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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Synthese Flap, and the Sound of Silence

By now, many of you are aware of the controversy surrounding the disclaimer that was inserted, in the print copy only, of the issue number two of Synthese 178, which Glenn Branch and James Fetzer had guest edited. To Branch's and Fetzer's surprise, and to the utter surprise of the contributors to this journal (Barbara Forrest, John Wilkins, and Wesley Elsberry among them), the editors-in-chief included the following disclaimer in the print edition:

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
John Symons
Editors-in-Chief / SYNTHESE

You can read more about the inappropriateness, and the unprofessionalism, of this clandestine inclusion here (Chronicle of Higher Education) and here (Inside Higher Ed), sources that hardly have an axe to grind when it comes to the evolution/creationism controversy.

The editors-in-chief have refused to respond, as they should, to the scholarly community as to why they would circumvent normal publishing ethics and transparency to include a disclaimer that indeed "poisons the well" against established scholars and writers of repute (or as it turns out, one particular scholar).

However, another and perhaps more alarming, question has arisen. Wesley outlines it here:

One piece of hard data is that Francis Beckwith, one of the third-party complainers, submitted his “response” to Barbara Forrest on February 7th, 2011, and the response includes in it explicit reference to the disclaimer in the print edition of Synthese 178:2. This sets the latest date at which Francis Beckwith could have been apprised of the disclaimer’s print status. I didn’t hear about it until Glenn Branch emailed me on March 9th, 2011, to say that a disclaimer had been printed. But I’d like to know exactly how much lead time Beckwith had. The Synthese Editors-in-Chief haven’t been very forthcoming when asked questions about this affair, so that leaves Beckwith to be asked about the situation.

Wesley has e-mailed Beckwith asking how he was informed about the disclaimer before anyone else, including the guest editors of and contributors to Synthese 178. The silence from Beckwith has been deafening - all the more disturbing because Beckwith takes Barbara Forrest to task for supposed "errors" in her article, claiming that "all she had to do was e-mail me." Indeed?

Time to answer your e-mail, Francis Beckwith! Quit blogging about how "awful" Barbara Forrest's writing is to show the forthright honesty and transparency that you expect from others.

As a budding scholar myself, still fresh out of grad school, I want to see the proper behavior modeled for me by my colleagues and mentors, especially those who make the extraordinary claim that there is a concerted effort to silence any evidence for design in scholarly communication.

Shimmies to The Austringer

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Blogger The whole truth said...

Just FYI:

May 26, 2011 8:23 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Thanks, Whole Truth.

But the thing is, that has gone beyond intelligent design. Scholarly editors are accountable to their guest editors, their writers, and the scholarly community, as well as to the public. This lack of transparency is troubling.

May 26, 2011 3:26 PM  
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January 27, 2012 1:39 PM  

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