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Barbara Forrest, metaphysical naturalism, and the End of Science rent-a-riot

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Responding to Walter Myers III at ENV, Barry Arrington brings up a name that rings a bell:

Over at ENV Walter Myers III takes a sledgehammer to the argument that the success of science compels acceptance of metaphysical naturalism, this time as argued by Barbara Forrest More.

There are over 18,000 posts here but I remember Forrest from the curious case of her wholly unjustified attack on fellow philosopher Frank Beckwith in a philosophy quarterly a few years back.

The story, so far as we knew it, is this: Beckwith used to hang out with ID theorists. Forrest published a savage attempt at a takedown in Synthese, without apparently having paid much attention to what Beckwith actually said. He, naturally, protested, and the editors sort of apologized. A petition materialized against the apology (who knows why?) And various sources were predicting the death of Synthese. Again, why? Shouldn’t she just have done her homework?,

Was she trying to “fix” Beckwith for associating with Bad Elements? Or was it, as I (O’Leary for News) suspected at the time, she was as mad as stink at him but hadn’t actually kept up with the file.

The New York Times was, of course, sympathetic but ultimately even they couldn’t help much. As I wrote at the time, addressing the literary fiction version of the story:

No, Dembski didn’t know. There was no campaign. I was the only person clearly sympathetic to the ID community who knew anything at all, and I did not tell Dembski. Or anyone else. I made that clear after the “Save Our Forrest” campaign started, which should have ended its ongoing insinuations, but didn’t, of course.

When Beckwith talked to me late in January, he talked like a man who had been mugged, determined to get justice, all alone if need be. But he wasn’t all alone.

Distinguished Christian philosopher Plantinga contacted the journal, as did another Christian philosopher known to be unsympathetic to ID, both accusing Forrest of “character assassination.” Apparently, Beckwith had never even asked them to complain:

I don’t know these guys well, but to have philosophers of that stature come to your defense – I was blown away by that.”

I myself warned Nick Matzke, Forrest’s defender, not to continue turning the debacle into a [debris] storm. Which raises an interesting question: Now that the Times has markedly failed to just rush in obediently to help Matzke, … will it all blow over now? Or will the “Save Our Forrest” campaign roll on oblivious?

Seems to have blown over.

See also: When Will They Learn the Ethics of Elfland? Barry Arrington: When are they going to understand that “gravity” does not cause water to run downhill

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