MOVING TO FRONT FROM MAY 15--MORE INPUT FROM SIGNATORIES OF THE PETITION WELCOME
The recent response from the EICs of Synthese, together with other information in the press, confirms several of the allegations to date: that Synthese was lobbied by Beckwith, as well as friends of Beckwith and Intelligent Design; that Synthese received legal threats, some deemed unserious, some deemed "meaningful" (though some came from philosophers who were not "Christian," though the relevance of that is not wholly clear at this point); that the disclaimer was inserted "behind the backs" of the Guest Editors; and that there were only two articles to which objections were lodged. The EICs have offered neither to apologize nor to retract the disclaimer.
None of the new information does anything to justify what the EICs did or to mitigate the damage they have done to the contributors to the volume or to the integrity of science education in the United States. The points made some time ago by Hilary Kornblith (U Mass/Amherst) still stand, and bear repeating:
If I submit an article to a journal for publication, there are all sorts of reasons why they might decide either to reject it or to ask for revisions. Let’s focus on the issue of tone, since that is what’s at issue at Synthese. Suppose I submit an article which an editor wishes to publish, but the tone is somehow found wanting. There’s a wide range of reasonable views, I believe, about what tone is appropriate, and it’s a good thing that different journal editors have different views about this. And if, for some reason, the tone of a submitted piece doesn’t meet the standards a journal editor finds appropriate, then he or she might ask that the paper be revised in accordance with his or her concerns. Once that is done—assuming the author is willing to make revisions—the editor must decide whether to publish the paper. And if the journal editor’s standards fit into that wide range of reasonable views, then whatever decision the editor makes would be fine. What would not be fine, I believe, is to publish the paper and then include an editorial remark commenting that the tone is inappropriate. Authors have a reasonable expectation that their work, if accepted for publication, will not be accompanied by an editorial statement indicating deficiencies of any sort. Editors who believe that there are deficiencies which make publication inappropriate should fail to publish the paper. But if they decide that the paper meets their standards for publication, any remaining doubts they may have should be kept to themselves. Publishing editorial criticism of a paper which has been accepted falls very far outside the bounds of acceptable editorial conduct.
It does not help if the editorial remarks are of a more general sort, indicating only that there are problems somewhere in a particular issue of the journal, without naming names.... [B]y making very general remarks about problems with the issue, the editors do thereby call into question the appropriateness of the various contributions. If the editors thought that some of the contributors were guilt-free, why would they want to do this? And wouldn’t each of the contributors rightly feel aggrieved? This is not what authors sign up for when they contribute to a journal. Accept a paper or reject it. Bring whatever standards to bear that you think appropriate as an editor. But don’t accept a paper and then call its credentials, of whatever sort, into question. I have no trouble understanding why someone would think that when editors behave in this sort of way, their journal should be subject to very severe consequences....
It seems, at this point, that there are now two options, given the intransigence of the Synthese editors with respect to the core issues of misconduct. One option remains a boycott of the journal, by both contributors and referees. The second, which several philosophers have now raised (and one of whom, a distinguished senior figure in the fields in which Synthese publishes, has raised directly with the publisher), is to demand the resignation of the editors responsible for this mess. Right now, it would be fair to say, the stink of this affair hovers over what everyone agrees has been a very good and important journal in the field. Some philosophers feel that only a complete turnover in editorial management will suffice.
I invite signatories to the petition to weigh in with their thoughts on what should be done now. There have been extensive debates about the pros and cons at many blogs, to which I've linked previously. At this point, I would really like to gauge what signatories to the petition (or those supportive of the petition, but who did not learn of it until after it closed) think is the right course of action in light of where things stand now. Of course, if some signatories to the petition feel the new information resolves the issue, then they should also feel free to say so and explain why (my impression--admittedly anecdotal--is that most signatories are not at all satisfied, but if that's wrong, I want to know!). Thanks.