While we are almost certainly past the point of diminishing marginal utility in commenting on the Synthese affair, we are perhaps not yet to the point of increasing marginal disutility, so we thought we would make some (perhaps) final points.
First, we think speculation as to the motivational or cognitive states of EiCs is beside the point. We want to concentrate on the public record, the most salient points of which are the disclaimer, and Beckwith’s use thereof.
Second, the key phrases of the disclaimer do not name any one author, and are directed solely to “tone,” not to the quality of argumentation:
We have observed that some of the papers in this issue employ a tone that may make it hard to distinguish between dispassionate intellectual discussion of other views and disqualification of a targeted author or group… tone and prose should follow the usual academic standards of politeness and respect in phrasing.
It is thus completely irrelevant to discuss the quality of Barbara Forrest’s article as a means of justifying the EiC’s disclaimer, both because her paper is not named, and because no paper is condemned for anything other than “tone.”
Third, even should one wish to proceed with a critique of Forrest’s paper for allegedly purely philosophical reasons, one should keep her chosen task in mind, a critique of ID epistemology with regard to its public policy implications. She did not set out to produce the definitive statement of the relation of religion and science, and claiming that one could do a better job at that task is neither here nor there. It would be like criticizing a runner for his or her performance as a swimmer.
Fourth, it is a canard to claim that Forrest’s analysis of the use by others of Beckwith’s legal credentials constitutes a “personal attack” on Beckwith. It is also untrue that Forrest is “attacking” Beckwith’s “religious affiliation.” Forrest is clearly using Beckwith’s writings on other faiths as illustrations of how doctrinal conflict is insoluble given the epistemology of Johnson, Dembski, and Beckwith. She may be incorrect in that assessment, but seeing it as a personal attack on Beckwith is simply false.
Finally, when the EiCs permitted Beckwith to claim that the disclaimer targeted the quality of Forrest’s argumentation, they committed a political blunder with quite possibly grave public policy implications. That Beckwith’s piece is much more uncivil than Forrest’s is mordantly ironic, but by allowing his statement to stand, the EiCs have almost certainly helped those who will wish to discredit any future testimony by Forrest as she continues her brave and admirable battle in the courts and legislatures of the US. To have that important effort hurt by the EiCs allowing Beckwith’s obnoxious use of their disclaimer to appear in a regular issue of Synthese is the most damaging aspect of the entire matter.
We thus call upon the EiCs to publicly and permanently (i.e., in the pages of Synthese) repudiate in clear terms Beckwith’s use of their disclaimer. That is the minimum they should do.