Home » Culture, Darwinism » Scholar Frank Beckwith wipes the floor – with one of Darwin’s thicker broomsticks

Scholar Frank Beckwith wipes the floor – with one of Darwin’s thicker broomsticks

File this under: Darwin conspirazoid’s paper disowned by respectable journal.

Of course it had to happen eventually.

I remember reading Barbara “ID is coming to GET you” Forrest’s 2009 attack-from-nowhere on  Beckwith (philosophy and church-state studies*).

Phrase “tinfoil hat” haunted me all that day, for whatever reason.

It’s one thing, of course, to publish a potboiler like her Trojan Horse, entertaining the Darwin faithful with dark tales of the big ID conspiracy. I mean, the faithful would vastly prefer space aliens, but the aliens haven’t been by lately.

And so what? Well, here’s what: A respectable journal, Synthese, has a habit of making every fifth issue a special, with outside editors. Unfortunately for the folks at Synthese, they left a recent issue (Vol 178, No22010) in the hands of the Darwin lobby, with NCSE employee Glenn Branch as co-editor.

Oops.

Oopser: One of their gems was Barbara Forrest’s “The non-epistemology of intelligent design: its implications for public policy”, where Forrest once again whacks Beckwith with her magical Darwinbroom.

This might have been a mistake on her part, for two reasons. First, Beckwith is a gentleman and a scholar, but not a wimp. And second he is not, as Forrest assumes, an ID sympathizer. So he isn’t someone to whom the elementary principles of justice do not apply.

Anyway, he complained. The journal editors let him publish a 23-page rebuttal that mostly defends scholarly integrity, including his own, against the tangled Forrest of insinuations. It’s a zinger.

Better still, the editors have done “something unprecedented” – they have issued a disclaimer and, in Beckwith’s words, “distanced themselves from her literary misconduct”.

Good for them: I take a somewhat populist view: The public supports and respects scholarship when it means high intellectual combat.

But when it is the intellectual equivalent of machine politics (as it becomes when it gets lost in the Forrest), it’s not clear why support or respect is warranted.

So I see Beckwith as backstopping a form of corruption, and am thankful for it.

I guess someone who wasn’t an ID sympathizer had to be buzzed by Darwin’s broomstick before anyone could call these people for what they are.

Here are some brief excerpts from Beckwith’s rebuttal:

I was surprised that a philosopher of my modest accomplishments should be the subject of an entire article in such an esteemed journal.Mymoment of honor, however, was short lived once I began reading it. I soon discovered that Ms. Forrest’s interest in me goes far beyond my academic work, but into my entire career and then some, including my friendships, my civic associations, the locations of my speaking engagements, my Church, and the political histories of groups and organizations that people with whom I disagree and many of whom I have never met and do not know once belonged.

[ ... ]

… Forrest’s assessment of my work is a professional embarrassment. So much so that the editors of this journal—not to be confused with the editors of the “special issue” in which Forrest’s article appears—have done something unprecedented: they have included in the front of the issue a disclaimer (Branch and Fetzer 2011, p. 170). They have distanced themselves from her literary misconduct, her article’s personal attacks and bizarre tangents into my religious pilgrimage that surround and embed her case against my work.

[ ... ]

… it strikes me as odd that Forrest claims that I ama n ID advocate because I present “ID exactly as ID leaders do—their arguments are his arguments, restated without hedge or criticism” (Forrest 2011, p. 346). Not only does such a statement ignore my recent writings, explicitly critical of ID, that were available to Forrest many months before her article was to appear in print (Beckwith 2009c, 2009–2010, Beckwith 2010c), but it also ignores the academic responsibility I had in writing a graduate thesis in law on a matter of fundamental freedoms. In such writing, one is obligated to present the view under analysis with fairness and charity, especially when the nature, and not the veracity, of that view is the only thing relevant to the question one is trying to answer.

[ ... ]

Her mistakes are so plentiful and egregious that it is almost impossible to know where to begin, and when to end. But, as I noted in my introductory comments, I simply cannot cover all of these mistakes. Readers can check out her article for themselves.

I’d like to hope this little contretemps will do some good, but if my experience is any guide, you’ll still be hearing that shrill cackle overhead for some years to come.

It just won’t be directed at Beckwith.

* Originally, I had mistakenly written that he was a law prof.

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

13 Responses to Scholar Frank Beckwith wipes the floor – with one of Darwin’s thicker broomsticks

  1. I enjoyed his response to Forrest. I thought there were so many fallacies in Forrest’s paper, even from the very beginning of it, that I had a hard time understanding how it could be taken seriously.

  2. Phaedros, keep this in mind: It was only an offense because Beckwith is not an ID supporter. Had he been so, there is nothing that Forrest could have done or said that would attract attention.

  3. Link (paywall):
    Or we can be philosophers: a response to Barbara Forrest Francis J. Beckwith
    Synthese, DOI: 10.1007/s11229-011-9891-y
    Abstract:

    This article is a response to Barbara Forrest’ 2011 Synthese article, “On the Non-Epistemology of Intelligent Design.” Forrest offers an account of my philosophical work that consists almost entirely of personal attacks, excursions into my religious pilgrimage, and misunderstandings and misrepresentations of my work as well as of certain philosophical issues. Not surprisingly, the Synthese editors include a disclaimer in the front matter of the special issue in which Forrest’s article was published. In my response, I address three topics: (1) My interest in Intelligent Design (ID) and public education and why as a Thomist I have grown more skeptical and explicitly critical of ID over the years, (2) the sorts of philosophical mistakes with which Forrest’s article is teeming, and (3) my Christian faith, religious exclusivism, and interfaith dialogue.

    With 110 references, that is a formidable rebuttal.

  4. To see what Francis Beckwith himself actually thinks, see his articles discussing and distinguishing ID from creation science:

    “How To Be An Anti-Intelligent Design Advocate,” University of St. Thomas Journal of Law & Public Policy 4.1 (2009-2010): 35-65

    (One particularly annoying habit on the part of these writers is to refer to “Intelligent Design” as “Intelligent Design Creationism” for the apparent purpose of instilling their readers the practice of thinking that “guilt by association” is intellectually virtuous). . . .It seems that “guilt by association” is a game that each side can play. . . .
    Footnote 7: “There seems to be among the most vociferous ID critics a case of the “guilt by association/ genetic fallacy” tourettes, a malady that manifests itself in the irrational practice of pointing out, like an involuntary vocal utterance, the religious beliefs and affiliations of some ID advocates, as if such revelations (pardon the pun) have any bearing on the quality of the arguments such advocates offer for their point of view. . . . Just as it would be wrong for anyone to dismiss the arguments of ID critics because a disproportionate number of them are aggressive atheists and social liberals . . .

    See also:
    “Science and Religion Twenty Years After McLean v. Arkansas: Evolution, Public Education, and the New Challenge of Intelligent Design.” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 26.2 (Spring 2003): 455-499.

    “Public Education, Religious Establishment, and the Challenge of Intelligent Design.” Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics, & Public Policy 17.2 (2003): 461-519. (Adapted from portions of Law, Darwinism, and Public Education: The Establishment Clause and the Challenge of Intelligent Design [Rowman & Littlefield, 2003])

  5. Title…

    …another post I saw over at…

  6. [...] was only some days ago that a reputable journal disowned NCSE Board member Barbara Forrest’s unscholarly attack on Baylor law professor Francis Beckwith. [...]

  7. [...] was only some days ago that a reputable journal disowned NCSE Board member Barbara Forrest’s unscholarly attack on Baylor law professor Francis Beckwith. [...]

  8. [...] here is the first story on the subject (what happened), here is a backgrounder, and here are some reflections. [...]

  9. [...] here is the first story on the subject (what happened), here is a backgrounder, and here are some reflections. [...]

  10. {great|cool} {blog|site} {cheers|Thanx} {Posting|Showing us}…

    Really Good site,Thank you so much for you effort in writing the posts….

  11. [...] in about the “anti-ID issue” of Synthese (in which supposed ID expert Barbara Forrest wrongly broomsticked Baylor’s Frank Beckwith as if he were an ID supporter -when everyone else knows he isn’t. But [...]

  12. [...] take is that scholars looked at the prospect of giving lobbyists broomstick rights over the entire academy and are advisedly pulling [...]

  13. [...] take is that scholars looked at the prospect of giving lobbyists broomstick rights over the entire academy and are advisedly pulling back. Copyright © 2011 Uncommon [...]

Leave a Reply