Philosophy, Film, Politics, Etc.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Forrest Controversy

A storm is churning over Barbara Forrest's paper, "The Non-Epistemology of Intelligent Design: It's Implications for Public Policy," which appears in a special edition of Synthese (a highly reputable philosophy of science journal) devoted to controversies surrounding evolutionary theory, called "Evolution and Its Rivals." As a result, Brian Leiter is organizing a boycott.

Leiter's problem is not with the article, but the way the editors-in-chief handled it. Most offensively, they hung a disclaimer over the entire issue, claiming (perhaps disingenuously) that it is not up to their professional standards. This, even though they guaranteed the guest editors that they would not do so. The disclaimer makes the guest editors and all of the contributors suspect. Even if they had singled out Forrest's contribution, it would have been an insult to her and the guest editors who approved her paper. (That is, assuming her paper is not a departure from the norm. I haven't read it, and don't have easy access to it, though I'd very much like to see for myself.)

Why'd they do it? Apparently it's because there's been a widespread, vitriolic reaction to Forrest's article in the ID community. (The article had been previously published online.) There's a strong effort to dismiss her work, and this disclaimer is only going to help. Have the editors-in-chief of Synthese compromised their principles and buckled under the weight of ID politics? Or is Forrest's paper unworthy of Synthese? Again, I'd like to see for myself. Either way, the journal's handling of the situation is highly suspect, and the boycott might not be a bad idea.

See follow-up: Cryptic Letter from Synthese Editors in Chief