Apparently, the Beckwith/Synthese controversy has snowballed:
A friend writes to say, “Now one of the most distinguished philosophers of science (of the past 40 years), Larry Laudan, has weighed in … ” (Against a guy who trashed him (Robert Pennock), and is otherwise best known for his “dark side” stories about the intelligent design folk.)
Laudan has now weighed in about the “anti-ID issue” of Synthese (in which supposed ID expert Barbara Forrest wrongly broomsticked Baylor’s Frank Beckwith as if he were an ID supporter -when everyone else knows he isn’t. But now her supporters are whining up a storm and hinting at “dark” ID forces). Laudan says:
I know nothing directly about such pressure, if any, as the ID forces brought to bear on the editors of Synthese. I have, however, read portions of several papers in the Synthese issue in question and, in my judgment, the statement from the editors dissociating themselves from some of the injudicious and scandalous statements made by some of the authors in the pertinent issue of the journal was not only in order but essential as a matter of professional ethics.
Yes, it was that, exactly. It is a simple fact that no “sinister” ID types were involved with the Frank Beckwith part of the controversy. Beckwith told me, (an acquaintance for reasons unrelated to ID) of his own intentions and I said that – were he to receive justice – I would undertake to publicize that fact at Uncommon Descent.
There. End of ID community involvement. After, not before the fact. I told no one what Beckwith had told me until the editors’ decision was made and researchable. Now, more from Laudan on his own experience:
I will limit my comments to a single paper by Robert Pennock from the issue in question. In the course of some twenty pages, he alleges that the work of a fellow philosopher is “almost willfully naïve and misguided,” that it “can only be described as histrionic and ill-considered” and that it ”continue[s] to muddy the waters to the detriment of both science and philosophy of science.” He goes on to endorse the proposal that the philosopher in question should be excluded from ‘the conversation of mankind’ because said author “ha[s] lost touch with reality in a profound and perverse way.”Those of you who have read Pennock’s paper will know that I am not a wholly disinterested party here, since all his barbs are directed specifically at yours truly.
But I think I can lay aside self interest long enough to say that discourse of this sort has no legitimate place in any serious journal of philosophy (most especially the suggestion that those who disagree with Pennock should be excluded from ‘the conversation of mankind’). I cannot imagine any editor of any journal in the field who would not be appalled if he discovered that papers he had inadvertently published were rich in such jejune invective. Indeed, if there is any journal editor reading this blog who would not have taken a red pencil aggressively to such a text, I would be interested to know that.
Under the circumstances, an acknowledgement of fault of the sort that the Synthese Editors issued is not only natural but essential. That some of their fellow philosophers are now taking those same Editors to task for owning up to their lack of editorial oversight strikes me as a curious reaction, to put it mildly. By far, the more egregious error would have been if the Editors had said nothing to dissociate themselves from the feeble efforts at defamation in which the interim editors of the special number of the Synthese allowed some of their authors to engage.
One comment was
Finally, as Jon Cogburn emphasized recently, there is the huge outstanding issue of whether the editors-in-chief were pressured by supporters of ID, specifically whether there were implied threats of legal action. This is, for all the reasons Jon pointed out, a crucial issue for the profession given the underlying political issues.”
Is that a “crucial issue”? Oh well, then, I can tell him – with respect to the Frank Beckwith paper, emphatically not.