My impression so far is that there is much unhappiness among philosophers, for some good reasons, with the latest "response" from the EICS of Synthese to the petition. At best, the new response addressed points #1 and #4 in the petition, at least partially. But there was no apology for the manifest misconduct of the EICs and no indication that the disclaimer will be retracted, and, given the new information, those demands remain paramount.
The public statement of the EICs in response to the petition from nearly 470 philosophers reads as follows:
We have considered the demands contained in this petition very seriously. We have implemented a moratorium on new special issues and we have begun planning appropriate changes to the editorial procedures of Synthese.
This moratorium was imposed prior to the petition, it is worth noting.
The petition asks for full disclosure of all legal threats. There have not been any communications received from Christian philosophers that constituted legal threats. There was a single email from a member of the public expressing the view that the entire special issue was ‘scurrilous and libelous’. We did not consider this email to be a legal threat. It is important to note that this email was received after our initial contacts with Professor Beckwith.
Professor Beckwith initiated those contacts, so I'm not sure of the relevance of the timing. That a "member of the public" (friend of Beckwith? of Intelligent Design?) did contact Synthese throwing around the "libel" charge (manifestly absurd) is notable, though I accept at face value their claim that they did not think of this as a legal threat.
As far as meaningful legal action is concerned, we have received messages that we take seriously as legal threats but these have not come from Christian philosophers. Our ability to provide detailed responses in the blogs is constrained by these challenges.
This is certainly cryptic, and so a bit hard to interpret. The allegation all along has been that Synthese caved in to lobbying and threats from friends of Beckwith and Intelligent Design, not "Christian philosophers." Since nothing in the issue of Synthese in question was actionable, it is hard to believe this other threat of legal action was deemed "meaningful." I think in the interest of honest and open intellectual inquiry, the editors should risk legal action in order to clear the air. Since anyone threatening legal action is "blowing smoke" (as we say in the US), the journal should not succumb to that nonsense either. The response continues:
Professor Beckwith requested an opportunity to respond to Professor Forrest’s paper. We agreed that this was a fair course of action.
I expressed the view initially that it was fair to let Beckwith respond, but it was not at all fair, as Eric Schliesser (Ghent) has documented, to let him respond as he did, both exploiting and misrepresenting the "disclaimer" of the Synthese EICs. The response continues:
As regards the inclusion of our editorial statement and the email correspondence with Professor Forrest, it is true that there was considerable discussion between the editors of all aspects of the special issue. We took these matters very seriously and as is often the case with serious deliberation there were some oscillations prior to our reaching a conclusion. Eventually the editors arrived at a shared position, in consultation with the publisher, based on what we judged to be the offending language in two papers.
With respect to the claim that the guest editors were given assurances that no editorial statement would appear, it is true that the guest editors were privy to internal discussions between the editors-in-chief at earlier stages. We were unable to properly communicate later stages of our decision-making process to the guest editors.
This is, at least, a clean confirmation that the "disclaimer" was inserted "behind the backs" of the Guest Editors, as claimed originally. Finally:
We are ultimately responsible for what appears in the journal and we decided to publish the special issue without amendment to any of its papers. We wish to emphasize that our editorial statement should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement of ‘intelligent design’.
I am glad the EICs have added their non-endorsement of Intelligent Design to the public record, but that barely mitigates the damage they have done.
It is telling that Beckwith (for those coming late to this issue, scroll down the original post for some of the details about his shenanigans and history), after maintaining silence about this whole affair the last few weeks, has now linked both to the latest "response" and the New York Times article, obviously because he thinks they vindicate him. It is clear why he would think the latest 'response' supports his position (hence he posts it without comment under the heading res ipsa loquitur ["the thing speaks for itself"], which ought to really embarrass the Synthese editors!), though the Times piece is a bit more mixed, confirming, as it does, that Synthese was, indeed, lobbied by friends of Francis Beckwith and/or Intelligent Design (two of whom are now named: Kelly James Clark [Calvin] and Alvin Plantinga [Notre Dame]; William Dembski denies involvement, about which I'm skeptical, but that matter doesn't need to be resolved). But clearly what Beckwith is pleased about in the Times article is that parts of it support his whitewash of his long involvement with the Intelligent Design movement, including his many years as a Fellow of the Discovery [sic] Institute and his work lobbying school boards and the public to permit the teaching of Intelligent Design in the public schools. The freelancer in question, Mark Oppenheimer--with whom, sad to say, I'm familiar--is lazy, so he just repeated Beckwith's standard whitewash verbatim, rather than examine the public record, as described in detail, for example, in Professor Forrest's work. He even accepted at face value Beckwith's claim to have played no role in getting others to lobby Synthese. (Given that Mr. Oppenheimer's last intersection with me raised "conflict of interest" questions, about which he was quite upset, one might have thought he'd haved steer clear of this topic, but that's a side-issue of interest, if at all, to students of journalism.)
So we have some more information, all of which confirms earlier allegations, but no retraction of the disclaimer and no apology. The question now is: what to do? A separate thread for that.