there was no basis academically for a disclaimer and assure the guest editors that they were dropping the idea.

Next came the "messages that we take seriously as legal threats" and the publisher and its lawyers get involved. The disclaimer idea is revived but the guest editors are not informed (possibly at the insistence of the laywers), while Beckwith is told (possibly as a way, along with the opportunity for Beckwith to publish an unedited/unreviewed response, to head off the threat of litigation).

I should say that I am a lawyer myself and it is possible that my well-earned cynicism is asserting itself.

John Pieret

Thanks a bunch for transcribing the statement!

Actually, I happen to have a couple of programs that allowed me to convert it into a pdf and then into a word document ... which is a good thing as I'm lousy at transcription.

Christopher Bailey

Anonymous is quoting a discussion I was having here:

I am 'kitsu' in this praticular thread. Anonymous, quoting me, without providing an identity or the source of the statement is utterly dishonest.

Christopher Bailey

I am sorry this was posted to the wrong blog. I apologize profusely for this mistake.

Mohan Matthen

John, this makes a lot of sense. There has been a lot of talk about the editors bending to pressure. But now it's making more sense to finger the publishers and their lawyers. This explains the editors' non-response to all the chatter.


Christopher Bailey, or whoever you are:

I am not quoting you. As for the discussion you are having at, notice that I am making precisely the point that you are denying. It may also interest you to know that I am musingson from that discussion. Now stop this circus already.

Christopher Bailey

Many people on this thread are treating this as if the EIC's have pulled a "dirty trick." It's not a cheap trick if they are responding to the very community who is threatening them. (this is an assumption that one or more of the petitioners have levied legal threats against synthese. A safe assumption? Perhaps. A possibility? Sure it is.) Why would the EIC's disclose that material, material the petitioners equally assumes exists, if they cannot divulge the totality of the threats made from the "aggrieved" party (the petitioners)? The petition states that Beckwith has threatened them as if this was a fact. This is based entirely off of supposition and was indeed responded to as Beckwith is part of the contingent of the "Christian philosophers" who made no legal threats.

As such, why wouldn't his supporters (IDers), though not technically Christians, fall under this moniker? It seems to me that the EIC's have lumped the entire contingent together. It seems to me that the petitioners are more upset about the language and supposition than the facts.

Let me state further that I'm chiming in here in all sincerity. I do not mean to make anyone angry or upset, I'm just asking questions.

John Pieret

Yes, but that only raises the question of when the EICs should stand up for academic freedom (not to mention their own reputations) and speak out, especially in the face of the assault on science education and, indeed, all of academia, by IDers.

I know it's easy for me to raise the question, as I face no consequences (the EICs would probably be dragged into any litigation that arose out of this and, if they refused to follow the publisher's "defense strategy," the publisher could possibly refuse to defend them). Still ...

Wesley R. Elsberry

Unless I've overlooked something in my email or it got identified as spam, I have received no notice of anything from the Editors-in-Chief. (Searches on "synthese" and "petition" turn up nothing new in either my inbox or spam folder.) This blog post was my first notice that the EiC had made a reply to the petition. Following up on Prof. Matthen's observation about obscurity, I will note that the EiC response is provided as an image, and thus the text of their response is not easily accessible, nor is that text indexed by search engines.

I'm having difficulty imagining what sort of consideration might excuse the EiC from at least timely communicating the result of their "later stages" of deliberation from the guest editors and the authors affected. After all, the inclusion of the disclaimer would eventually become all too publicly obvious. The special issue authors were given no opportunity to withdraw given the unilateral change in conditions of publication, and in fact the knowledge that the conditions of publication had been changed was deliberately withheld from them. Whatever else may be said about the situation, I hope that others can grant that this is a shabby way to treat contributors.

The interpretation that the EiC are sorry only that others are taking things so badly seems all too plausible.

James H. Fetzer

This latest partial response came as news to Glenn and me. We were not sent copies and only learned of it from Brian's blog. As a reply to a petition signed by close to 500 philosophers, I can't imagine anyone taking it seriously. When we learned from Barbara that they wanted her to change her article (after it had been published on-line), I contacted the editor who had accepted it. He told me that they were deliberating, so I wrote a very detailed email to them explaining why this was not the proper or professional way to handle any of this. The same editor gave me feedback on several occasions (a) that they had decided not to ask for revisions and (b) that they had also decided not to publish the disclaimer. If they think this latest missive sets anything right, so far as I can see, they are badly mistaken. But then, from the beginning of their response to pressure from ID proponents, they have misjudged how to handle any of this--so more fumbling is really not something that should come as a surprise.

John Pieret

It's not a cheap trick if they are responding to the very community who is threatening them. (this is an assumption that one or more of the petitioners have levied legal threats against synthese. A safe assumption? Perhaps. A possibility? Sure it is.)

What legal threats (their term) has "the community" made ... or even possibly could make? Neither a petition nor a "boycott" is a legal threat. The demand for an explanation, with no power to enforce it, or even the refusal by individual philosophers to cooperate with Synthese, vis a vis the submission of papers, refereeing, etc., is not a legal threat. Are we to assume the EICs are so prone to simple category errors?

Barbara Forrest could conceivably make a legal threat but, given the support in the philosophical community she has received, it would be an extremely stupid idea. And my impression of Professor Forrest is that she is anything but stupid. Naturally, since she and the guest editors weren't informed of the disclaimer ahead of time, she couldn't have made any threats before then. And yet, there came a time before the disclaimer was published, that the EICs, for "unspecified" reasons, were suddenly no longer able to "properly communicate" with the guest editors.

It simply doesn't fit the time line as we know it ... limited as that is, given the EICs refusal to be more forthcoming.

The petition states that Beckwith has threatened them as if this was a fact.

That "et al." is important. Even if we assume the petition was inartfully drafted and it made an accusation, rather than asking if there had been any such threats (which any charitable reading would suggest), why do the EICs make such a fine distinction that no "Christian philosophers" made any threats? When you see weasel words, you are justified in suspecting weasels are around.

As such, why wouldn't his supporters (IDers), though not technically Christians, fall under this moniker? It seems to me that the EIC's have lumped the entire contingent together.

Again, are we to assume such renowned philosophers are so careless with categories?

I do not mean to make anyone angry or upset, I'm just asking questions.

That's okay. That's what the rest of us are doing. Maybe the EICs will get around to answering some of them ... someday.

John S Wilkins

It is looking more and more as if the present editorship of Synthese is unwilling to accept they did anything wrong, and that lack of awareness suggests that a boycott is the only reasonable response left.

Jonathan Birch

The role of "the publisher" seems important here. We already knew that the publisher was included in the email correspondence with Forrest. Now we also know that it was influential in the decision to print a disclaimer.

This is all very bad news for philosophy. What are we supposed to do if a major publisher of philosophy journals turns out to have been directly involved in all this? Boycott half the journals in the field?

Christopher Bailey

Yes, that's why i posted this apology. "I am sorry this was posted to the wrong blog. I apologize profusely for this mistake."

Christopher Bailey

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

Christopher Bailey

Please excuse me jumping into the middle of this, but I continue to see this stated. "But then, from the beginning of their response to pressure from ID proponents,[...]" has any of this "pressure" actually been validated? Do you know that the ID community put pressure on the EIC's? Are there any links to letters from the IDers to the EIC's available?


The following form of boycott seems pretty effective.
I would suggest that those who have earlier agreed to referee papers for Synthese continue their work in progress, as a courtesy to the authors (who after all, have no part in the EiC's conduct).
But I for one will not accept to referee any new papers that Synthese offers me to referee. Given that refereeing papers is a large workload (I had two papers to review only last month), this form of boycott does not cost any effort, quite on the contrary. Given the difficulty of editors to find suitable referees, this will definitely hurt Synthese, and indirectly benefit those journals that do not post editorial statements without foreknowledge of the authors or guest editors.
More generally, I think we should, in our choice of when to referee and when not, be guided by factors like this.

Reinhard Muskens

This is an interesting possibility and in any case more plausible than previous reconstructions. I think that for one phase in your time line there is an alternative, though. You write

But the EICs decide that there was no basis academically for a disclaimer and assure the guest editors that they were dropping the idea.

I guess it is more plausible that at some point they felt that although there still was a good basis for a disclaimer it was no longer practical or in the ultimate interests of the journal to publish it. Legal advice may have changed that second opinion. The difference between your reading and this one is that it does not suppose that the EiCs published a statement they no longer endorsed. They also had no reason to stand up for academic freedom (the 'academic freedom' to publish articles in Synthese not in accord with their standards?).

I think that if a reconstruction along your lines is correct, some interesting questions present themselves. For example, would it have been in the interest of the journal if it had found itself on the losing end of a legal battle? Would that have been in the interest of science education in American schools? If not, was it really a misjudgement of the EiCs to try and steer the journal away from litigation? What exactly is putting public pressure on the EiCs going to achieve in these circumstances and what good will it do?

Eric Schliesser

Fair questions, Reinhard. What I find frustrating is that EiCs do not point the way toward serious reflection on these matters, but hide behind legalese and revision to procedures. (Ironically, in doing so, the issues won't go away!)

Reinhard Muskens

In case of such a boycott I would be honoured to help them out with a few referee reports and I think many others would too.

James H. Fetzer

What has bothered me the most about the article in The New York Times, apart from failure to mention the petition, is that van Bentham abused this occasion to claim that 'another article in the issue concerned them". Neither Glenn nor I received any indication at any point of concern over any paper other that Forrest's and no effort was made to contact any other author or to request revisions of any other author. I regard this as historical revisionism in an attempt to enhance their public image.

The "other paper" was Pennock's, which has even been criticized by Larry Laudan, who appears to have failed to acknowledge the use/mention distinction. Pennock's piece, which I liked enough to make our lead article, quotes passages highly critical of Laudan in order to discuss them, but which he attributes to Pennock himself. The best discussion of this may be found in the "Open Discussion" thread of John Wilkin's "Evolving Thoughts", which includes debate over philosophical issues.

John Symons was the editor to whom I proposed the special issue and who accepted it on behalf of the journal. I have no doubt that he had confidence in doing so because of my extensive background with SYNTHESE and special issues. So I accept the lion's share of responsibility for the form in which it appeared. One of the most striking aspects of all, however, is that van Bentham and Hendricks not only did not include us on the cc list of their letter to Forrest but also excluded Symons!

The extent of our efforts to dissuade them, I think, has not been apparent from the information currently available. I debated with Brian about including this letter in his blog, which at the time I thought might distract from the letter to Forrest as the "smoking gun". But it may be helpful in evaluating the situation as a whole to have it now in the public domain, where I did my best to convince them they were making a mistake--but to no avail. The reasons I gave clearly did not affect them.

Date: Fri, 01 Oct 2010 13:29:41 -0500
From: [email protected]
Subject: On EVOLUTION AND ITS RIVALS (forthcoming)
To: "Johan van Benthem" , "Vincent Fella Hendricks"
, "Symons, John"
Cc: "Paradijs van, Harmen" , "Laarhoven van,
Ingrid" , "[email protected]" ,
"Glenn Branch" , [email protected]


As co-editor of the special issue, "Evolution and Its Rivals", with Glenn Branch, I was taken aback to discover that you had made direct contact with one of our contributors, Barbara Forrest, without copying the two of us. I am a former Marine Corps officer where we have what is known as "the chain of command". Surely you should know better than to circumvent the editors of this special issue in a matter like this. That is very unprofessional.

As it happens, I was an associate editor of SYNTHESE for ten years and the founding editor of MINDS AND MACHINES, which I edited solo for another ten. I have edited or co-edited a rather large number of books and belong to a number of editorial boards, even though I retired after 35 years of college teaching in June 2006. Most of the courses I taught were in logic, critical thinking, and scientific reasoning, just to sketch some of my qualifications.

I have been forwarded a copy of your letter to Barbara with the suggestions you have advanced and the explanation you have given to support them. Since you are hearing from me now, it may not surprise you that I regard what you are doing as intellectually unwarranted, completely inappropriate, and laden with risks that you do not appear to appreciate. I shall elaborate upon them relative to procedures, style/tone, disclaimers, and political ramifications. My recommendation will be that it would be a serious mistake to pursue this.


This special issue was commissioned years ago, where Glenn and I (primarily Glenn) invited contributions from highly qualified authors on a broad range of issues related to the theme being addressed. The contributions were then refereed by Glenn and me, submitted to John Symons, with whom we were working, and accepted for publication in SYNTHESE. On Barbara's paper, for example, we find the joint notice, "Received: 23 March 2009 / Accepted: 25 March 2009".

That notice has been in place as long as the paper has been published on line, which I take it has been for more than a year. What it signifies is that the paper has been subjected to peer-review in accordance with the standards of the journal and has been formally accepted. In my world, that is supposed to mean something. It is neither conditional nor tentative. The very idea that such a paper, having been formally accepted, would confront required revision is not only inappropriate but a violation of the very ethics of scholarly publication.


Barbara takes an aggressive stance toward some of her targets, such as Francis Beckwith, but it is all within the context of vigorous debate. It is obvious that he has exaggerated his credentials with respect to his legal background, which is certainly fair game. When this question arose long ago, I suggested that an objective referee who was unrelated to this special issue be used as a consultant. That was done and xxxxxxxxxxxxxx was invited to review the paper. xxxxx, like myself, has had extensive experience as an editor for the journal.

It was xxxxxx opinion that, while the author might have been more direct in her criticism than some might prefer, it fell within the framework of appropriate philosophical criticism. The very idea that the subject of a paper should have the right to protest the publication of an article discussing him and his work PRIOR TO PUBLICATION IN THE JOURNAL simply dumbfounds me. I have found nothing in her paper inappropriate, even if her criticisms are blunt and to the point. As Popper emphasized, rational criticism is essential to the search for truth.


Instead of worrying excessively about stepping on the toes of a minor figure in the field, SYNTHESE should have more concern for its own standards, integrity, and reputation. You have bent over backwards on behalf of Beckwith, Dembski and Plantinga, even though Plantinga appeals to the popularity of beliefs within a population as though that were evidence that those beliefs were true (Section 5.2 of the paper). This is the "popular sentiments" fallacy that I spent more than three decades teaching freshmen to avoid. This is an unworthy argument, which, if taken seriously, would inhibit the discussion of unpopular issues.

In deferring to them, you fail to appreciate the costs involved in offending Fetzer, Branch and Forrest. If you insist on revisions driven by concerns to pacify those whose work is subject to severe criticism on the pages of SYNTHESE, you will turn the journal into a pitiful shadow of its former self. Frankly, I am not willing to allow that to happen without public protest, which will, I am quite sure, drawn attention to the abdication of standards by a once renowned journal devoted to epistemology, methodology and the philosophy of science.


The very idea of an editorial preface asserting the standards of the journal, may I add, is profoundly objectionable. Such a disclaimer, even if it did not mention any of the contributors or editors by name, would nonetheless imply (by the Gricean maxim of relevance, which guides conversational exchanges) that a contributor or editor was guilty of infringing those standards, which is both unwarranted and insulting. There is nothing wrong with the contested article, which was refereed and accepted and falls within the scope of scholarly debate.

Just for comparison purposes, if an issue of SYNTHESE contained an editorial disclaimer solemnly asserting the historical reality of the Holocaust, wouldn't you review the authors and articles to see if someone was approvingly citing David Irving, for example? I certainly would. Similarly, a special editorial discussing standards of scholarly and civil discourse--no matter how carefully worded--would reasonably raise the reader's suspicion that the behavior of an author or a guest editor was thought by the editors to warrant its inclusion.


Let me say, by way of conclusion, that we have here what is known as a learning experience. Concerns about this paper were raised and addressed prior to its publication; if you wanted to participate in that process, you should have done so then. This article has been on-line for more than a year. Were it now to undergo revision because of the protests of those it targets for criticism, we can anticipate that the floodgates will open for repetitions from others who, rightly or wrongly, regard themselves as unjustly treated. It would surely be a decision that you would regret, where "mini-max regret" appears to apply.

Glenn and I are considering our options, but I want you to understand that this is a serious matter for us both and for those who contributed to this special issue. It would be very bad for authors to come to the realization that EVEN PAPERS THAT HAVE BEEN ACCEPTED MAY BE SUBJECT TO SUBSEQUENT REVISION. Give it some thought. Even if a mistake had been made in this case, which is not my opinion, the consequences of what you are asking would be devastating. I have no doubt at all that they would very quickly and publicly become widely known.

I therefore appeal to your sense of professionalism. Forrest's paper should be published as it is (or with whatever revisions she may deem to be appropriate, on reflection). The special issue should be published without any editorial disclaimer. Beckwith should be invited to respond in a subsequent issue--an invitation that he was originally extended and which he originally embraced--at his discretion. This is the only professional and appropriate resolution consistent with the ethics of publication and the integrity of this journal.

With great admiration,


James H. Fetzer, Ph.D.
McKnight Professor Emeritus
University of Minnesota Duluth

John Pieret

The difference between your reading and this one is that it does not suppose that the EiCs published a statement they no longer endorsed. They also had no reason to stand up for academic freedom (the 'academic freedom' to publish articles in Synthese not in accord with their standards?).

That is a possibility. I don't doubt the EICs were unhappy with the "tone" of the special issue, especially after the complaints by Plantinga, Clark and Beckwith. But the question still is why, if they were merely supporting their standards, they failed to tell the guest editors and Forrest (and the unnamed second author) of the disclaimer, while telling Beckwith? Why haven't they been more forthcoming about their motivations? As I said, I'm a lawyer and the evidence of motivation is always circumstantial. Their actions since this flap erupted have certainly not supported a reading of their actions that is flattering.

... would it have been in the interest of the journal if it had found itself on the losing end of a legal battle? Would that have been in the interest of science education in American schools? If not, was it really a misjudgement of the EiCs to try and steer the journal away from litigation?

Oh? So now the "academic" objections of the EICs are to be assumed to the same as the legal concept of defamation? As a lawyer I can tell you that it is virtually impossible for Beckwith (who else would have a complaint?) to get past a motion to dismiss, much less win, a defamation suit in the US. Besides, Beckwith and the EICs deny he made any such threat. The publishers certainly have a motivation to avoid even the possibility of a suit but is that a good enough reason for the EICs to act as they have?

What exactly is putting public pressure on the EiCs going to achieve in these circumstances and what good will it do?

To showcase the dishonest tactics of IDers and demonstrate that the academic community won't meekly knuckle under.

James H. Fetzer

Yes, I was told at the time by Symons that they had received complains from Beckwith and Plantinga and, I thought, Dembski, but it was another philosopher named Clark, as Glenn informed me. Mark Oppenheimer confirmed Plantinga and Clark, while disconfirming Dembske, as he reported in his article in The New York Times. I believe there was at least one more letter, but I do not know who wrote it.


Sentiment so far, from what I'm hearing, is divided between a boycott and a call for the EICs to resign, to clean house as it were. I wil open a thread on the subject later today.

Kelly James Clark

I was quoted in the NYTimes as writing against Forest's article. Let me make a couple of points and then give you the letter I sent to the editors in its entirety. I am not a supporter of ID. I did not threaten legal action. Frankly, I'm surprised that few philosophers seem concerned that Synthese published such a shoddy article in the first place.

Subject: Shocking ad hominems in forthcoming article
Date: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 7:57 PM
From: Kelly James Clark >
To: >
Cc: >

Conversation: Shocking ad hominems in forthcoming article

Dear Editors of Synthese,

I was just forwarded a copy of a forthcoming article about the work of Francis Beckwith. Let me make one thing clear. I reject Intelligent Design and I don't think it should be taught in the schools in the US.

Nonetheless, I can't believe that ad hominems (abusive and circumstantial) such as the following have any logical bearing on the author's argument:

Although he has been called a legal scholar (Wasley et al. 2006), he is neither a lawyer nor, properly speaking, a constitutional scholar. He lacks the requisite credentials and expertise, holding degrees in philosophy, religious apologetics, and a Master of Juridical Studies (M.J.S.) from the Washington University School of Law (the Discovery Institute financed Beckwith’s research for the M.J.S. with a $9000 fellowship) (Beckwith, n.d.). The M.J.S. “is designed for individuals in career fields who would benefit from limited legal training and do not require a professional degree…. [C]redit earned toward the MJS is not transferable to the JD program. It also does not qualify recipients to practice law” (WA Univ. School of Law 2005–2006, p. 23). Nonetheless, he presents his major pro-ID arguments in two law review articles (Beckwith 2003d,e) and a book, Law, Darwinism, and Public Education (Beckwith 2003b).

Such character assassination is beneath Synthese.

And I don't see how allowing red herrings is up to your usual standards:

Beckwith also extends his thesis of religion’s epistemic parity with science beyond ID to historical scholarship and to the selection of federal judges and their crafting of judicial opinions. He adopts a highly judgmental religious exclusionism toward both other Christians, specifically Mormons, and non-Christians. Not only can this lead to unconstitutional forms of discrimination, even if Beckwith himself would disapprove, but it is wholly unwarranted given the common epistemological predicament of all supernatural religions. Because of the disturbing public policy implications of his views, Beckwith’s work requires closer scrutiny.

There are also misleading, and apparently obviously false interpretations of Beckwith's views:

Dembski’s desire to use his faith hegemonically predates his entry into the ID movement. His article, “Scientopoly: The Game of Scientism,” written for the Fall 1989–Winter 1990 Greek Orthodox journal Epiphany (a special anti-evolution issue), is in total alignment with Epiphany’s purpose: To proclaim the …Gospel of Jesus in the contemporary world. To promote an … Orthodox Christian world view, based on the Holy Scriptures…as the salvific alternative to godless secularism. To provide the foundation for the restoration of a fully Christian way of life…To preserve the heritage …of traditional Christian culture …To defend the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church …in an age of apostasy. (Epiphany 1989–1990) Dembski interweaves the same strands here as in his later work: science provides knowledge, but theological knowledge trumps science. Modern science has become a weapon against theology; an example is Darwin’s theory of evolution, although “current evolutionists reject much of Darwin’s original formulation” (Dembski 1989– 1990, p. 112). Science ridicules God and rejects evidence of his activity in the natural order—miracles.

I haven't read the Beckwith article but the title is about scientism not science. So the author's repeated use of the term "science" in her explication surely misrepresents Beckwith's views.

Then there's the suggestion of sinister plots, masquerading as logic or, what?, culture criticism:

Such sentiments reflect the alliance of some ID proponents with Christian Reconstructionism
(CR), also called “Theocratic Dominionism,” a far-right form of Christianity with repressive public policy goals.

Should a journal with your explicit aims publish unsubstantiated political alliances?

I could go on, but read the text yourself and see if it lives up to the professed aims of your journal. I can see how this might be published in a rhetoric journal where the goal is to win whatever the cost. But I don't see how it could be published in a philosophy journal that despises sophistry, suggestion and fallacies.

Sincerely yours,

Kelly James Clark

Ingo Brigandt

There is a lot of talk about litigation and the possibility for the journal to lose a legal battle on this thread. However, some while ago John Symons explicitly stated that
To be clear, the editors in chief of Synthese in no way "caved to the ID lobby" or to threats of lawsuits. Regular readers of the journal will find many instances of intemperate language and ad hominem in this issue which we regret and for which we take full responsibility. We are in no way shifting this responsibility to the guest editors. We failed to prevent this language going into print and because of this failure we felt the obligation to write this preface and to acknowledge that we compromised the standards of the journal.

This is a claim that the decision to add the disclaimer was not due to pressure or legal threats, but the considered judgment of the EICs.

John Pieret

Yes, but there is the strange statement that they were "unable to properly communicate later stages of our decision-making process to the guest editors" (what's so hard about sending an email?) juxtaposed with their statement that there were "messages that we take seriously as legal threats." Something is missing here! As I said, the whole thing is somewhat speculative but, given the opaque responses of the EICs, whose fault is that?


I now support the latter, but given that the EICs clearly do not feel they have done anything seriously wrong, I doubt it would be successful without the former.


That it's this sort of thing that apparently tipped the EiCs hand makes them look all the worse - their initial move was a display of staggering intellectual irresponsibility, instead of mere regrettable cowardice.

Ingo Brigandt

Kelly James Clark has cracked the case by uncovering that an article ("argument" as he calls it) which involves a critical examination of the history of some strands of the ID movement includes historical facts about some ID proponents! Needless to say, given the credential puffery strategy of the ID movement, even a discussion of Beckwith's formal legal credentials is germane to the topic of Forrest's article.

John Protevi

Ingo, I agree with you. I fail to see why Professor Clark feels an examination of the claims made as to Beckwith's credentials by Wasley et al 2006 constitutes an ad hominem attack on Beckwith.

It is true that Forrest goes on to say "Nonetheless, he presents his major pro-ID arguments in two law review articles (Beckwith 2003d,e) and a book, Law, Darwinism, and Public Education (Beckwith 2003b)." So it would have been preferable, in my opinion, to have kept the focus on how those articles have been cited in the ID literature, that is, whether they substantiate your charge as to a "credential puffery strategy."

Nonetheless, the first part of the passage is clearly directed at Wasley et al 2006 (and others like that piece), not at Beckwith, and so does not constitute an ad hominem directed at Beckwith.

John Protevi

In any case, the fact is that Professor Clark's May 5, 2009 pre-publication denunciation of Forrest's article failed to convince its addressees of the merits of his analysis, as there was no action taken prior to the on-line publication of Forrest's article.

I wonder if Professor Clark would tell us to whom his May 5, 2009 email was addressed, and how he came to know of, and have a copy of, Forrest's article prior to its online publication?

Matt Weiner

This is another issue, but given Springer's extravagant subscription fees, it might not be such a bad thing if we decided to boycott all their journals. I'm sure our librarians wouldn't mind if we asked them to stop spending $2500 each for Synthese and Phil Studies.

Jonathan Birch

The article was published online on 15th April.

John Protevi

Thank you very much for that correction, Jonathan. I was misled by the "forthcoming" in Professor Clark's email. I see now that he means "forthcoming in print." So I withdraw the questions in the second paragraph of my 11:30 comment.

Jeff Bell

Clark's willingness to share his letter tells me 1) he continues to adhere to the points he made two years ago and 2) he has not read or addressed the numerous times and places throughout this blog where the relevance of Beckwith's credentials as a legal scholar, and hence as someone whose advice on matters of constitutionality, etc., is thereby legitimized is indeed a very relevant nexus of Forrest's argument. Alas, I am simply repeating what has been said so many times before. It seems fairly clear to me now that the EiCs were unprepared for the political pressures the special issue unleashed. What I fear will happen now is that Synthese will retrench into an apolitical vacuum that is safely removed from any appearance of political controversy. This will have the effect of further degrading the role philosophers and philosophy might play in public discourse and as a result the squeaky wheels such as Beckwith, et. al., will have an easier time of it.

Ingo Brigandt

Of course the authors and guest editors had to eventually learn about the disclaimer; and it is hard to see what would have prevented the EICs from simply informing them of this very fact (without offering any information about the background) before the disclaimer's publication, even if they EICs had a notice of libel or similar legal threat on their table -- which they have denied, as I pointed out above. I read the phrase "unable to properly communicate" (without any further explanation) as a weasel wording for the admission that something went wrong internally (though the EICs refuse to acknowledge a fault on their part).

Ingo Brigandt

Clark's willingness to share his letter tells me 1) he continues to adhere to the points he made two years ago and 2) he has not read or addressed the numerous times and places throughout this blog where the relevance of Beckwith's credentials as a legal scholar, and hence as someone whose advice on matters of constitutionality, etc., is thereby legitimized is indeed a very relevant nexus of Forrest's argument.

Indeed, Kelly James Clark still defends the views expressed in his past letter at another thread of this blog, failing to respond to objections to the point where Jon Cogburn has to point out that he is "willfully obtuse".

Mohan Matthen

Hello Kelly: You say: "I'm surprised that few philosophers seem concerned that Synthese published such a shoddy article in the first place." OK, since you are so concerned, maybe you should join the boycott. . . :-). Seriously, though, some of us, I in particular, have defended the quality of Forrest's article, and stated our opinion that it is not "shoddy". I also argued that given the genre of Forrest's piece--roughly sociology or history of science, not "pure" philosophy--the paragraph that you and others object to is in fact innocuous. Maybe you are surprised that so few philosophers are competent to referee articles for Synthese (me included).

Christopher Bailey

Thanks. Complaints from Beckwith and Plantinga, or legal threats? Furthermore, Has there been any legal pressure from the other side? I hardly count a boycott as legal pressure per se. But I am nonetheless curious about any legal maneuverings from this side of the fight.

Christopher Bailey

Given the fact that Prof. Forrest was writing for a journal of philosophy, why would she pen a sociological piece? History of philosophy I can understand. I've read the article and found it to be rife with red herrings and ad hominems as well. As a referee why did you pass this article for publication in the first place? After all ad hominem arguments and red herrings may pass in a sociology journal, but certainly they should not be allowed into a journal of Synthese's caliber.

Christopher Bailey

Not necessarily, there is always the option for the "aggrieved" to venture on to the inception of their own journal.

Christopher Bailey

"where the relevance of Beckwith's credentials as a legal scholar, and hence as someone whose advice on matters of constitutionality, etc., is thereby legitimized is indeed a very relevant nexus of Forrest's argument." I disagree, argumentum ad hominem,as you very well know, is an attempt to undermine the validity of a premise by stipulating and attacking a characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise. How was Forrest's article not doing this?

Mark Lance

Please Christopher, if you are going to use big words at the grown-up table, do look them up first. If a claim is based on authority - as a great many are - then there is no fallacy whatsoever in criticizing it by undercutting that authority. An ad hominem fallacy is the inference from features of the individual to the falsity of the claim they made. (If Forrest had said "Beckwith defends the claim that ID should be taught. Beckwith has no constitutional credentials. Therefore ID should not be taught," that would be an ad hominem fallacy.) But saying that we have no reason to believe claims based on expertise on the grounds that the person is not an expert is patently reasonable. It is what Forrest was doing, as has been pointed out dozens of times.

Jeff Bell

I will simply repeat what Mark said in response to the umpteenth instance of seeing an ad hominen where there isn't one. I will simply add that what is crucial to Forrest's argument is that it is an attempt to undermine the political strategy of ID and its proponents, and puffing up credentials and authority is certainly a key plank of this strategy, along with distracting from key issues (such as the consensus of the scientific community), and hence to attack this authority is not, as Mark points out, an ad hominen. Moreover, what Beckwith does with the disclaimer is a perfect case in point of the ID political strategy in action: you divert attention from the main point of the disclaimer (unjustified as it was in my opinion), which was about the tone of the essays and not the content, and use this disclaimer as evidence for problems with the content of the paper.


Where did you get the idea that it's not the ID folks? The response merely states that it's not 'Christian philosophers.' There are way more ID folks than Christian philosophers, and besides many (most?) Christian philosophers don't believe in ID.


Your apology is bizarre. The problem with your comment is not that it's posted on the wrong blog. The problem is that you're making false claims. But anyway I'm done with your trolling.

Dennis Des Chene

Whois data for the website where the Editors’ answer is posted (this data is available to anyone who does a whois search on the domain):

Domain ID:D37957582-LRMS
Created On:10-May-2011 20:23:48 UTC
Expiration Date:10-May-2012 20:23:48 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:ASCIO Technologies, Inc. - Denmark (R117-LRMS)
Registrant ID:AT31366641-071
Registrant Name:Vincent Hendricks
Registrant Organization:
Registrant Street1:Biskop Svanes vej 56
Registrant Street2:
Registrant Street3:
Registrant City:Birkeroed
Registrant State/Province:
Registrant Postal Code:3460
Registrant Country:DK

Dennis Des Chene

Addendum to the above: it’s possible that the odd way of posting the reply is not an attempt at “security by obscurity” (or to evade search engines) but rather a testimony to the limited HTML experience of the editor who posted it. That would be the charitable interpretation, and after all they’ve got enough problems already.

Mohan Matthen

Dennis: It's nice that some internet savvy people are on this. So Vincent Hendricks created this site for the purpose of posting this response to the petition. And you're saying this was not an attempt at obscuring the response? I don't follow you. Synthese has a site. Why not post the response there?

Mohan Matthen

I didn't say I refereed it. If you are interested in my view of it, I have blogged about it here and elsewhere. 

Sent from my iPad

James H. Fetzer

As I understand it, the assertion that Forrest's article was libelous came from the author whose identity I do not know. Neither Glenn nor I have contemplated any form of legal action. We believed that we had an obligation to expose what had happened for the larger philosophical community to consider--and we are both gratified with the response to date to a situation we regard as a serious threat to research and scholarship on controversial subjects of public concern.

Reinhard Muskens

But since when does Synthese publish attempts to undermine anyone's political strategy? I thought the journal's focus was philosophy of science, with some history and sociology of science. In all these subjects it is not a good idea to mix arguments with political activism. The original objection to the article was not that it was ad hominem in the technical sense, but that it was not dispassionate. Taking sides in a conflict usually leads to very poor history and sociology.

James H. Fetzer

Mohan has a point. The only appropriate venue for an apology or a retraction would be the same as the original. This site is very odd; but then again, as a response to the issues they created by their abuse of their position, it strikes me as hopelessly inadequate. They really don't seem to have a clue.

James H. Fetzer

Mohan has a point. The only appropriate venue for an apology or a retraction would be the same as that in which the original offense was committed. Perhaps for that reason, they wanted to avoid any impression that they were making such concessions. As a response to the issues that have been raised by their abuse of their position, of course, it is hopelessly inadequate. They don't seem to have a clue.

Eric Schliesser

Reinhard, some day we need to meet and discuss how to do history and sociology of science (a topic close to my heart). But funnily enough the EiCs have only objected to the tone of Forrest's article (not the quality). And as I have repeatedly pointed out, Beckwith's piece is probably worse on tone, abusing the disclaimer along the way.

Christopher Bailey

Thank you for answering that question, Dr. Fetzer.

Christopher Bailey

My apologies, i think it was this statement that threw me off. Thank you for clarifying. "Maybe you are surprised that so few philosophers are competent to referee articles for Synthese (me included)."

Christopher Bailey

"big words at the grown up table" in point.

Christopher Bailey

Really? and pray tell how that relates to the content of the argument and not the person making the argument? Someone might have attacked Saul Kripke for the same thing prior to receiving his Phd. "Kripke's argument has no merit because he has not recieved a Phd, after all he's just a teenager. He has no expertise in the matter before us, therefore I suggest dismissing his argument out-of-hand." Yeah, that works. If this is the kind of thinking that goes on at the "grown-up table", I'll stick with the kids.

Christopher Bailey

Point taken, and thanks for the thoughtful, polite reply. I really do appreciate this indulgence. If what you say is the case, I would state in response that Synthese is a journal of Philosophy, not of political polemics. That is not to say that this should not be fought out in other public venues, don't get me wrong. The problem, as I see it, is that this is being carried out in a philosophy journal. Secondly, in my opinion (which according to Dr. Lance should stay at the kids table) what you are describing is the very definition of an ad hominem. I've read Beckwith's previous work and I find much that can be attacked along both epistemological and metaphysical lines. I've every confidence that Dr. Forrest could have destroyed Beckwith's article piece by piece. So, he's a liar and a sham, does that make the entirety of his argument invalid? Even thieves can come up with legitimate arguments.
My point is not to defend Beckwith in any way shape or form. I have MAJOR issues with the ID platform, to tell you the truth. My primary concern consists in the fact that his argument is attacked, not in it's content, nor in it's form, but that the author, himself, takes a bulk of Forrest's barrage. If it's not an ad hominem it's a pretty dirty, and obvious/trite, tactic and truly has no place in a journal like Synthese.... I'll go back and sit with the kids now and continue making faces at the adults :)

Eric Schliesser

Christopher, it is not true that the "author himself takes a bulk of Forrest's barrage." The piece is largely about Beckwith's views and how these are used in the public sphere by a coalition of advocates.
Have you read the piece?

Mark Lance

No christopher, that is not a case in point. The point you tried to make was that barbara forrest had engaged in ad hominems, etc. You made that attempted point with a condescending comment that got every term wrong, wrong in ways that have been pointed out on this blog over and over. What I wrote is an insult from me to you - so nothing like a case of your point, and also not an ad hominem fallacy since I infer nothing from the insult.

kelly james clark

Ingo--I concede that Beckwith's response to Forest contained similar ad hominems. Read my response.

kelly james clark

Suppose I were to publish an essay in APQ in response to Forrest which said:

"Barbara Forrest claims to be an expert in philosophy but, she earned her PhD at an institution that not even in Brian Leiter's top 50. She worked on metaphysics but Tulane is not especially strong in metaphysics. She has served as an expert witness in legal cases but she has no legal degrees whatsoever. Her arguments against intelligent design are rooted in her anger at a bad Sunday School teach when she was a child. She has been known to consort with Daniel Dennett who thinks religious believers should be consigned to cages in a cultural zoo."

Would you think I or the editors had done something wrong? Or is it only Frank Beckwith and/or ID theorists who can legitimately be subjected to ad hominems in top philosophy journals?

John Protevi

Kelly, my argument, which I think is shared by Ingo, is that neither Forrest nor Beckwith engage in "ad hominems." They give negative evaluations of the quality of each other's work. That is not an ad hominem.

Further, Forrest's examination of the claims made by others as to Beckwith's legal credentials is not an ad hominem directed at Beckwith.

And finally, our problem with Beckwith's negative evaluation of the quality of Forrest's work is his completely illegitimate recruitment of the EiC's disclaimer as backup for his evaluation. This is illegitimate on two counts: 1) the disclaimer does not mention Forrest; and 2) it does not mention the quality of any article, only tone.

In my opinion, it's fine for Beckwith to negatively evaluate Forrest's work. He can present his case for that evaluation. But it is wrong both philosophically and professionally for him to cite the EiC's disclaimer as support for his claims as to the poor quality of Forrest's article.

I ask you directly to address these arguments.

kelly james clark

It's too bad Lingua Franca is not still in operation. That would have been a good place for including Forrest's article. I just glanced at all of the articles in the downloadable sample from Synthese. They are remarkably free of personal attacks on the people the authors are discussing. And that's just what I expect from Synthese articles.

Eric Schliesser

Prof. Clark, I think this sentence would (if true) be fair, "She has served as an expert witness in legal cases but she has no legal degrees whatsoever." But, of course, lots of people are expert witness in legal cases without having a legal degree.
Forrest's point in the paper was that Professor Beckwith presents himself as a *legal expert* and he and his political allies have inflated his credentials in doing so.

Given that Dan Dennett has become a public intellectual, I believe the following sentence would also be fair (but not nice): "She has been known to consort with Daniel Dennett who thinks religious believers should be consigned to cages in a cultural zoo." Does Dennett (who incidentally was a BA teacher of mine) say that in print?

The rest strikes me as unfair and not having any counterpart in Prof. Forrest's paper. I do wonder if you have read Professor Forrest's paper, or if you are relying on somebody else's authority?

John Protevi

Kelly, in your own quote from Forrest's article, anyone can see that Forrest is evaluating the claim made by Wasley et al 2006 as to Beckwith's credentials. We have repeatedly stressed this point.

I have asked you to respond to several arguments upthread. I hope you will take me up on this.

Mark Lance

If Forrest were basing her interventions in political and legal proceedings on her philosophical or legal credentials, the first two sentences would be obviously relevant, and not ad hominem fallacies in any way. The second two sentences are offensive insults based on dishonest factual claims and so criticizable. They are not analogous to anything in this case.

Mark Lance

If Kripke were intervening in political and legal disputes, and basing his comments there on his educational credentials, it would obviously be relevant to point out his lack of them.
Since I generally haven't the slightest trouble explaining this distinction to introductory critical thinking students, I'm now going to conclude that your refusal to take the point, which has been repeated ad nauseum, reflects not on your intelligence, but your character.

Mohan Matthen

It would depend on the overall point and context of your essay. If the point was, say, to establish that names are definite descriptions, and this passage came in the middle of a discussion of Forrest's view on the same, the passage you so entertainingly concoct would be entirely inappropriate and inadmissible, and the proper punishment would be fifty strokes of the cane. If on the other hand, you were making this comment in a sociological/historical discussion of a politically charged topic, where credentials had been invoked and had become relevant to the debate, it might be appropriate (though possibly too witty to find a place in APQ). However, I should caution you that the 'but' in the third sentence is logically unsupported. Cheers!

Mohan Matthen

Lingua Franca would have been a good place for Forrest's piece, I agree. But the Synthese issue might have been too. I don't know what the overall design of that special issue was supposed to be. Conceivably, it was meant to be a multi-disciplinary treatment: as far as I know Synthese is friendly to such. If so, a 4S type of article would not have been out of place. The credential check would be appropriate in such a piece, but not so much in a philosophy piece.

By the way, do you remember Quentin Smith's piece on Kripke and Scott Soames's response. There was quite a bit of acrimony in that exchange on all sides. That was in Synthese, under an earlier EiC (Hintikka, I believe). Ad hominems happen, even in philosophy.

kelly james clark

Forrest wrote: "Although he has been called a legal scholar." Is that enough to justifiy her ad hominems.

Please see my letter above. Of course, I read her piece.

Yes, Dennett says that in print.

I, too, wonder if you and others read Forrest's piece.

Eric Schliesser

Forrest recounts that Beckwith has been called a legal scholar by political agents that wish to promote a certain political agenda and, in the process, inflate his credentials so he can have more legal and political authority.
So, why can't she deflate some of his credentials on that score?

Then in my view, given that Dennett is a public intellectual, his views on these matters are fair game for all kinds of ridicule.

kelly james clark

I addressed it to:


These addresses were deleted when I posted the letter. Hopefully, they come through in this posting.

Beckwith called my attention to the article.

It may have been called to my attention because I was then Executive Director of the Society of Christian Philosophers. I don't know. At any rate, I did not think it appropriate to represent SCP in my missive and so signed it only as a private citizen. I did not consult with the Executive Board of SCP or any other Christian Philosophers prior to sending the letter. Or any non-Christian philosophers or any ID-theorists. Or any lawyers.

Eric Schliesser

Fodor, McGinn, Searle, McDowell, Dennett, also all have been involved in all kinds of very acrimonious (if not hilarious) disputes.

kelly james clark

Nope, they didn't come through. Let me try again:
jsymons at utep and johan in the nederlands

John Protevi

Thank you, Kelly. I had actually withdrawn these questions when Jonathan Birch corrected my mistaken idea as to the timing of your email. But thank you anyway for this response.

A more important topic, I think, is addressed here:

kelly james clark

I do not endorse Beckwith's subsequent essay on this topic. In fact, contra Ingo's assertion above, I conceded his mistakes. I think it was not a good idea to publish Beckwith's essay for exactly the same reasons I think it not a good idea to publish Forrest's. With Forrest's ad homimens, red herrings, etc., removed, then yes, publish it. Otherwise, don't. Same for Beckwith.

I have not read everything by everyone on this matter. I have other fishes to fry. I have mostly entered into this fray to make it clear that there was not some vast right-wing, ID, fundamentalist Christian conspiracy involved (at least not that I'm aware of or am party to). Brian Leiter seems keen to make this case.

I don't defend Beckwith's response.

kelly james clark

Please see my above responses.

Christopher Bailey

What false claims have i made? Last time I checked I was asking questions and being polite.

Christopher Bailey

Could there be any legal pressure coming from Dr. Forrest?

Eric Schliesser

Thank you for clarifying, Kelly.

John Protevi

Thank you, Kelly. Again, I don't think either Beckwith or Forrest used ad hominems, as strongly worded negative evaluations are not ad hominems in my understanding of the term.

And again, I really have no problem with Beckwith saying Forrest committed "literary misconduct" or produced a "professional embarrassment." He can present his case that those are accurate assessments. Whether or not he succeeds in defending those claims is different from his right to use strong language without it being called an ad hominem, rather than "uncivil" or "intemperate" or "ironic, given that he was allowed this response due to complaints as to the incivility of Forrest's article."

But again, at the risk of further strokes to the hide of a deceased equine, it's his recruitment of the EiC's disclaimer that is the specific and narrowly focused target of my argument.


Apparently, in Dr Clark's belief system, the prohibition against bearing false witness has an exception for bearing false witness against defenders of secularism.

Here is what Dennett actually has to say:

It should be noted that this particular malicious misinterpretation was not original to Michael Rea, or to Clark. They are in the good company of Michael Behe, who made the same accusation years earlier, in his awful Darwin's Black Box.

Christopher Bailey


John Protevi

Bizarre, we're not squeamish here at New APPS (in fact we encourage what the diplomats would call "a frank and open exchange of views"). But I think that when someone uses a pseudonym it's incumbent upon them to be judicious in their language. I think you're getting a little too close to the edge here in the "false witness" bit. I'd be happy to correspond with you by email for further clarification, but you'll need to contact me.

John Protevi

You have to place this in the time line. When do you think this hypothesized pressure occurred?

Also, can you be a little more precise in your modality? Of course there "could" be legal pressure from Barbara Forrest in the sense that it's not logically contradictory. But that kind of "could" hardly helps us in this discussion.

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