Mohan Matthen (Toronto) comments on the peculiar spectacle of Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga trading laudatory reviews of their recent anti-naturalist books in different high-profile publications, especially when at least one of the books (Nagel's) is obviously not very good (I have not read Plantinga's, though I'm not optimistic given what I've read about it). (Commenting on Professor Matthen's post, the distinguished Oxford philosopher of physics David Wallace offers the amusing quip: "I was initially shocked to find that two such distinguished philosophers were so remarkably ignorant of basic science. It totally violated my common sense. Then I realised that in that case, it couldn't be true. So that's okay.")
NAGEL IS NOT AFRAID to take unpopular positions, and he does not seem to mind the obloquy that goes with that territory....Nagel has endorsed the negative conclusions of the much-maligned Intelligent Design movement, and he has defended it from the charge that it is inherently unscientific. In 2009 he even went so far as to recommend Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, a flagship declaration of Intelligent Design, as a book of the year. For that piece of blasphemy Nagel paid the predictable price; he was said to be arrogant, dangerous to children, a disgrace, hypocritical, ignorant, mind-polluting, reprehensible, stupid, unscientific, and in general a less than wholly upstanding citizen of the republic of letters.
I suppose it testifies to the influence of this blog that most of Plantinga's sarcastic aside clearly references criticisms levelled at Nagel on this blog (and other authors to whom I linked). But Plantinga's silliness aside, let's be clear why Nagel earned the criticism:
1. There is no scientific controversy about Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.
2. There is no evidence for Intelligent Design or any other religiously motivated alternative.
3. As good fallibilists, we can acknowledge that, despite (1) and (2), Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection might turn out to be false. But fabrications, confusions, and bone-headed philosophcial speculations give us no reason to be skeptical.
4. Given 1-3, it's an outrage to try to encourage high schools to teach children anything other than Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection as part of the standard biology curriculum. The raison-d'etre of the Discovery [sic] Institute and its paid shills like Stephen Meyer are to perpetrate this outrage.
No one doubts that Nagel and Plantinga are capable philosophers, who have done high quality professional work during their careers. Plantinga at least has the excuse of his religion to explain his more doubtful philosophical forays. But neither can be excused for trying to legitimate the hucksters at the Discovery [sic] Institute and the Intelligent Design scam. This really isn't a hard issue, and one can predict with certainty that both Nagel's and Plantinga's trafficking with this nonsense will not redound to their credit over the long haul.
(The reason for the title of this post will become clear, below.)
Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education called my attention last week to this putative review by Steve Fuller of Nagel's Mind and Cosmos; the review was aptly described by another correspondent as "a largely content-free mix of self-promotion and derogation of his Enemies, in which you held the place of honour." (Michael Weisberg, co-author of the review in The Nation, is not on Fuller's "Enemies list" so was erased from Fuller's score-settling.) Just to give the flavor of Fuller's "review," a short excerpt:
A couple of readers, including some who recently declined to referee for Synthese, asked me to post an update about this matter.
Just to recap: last year, Synthese published a special issue on evolution and its critics--basically, an issue about the public debates over science education in the United States. The editors were lobbied by, among others, Intelligent Design proponents and sympathizers who objected to an article by Barbara Forrest critical of Intelligent Desigh apologist Francis Beckwith (whom long-time readers will remember). (The single most important overview of what transpired is here.) The editors, without warning either the guest editors of the special issue or the contributors, appended an insulting dislcaimer to the entire volume, thus smearing all the contributors. As Hilary Kornblith (U Mass/Amherst) observed at the time:
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.
Nearly five hundred philosophers signed a petition in protest, including many leading senior figures in the field. The editors ignored the petition, failing to apologize, retract the disclaimer or even give a decent explanation of what transpired. The whole scandal, and the intransigence of the editors, did substantial damage to the reputation of the journal, with hundreds of philosophers committing to neither submit to nor referee for the journal. (Also here, here, and here.)
Since then, two of the three editors responsible have stepped down. But there has still been no apology for the gross editorial misconduct, or retraction of the disclaimer. I continue to be sent correspondence from philosophers honoring the boycott, and I would encourage all those concerned with this injustice to continue to boycott Synthese.
UPDATE: A job seeker writes: "I'm a long-time lurker on your blog, but I thought this was important enough to comment on: I got a paper accepted in Synthese a couple months before the issue broke, and it still has not appeared in print. So it might help people on the job market to remind search committees that a publication in Synthese - even a 'forthcoming' one - does not mean a publication in a damaged journal. (At least, not yet.)" A fair point.
Via Eric Schliesser (Ghent), I learn that the recent entry on science and religion by Alvin Plantinga at SEP presents Michael Behe's ID apologetics as serious and important, and gives no sense of the actual scientific and philosophical reception of the work. Ugh.
Even by their usual standards, this is remarkably feeble. I guess they're counting on their readers not reading the review or being sufficiently stupid that, if they did, they wouldn't understand the actual argument.
(For those new to these sordid debates, the Discovery [sic] Institute is the public relations arm of the new creationist movement.)
ADDENDUM: Since several readers asked: the title of our review was given by the editors, not us. It's not terrible, not ideal.
UPDATE: Michael Weisberg (Penn) points out to me that these survey responses about evolution are strongly affected by how the question is presented; for discussion, see this paper. When the questions are asked differently, the belief in evolution goes up.
Laura Schlesinger is a US radio personality, who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. She recently said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination, according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstances. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura which was posted on the Internet.
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination... End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is, my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle- room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16.
Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan,
UPDATE: Philosopher Paul Weithman (Notre Dame) points out that this is clearly based on an episode of the TV show "West Wing."
ANOTHER: Scott Paterson points me to this "which refers to an entertainment weekly news item, October 26, 2000 where Aaron Sorkin admits he used the email as a source." So the e-mail came first!
...otherwise known as the platform of the Texas Republican Party. Many readers have sent it, and it's an appalling read as always. These people should be disenfrancised and put under adult supervision until they grow up. A few gems:
Rights Versus Products -- We oppose calling welfare and other income and product redistribution schemes "rights" or "entitlements". We know that fundamental human rights are inherent to individuals and are granted by God and are protected by the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. They are not products of others labor. Unalienable rights, such as life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, property rights, free speech, religious freedom, self-defense, etc. do not impose on others rights whereas income and product redistribution invariably do so...
Religious Symbols - We oppose any governmental action to restrict, prohibit, or remove public display of the Decalogue or other religious symbols....
American English - We support adoption of American English as the official language of Texas and of the United States.
Flag Desecration - Any form of desecration of the American Flag is an act of disregard for our nation and its people and penalties should be established for such....
Confederate Widows Plaque - We call for restoration of plaques honoring the Confederate Widow’s Pension Fund contribution that were illegally removed from the Texas Supreme Court building....
We believe in the sanctity of marriage and that the integrity of this institution should be protected at all levels of government. We urge the Legislature to rescind no-fault divorce laws. We support Covenant Marriage....
We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children. We recognize their sacrifice and deplore the liberal assault on the family....
We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.
Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable "alternative" lifestyle, in public policy, nor should "family" be redefined to include homosexual "couples." We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values....
...We are opposed to genocide, euthanasia, and assisted suicide....
Because of the personal and social pain caused by abortions, we call for the protection of both women and their unborn children from pressure for unwanted abortions. We commend the Texas Legislature for the passage of the Woman's Right to Know Act, a law requiring abortion providers, prior to an abortion, to provide women full knowledge of the physical and psychological risks of abortion, the characteristics of the unborn child, and abortion alternatives....
We urge the FDA to rescind approval of the physically dangerous RU-486 and oppose limiting the manufacturers’ and distributors’ liability.
Morning After Pill - We oppose sale and use of the dangerous "Morning After Pill"....
We support legislation that requires doctors, at first opportunity, to provide to a woman who is pregnant, information about the nervous system development of her unborn child and to provide pain relief for her unborn if she orders an abortion. We support legislation banning of abortion after 20 weeks gestation due to fetal pain.
Unborn Victims of Violence Legislation - We urge the State to ensure that the Prenatal Protection Law is interpreted accurately and consider the unborn child as an equal victim in any crime, including domestic violence....
We unequivocally oppose the United States Senate’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child....
We support eliminating bureaucratic prohibitions on corporal discipline and home schooling in foster homes....
We support an immediate and orderly transition to a system of private pensions based on the concept of individual retirement accounts, and gradually phasing out the Social Security tax....
We demand the immediate repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which we believe to be unconstitutional....
We support the availability of natural, unprocessed foods, including, but not limited to, the right to access raw milk....
All adult citizens should have the legal right to conscientiously choose which vaccines are administered to themselves or their minor children without penalty for refusing a vaccine. We oppose any effort by any authority to mandate such vaccines...
We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive. We favor strengthening our common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups. Students should pledge allegiance to the American and Texas flags daily to instill patriotism....
We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas....
We support objective teaching and equal treatment of all sides of scientific theories. We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced. Teachers and students should be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these theories openly and without fear of retribution or discrimination of any kind....
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority....
We recognize parental responsibility and authority regarding sex education. We believe that parents must be given an opportunity to review the material prior to giving their consent. We oppose any sex education other than abstinence until marriage....
We support school subjects with emphasis on the Judeo-Christian principles upon which America was founded and which form the basis of America’s legal, political and economic systems. We support curricula that are heavily weighted on original founding documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and Founders’ writings.
We urge legislators to prohibit reproductive health care services, including counseling, referrals, and distribution of condoms and contraception through public schools. We support the parents’ right to choose, without penalty, which medications are administered to their minor children. We oppose medical clinics on school property except higher education and health care for students without parental consent.
U.S. Department of Education – Since education is not an enumerated power of the federal government, we believe the Department of Education (DOE) should be abolished....
Interesting piece by Julian Baggini. Those of us who inhabit the universities are largely insulated from this weirdness; indeed, around here, the safe assumption is that everyone is an atheist, and those who aren't, tend to be quiet about it.
Because the last Texas Governor who became President worked out so well! But a serious comment: I lived in Texas when George W. Bush was Governor, and his rather benign and conventional Wall Street Republican performance there (cutting taxes, "tort reform," bankrupting the state) simply would not have predicted the world-historic monster and war criminal he became as President. Perry, by contrast, has been as reactionary and morally heinous as a Governor can possibly be: he is the Texas Taliban incarnate, and whereas Governor Bush was disliked by the Texas Taliban because he paid no mind to their issues, Perry is their creation. America, be very, very afraid.
Despite a brutal budget climate, there is one piece of genuinely good news for faculty and students in the Lone Star State: an idiotic proposal (by the loathsome State Senator Jeff Wentworth, who was behind almost every legislative piece of venal stupidity during my years in Texas) to permit students to carry guns on campus was not enacted!
So I wonder if this is related to Barbara Forrest's testimony in the Dover case. It was her testimony more than anything else that sealed the fate of ID, and this is pretty clearly reflected in Judge Jones' decision. Forrest discovered that the ID textbook OF PANDAS AND PEOPLE was originally a "creation science" textbook, where the words "creation science" were simply changed to "intelligent design." The maneuvering to have her excluded as a witness was epic. Could this be payback? An attempt to discredit her in advance of future legal cases?
Initially, I wasn't sure what to think of this hypothesis, but a few days after Professor Weisberg wrote to me, William Dembski's blog, the leading blog shilling for Intelligent Design creationism in the U.S., ran (as if on cue!) this remarkable piece attacking Professor Forrest, with reference to the Synthese scandal, and repeating the now standard whitewash of Francis Beckwith's long involvement with the ID lobby, including the Discovery [sic] Institute. (Ironically, the Dembski blog even confirms that Beckwith contacted them for help with Synthese!) That Beckwith and several other leading ID proponents and Christian philosophers lobbied Synthese about Professor Forrest's critique (two of them were named in the New York Times article, but there are others) and that the two European editors then directed their main fire at Forrest's article certainly all fit Professor Weisberg's hypothesis. The New APPS blog has had good coverage of the damage the editorial misconduct has done to Professor Forrest in particular and also of her important work defending science education in the public schools. Perhaps some ambitious journalist will dig a bit deeper into what really happened here.
[Assistant Professor Rachel] Tudor was recommended for tenure and a promotion by her colleagues last year... However, the Vice President of Academic Affairs issued an unprecedented memo prohibiting Tudor from applying for tenure, and even after a faculty committee unanimously ruled that Tudor should be allowed to apply, the President refused to honor their decision.
Professor Tudor teaches in the Department of English, Humanities and Languages, and teaches philosophy courses, among other humanities subjects. There is a petition in support of Professor Tudor here. And there is yet more information on this case of egregious discrimination here.
(Thanks to Ben Ostrowsky for the pointer.)
UPDATE: I have corrected the headline: the school in question is public, but the university official is apparently Baptist.
It's more than a bit depressing to report that Synthese, a journal that has published classic papers by Carnap and Quine, among many others, and has been a major scholarly forum for philosophy informed by the sciences, should now have caved in to the major enemies of science education in the United States, the Creationist/Intelligent Design lobby. The story is a sordid one, and leads me to think that philosophers working in philosophy of science, epistemology, philosophical logic and other areas where Synthese has traditionally published should look elsewhere (there are certainly many other suitable fora: Erkenntnis, Philosophy of Science, Journal of Philosophical Logic, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and so on, all of which have the virtue of not pandering to the Intelligent Design crowd). Perhaps the Synthese editors will rectify the wrong, and acknowledge that they caved in to political pressure and behaved unethically. But if not, I hope readers of this blog will stop submitting to Synthese and stop refereeing for them: editorial misconduct of this magnitude must have costs. (If you will participate in the boycott, please e-mail philosopher John Wilkins at the University of Sydney: john-at-wilkins-dot-id-dot-au. Let him know if you are willing to have your name made public in connection with the boycott.)
Below is the statement I have received from the "guest editors"--Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education and James H. Fetzer of the University of Minnesota, Duluth (and a past editor of Synthese)--of the January 2011 special issue of Synthese on "Evolution and Its Rivals." It is preceded by an e-mail from Mr. Branch to me:
The editors-in-chief of a leading philosophical journal apparently think that it's within the bounds of ethical editorial practice to insult contributors to their journal, renege on their agreements, and demand revisions to articles that have already been published.
As I hope that you'll agree, this is a situation that deserves and demands the attention of the philosophical community, and your help in publicizing it will be much appreciated.
RE: "Evolution and Its Rivals", SYNTHESE 178:2 (January 2011)
Dear Members of the Philosophy Community,
As the Guest Editors of a special issue of SYNTHESE, "Evolution and Its Rivals", we have been appalled to discover that the Editors-in-Chief added a prefatory statement to the issue that implies that the Guest Editors and their contributors have not maintained the standards of the journal. Our purpose here is to convey to you an explanation of the history of this special issue and the unusual problems we encountered in dealing with the Editors-in-Chief, in the hope that our reflections will place their statement in the proper context and guide you in future dealings with the journal.
The following statement was published in the printed but not the on-line version of this issue:
Statement from the Editors-in-Chief of SYNTHESE
This special issue addresses a topic of lively current debate with often strongly expressed views. We have observed that some of the papers in this issue employ a tone that may make it hard to distinguish between dispassionate intellectual discussion of other views and disqualification of a targeted author or group.
We believe that vigorous debate is clearly of the essence in intellectual communities, and that even strong disagreements can be an engine of progress. However, tone and prose should follow the usual academic standards of politeness and respect in phrasing. We recognize that these are not consistently met in this particular issue. These standards, especially toward people we deeply disagree with, are a common benefit to us all. We regret any deviation from our usual standards.
Johan van Benthem
Vincent F. Hendricks
Editors-in-Chief / SYNTHESE
First and foremost, we deeply regret the decision to insert this disclaimer, which insults not only us but also the contributors to the special issue. It was inserted without our consent or approval, without our being directly notified by the Editors-in-Chief, and despite our having been assured twice by one of the Editors-in-Chief that it would not be inserted (as we will explain below). In retrospect, we perhaps should have warned the contributors when the proposal to insert such a disclaimer was broached, but it did not occur to us that the Editors-in-Chief would renege on their assurances that no disclaimer would be inserted. Nevertheless, we would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our sincerest apologies to the contributors.
The background to the disclaimer involves Barbara Forrest’s contribution to the special issue, “The Non-Epistemology of Intelligent Design,” which vigorously critiqued the work of Francis Beckwith. Shortly after the papers were published on-line in advance of publication by SYNTHESE in 2009, friends of Beckwith began to protest -- not to the Guest Editors, but to the Editors-in-Chief -- about Forrest's article, one even going so far as to claim that it was "libelous."
In response, the Editors-in-Chief discussed the matter with Jim Fetzer, who has an extensive history with the journal, including serving as one of its co-editors from 1990 to 1999 and editing six previous special issues. In preparation for this discussion, Fetzer solicited the opinion of another former editor of SYNTHESE, who regarded the paper as unproblematic with the minor exception of Forrest's mention of Beckwith's recent return to the Catholic Church, a matter that has not surfaced in any of the discussion that has followed.
The outcome of the discussion was that Beckwith would be allowed a chance to respond in a later issue of SYNTHESE (which he has now taken; his response has already been published on-line in advance of publication), but that "[n]othing is to be done to the special issue" (as Fetzer summarized his understanding of the discussion to the Editors-in-Chief, none of whom expressed any disagreement).
Subsequently, in September 2010, Forrest advised Glenn Branch that she had been asked by two of the Editors-in-Chief to revise her paper -- which, again, had already been published on-line -- on pains of an editorial disclaimer being added to the issue. This condition was not, as would have been appropriate, discussed with or even divulged to the Guest Editors. Branch passed this news on to Fetzer, who protested vehemently to the Editors-in-Chief; it appears that the third was not aware of the demand from the other two. In November 2010, the third Editor-in-Chief assured us that both the request for a revision and the idea of an editorial disclaimer had been dropped. (We should also mention that the publisher of the journal was by no means enthusiastic about the idea of revising an already published paper.) With that, we believed we had resolved any issues between the parties involved.
It therefore came as a complete -- and most unwelcome -- surprise to discover such a statement included in the printed edition.
Several of the contributors have informed us and/or the Editors-in-Chief that they would have withdrawn their papers from the issue had they known that they would have been published under the shadow of such a disclaimer. (Note that the disclaimer speaks of “some of the papers,” in the plural, suggesting that Forrest’s was not the only paper that is supposedly objectionable. [BL comment: I asked the editors-in-chief to identify other objectionable papers, and they did not identify any.]) We ourselves would have reconsidered our proposal to edit a special issue on this subject had we any idea that such opprobrium might attach to our efforts, which have conformed to appropriate standards of scholarship and publication in general, and with the standards of SYNTHESE in particular, with which we are very familiar.
We are both shocked and chagrined that a journal of SYNTHESE's stature should have sunk so low as to violate the canons of responsible editorial practice as the result of lobbying by a handful of ideologues. This tells us -- as powerfully as Forrest's work -- that intelligent design corrupts. We regret the conduct of the Editors-in-Chief and the unwarranted insult to the contributors and ourselves as Guest Editors represented by the disclaimer. We are doing our best to make the misconduct of the Editors-in-Chief a matter of common knowledge within the philosophy community in the hope that everyone will consider whatever actions may be appropriate for them to adopt in any future associations with SYNTHESE.
National Center for Science Education, Inc.
James H. Fetzer
McKnight Professor Emeritus
University of Minnesota Duluth
(Institutions are listed for the purposes of identification only.)
Giving Beckwith the opportunity to respond seems fair (though the response is pretty feeble, but that's a different matter), but adding a disclaimer (behind the backs of the Guest Editors) that undermines the integrity of the entire volume and its contributors because of intensive lobbying by friends of Beckwith and Intelligent Design is beyond belief.
Again, I would urge all philosophers to stop submitting to Synthese; to withdraw any papers they have submitted at Synthese; and to decline to referee for Synthese until such time as the editors acknowledge their error, and make appropriate amends. See the contact information above for Dr. Wilkins, who will keep track of philosophers participating in the boycott.
To be clear, I do not think the editors acted with malice in this matter, though they made a spectacularly bad judgment call. They were subjected to aggressive lobbying and threats (like the utter nonsense about "libel"), and I suspect that Professors Hendricks and van Benthem, not being residents of the U.S., may not be fully aware of how the ID proponents operate, Beckwith in particular.
In this regard, It's really hard to overstate the shameless audacity of Beckwith's response to the critique by Professor Forrest , unless you realize that there is no one in the pro-Intelligent Design community who has been less of a philosopher, and more of a shameless and underhanded political hack, than him. (Professor Forrest has written about Beckwith's extensive involvement with the ID political movement before. This is also relevant.)
Texas is preparing to give college students and professors the right to carry guns on campus, adding momentum to a national campaign to open this part of society to firearms.
More than half the members of the Texas House have signed on as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2009 and is expected to do so again. Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who sometimes packs a pistol when he jogs, has said he's in favor of the idea....
Supporters of the legislation argue that gun violence on campuses [of which there is almost none], such as the mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Northern Illinois in 2008, show that the best defense against a gunman is students who can shoot back.
"It's strictly a matter of self-defense," said state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio. "I don't ever want to see repeated on a Texas college campus what happened at Virginia Tech, where some deranged, suicidal madman goes into a building and is able to pick off totally defenseless kids like sitting ducks."
Until the Virginia Tech incident, the worst college shooting in U.S. history occurred at the University of Texas, when sniper Charles Whitman went to the top of the administration tower in 1966 and killed 16 people and wounded dozens....
Similar firearms measures have been proposed in about a dozen other states, but all face strong opposition, especially from college leaders. In Oklahoma, all 25 public college and university presidents declared their opposition to a concealed carry proposal.
"There is no scenario where allowing concealed weapons on college campuses will do anything other than create a more dangerous environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors," Oklahoma Chancellor of Higher Education Glen Johnson said in January. [This is obvious, but not to Senator Adolf Wentworth]
University of Texas President William Powers has opposed concealed handguns on campus, saying the mix of students, guns and campus parties is too volatile....
I'm sure this strikes my non-US readers as breathtaking: after all, who could believe that "adults" in the legislature would want college students to be armed with weapons? But Texas is the breeding ground for everything that is wrong with America. As someone who spents 13 very happy years in Austin--which is near Texas, alas, but tries to be its own civilized world--permit me to note that Senator Wentworth is the same neanderthal-enemy-of-the-Enlightenment who also championed the "moment of silence" law in the public schools as a way of bringing prayer back. My heart goes out to my friends in Austin, but I think this insanity, if it comes to pass, really represents the end of the University of Texas as a serious university system. I can't imagine anyone with a choice staying. What a tragedy.
UDPATE: Roger Albin, from the University of Michigan Medical School, points out this pertinent scholarly article from the British Medical Journal:
The myopic parochialism of US debate on gun control astonishes many who live overseas. The population of the US is 14.4 times that of Australia; the US has 141 times as many deaths from firearms as Australia (31 224 in 2007 v 221 in 2008) and 238 times Australia’s firearm homicide or manslaughter rate (12 632 in 2007 v 53 in 2008). In 1996, our government introduced massively supported gun laws that banned citizens’ access to semi-automatic rifles and pump action shot guns; a temporary tax levy funded the buyback of the banned guns. In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings (five or more people killed) in Australia. In the 14.6 years since, there have been none.
Whenever I read the tortured "philosophical" defenses of traditional marriage and attacks on gay marriage, I am always reminded of this remark of Nietzsche's:
[T]he reasons and purposes for habits are always lies that are added only after some people begin to attack these habits and to ask for reasons and purposes. At this point the conservatives of all ages are thoroughly dishonest: they add lies. (The Gay Science, sec. 29)
13% of high school biology teachers devote an hour or more of time to presentation of creationism (either in its pure or "intelligent design" version) as a serious option for students to consider, and the majority are "cautious" about leaving students with the impression that the best justified theory, evolution by natural selection, is in fact the best justified theory, with no meaningful competitor.
Available free on-line through the end of the month! Longtime followers of my "Texas Taliban Alerts" will, no doubt, be particularly interested in the extended discussion of the ID creationism apologetics of Francis Beckwith. (Earlier relevant items here, here and here.) Alas, one of the essays, by Robert Pennock (Michigan State), appears to be a purported defense of the demarcation problem against Laudan's famous critique.
From an unsurprising source, though it gets even better in the comments. Jeff Culbreath, responding to the suggestion that his original posting amounted to calling for "a new Crusade":
I don't know about that. We just need our country to be an Islam-free zone. The presence of Mohammedans and the threat of Muslim violence is paralyzing. There is simply no alternative. May I suggest a gentle five point plan?
1. Halt Muslim immigration. 2. Revoke the visas of Muslim students. 3. Offer Muslim families $100K to return to the Muslim country of their choice. 4. Halt the building of mosques. 5. Halt the printing and distribution of the Koran.
Yes, I know, first amendment and all that. But the the first amendment is dead, and Islam killed it. There is no "freedom of speech" or "freedom of religion" with the threat of Muslim violence hanging over your head. Once this "five point plan" does its work you can have your first amendment back.
Given the high-minded moral tenor of the discussion, it is perhaps not surprising that all this brings forth an intervention by one Steve Dalton:
Lydia and Jeff, I like your ideas, but I like mine better. A-bomb Mecca, Medina, and Riyadh into glass. As long as these three cities exist, Islam will be a threat to the West. Everybody who is well informed knows oil money from the Saudi's is used to finance the building of mosques and the printing of Islamic propaganda against the West. Nearly all of those that have committed acts of terrorism against us and other countries have been members of the Wahhabi sect of Islam that dominates Saudi Arabia. The Saudi monarchy should be told that Islam is coming to an end as a religion and a geo-political force. The citizens of those cities should be given fair warning to leave, then let the sand making begin. The Allah shouters will have to realize that Allah couldn't save his own land, and they'll start looking elsewhere for worship. This may seem harsh, but untill you destroy the very center of Islamic power, we'll always be threatened by it. History have shown that Islam and the Muslims will never give up untill they're defeated on the battlefield. I say end this nonsense once and for all by knocking out Islam at its very center.
The only rebuke this call for genocide provokes is from Mr. Culbreath who suggests that "before we go there, let's try some mild but firm common-sense policies at home, shall we?" meaning his own "mild" and "common-sense" proposals.
No further comment is necessary.
UPDATE: I suppose it should surprise no one to learn that the Christian crazies who hate the Muslims also are anti-semites:
In the United States, the Jews - as Jews - do not constitute a violent or subversive socio-political movement. You can criticize Judaism in this country without a gang of brutes threatening to cut your head off. American Jews are not much into honor killings, nor are they particularly fascinated by explosive devices. The kinds of problems that Jewish influence typically introduces to a Christian society - religious indifference, moral laxity, etc. - have long been present in this country for other reasons.
(Thanks to Aaron Baker for catching this). I have to confess, I'm kind of dying to know what would be on his "etc." list of the "problems that Jewish influence" brings.
I spent enough years watching the shenanigans in the Texas legislature to know that this new law has one and only one purpose: to make it easier for right-wing crazies and ignoramuses to target and harass faculty. What a disgrace.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)