Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Darwinists See a Conspiracy Theory in Leading Philosophy Journal

Does belief in evolution cause people to believe in conspiracy theories?

Joel Kontinen

Who believe in conspiracy theories? Judging from a debate on intelligent design that is brewing on the pages of the leading philosophy journal Synthese and elsewhere, we could only come to the conclusion that they are advocates of Darwinian evolution.

Recently, The New York Times reported on this controversy that began in March 2009, when a special issue of the journal was published online. Titled Evolution and Its Rivals, it used language that many philosophers thought was inappropriate for a scholarly publication.

The issue’s two guest editors, Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education, and James H. Fetzer, allowed the contributors to use a tone that differed considerably from what the readers of Synthese were used to seeing.

In the issue, professor Barbara Forrest, known as a staunch defender of Darwinian evolution, condemned the work of philosopher Francis J. Beckwith in rather harsh words, questioning his credentials and suggesting that ID-backers were conspiring with the Christian right to bring theocracy to America.

James Fetzer is known as a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

The print version of the evolution issue was published in January 2011. It included a disclaimer written by the journal’s regular editors Johan van Benthem, Vincent F. Hendricks and John F. Symons. It included these words:

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.”

This disclaimer generated much speculation among the advocates of Darwinian evolution. Some of them suggested that pro-ID people had threatened the journal.

The New York Times did not see any signs of any kind of conspiracy, however.


Oppenheimer, Mark. 2011. Debate Over Intelligent Design Ensnares a Journal The New York Times (13 May).