From news writer O’Leary:
Recently, Barry Arrington had somewhat to say about Darwinist Nick Matzke, who frightened the pusillanimous editors at Springer out of publishing the Cornell papers at the last minute. (see Nick Matzke – Book burner)
Having worked in the publishing industry most of my career, I know very well how pusillanimous editors can be.
Something about Matzke’s name rang a bell, and then I remembered: He was front and centre in the unsavoury business of defending philosophy professor Barbara Forrest from the outcome of her “own goal” when she attacked a fellow philosopher, Frank Beckwith, in the journal Synthese, for allegedly being an ID sympathizer when he had been saying in public for years that he wasn’t. Here is what I wrote, finally, on the whole business: summing up the story:
Barbara Forrest is a pseudo-expert, not a real expert. And I can (and now must, alas) explain why.
Forrest, a prof at Eastern Louisiana University, is considered a big expert on the intelligent design community and the dangers it poses. I put off explaining why she isn’t a big expert, but can’t decently do so any longer.
Skinniest (skip down to the black type if you know): Here, we covered the recent uproar in which the editors of philosophy journal Synthese inserted a disclaimer about published Darwin lobby hit pieces on philosophers Frank Beckwith and Larry Laudan. Forrest, for example, insinuated Beckwith to be an ID supporter, which was clearly false. Beckwith contacted me for help in straightening out his position, and I said I would publish news of any success he had. But otherwise kept my mouth shut. The journal quite properly stuck to its disclaimer and published his rebuttal (“Or we can be philosophers”), so on to other news. But …
But an alternative version of reality was growing legs, then wings: A sinister ID lobby had supposedly forced the editors of the journal to “cave.” From the “Synthese boycott status” page, we learn that 468 academics signed a petition, prepared by Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago, protesting the decision, spurred by the winged claims.
Only there was no intelligent design lobby. It was a phantom, dependent on an alternative reality in which the ID guys actually knew and acted. [They simply couldn’t have, because I was the only one who knew and I never told anyone. – d.]
So all those petitioners and boycotters are being led up the garden path! Plus people who don’t even know what happened are weighing in from all corners, forecasting the death of the journal Synthese. They really believe in the phantom ID lobby. Someone must blow this spook away, if possible.
Puff!: A pseudo-expert is a person who is regarded by a pressure group (in this case, the US’s National Center for Science Education) as an expert. That person can produce very convincing material, better in fact than a real expert could do. A real expert is handicapped by facts, which are more obstinate than the pressure group’s talking points, and much harder to work with.
Relying on a pseudo-expert is okay if your job is to whip up a public. Things get more awkward when you need facts. That’s what went wrong for Barbara Forrest’s defender Nick Matzke. In an attempt to defend Forrest from the journal’s disclaimer, which was widely interpreted as pointing to her work and Pennock’s in particular, Matzke claimed some discrepancy between Frank Beckwith’s account of his views on intelligent design and my account. He had stumbled onto something: Beckwith’s increasing vehemence. But there is no discrepancy, and a real expert would know why. More.
But Forrest didn’t actually need to know all the stuff I discussed there; she only needed to read a fair sample of Beckwith’s comments on ID over the previous five years.
Later, Forrest attracted the attention of New York Times science writer Michael Zimmer but it was difficult—even for such sympathetic ears—to make a very good case for her out of what happened.
So this was one situation that Matzke and others of Darwin’s followers did not bully their way through. The rebuke stayed, so far as I know, and the mag just moved on, as it should of course have done.
Here’s the take-home point for Elizabeth Liddle and others: That is how the Darwin lobby—and Nick Matzke in particular—respond when one of their number has really messed up. They double down on justifying it, blaming everyone but themselves. No surprise, they think that any criticism of their dogma is some kind of a threat to science.
What they want is a world where no reasonable criticism of Darwinism may be entertained, where Darwinists can be just as incompetent, foul-mouthed, underhanded, or thuggish as they please, all the while vigorously defended by a tenured establishment. Join and support them at your own risk.
Note: A surprising number of Matzke’s co-belligerents hold him in deficient esteem.