Posted by Brian Leiter on July 05, 2011 at 01:21 PM in Personal Ads of the Philosophers (and other humor), Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
ADDENDUM: An amusing sidenote: Ed Feser (whom longtime readers may recall as an apologist for both anti-gay bigotry and the killing of doctors who perform abortions) used to be a regular at WWWtW, but disappeared from the roster and the blog some time after one of the especially grotestque explosions of anti-Muslim bigotry. It's good to know that even among moral miscreants there are standards!
Posted by Brian Leiter on June 11, 2011 at 11:10 AM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Authoritarianism and Fascism Alerts, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
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!
Michael Weisberg, a leading young philosopher of biology at the University of Pennsylvania, writes:
One thing I have been wondering about this whole episode is why ID [Intelligent Design] proponents decided to target Synthese at this time. These issues have long been discussed in the academic literature (e.g. in Pennock's MIT Press volume http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=8606), and I don't think any shocking new revelations were contained in that issue.
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.
Posted by Brian Leiter on June 01, 2011 at 07:32 AM in Issues in the Profession, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
(Thanks to Jim Nichols for the pointer.)
ADDENDUM: Steve Hales send an apt cartoon:
Posted by Brian Leiter on May 31, 2011 at 08:04 AM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
(Thanks to Nate Gould for the initial pointer to this story.)
Posted by Brian Leiter on May 21, 2011 at 06:16 PM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Posted by Brian Leiter on May 21, 2011 at 11:43 AM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Republican legislator proposes bill that will financially penalize universities to the tune of 5% of their appropriations if they offer benefits to same-sex partners of employees.
(Thanks to Nathan Stout for the pointer.)
[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.)
This seems a fair appraisal of a very odd (and, as Sarkar says, "unusually pretentious") book.
Posted by Brian Leiter on March 28, 2011 at 07:26 AM in Philosophy in the News, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
This ought to be unbelievable, but it appears to be all too real:
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.
Posted by Brian Leiter on February 01, 2011 at 06:46 AM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
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.
Posted by Brian Leiter on December 15, 2010 at 02:10 PM in Philosophy in the News, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
MOVING TO FRONT--SEE THE UPDATE
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.
Posted by Brian Leiter on September 14, 2010 at 04:41 PM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Authoritarianism and Fascism Alerts, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Posted by Brian Leiter on September 02, 2010 at 03:23 PM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.), The Academy | Permalink
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.
(Thanks to Phil Gasper for the pointer.)
Jonathan Kvanvig (Baylor) comments on the latest idiocy to emanate from the far right neanderthals at the Foundation. Amusingly, Bill Peacock, one of the intellectual heavyweights at the Foundation, shows up in the comments to post some boilerplate nonsense.
Anywhere out of this world, said Baudelaire, and he hadn't even heard of the Texas Public Policy Foundation!
Posted by Brian Leiter on July 05, 2010 at 10:13 AM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.), The Academy | Permalink
believers could do better than this.
Posted by Brian Leiter on July 05, 2010 at 06:14 AM in Of Cultural Interest, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Posted by Brian Leiter on June 12, 2010 at 06:56 PM in Philosophy in the News, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Posted by Brian Leiter on May 21, 2010 at 06:23 AM in Of Cultural Interest, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Here. Although the immediate damage is to children in the nation's second-most populous state, the misconduct by the Texas Taliban on the SBOE has ramifications nationwide, because of the power of Texas in the national market for school textbooks.
(Thanks to Thomas Noah for the pointer.)
Posted by Brian Leiter on May 14, 2010 at 01:33 PM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
(Thanks to Eric Muller for the pointer.)
Posted by Brian Leiter on March 29, 2010 at 11:13 AM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Of Cultural Interest, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
I often miss Austin and I certainly miss many wonderful colleagues, but I do not miss the ignorant and often venal neanderthals who still run the state.
Anywhere out of this world.
Posted by Brian Leiter on March 24, 2010 at 05:09 AM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Posted by Brian Leiter on March 07, 2010 at 03:13 PM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
This question has come up more than once with regard to the curious crew that posts at the far right "What's Wrong with the World" blog (sometime called "W4")--including Lydia McGrew,Edward Feser, and Francis Beckwith (who appears to have stopped posting, though showed up in the comment thread of the last post we linked to), not to mention their newest contributor,a lunatic misogynist--and I think the answer is pretty clearly 'no' (thankfully). The topic was discussed recently at another blog, so I'll take the liberty of quoting the comments there, which are consistent with my own exchanges with Christian philosophers. A commenter asked: "How much support do you think this What's Wrong With the World blog has among Christian philosophers? Are the opinions expressed there representative of, for example, the views of the more famous Christian metaphysicians? Or is it the kind of marginal freak-show it appears to be?" Herewith three answers:
(1) As a Christian faculty member who knows other Christian faculty at places like, say, Rutgers, MIT, Brown, and Yale, I have to say that I think it's really unrepresentative among what you might think of as the mainstream research departments.
(2) W4 is a marginal freakshow. Not all the opinions expressed at W4 are as marginal as they should be, though.
(3) I'm not a Christian faculty member. I'm an atheist and a philosopher who spends too much time reading W4. I can say that W4 is not representative of Christians in philosophy or outside of philosophy. In fact, I get emails from Christians in philosophy about W4 and we laugh and/or cry together.
ADDENDUM: A comment at the Philosophy Smoker blog makes a good point worth emphasizing:
W4 are a bunch of freaks. IRL, however, all it takes is ONE bigot on the faculty who quietly lies in wait until s/he has power, e.g. the power of an administrative office, to make life living hell. Maybe they are statistical exceptions among Christian philosophers or the SCP, maybe not. But (1) the percentages cease to matter at all when one is faced, as the target of discrimination, with even one such character; and (2) I suspect that LBGT philosophers are so often told that "Christians like *that*" are the exception (who knows?) because it makes the person uttering the claim feel better to think so, and feel less obligated to think and/or do anything about the real and very serious discrimination that is a part of daily life for some of us.
UPDATE 2/5: Professor Feser is not a rhetorically talented interlocutor. Two observations: (1) I last wrote about Feser & his lunatic colleagues eight months ago; (2) I have not defended my views on the grounds that they are the views of atheists. (I confess, though, I don't know all the answers to the questions posed by Profesor Feser's correspondent.)
ANOTHER: Ben Burgis provides sensible answers to the questions posed by Professor Feser's correspondent.
Posted by Brian Leiter on February 02, 2010 at 06:36 AM in Philosophy in the News, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.), The Academy | Permalink
No surprise, I guess, though one might have thought they'd be a tad self-conscious about how lame their "arguments" are.
(Thanks to several readers for the pointer to this one.)
UPDATE: A reader tells me someone using the name 'brian' is posting on that thread; needless to say, it is not me.
UPDATE 1/26: A reader points out that the anti-gay crazies have even turned my name into an epithet (apparently a moral objection to discrimination, even by the religious, is really an attempt to seize political power), which is quite an honor coming from that crowd--though as this reader points out, that's a game rather too easy to play. He writes:
[O]ff the top of my head we can generate:
1) Feser (v) -- to be in possession of the unique interpretation of a classic argument that makes it not only work (pace everyone else's views) but makes it decisive.
"Listen, dude, you can keep talking about how the ontological argument "doesn't work" -- but I've Fesered it."
2) Beckwith -- cluelessly exposing the depths of one's depravity by issuing a speedy retraction of one's preposterous and/or offensive utterances that only confirm that the utterances were not (contrary to the retraction) a joke or misunderstood.
"I made a statement that my friends found sexist, but that's okay, it's been Beckwithed by my claim that all the bitches I know understood that it was a joke."
Posted by Brian Leiter on January 25, 2010 at 05:53 AM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Issues in the Profession, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
It is a shame when otherwise intelligent people fall prey to one of the favorite rhetorical ploys of the ID conmen, namely, referring to one of the best-established theories in the natural sciences--the theory of evolution by natural selection--as "Darwinism" and referring to those (essentially all biologists, and almost all educated people) who accept the theory as "Darwinists." The phraseology is no accident on the part of the ID shills: it is meant to suggest that a discovery about regularities in the natural world made originally by a man named Charles Darwin, and since confirmed and elaborated by thousands of other scientists, is something like the 'ideology' of an individual, so that "Darwinism" and "Darwinist" should have the vaguely pejorative connotation that, at least in American public culture, "Marxism" and "Marxist" have. Thomas Nagel's recent embarrassment, at least, did not make this mistake, though several of his "defenders"--none of whom actually defended what he had done on the merits, of course--did.
UPDATE: More on this rhetorical trick from the always excellent and well-informed Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch.
ANOTHER: Christopher Hitchcock (Cal Tech) writes:
One comment on your post on the use of "Darwinism" by ID theorists. There is actually another reason for this. "Darwinism" is sometimes used by Gould and defenders of punctuated equilibrium theory to describe the view that evolution is a gradual, uniform process. Thus there are lots of juicy quotes from Gould et al explaining why "Darwinism" is false. To the unsuspecting reader, it sounds as if Gould (of all people) is rejecting evolution. Creationists and ID types love to use those quotes.
Posted by Brian Leiter on December 21, 2009 at 07:18 AM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
The conclusion of my last posting on the scandal of Thomas Nagel's endorsement of an incompetent book by a Discovery [sic] Institute shill appears to have introduced a misunderstanding of the position I was articulating. The political philosopher Chris Bertram (Bristol), after discussing the topic with some colleagues, kindly called the matter to my attention:
You have taken Thomas Nagel to task, first for recommending a book on evolution that lends some respectability to ``intelligent design'' and then for writing a somewhat unsatisfactory letter in his own defence.
My initial sympathies were entirely with you, but I've come to entertain doubts and I've picked up that they are shared by some other philosophers. The doubts don't concern the validity of ID, whether ID ought to be considered ``science'', whether the book Nagel recommended is any good (I'm assuming not and I'm never going read it to find out), or whether your characterization of Nagel's letter is accurate (it is). Rather, they are about the disciplinary stance of your remarks and the suggestion that we should be careful what we say ``in front of the children.''
We live in a highly politicized world and a highly mediatized one, and one where almost any remark is liable to be reproduced and circulated for bad purposes on the internet. Philosophers often discuss topics in terms, and using examples, that could sound really bad if turned into a sound bite. Should we therefore cease debating cannibalism, the morality of torture, the fundamental equality (or not) of human beings, whether old people should be left to suffer and die because younger and fitter people would use the resources better, euthanasia and abortion? The latter two examples are expecially pertinent because there is a well-known philosopher, of similar rank to Nagel, whose remarks have been seized upon by "culture wars"" lobbyists. Back in 2004, I posted at CT , deploring a review published in PPA that attacked ``left libertarians'' on the grounds that, by endorsing the idea of self-ownership, '' they may well give up more than they bargain for in the public relations battle for the hearts and minds of those in the murky center of American politics.''
Considerations of how things play in that murky zone just ought not to count as any kind of a reason in philosophy. But maybe your thoughts about what Nagel should and shouldn't do only concern his conduct as a ``public intellectual'' and not as a philosopher - though that's not the clear sense I get from your latest. I, for one, would welcome a clarificatory post from you.
Since I agree with Professor Bertram's remarks, I am grateful for the invitation to clarify my point (and it raises some issues I touched on long ago, back when I lived in Texas and was in the thick of the battle over wrecking the biology curriculum in the public schools). I can sum up my actual position in two propositions:
(1) It was extremely irresponsible--a product of some mix of ignorance, arrogance, and laziness--to endorse and thus give crediblity to an incompetent and misleading book, something no one informed about the issues would have done (that was the point of most of the links in my original posting).
(2) Nagel's irresponsibility on this score is especially reprehensible in a context in which his fame, and the credibility he has tried to confer on a snakeoil salesmen, will obviously be used for pernicious ends, in this case, undermining the biology curriculum in the public schools, which is the raison d'etre of the Discovery [sic] Institute and its conmen.
The much harder cases, on which I took no position, would be those in which something like (1) doesn't hold, that is, where philosophers are staking out and arguing for defensible positions on the merits, but doing so might have deleterious consequences for others. (The issue arises more often in science, and what the right answer is is tricky--see, e.g., Philip Kitcher's paper on "The Ends of the Sciences" in The Future for Philosophy volume I edited [OUP, 2004] for a useful discussion.) In general, considerations pertaining to the values of academic and intellectual freedom should counsel in favor of a wide latitude for subjects and methods of scholarly investigation. As I noted in the earlier item, commenting on Nagel's letter:
No one objects to challenging the explanatory completeness of physics, or to asking whether physicalists can explain consciousness, or whether naturalism is the correct meta-philosophy (lots of philosophers, as we recently learned, reject it, yet you can count on one hand the 'target' faculty who would pal around with the ID conmen at the Discovery [sic] Institute). What people are objecting to is lending credibility to individuals and groups whose goal it is to undermine the integrity of biology education for children.
But the latter is all Nagel has accomplished by irresponsibly endorsing bad work by an intellectually dishonest person. A cleaner case for Professor Bertram's question would be the recent work by Jerry Fodor arguing that the notion of "selection for" in Darwin's theory of natural selection doesn't make sense (more here). There's obviously a chance that Fodor's work will be put to bad use by bad people, but that is not a reason for him not to think about these issues. Fodor (and his co-author) have developed an actual argument and raised philosophical questions about causation in the theory of natural selection that warrant (and have received, and will receive) answers. If Fodor turns around and starts endorsing work riddled with scientific and technical mistakes by Discovery [sic] Institute shills, he will deserve (and no doubt receive) the same kinds of criticism directed at Nagel. (Unsurprisingly, by the way, I've heard from only one philosopher, a lifelong friend of Nagel's, willing to even suggest his position was defensible on the merits. Friendship is a virtue, of course!)
UPDATE: This is aptly put: "Of course there can be serious academic discussion of thorny problems. And serious scholars should be able to defend unconventional and even unpopular positions with no more harm to their reputations than what they garner from the quality, or lack thereof, of their arguments. But if you want to, say, dispute common wisdom on the roots of the Holocaust, you don't do that by taking to the popular press to issue an endorsement of a deceptive book by some Holocaust denier."
Paul Raymont (Ryerson) calls to my attention a letter from Thomas Nagel in the TLS purportedly replying to the letter from the chemist Stephen Fletcher (quoted in relevant part in the first "update" here) criticizing Nagel's endorsement of the incompetent book by the "intelligent design" apologist Stephen Meyer. The letter is striking for not responding to any of the substantive points (no surprise, I guess), but this portion is really the most revealing:
The tone of Fletcher’s letter exemplifies the widespread intolerance of any challenge to the dogma that everything in the world must be ultimately explainable by chemistry and physics. There are reasons to doubt this that have nothing to do with theism, beginning with the apparent physical irreducibility of consciousness. Doubts about reductive explanations of the origin of life also do not depend on theism. Since I am not tempted to believe in God, I do not draw Meyer’s conclusions, but the problems he poses lend support to the view that physics is not the theory of everything, and that more attention should be given to the possibility of an expanded conception of the natural order.
As Nagel well knows, there is also widespread "intolerance" for quackery, falsehood, and dissembling, especially, one hopes, among philosophers. That Professor Fletcher (and not only he!) is aggrieved about Nagel's "shameless stunt" really does not support Nagel's explanation for the tone.
Nagel's explanation is, in any case, obviously silly and meant to distract attention from the stupid thing he has done. For who exactly is committed to thinking physics and chemistry explain everything? Maybe Alex Rosenberg (not really!), certainly not Jerry Fodor and the legions of token-identity physicalists, and certainly not biologists, rather obviously! The method of looking for natural explanations of natural phenomena has worked well; it is no "dogma", but an induction over past success, that keeps scientists working in that vein. (We've touched on this topic before.) But this is all a distraction: for the snake oil salesman that Nagel is promoting (Meyer of the Discovery [sic] Insitutte) isn't interested in figuring out whether physics is complete, since he already knows the answer, and it demands supernatural interventions into natural processes. That mode of explanation has an even longer history than the naturalistic kind, and it is one of massive failure (did Nagel really not notice?). Every theory in the natural sciences has gaps, and the question is whether we are to try to fill them with posits whose track record of disappointment is well-established, or not. (As one of Nagel's teachers might have taught him, methodological conservatism is considered a virtue among scientists.) No one objects to challenging the explanatory completeness of physics, or to asking whether physicalists can explain consciousness, or whether naturalism is the correct meta-philosophy (lots of philosophers, as we recently learned, reject it, yet you can count on one hand the 'target' faculty who would pal around with the ID conmen at the Discovery [sic] Institute). What people are objecting to is lending credibility to individuals and groups whose goal it is to undermine the integrity of biology education for children.
For once we get outside our comfy Washington Square apartment, and look at the real world, here's what is going on: the Discovery [sic] Institute and its conmen, with hefty financial support from religious extremists, travel the country badgering school boards made up of laypeople to tinker with public school biology curricula. The Discovery [sic] Institute conmen learned in the 1980s that certain strategies for injecting religious viewpoints into the public school curricula won't pass constitutional muster, so they have shifted their strategy: the goal is not "equal time" for creationism, but rather to inject material into the standard curriculum that would leave high school students--high school students (!) in their first real encounter with biology--with the false impression that there is not a scientific consensus about Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. The laypeople on school boards can as little assess the biology as Thomas Nagel; but unlike Nagel, they do rely on epistemic authorities, but even here they are at a disadvantage in figuring out who those are. The specialty of the Discovery [sic] Institute is to try to create the impression with laypersons on school boards that there is significant dissent among those with the requisite epistemic authority to evaluate the theory of evolution. (Fortunately, they are sometimes inept at this, a bit of 'moral luck' that may save Nagel from long-lasting notoriety.)
Thus, it is a certainty that the new addition to the ID lobbying arsenal, that will be repeated again and again in the years ahead, will be the fact that "a famous atheist philosopher" endorsed Meyer's book, so earnest school board members really ought to take it seriously, perhaps require that portions of it be assigned, or at least make sure that they only approve textbooks that suggest (falsely) that there is significant skepticism about Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection among biologists. That Meyer is not a biologist; that Nagel is not a biologist; that Nagel is (or was) a good philosopher won't matter. None of that matters for the Discovery [sic] Institute: the only goal is--to quote a different philosopher who wasn't thinking of this mischief--"to put limits on knowledge to make room for faith."
And if Nagel's latest letter is to be believed, the reason he has given ammunition to ignoramuses and know-nothings in their efforts to mislead schoolchildren, is because he thinks Stephen Meyer's book lends support to a paper that Nagel wrote in 1974!
Wouldn't it have been less destructive to just write another paper?
There is a case study in this to be written about the moral responsibilities of intellectuals.
UPDATE: More on the topic here.
Posted by Brian Leiter on December 10, 2009 at 06:36 PM in Philosophy in the News, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
In the wake of the item about Thomas Nagel's high-profile endorsement of an incompetent book on "Intelligent Design" by Stephen Meyer, a leading shill for the Discovery [sic] Institute, I've heard from many philosopers, especially philosophers of science, who are livid about this. A leading philosopher of biology, for example, gives expression to sentiments I have heard from several correpondents:
Thank you very much for your vigorous examination of Tom Nagel's shameful stunt involving evolutionary biology. The fact that he doesn't know what he's talking about regarding science has been apparent ever since The View from Nowhere, and here it shows again. It reflects on all of us working in philosophy of science, though, when a "famous" philosopher acts so stupidly. Arrogance is the keyword here, I'm sure. Nagel has done irreparable harm, which we'll be paying and paying for, for years to come, insofar as this endorsement will be used in school board battles across the nation. Thanks very much for your coverage of this farce.
Meanwhile, Branden Fitelson (Berkeley, moving to Rutgers), a leading expert on probability and decision theory who has done well-known critical analysis of the work of ID apologist William Dembski, writes:
Thanks for your recent posts on the Nagel/Meyer fiasco. I've been looking at Meyer's book, and one thing (among many) that really bothers me is that Meyer spends a lot of time engaging in "Dembski worship", but he doesn't even cite (much less discuss) the only comprehensive and serious review of Dembski's first book (which forms much of Meyer's "basis" for his "Dembski worship"), which was written by Elliott Sober, Chris Stephens, and myself (and published in Philosophy of Science in 1999). This strikes me as rather irresponsible of Meyer (and, indirectly, of course, of Nagel too).
Since Meyer's book obviously is not a scholarly investigation of its subject, but a partisan tract whose technical pretensions are meant to dazzle and confuse the ignorant, it is hardly surprising that it lets pass in silence any critical scholarship that might interfere with the con job. But one would hope that Thomas Nagel has heard of the journal Philosophy of Science, and perhaps even of Elliott Sober. One might even have thought that, being well aware what all philosophers of biology think about this issue, he might have spent some time studying the scholarly literature before going out on a limb. But perhaps, as the other correspondent noted, "arrogance is the keyword here."
Posted by Brian Leiter on December 05, 2009 at 05:04 PM in Philosophy in the News, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
What else can one say when a prominent, and formerly reputable, philosopher lends the fame of his name to endorse the latest misleading hatchet job on biological science by Stephen Meyer, one of the key figures in the Discovery [sic] Institute? Scientists are already taking note of this embarrassing display (and see here), which just invites ridicule of the profession:
In a previous post, I said, "Whenever scientific subjects are discussed, you can count on some philosopher to chime in with something really stupid."
Here's another example. Thomas Nagel, a philosopher of some repute, nominates Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell as his pick for book of the year in the Times Literary Supplement.
Does Nagel have any biological training? None that I could see. Does he know anything about evolution or abiogenesis? Not if he thinks Meyer has any valid contribution to make. Did he bother to check if biologists think Meyer's book is a good contribution to the literature? I doubt it. Did Nagel spot all the phony claims Meyer makes about information? I doubt it again....
It's sad to see such an eminent philosopher (Nagel) make a fool of himself with this recommendation.
It is sad, but it is also a reason to be angry, since he's not simply making a fool of himself, he's giving ammunition to those who campaign, relentlessly, to undermine biology education in the public schools. (The pathological liars at the Discovery [sic] Institute are already all over this and other creationists also realize the public relations value of this endorsement.) Regarding what actual experts think of Mr. Meyer's work, do see this and this and this. There is also a patient dissection of the book from a religious biochemist here. (And for even more on Meyer and the Discovery [sic] Institute, these two items are illuminating.)
This latest embarrassment comes on the heels, of course, of last year's comically bad--and obviously not peer-reviewed--article about teaching Intelligent Design in the public schools and the Dover decision (here), in which Nagel largely made up what the Dover court said and made a mash of the science as well (that article was almost entirely footnote-free for very good reason). But for Philosophy & Public Affairs's wholly corrupt practice of letting the 'inside circle' of cronies publish without actual editorial oversight, this article could never have appeared in a reputable scholarly journal.
For those outside philosophy or new to it, Nagel's best work--primarily (though not entirely) in moral philosophy--is well-represented by his 1978 collection Mortal Questions and his 1970 book The Possibility of Altruism. (He also has a very fine, short introduction to philosophy: What Does It All Mean?) Much of his philosophical work reflects an interest in the tension between "objective" and "subjective" points of view, for example, in his best-known contribution outside ethics, a paper (reprinted in Mortal Questions) on "What is it like to be a bat?" (challenging the ability of materialist accounts of the mind to capture the subjective character of experience). He has never made any contributions, or manifested any expertise, in the philosophical fields most relevant to assessing the issues raised by Meyer's work, such as philosophy of biology; that lack of expertise needn't have been fatal to a philosopher's judgment on these matters, of course, though in Nagel's case it may have been. Given that his careless ignorance in these matters may have repercussions for actual schoolchildren (since the Discovery [sic] Institute's main activity is lobbying school boards consisting of laypeople, not scientists, to undermine the integrity of biology education in the public schools), one wishes he would behave more responsibly.
UPDATE: The TLS has just published a letter from a chemist about Nagel's little "recommendation"; the whole thing is worth reading (scroll down for it), but here's a key bit:
[Nagel] should not promote the book to the rest of us using statements that are factually incorrect.
In describing Meyer’s book, Nagel tells us that it “. . . is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter – something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin” (my italics). Well, no. Natural selection is in fact a chemical process as well as a biological process, and it was operating for about half a billion years before the earliest cellular life forms appear in the fossil record.
Compounding this error, Nagel adds that “Meyer takes up the prior question of how the immensely complex and exquisitely functional chemical structure of DNA, which cannot be explained by natural selection because it makes natural selection possible, could have originated without an intentional cause.” Again, this is woefully incorrect. Natural selection does not require DNA; on the contrary, DNA is itself the product of natural selection. That is the point. Indeed, before DNA there was another hereditary system at work, less biologically fit than DNA, most likely RNA (ribonucleic acid). Readers who wish to know more about this topic are strongly advised to keep their hard-earned cash in their pockets, forgo Meyer’s book, and simply read “RNA world” on Wikipedia.
ANOTHER: David Wallace, a philosopher of physics at Oxford University, writes:
The worst consequence of his actions is doubtless the damage done to the anti-creationist fight – but it’s bad news for philosophy of science too. It’s infuriating for those of us who work in technical bits of philosophy of science when this kind of thing happens – it contributes to the very widespread view amongst scientists that philosophy is a waste of time and that philosophers don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s uphill work trying to get (e.g.) physicists to take philosophy of physics seriously, and this kind of thing only makes it worse.
Indeed, that attitude is on display in the initial blast from Professor Shallitt quoted above. It thus bears emphasizing that Nagel is not a philosopher of science and is ignorant of the relevant science, as is now abundantly clear. It has been the hallmark of the best philosophers of science in recent decades that their knowledge of the particular sciences is exemplary, and that they often publish in scientific as well as philosophical journals. And, needless to say, these actual experts are not falling for the nonsense put out by the Discovery [sic] Institute!
Posted by Brian Leiter on December 02, 2009 at 06:02 AM in Of Cultural Interest, Philosophy in the News, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
The latest creationist scam, though, oddly, the Discovery [sic] Institute doesn't seem to be directly involved.
UPDATE: A philosophy graduate student writes:
I actually showed the promotional video of that Creationist scheme to my logic students this week, because it was so densely packed with fallacies. By my count, in that segment, he employs at least these popular ones: guilt by association (Hitler, etc.), virtue by association (by appealing to renowned scientists as somehow on their side), ad hominem (twice), straw man, and some illustration of how a person loses credibility by so bizarrely characterizing the view opposed to his.
To do all that in 100 seconds or so is, in some perverse way, real talent.
Posted by Brian Leiter on October 07, 2009 at 11:42 AM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
...especially not in Texas. Some schools in the more civilized parts of the state will no doubt make the most of this educationally, but one knows all too well what will be going on in most places. Why can't the religious zealots leave the children alone?
Posted by Brian Leiter on August 19, 2009 at 05:01 PM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Posted by Brian Leiter on July 29, 2009 at 02:59 PM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Haven't done one of these in awhile, but this is too charming to let pass in silence. God Bless America!
Posted by Brian Leiter on July 24, 2009 at 06:08 PM in Hermeneutics of Suspicion, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
...as she eloquently explains. Stupidity is often a package deal in cases like this, so we've just touched the tip of the iceberg of her ignorance. Sadly, there were more than a dozen state legislators just like her in Texas. In a civilized country, people this intellectually and ethically incapacitated would not be let out of their homes without adult supervision.
Posted by Brian Leiter on July 05, 2009 at 07:52 AM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
This is no doubt what the drafters of the Declaration of Independence had hoped for: that 200 years of our democratic experiment would produce brainless and callous neanderthals like Representative Cynthia Davis, a Republican from Missouri, whose web site (link courtesy of Jeff Glick) includes the following "analysis" of a state proposal to expand a school-based meal program in light of the current crisis of capitalism:
Posted by Brian Leiter on July 04, 2009 at 09:17 AM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
A grad student at Brown writes:
Beckwith calls this light humor (at your expense), but it's at the very least unprofessional.
I'm sure this is the kind of thing Jesus recommends his Catholic followers do: publicly make fun of people's appearance and compare them to sniveling, conniving cowards from TV shows.
Anyways, good luck with these people, and thanks for calling them on their bad behavior.
What is one to say about alleged adults and professionals who scour the Internet to find an insulting photo of someone and then post it to mock the person? What can one say? There were lots of photos from my session with Judge Posner, why did Francis Beckwith choose the one he posted? There are easily available professional photos of me, why would an alleged adult and professional go out of his way to find a bad photograph of someone and post it? What's wrong with him? Does anyone know?
Posted by Brian Leiter on June 15, 2009 at 03:05 PM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink | Comments (24)
Per our earlier item, the SSHRC has asked the conference organizers to supply information about alleged "changes" to the proposal, in response to the political pressures from the conservative Science Minister Goodyear (the fellow who doesn't know what evolution is). An open letter from York University law faculty to the SSHRC President recaps the latest events and the embararssment this whole episode is for Canadian higher education: Download Open Letter to SSHRC President.
UPDATE: Another good open letter from the Canadian Association of University Teachers. (Thanks to Ingo Brigandt for the pointer.)
Posted by Brian Leiter on June 14, 2009 at 10:24 AM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Academic Freedom, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
People like Ed Feser (Pasadena City College), apologist for discrimination, now apologist for murder. It would really be hard to make this stuff up. Meanwhile, some suggestions for what to do by those who support abortion rights for women and oppose domestic terrorism against providers.
UPDATE: Jeremy Shipley posts a perceptive reply to Professor Feser in the comments section:
Of course, Professor Feser knows that.
ANOTHER: More information on the tactics of the terrorists of the Christian right.
AND MORE on the latest victim of the domestic terrorists.
UPDATE 6/6: Professor Feser's non-reply. A word for Professor Feser: it is not a "lie" to call you on your morally depraved rhetoric (and to link to your very words to prove the point!). Anyone in their right mind can see what the point of comparing an abortion provider to a serial killer/cannibal actually is, and it isn't to lend weight to your two or three (prudent) sentences expressing nominal objections to his murder (cf. Mr. Shipley's remarks, quoted above). The entire profession, except perhaps a few fringe lunatics (most of whom are already your co-bloggers), understands what's going on, which is why no one objects to my calling you on it. Your hysterical rhetoric in reply is just a giveaway that you know you've been caught red-handed, as it were. You and your co-bloggers are, indeed, "what's wrong with the world," as many readers of this blog have noted before. ADDENDUM 6/8: Professor Feser, please calm down--I didn't link to your now lengthy "reply" to Mr. Shipley because I hadn't seen it, because, unlike you, I don't spend the entire day reading blogs. The post I did link to was your purported reply to me. I am happy to link to your reply to Shipley, since all readers can assess its merits for themselves, just as all readers can assess whether or not you are an apologist for murder, since I linked to your comments in the first place. Of course, you know what you are, and that is why you're increasingly hysterical on this subject.
A FINAL UPDATE, 6/12: The comment section at the post linked above is instructive, both about Feser and his readers, who seem to have a lot of trouble staying focused on the issue at hand. Professor Feser reports deleting some of the personal attacks on him, but, being a high-minded and honorable fellow (unlike all his critics, of course), he left all the personal attacks aimed at me--including his own:
And what do you think Nietzsche would have thought of a pathetically status-obsessed egalitarian university professor whose "living dangerously" consisted of firing off nasty blog posts from the comfort of an office building, and only ever targeted at people he thought couldn't hurt him professionally?
Since no on else cares about this freak show, let me address my remarks to its main audience. Professor Feser, you're obviously burning with fury that I've called you out, more than once now, on your twisted view of the world, but surely you can do better than irrelevant personal attacks? I have focused on the appalling nature of your views, why not keep the focus there? When your fury subsides, I assume you will acknowledge that I do not produce rankings because I'm "status-obsessed": nothing has caused more harm to my professional "status" than producing them (I've remarked on this before, and it's obvious to anyone awake) and my actual opinion of lots of "high-status" academics is a matter of long public record. (Think for a moment about why someone sympathetic to Marx would be interested in rankings. You're not much of a philosopher, but you're not stupid, I'm sure you can figure this out.) And you know as well as I do that the list of people I've excorciated includes philosophers and academics of far more significance than you (that's the extent of my egalitarianism, I am an equal opportunity critic). I'm not as big a coward as most academics and I do say what I think. That I've been as professionally successful as I have been (is this part of what irritates you?) is attributable to some combination of smarts and good luck. It surely can not be attributed to my imprudent habit of targetting every religious fanatic, reactionary, mediocrity, and fool, whether they're at Harvard or Chicago or Pasadena City College. You and your swarmy co-blogger Beckwith had dropped off my radar screen until you showed up as apologists for discrimination against gay men and women and I started reading the extraordinarily deranged blog you folks produce. Catholicism and your sophomoric version of "natural law theory" do not excuse the moral depravity and venal creepiness of so much of what you folks believe. On the other hand, I confess I was amused by all the effort Professor Beckwith put in to his exercise in failed reasoning by analogy, but I assume it was prudence on his part to depart from normal practice at WWWW and not open comments, lest someone make the obvious points in reply. In any case, it's my intention to resume ignoring you, since mine and my readers' appetite for the "bizarro world" of WWWW (to borrow Professor Norcross's phrase) is probably sated.
Posted by Brian Leiter on June 05, 2009 at 05:41 AM in Of Cultural Interest, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Readers may recall--in connection with Professor Beckwith's defense of discrimination against gay philosophers--that Professor Beckwith also took exception to being described as a shill for ID creationism. The issue has arisen again, and it appears the charge stands. From the conclusion of the preceding analysis of Beckwith's record:
Beckwith’s attempt in his [recent] Baton Rouge talk to distance himself from the ID movement, and now his protestations about being called an ID supporter, are merely an attempt to perpetuate his charade as a disinterested scholar concerning ID. It was no coincidence that, barely three weeks after the Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education gutted its policy so as to create an opening for teaching ID, he appeared in Baton Rouge to deliver a lecture in which he argued that ID is not “stealth creationism,” a statement taken verbatim from an article in which he argues that not only permitting but requiring ID in public schools is constitutional. There were only two possible beneficiaries of Beckwith’s visit: the creationists at the LA Family Forum and the Discovery Institute, who are the only ones with anything invested in this piece of legislation.
Beckwith wants to have his cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, over a period of almost ten years (given the February 2009 talk in Baton Rouge, it’s fair to include the present), he wants to write articles and a book and make public appearances that any reasonable person would interpret as pro-ID, while on the other hand, he wants to deny that he is an ID supporter. But he doesn’t get to have it both ways. As Tim Sandefur noted in his response, at the very least, if one lies down with dogs, one gets up with fleas. Does Beckwith really think that he could do these things and no one would ever comment on them? His writings and actions are what they are, and he now must live with them.
UPDATE: There's more illuminating discussion of Professor Beckwith's sleazy tactics here.
ANOTHER GEM: From the "what's wrong with the world" crowd, who regularly exemplify, rather than, analyze the phenomenon. Professor Norcross called that blog "bizarro world," but nuthouse is coming closer to the mark.
Posted by Brian Leiter on May 11, 2009 at 08:40 AM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
The State Board of Education on Friday passed science curriculum standards that members described as a compromise between those who are critical of teaching evolutionary theories without scrutiny and those who feared attacks on evolution would lead to the teaching of creationism in Texas schools.
After the 13-2 vote, it was social conservatives on the board who were doing most of the celebrating while scientists expressed concerns.
The new standards remove current requirements that students be taught the "strengths and weaknesses" of scientific theories. Instead, teachers will be required to have students scrutinize "all sides" of the theories.
Teaching "all sides" is just code, of course, for teaching schoolchildren lies about biological science cooked up by religious zealots. And, of course, the leading front for the Intelligent Design conmen was elated:
The Discovery [sic] Institute, which encourages teaching that the universe is the product of an intelligent designer, called the vote "a huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for and against evolution."
By requiring students to evaluate the evidence for major evolutionary concepts such as common ancestry, natural selection and mutations, the institute said in a statement, "Texas today moved to the head of the class."
"Texas has sent a clear message that evolution should be taught as a scientific theory open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can't be questioned," said John West, a senior fellow at the institute.
Of course, there is no scientific evidence "against evolution," but this would not, of course, give a pathological liar like John West any pause. The creationist Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy (with whom I discussed these issues many years ago---alas, to no avail) is also clear about the meaning of the new language:
[B]oard Chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, said the new wording...gets the point across...that it requires students to analyze and evaluate evolution's explanation for both the complexity of cells and the sudden appearance and lack of change in species in the fossil record....
Texas Freedom Network...President Kathy Miller said the standards are now "a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks."
The curriculum "still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms," Miller said.
What a disgrace and a tragedy for children in Texas (and probably elsewhere, given the leverage Texas has over the textbook market).
Posted by Brian Leiter on March 30, 2009 at 07:01 AM in Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
Edward Feser (Pasadena City College), author of the pro-discrimination petition to the APA, offers some insight into how religiously inspired bigots think in his curious book The Last Superstition. I quote some selections from the Preface:
At the time of this writing, exactly one week has passed since the Supreme Court of the State of California decreed that homosexuals have a "basic civil right" to marry someone of the same sex. Whether these Golden Gate solons will follow up their remarkable finding with a ruling to the effect that an ass is the same as a horse, it is too early to say; but they have already gone well beyond the sophistical orator of Plato's dialogue in "confoudning good with evil," not to mention reason with insanity....
[T]he most important thing to know about the belief that God exists is not that most citizens happen (for now anyway) to share it, that it tends to uphold public morality, and so forth. The most important thing to know about it is that it is true, and demonstrably so. Similarly, the most important thing to know about "same-sex marriage" is not that it has been lawlessly imposed by certain courts even though a majority of citizens happen (again, for now anyway) to oppose it. The most important thing to know about it is that the very idea is a metaphysical absurdity and a moral abomination, and (again) demonstrably so. It is no more up to the courts or "the people" to "define" marriage or to decide whether religion is a good thing than it is up to them to "define" whether the Pythagorean Theorem is true of right triangles, or whether water has the chemical structure H2O. In each case, what is at issue is a matter of objective fact that it is the business of reason to discover rather than democratic procedure to stipulate.
The "demonstration" consists in recycled Thomist arguments (with no meaningful attention to their now familiar refutations and the repetitive rhetorical trope that everyone [except Professor Feser] has failed to grasp the real import and nuances of these arguments) and some premodern Aristotelian metaphysics, recycled through the lens of Professor Feser's sad obsession with where sperm ends up. The publisher of this strange "philosophical" tome: St. Augustine's Press in South Bend, Indiana. It is not, I should add, uninteresting as a sociological and psychological document, and it does throw a somewhat clear light on the distinctive features of 'modernity' that are so frightening to those still living in the "dark ages."
ADDENDUM: For motivated readers, pp. 132-153 are particularly remarkable, and might be useful for those wanting a good example of bad philosophy in the service of religious dogma.
Posted by Brian Leiter on March 27, 2009 at 10:38 AM in Issues in the Profession, Philosophy in the News, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink
1. So it turns out that there are people out there who aren't happy if you call folks like Francis Beckwith, who think their religion excuses their bigotry towards gay men and women, "bigots." One such person is Chris Shears (no idea who he is), who sent me the following enlightening missive:
Chris Shears [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Sent: Thursday, February 26, 2009 4:07 PM
> To: Leiter, Brian
> Subject: Your a hypocrite and a bigot.
> I've been reading your law and philosophy reports for years but I'm
> tired of your bigotry towards the positions of those you call bigots
> so I'm done reading your blogs. I can get 99% of what you offer
> elsewhere. In the unlikely event that your thoughtful and sensitive
> of others, specifically your readers, view of you I thought I should
> let you know. If not then carry on with your unhappy, arrogant self.
I suggested to Mr. Shears that a moral objection to bigotry was not properly characterized as itself an instance of "bigotry," but he did not handle that suggestion well. Alas.
2. Via Professor Hermes, I learn that the 'counterpetition' is the creation of Edward Feser, whom we encountered long ago, after this remarkably unhinged screed. He is also the author of this book (which seems to be in the same nonsensical genre as this one, i.e., "black is white" and "war is peace" and "squares are round"). His webpage does assure us, however, that The National Review deems him one of "the best contemporary writers about philosophy." One can be sure that is a judgment on the merits of his writing, and not on his ideology.
3. The signatories to the "counterpetition" include three faculty from Texas (Daniel Bonevac, J. Budziszewski, Robert Koons), three from Notre Dame (John Finnis, Alasdair MacIntyre, Alvin Plantinga), as well as Linda Zagzebski (Oklahoma) and Roger Scruton, among other notables. (Budziszewski is, to be sure, a complete philosophical hack, unlike the others--his main appointment is in Government at Texas. [Addendum: someone thought I mentioned Professor Budziszewski's main appointment as evidence that he is a hack, which wasn't at all the claim--my point is that I have friends in the Philosophy Department at Texas who are embarrassed both by this counterpetition and by his showing up as a Phil Dept signatory--I just wanted to make clear that the UT Department is not, as it were, infested with these 'counterpetition' folks. The evidence that Professor Budziszewski is a philosophical hack is his work.]) One "anonymous" signatory to the counterpetition probably makes what is perhaps the strongest point on its behalf (stronger certainly than the petition's own statement which, as others have noted, is pretty thin, intellectually and otherwise):
Do we really want the APA to push out all the conservative religious educators at a time when there are only 23 jobs listed in the latest JFP? The relationship between individual sexual freedom and freedom of religious belief is very complex and we should not attempt to squelch all disagreement on the topic through schismatic APA policies.
The APA, however, has already adopted a "schismatic" policy, namely, one prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the original petition simply calls for enforcement of the policy or its explicit repeal. Academic freedom would continue to protect the right of philosophers to debate the issue and to disagree about it. And all of this is quite independent, as Ralph Wedgwood, among others, noted on an earlier thread, of whether or not principles of religious liberty and freedom of association require us to tolerate the existence of institutions committed to religious traditions that sanction bigotry and pernicious discrimination. No one, and certainly not the petition, has challenged that point.
Posted by Brian Leiter on March 02, 2009 at 07:29 PM in "The less they know, the less they know it", Issues in the Profession, Texas Taliban Alerts (Intelligent Design, Religion in the Schools, etc.) | Permalink