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Did Synthese bow to Intelligent Design pressure?

Last updated on 4 Oct 2017

A while back I published a paper in a special edition of Synthese on “Evolution and its rivals”. My paper was titled “Are Creationists Rational?” in which I argued that yes, in a bounded sense they are. I was very pleased to be invited to publish in this front rank journal by the special editors. However, when the printed version arrived, the editors-in-chief had inserted a rather nasty statement, a disclaimer in fact, bringing the academic standing of the contributions into disrepute. Although I do not think my paper was directly involved in this, I post below a statement about the disclaimer by the special edition’s editors, Glenn Branch and James Fetzer. I fully support it.

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
John Symons
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.) 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.


Glenn Branch
Deputy Director
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.)

It looks very much like Francis Beckwith’s sympathisers’ objections were unilaterally accepted without question by the editors-in-chief. One can only wonder why. Perhaps threats of legal action were made against the journal or the editors? If so, this action is execrable and should be withdrawn. The proper forum for academic dispute is in debate, not attack based on fear of litigation. Beckwith has his forum, and readers can decide for themselves whether they think he has a case. One wonders whether or not a similar disclaimer will accompany his contribution.

Is this what the academy has been reduced to? In the light of recent attempts to silence or discourage criticisms by certain allied political interests, this looks very bad.


  1. What a weird turn of events. I suppose you can take solace from the fact that since it’s only in the print and not the online edition of the issue, precisely no one will see it when actually reading all of the contributions…

    Do keep us all posted if the editorial office decides to respond. I’m not at the point in my career when I can be picky about journals yet, but I can certainly save notes for later.

    • Tony Lloyd Tony Lloyd

      I saw it!

      As it was a special edition I thought it worse a flick through rather than downloading specific articles. The disclaimer is at the front and I happened upon it before anything else.

      From what you’re saying I’m probably very rare individual, possibly the only person who can inform the Editors-in-Chief, Editors, Contributors and other interested parties how the disclaimer was interpreted.

      My fee is, of course, beer.

  2. There were several posts about this at the Uncommon Descent blog (an ID blog) in March. Search for “Forrest Synthese” (without the quotes) at the blog search facility.

    I’m not too sure what to make of it all. However, I would guess that the philosophy world is not nearly as critical of ID as is the science world.

    • I’d disagree that “the philosophy world is not nearly as critical of ID as is the science world.” Synthese is a philosophy of science journal, not a journal on faith and philosophy. Heck, even the journal Faith and Philosophy has published a few anti-ID pieces recently. Sahotra Sarkar (in the volume with John), and Elliott Sober, to pull two examples from thin air, have published extensively contra ID, and are very senior, highly-regarded philosophers. That’s what’s so weird about this — there’s no sort of cultural influence, as far as I can see, that would explain it.

      • There are philosophers who are very smart and well regarded in their field who think odd things. I once met a Cambridge PhD who insisted that moral failure, not germs, caused disease. I know philosophers who think orangutans are more closely related to humans than chimps. I know philosophers who think there’s something of worth in Ayn Rand.

        But, and here’s the kicker, I know scientists who think these odd things too. The fact is, philosophy is no more irrational than most other academic fields, and philosophers will, on occasion, believe silly shit, just like most other professions. One day, a blog entry on that.

  3. It is indeed very strange. From what I know of the Editors-in-Chief (none of whom I know personally, but all of whom I have at least some indirect knowledge of) I have great difficulty imagining any of the three being railroaded by anyone into anything of this sort, much less two of them at once. Conceivably, and as I said my knowledge of them is only by indirect channels, but it fits nothing that I have ever heard about any of them. That two of them would be displeased with the tone of Forrest’s paper I can well believe; all three do most or all of their work in very abstract and formal fields (modal operators, formal epistemology, computational models, and the like), and saying that Forrest “vigorously criticized” Beckwith, as Branch and Fetzer do, is a bit of an understatement, so I can certainly believe that its tone wouldn’t meet their expectations of dispassionate intellectual discussion. But that they would do it “as the result of lobbying by a handful of ideologues” is, frankly, something I have difficulty believing on just circumstantial evidence, and seems much less likely even than the hypothesis that they just honestly thought the tone unacceptable, and found their assessment confirmed by others (the unspecified “friends of Beckwith” mentioned by Branch and Fetzer — I wish we knew whether the Editors-in-Chief actually told them that the people complaining were “friends of Beckwith” or whether it was an inference from further evidence or just the conclusion Branch and Fetzer are drawing on the basis of the fact that they criticized Forrest’s article).

    The disclaimer was very unfortunate, though, particularly in its indiscriminate language; your paper, and Sarkar’s, and Weber’s were all quite good, and most of the other papers not bad, and it would be unfortunate if anyone understood it to cast suspicion on the whole issue.

    • Mike from Ottawa Mike from Ottawa

      it would be unfortunate if anyone understood it to cast suspicion on the whole issue

      What else could “We have observed that some of the papers in this issue …” possibly do but cast suspicion on the entire issue when the editors-in-chief won’t say which papers they had in mind?

      Failing to specify pre-empts principled, substantive response and there is no honourable reason for it in a context where “vigorous debate is clearly of the essence”.

      • Brandon Brandon

        I really don’t think rational suspicion works this way. I agree that such a disclaimer can be read this way, which is why I said it would be unfortunate if anyone did read it that way; but the only people who will actually read it this way are people who are so absurd as to read disclaimers uncritically. The suggestion that it pre-empts principled, substantive response seems to me to be mere nonsense; there seems to be principled, substantive response a-plenty, and nothing about the disclaimer was well-suited to impede any of it. The primary effect on most of the contributors is that it devalues what is usually a very nice achievement, publishing at invitation in a special edition of an important journal, by suggesting that the Guest Editors were inconsistent in holding the submissions to proper standards of dispassionate discussion; just as saying a race was badly handled by the organizers needn’t be taken as implying any suspicion on the quality of any athletes not implicated, but still does nonetheless reduce the value of placing in such a race. But if, for instance, it were proven that the race was badly handled, this would simply be an unfortunate consequence: nothing about this on its own indicates any more than a mistake in not providing enough information. Anything actually dishonorable here, rather than at most just clumsy or unfortunate, would have to be in the way the Editors-in-Chief interacted with the Guest Editors, and the questions raised by Fetzer and Branch about this are serious enough without anyone trying to ramp up the histrionics about everything else.

        Word through the grapevine is that the Editors-in-Chief are planning on issuing a statement at some point in the next few days, so I suppose we’ll soon see what their side of the story is.

    • James H. Fetzer James H. Fetzer


      Reviewing the thread, I discovered your question about how we knew it was “friends of Beckwith”. I was given the names of him and two others — one of whom was Dembski, the other far better known — all three of whom are targets of Forrest’s critique. So we knew that those who were lobbying the Editors-in-Chief were among those she was criticizing in her article — hardly the right persons to be offering advice and encouraging a reply and such.

      The crucial letter from Hendricks to Forrest has just been posted by Brian Leiter on his blog. In my opinion, this letter — to which I composed and sent a very lengthy, point by point, rebuttal, which I sent to the three Editors-in-Chief and representatives of Springer — is especially striking not only because Glenn and I were not copied but because the third of the three Editors-in-Chief, John Symons, who had accepted the special issue on behalf of SYNTHESE, was not copied either! In my opinion, that was despicable conduct.


  4. bob koepp bob koepp

    John –
    I agree that there’s something going on here that deserves critical scrutiny. But unless you know something that you didn’t share with your readers, I don’t know how you arrive at the view that “It looks very much like Francis Beckwith’s sympathisers’ objections were unilaterally accepted without question by the editors-in-chief.” You add, ” One can only wonder why,” but lacking additional information, I think “One can only wonder whether.”
    This is not intended as a defense of ID or Beckwith.

  5. Nick Matzke Nick Matzke

    What is it with Beckwith’s protestations about people who link him to the ID movement? For years he was basically an uncritical shill for ID, and told his readers that ID would be totally unproblematic constitutionally. Only after everything started falling apart in 2005 did he start to change his tune. And now he wants everyone to pretend that he wasn’t an ID supporter, and isn’t, even though he won’t retract his previous work, or admit to any major mistakes in it.

  6. John Harshman John Harshman

    Appalling action by the editors, regardless of their reasons. If there are problems, they should be stated explicitly rather than tarring an entire issue with vague accusations. Better yet, they should be fixed in editing. Whatever they might have been.

    But I find the digression (from Panda’s Thumb) more interesting: the discovery that one of the guest editors (Fetzer) is a conspiracy-theory nut. Doesn’t anybody screen these calls?

    • I was engaged in this by Glenn, who I know and respect. I do not know Fetzer or his ideas at all. But if one restricted collaboration to those one knew were ideologically pure, one might not ever publish.

      However, Fetzer was, apparently (I do not know from personal experience) the person who organised the special issue.

      • John Harshman John Harshman

        One must presume he was respected in his field before he went off the deep end, rather in the way Lynn Margulis is still invited to symposia and such.

        • bob koepp bob koepp

          Fetzer has been pushing conspiracy theories throughout his career. But that doesn’t seem to have prevented him from doing first rate philosophy, particularly in the analysis of evidence-based reasoning. It’s probably a good policy to set aside what we know about about a person’s ideological inclinations when we’re assessing their arguments.

  7. John Harshman John Harshman

    Oh, and why do I now have an odd, octagonal, unibrowed smiley-face representing me? Who picked, and why?

    • It’s picked by the Gravatar server for those who don’t have a Gravatar attached to their email address. It’s free, so if you have an image you’d like to use, sign up.

  8. Mike from Ottawa Mike from Ottawa

    It appears the vaunted standards of SYNTHESE, as exemplified in the behaviour of the editors in chief outlined above, would include deliberately misleading guest editors and contributors.

    Too bad Ms Forrest’s paper isn’t available for them of us as doesn’t have academic library access or $34 they can’t wait to be quit of. Beckwith’s response appears to be available but I’d not read that sort of thing from someone like Beckwith (that Hunter Baker business) without having the original to check quotes and assertions against.

  9. Jeb Jeb

    “But, and here’s the kicker, I know scientists who think these odd things too. The fact is, philosophy is no more irrational than most other academic fields.”

    Made me smile. I liked this along with youre article. Made me think of a remark by Linnaeus.

    Seems a fitting remark for this somewhat strange editoral car- crash as well.

  10. Why would anyone suggest that my research on controversial subjects should be of any lesser quality than my previous research on the theoretical foundations of scientific knowledge or on the defensibility of program verification or on the character of minds as semiotic systems? Only those who are basing their opinions on rumor, hearsay, and speculation.

    No one who has actually studied my books and articles on the assassination of JFK, the atrocities of 9/11, or the plane crash that took the life of Sen. Paul Wellstone would lodge such an allegation. Here is a sampler of some of my work on these subjects, which are arguably of far greater importance to the American people than those that preoccupy most academicians:

    “Thinking about ‘Conspiracy Theories’: 9/11 and JFK”
    “Reasoning about Assassinations”
    “The Dartmouth JFK-Photo Fiasco” (with Jim Marrs)
    “JFK and RFK: The Plots that Killed Them, The Patsies that Didn’t”
    “RFK: Outing the CIA at the Ambassador”
    “The NTSB Failed Wellstone” (with John Costella)
    “Who’s telling the truth: Clint Hill or the Zapruder film?”
    “What Didn’t Happen at the Pentagon”
    “Conspiracies and Conspiracism”

    Does anyone find evidence here that I am some “conspiracy nut”? I am dumbfounded that a scholar who appears to have some familiarity with scientific reasoning in his own research would be so cavalier in dismissing a colleague, especially one whose most recent book, which is his 29th and co-edited with the late Ellery Eells, was THE PLACE OF PROBABILITY IN SCIENCE (2010).

    • Does anyone find evidence here that I am some “conspiracy nut”? I am dumbfounded that a scholar who appears to have some familiarity with scientific reasoning in his own research would be so cavalier in dismissing a colleague…

      If you mean me, James, then I did not, as I do not know your work in this respect.

      • John Harshman John Harshman

        Well, he has thoughtfully provided links so you can familiarize yourself. I have looked at some and have come to a provisional conclusion on the basis of the evidence therein. I would be interested in your take. Is there, for example, indeed no way that a airliner could possibly have hit the Pentagon on 9/11/2001?

        • John Wilkins John Wilkins

          Me, I think that Islamists flew three planes into buildings without the direct knowledge of the US Administration, killing thousands. I am fully convinced of the engineering that underlies the explanation of why the Towers fell, and that the video of the plane plowing into the Pentagon is real and accurate. I think that they did this because the Bush Administration took its hand off the intelligence wheel and failed to act on intelligence that terrorists were planning attacks, because they were arrogant. There may have been some arse covering by the Bush dynasty after the event about their ties to the Bin Laden family.

  11. Many of these appeared elsewhere, too: “The Dartmouth JFK-Photo Fiasco”, for example, was published under a slightly different title in GLOBAL RESEARCH; “What Didn’t Happen at the Pentagon” in a longer version at; “Who’s telling the truth: Clint Hill or the Zapruder film?” has just appeared in THE DEALEY PLAZA ECHO (March 2011), pp. 19-32.

    I have also edited three books about JFK, ASSASSINATION SCIENCE (1998), MURDER IN DEALEY PLAZA (2000), and THE GREAT ZAPRUDER FILM HOAX (2003), which Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Charles Manson but defends the “lone gunman” theory, has described as the only “exclusively scientific” books ever published about the assassination.

    I co-authored AMERICAN ASSASSINATION: THE STRANGE DEATH OF SENATOR PAUL WELLSTONE (2004) with Don “Four Arrows” Jacobs, a Native American scholar, where our research has been substantiated by a new (15 part) documentary, “WELLSTONE: THEY KILLED HIM” (2010), from snowshoefilms, which you can find on YouTube.

    And I edited the first book from Scholars for 9/11 Truth, which I also founded, THE 9/11 CONSPIRACY (2007) and produced its first DVD, “The Science and Politics of 9/11” (2007). Those who doubt the breadth and the depth of support for 9/11 research should become acquainted with several thousand experts and scholars featured at

    Does anyone find evidence here that I am some “conspiracy nut”? I am dumbfounded that a scholar who appears to have some familiarity with scientific reasoning in his own research would be so cavalier in dismissing a colleague, especially one whose most recent book, which is his 29th and co-edited with the late Ellery Eells, is THE PLACE OF PROBABILITY IN SCIENCE (2010).

  12. Let me express my thanks to John S. Wilkins for allowing me to respond here and make it clear that he was not the target of my remarks about the one who called me “a conspiracy nut”, who was John Harshman. I am most appreciative that John has actually taken a look at one or more of the articles that I linked above. That may be a first for this forum or for “The Panda’s Thumb”, where I have replied to him below. Issues raised there have suggested to me that it might be appropriate to summarize the situation from my point of view in the hope of bridging the chasm between me and some of my critics.

    The objectivity of science represents inter-subjective reliability, where different students tend to converge in their conclusions about which hypotheses are acceptable, which are rejectable, and which should be left in suspense when they are considering the same alternative explanations, the same body of evidence and applying the same rules of reasoning. Just as creationists and evolutionists tend to diverge because the parties are not considering the same hypotheses, the same evidence, or applying the same rules of reasoning, the same outcome can occur in dealing with other, even more emotional, issues, such as JFK and 9/11.

    Even in relation to this special issue itself, there are common misperceptions. The idea of editing a special issue on “Evolution and Its Rivals”, in case anyone still does not know it, was mine. I invited Glenn Branch to co-edit it with me because of my highly favorable impression of his competence and knowledge. While I had previously edited six special issues of SYNTHESE, I enlist the assistance of those who may know more than I for specific research, especially when it may entail knowledge and competence beyond my own. I was confident he was more familiar with suitable authors and subtle issues in creation and evolution, so I invited him to join me.

    Because he carried the lion’s share of the burden of putting it together, I made him the senior editor. He earned it. When we encountered these unexpected problems with the Editors-in-Chief, it was I who carried the principal burden of defending our contributors and the special issue we had edited, where these problems arose AFTER its contents had already been published on-line. I took that role because I had served as an editor of SYNTHESE for ten years and knew, based upon past experience, that our special issue met suitable standards for publication. I even invited another editor to review the paper in question, who confirmed that it was a vigorous, but appropriate, piece of work.

    My collaborative efforts with Glenn illustrate in a modest way my collaborative efforts in other, more controversial, research projects. In late 1992, I brought together some of the best qualified individuals to ever study the death of JFK, including a world-authority on the human brain, who was also an expert on wound ballistics; a Ph.D. in physics who is also an M.D. and board-certified in radiation oncology; another M.D. who was present when JFK was bought into Trauma Room #1 and, two days later, was responsible for the treatment of his alleged assassin; a legendary photo and film analyst, who testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations when it reinvestigated the case in 1977-78, and advised Oliver Stone in producing “JFK”; and another Ph.D. in physics, this time with a specialization in electromagnetism, the properties of light and images of moving objects.

    David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D., obtained permission from the Kennedy family to enter the National Archives and study the medical evidence. Applying a simple technique known as “optical densitometry”, he discovered that the “official” X-rays had been altered to conceal a massive blow-out to the back of his head, that there was evidence of a second shot to his head, and that a 6.5mm metallic slice had been added to the X-rays in an apparent attempt to implicate an obscure WWII weapon, a Mannlicher-Carcano, as the weapon used to commit the crime. David has now returned to the archives nearly a dozen times and has confirmed that none of the “official X-rays” is in fact an original. See, for example, .

    Similarly, Robert B. Livingston, M.D., compared the consistent and numerous reports of the physicians at Parkland Hospital, which reported cerebellar and cerebral tissue extruding from the wound at the back of his head, with the diagrams and photographs of the brain archived there. Since the brain shown has a completely intact cerebellum and very little missing cerebral tissue, he concluded that the brain shown in those photographs and diagrams cannot be that of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. This was an obvious inference for those who are familiar with the relevant evidence, but it is far more impressive coming from a world authority on the human brain. Bob’s statements about this issue and several others are published in ASSASSINATION SCIENCE (1998), along with Mantik’s early studies.

    We had multiple indications that the home movie of the shooting, known as “the Zapruder film”, was probably not the original, either, especially since its contents included events–such as the violent back-and-to-the-left motion accented in Oliver Stone’s film–that witnesses had not reported and excluded other events–including the driver bringing the limo to a halt after bullets had begun to be fired–that they had reported. We have now confirmed on multiple grounds that the film was recreated, which was the subject of my third book on JFK, THE GREAT ZAPRUDER FILM HOAX (2003). Some of the scientific evidence that substantiates that conclusion may be found in an introductory visual tutorial about the faking of the film prepared by John P. Costella, who is the Ph.D. with electromagnetism as his area of specialization, at .

    I shall not belabor what we have found about 9/11, except to say that anyone who lived through it but has not studied it does not know what it was that they “lived through”. When an FBI agent was asked why none of the four alleged plane crashes had been investigated by the NTSB (for the first time in its history), he replied that it wasn’t necessary “because we saw it on television”. Precisely what we saw on television, however, is by no means uncontroversial. Pilots for 9/11 Truth, for example, has confirmed that the plane–shown in the videos effortlessly entering the South Tower in violation of Newton’s laws–was flying faster than aerodynamically possible for a Boeing 767 and that, at such a speed, it would have been unmanageable in flight and physically fallen apart. See its new documentary, “9/11 Intercepted” for more.

    John Harshman has asked, “Is there … indeed no way that a airliner could possibly have hit the Pentagon on 9/11/2001?” As I explain in “What Didn’t Happen at the Pentagon, had a plane–purportedly, a Boding 757–actually hit the building, there should have been a massive pile of debris from the fuselage of a 100-ton aircraft, including the wings, the tail, bodies seats and luggage. April Gallup, a civilian employee who stepped out through the hole created by an enormous explosion, reported that there were no signs of any aircraft having crashed there. Not even the engines, which are virtually indestructible, were recovered from the Pentagon. So the evidence is against it.

    Pilots for 9/11 Truth has a documentary, “Pandora’s Black Box”, based upon black box data provided by the NTSB, which demonstrates that a plane corresponding to the date would have been too high to hit any of those lampposts and, 1 sec. from impact, was 100 feet above the Pentagon. This corresponds to the report of the trucker buddy of a friend of mine from JFK research who told him that he had been in front of the building at the time and watched a large plane head for the building but then swerve and fly over it. His report has now been confirmed by new research presented in “National Security Alert” by CIT. I appreciate that John Harshman is actually looking at some of my articles and raising questions.

    Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth now has around 1,500 professional members who reject the official account of the destruction of the towers, which they have concluded had to have involved explosives and controlled demolitions. These are not merely my opinion, but those of its members. See, for example, “Blueprint for Truth”, a documentary it has produced. I explain the basics about all of these findings in my presentations, such as “Was 9/11 an ‘inside job’?” and “Are Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan justified by 9/11?”, for those whose minds are sufficiently open to actually consider the evidence.

    John Wilkins has suggested that no one has talked about these conspiracies, but he is simply unfamiliar with the evidence. In his book, BLOODY TREASON (1997), for example, on a single page, Noel Twyman identifies no less than eight prominent individuals who talked about the conspiracy to kill JFK before and after the assassination, including Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, and Sam Giancano, as well as Joseph Milteer, Johnny Roselli, and David Atlee Phillips, whose names may be unfamiliar to those on this forum but who are well-known to experts on his death. And E. Howard Hunt recently confessed to his son, St. John, that he had been “a back bencher” during “the big event” in Dealey Plaza, which was published in ROLLING STONE (2007). Check it out.

    I have also been fascinated by the discussion on “The Panda’s Thumb” of the views of Lynn Margulis, who has criticized the critiques of creationism advanced by some of its critics. Some of you–perhaps all of you!–may be unaware that she has spoken out about the events of 9/11 (

    “The 9/11 tragedy is the most successful and most perverse publicity stunt in the history of public relations. I arrive at this conclusion largely as the result of the research and clear writing by David Ray Griffin in his fabulous books about 9/11…It is clear to me that David Ray Griffin and his fellow critics are correct: the 9/11 ‘new Pearl Harbor’ was planned in astonishing detail and carried out through the efforts of a sophisticated and large network of operatives. It was more complex and far more successful than the Allende assassination, the US bombing of our own ship the ‘Maine’ that began the Spanish-American war (and brought us Guam, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines), the Reichstag fire that was used to justify the suspension of most civil liberties in Germany in the 1930’s, and even Operation Himmler, which was used by Germany to justify the invasion of Poland, which started World War II.”

    So if I am “a disgrace to the history and the philosophy of science” for my research on JFK and 9/11, for example, as John Kwok has asserted on “The Panda’s Thumb”, then I am in pretty good company. Many prominent figures–including Robert M. Bowman, former Director of the U.S. “Star Wars” Space Defense Program in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and a former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel with 101 combat missions; Andreas Von Buelow, former assistant German defense minister, director of the German Secret Service, minister for research and technology, and member of Parliament for 25 years; and Francesco Cossiga, Prime Minister of Italy from 1985-92–reject the “official account” of 9/11 as fantasy, not fact.

    Cossiaga has concluded, as many of the rest of us have concluded as well, that 9/11 was indeed “an inside job” with a little help from our friends in the Mossad. Since I have no doubt that this observation is going to engender accusations of “anti-Semitism” and comparisons with Holocaust deniers, I would observed that the staged events of 9/11 appear to have been motivated by oil, Israel, and ideology, as I have explained in many places, including “Is 9/11 research ‘anti-Semitic’?”, which those who want to know the truth more than they want to avoid the appearance of “political incorrectness” can find at

  13. Bob O'H Bob O'H

    Perhaps threats of legal action were made against the journal or the editors?

    If it was legal action (presumably libel), the publisher would have removed the paper from the web site ASAP. Or, if they thought they were on a firm legal footing, they wouldn’t have published anything saying they were wrong: it would be used against them in any court case.

    I’m blogging this now – if Grrl will let me.

  14. The disclaimer is reasonable, and doesn’t cast suspicion on any particular paper. It is great to be reminded what quality research in the humanities is supposed to look like, and what’s wrong with the editor of a journal reminding us?

  15. Athel Cornish-Bowden Athel Cornish-Bowden

    It’s a pity this discussion has turned into a discussion of conspiracy theory.

    In the hope of returning to the original topic, I’d like to say that I’ve been skimming through Barbara Forrest’s article trying to see what anyone could consider libellous, and I can’t find anything. Pretty much everything she says about Beckwith is documented with appropriate literature citations (mostly from his own publications). If it’s libel to remind an author of what he has said in the past and to criticize it then probably most of us have been guilty of libel. Her paper is aggressive, certainly, but so what? I think the Editors-in-Chief, as well as Beckwith and his friends, have made complete fools of themselves over this, and I can’t see how the journal can recover unless all three Editors-in-Chief resign.

    Joining the boycott would be a meaningless gesture on my part because I can’t imagine submitting anything to Synthese anyway, but if I were a philosopher I would.

  16. John Harshman John Harshman

    I’m sorry that I opened wide the spigots of conspiracy theory. The interesting question to me is whether one’s activities in separate areas should be considered when evaluating particular acts. Are Dr. Fetzer’s conspiracy theories relevant to his editing of a special issue of a philosophy journal? Perhaps not. People are frequently good at compartmentalizing. Fred Hoyle’s astronomy was just fine, and his forays into biology shouldn’t affect that. Roger Sperry’s biology was just fine, and his weirdness on thermodynamics shouldn’t affect that. And Lynn Margulis’ ideas about 9/11 shouldn’t affect our assessment of her biology; further, her ideas about speciation shouldn’t prevent us from continuing to accept the endosymbiotic origin of chloroplasts and mitochondria.

    But I could also argue the other way. To the extent that arguments are supported by personal credibility, which is often much more than they should, we might consider the source. And if we have no ability to evaluate arguments independently, say from lack of familiarity with the field, indirect clues may be all we have to work with.

    It doesn’t seem a simple question.

  17. Apart from its own peculiar lapse about research on 9/11, “A Peculiar Disclaimer” from Inside Higher Education offers an excellent overview of the issues, where I was involved in dealing with the Editors-in-Chief about these questions, which Glenn and I had thought we had resolved until the disclaimer appeared in the hardcopy edition. Contrary to the author’s insinuation, there is a great deal of evidence that what we have been told about 9/11 cannot possibly be true, where the official account–authored principally by Philip Zelikow, whose area of academic specialization was the creation and maintenance of “public myths”–has been falsified on virtually every major count by experts and scholars across the disciplines, including those of physics and of engineering.

    As Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth has explained, the towers cannot have been demolished in about ten seconds apiece without the use of powerful explosives, where a collapse due to fire would have been impossible. Indeed, no steel structure high-rise has collapsed due to fire before 9/11 or after and, we have found, did not occur on 9/11, either. Pilots for 9/11 Truth has discovered that black box data they were given by the NTSB corresponds to a plane on a different approach that was too high to have hit any lampposts and appears to have flown over the building. And as David Ray Griffin, the leading authority on 9/11 has found, the available evidence shows that the alleged phone calls from the planes were faked to induce a sympathetic emotional response in the public.

    Since the official account of 9/11 entails the violation of laws of aerodynamics, of physics, and of engineering, it is “just fine” as long as you are willing to believe impossible things. See, for example, “Why doubt 9/11?”, on the home page of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, the research society I founded, and especially, a web site that features bio sketches, photos, and statements from several thousand professionals from government, military, aeronautical, engineering, architectural, and other backgrounds, who are convinced that we have not been told the truth about 9/11, a sentiment shared by Thomas Kean and William Hamilton, who have published their concerns that the Pentagon, for example, gave the commission three versions of the events of 9/11. If the chairs of The 9/11 Commission don’t know what happened on 9/11, who does?

    Since even George W. Bush qualified 9/11 as “the pivotal event of the 21st Century”, it might be a good idea if more academicians and scholars were to apply their backgrounds and abilities to sorting out truth from fiction. 9/11 has been used to justify wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq that have depleted the national treasury by over a trillion dollars, which could certainly have been used for more constructive purposes here at home. When you realize the false rationales that were advanced to justify those invasions–including that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq was in collusion with Al Qaeda, and that Osama bin Laden was responsible (a claim for which even our own FBI acknowledges it has “no hard evidence’)–it should be obvious that the public interest would be well served by more research on 9/11 than even the debate over evolution and ID.

  18. djd djd

    Since the official account of 9/11 entails the violation of laws of aerodynamics, of physics, and of engineering, it is “just fine” as long as you are willing to believe impossible things.

    The same can be said of the accounts promoted by the “9/11 truth” movement.

    The non-official accounts turn out to have fairly obvious mistakes any time I look into details I can check. Either their proponents don’t care about accuracy or they can’t do any better – in either case why should I give them any credence?

    I went to “Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth” to see how long it would take me to find a significant error. (I have particular interest in the assertion that the fires could not have significantly contributed to structure failure.) Their evidence page says (right sidebar) that “destruction by fire” would involve falling away from the point of impact due to conservation of momentum. Only an immediate fall would depend on transferred momentum from the impact. Finding that took mabe a minute.

    The article they link to on “Evidence of fire temperatures” discusses no such evidence, only an analysis of temperature rise limit. This analysis claims to be using generous assumptions, yet ungenerously requires that the entire floor be uniformly heated. The more generous assumption is that the distribution heats only a small section of the floor (a symmetrical collapse can be initiated by a localized buckle – I’ve done the experiment myself on a small scale). If only a small section of the floor is heated then the peak temperature is far higher and structural failure is possible.

    Worse yet (in type-of-error), their thermal calculation is wrong: subtracting the energy transferred to the structure leaves gas temperature under 1000 °C, it should be over 2000 °C (adiabatic isobaric kerosene in air approaches 2100 °C). They calculated the heating value of 10,850 kg of fuel but applied it to the mass balance on 31,000 kg of fuel!

    If they can’t even keep track of how much fuel burned, I’m not going to trust then to be accurate about anything (e.g., alledged lack of evidence of creep failure, dynamics of progressive collapse, etc, etc) unless I’ve checked their work. Since I don’t have the expertise to evaluate substantial parts of it, I assume those are like the parts I have checked – which contained serious errors.

  19. TTT TTT

    I came here initially on Fetzer’s side, but the fever-dream conspiracisms are devastating to his personal credibility and perceived judgment.

    [Zapruder Film] contents included events–such as the violent back-and-to-the-left motion accented in Oliver Stone’s film–that witnesses had not reported and excluded other events–including the driver bringing the limo to a halt after bullets had begun to be fired–that they had reported.

    Then the film is right and the witnesses are wrong. Eye- or earwitness testimony of a quick and extremely traumatic event is always unreliable and subject to embellishment and in-group normalization. The very fact that the video shows his head moving backwards at all–supposedly a strong piece of evidence for the supposed conspiracy–would speak against it having been a forgery by the conspirators.

    had a plane–purportedly, a Boding 757–actually hit the building, there should have been a massive pile of debris from the fuselage of a 100-ton aircraft, including the wings, the tail, bodies seats and luggage. April Gallup, a civilian employee who stepped out through the hole created by an enormous explosion, reported that there were no signs of any aircraft having crashed there.

    And hundreds of other witnesses–including ample photographs–saw the airplane wreckage, saw the plane coming in, saw it crash. Exactly where do you think American Airlines 77 ended up if it didn’t crash there? What happened to all the passengers? Did they land in Area 51, or Atlantis or something?

    And expecting to find the wings or a wing-shaped hole is patently absurd. The Pentagon is basically a mountain of solid concrete and airplane wings are basically hollow tinfoil tubes stuffed with explosives. They were pulverized in the crash as anyone who understands aerodynamics would expect them to be. This is no different from people saying we faked the moon landings because the stars in the background weren’t as clear as they looked in Hollywood movies.

  20. Well, I am a bit baffled. I posted a very substantial response to djd inviting his critique of a baker’s dozen of key points, but it has not shown up. When I have tried to post it again, I am told that this is “a duplicate post”, so I am not sure whether my replies are going to show up or not. It was a longer post, but not more so that others I have successfully posted. I will respond to TTT here and hope my earlier reply shows up. Otherwise, I will contact John.

    Well, according to a Harvard study cited by Elizabeth Loftus, EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY (1996), which appears on Table 3.1, a summary of research with 151 subjects showed that, when what the individual was observing was salient (significant), they were 98% accurate and 98% complete in their recollections. Certainly, observing the president of the United States be assassinated before your eyes would be highly salient. The common belief that you endorse, therefore, has been shown to be wrong, as David Mantik and I pointed out in ASSASSINATION SCIENCE (1998), p. 210 and p. 278.

    Indeed, there are more than sixty witnesses who reported the limo stop, which appears to have taken place abruptly and lasted for perhaps three or four seconds, during which JFK was hit twice in the head: once from behind and he fell foward. After Jackie had eased him up, she was looking him right in the face when he was hit in the right temple by an exploding or “frangible” bullet, which blew his brains out the back of his head to the left rear. That is also not in the film but follows from medical, ballistic and witness evidence.

    You are also mistaken on legal grounds. According to MCCORMICK ON EVIDENCE, 3rd ed. (1984), Section 214, photographic and film evidence is only admissible when it has been confirmed to be “a correct and accurate representation of the relevant facts personally observed by the witness.” So the photos and films do not outweigh the witnesses but require them to be admissible. When Zapruder was placed on the stand during the trial of Clay Shaw, incidentally, he was surprisingly equivocal about his own film.

    We know a great deal about the film, to which my third collection of studies by experts, THE GREAT ZAPRUDER FILM HOAX (2003), was devoted. I don’t expect you to track it down, so I will mention that John Costella has compiled the reports from Dealey Plaza on, an on-line journal for advanced study of the assassination, in volume 5/number 1, and that he has a very interesting visual tutorial to the fabrication of the film at .

    Here I will mention a few other sources. The Assassination Records Review Board released some 60,000 documents and records that had been held by the CIA, the FBI, the Secret Service, and other entities under a mandate from Congress passed in the wake of the resurgence of interest in the case after the release of Olver Stone’s “JFK”. Doug Horne, the Senior Analyst for Military Affairs, has now published INSIDE THE ARRB (2009). I have extracted his key findings about the two films brought to the NPIC that weekend here:

    “US Government Official: JFK Cover-Up, Film Fabrication”

    Another striking aspect of the film–apart from Jackie’s climbing onto the trunk to retrieve a chunk of JFK’s brains and skull–is Clint Hill’s running forward to attempt to protect her. Remarkably, a new book has now been published, THE KENNEDY DETAIL (2010), in which he reports having climbed on the limo, pushed Jackie down in the seat, and laid over them, while peering into a fist-sized blow-out at the back of his head, all of which occurred BEFORE the limo reached the Triple Underpass. Remarkably, this sequence of events is also not present in the film, as I have explained here:

    “Who’s telling the truth: Clint Hill or the Zapruder film?”

    For those who want more, the Duluth conference I organized and moderated in 2003 was taped and has been turned into a 66-part series on the faking of the film, which you can find on YouTube under the heading of “Zapruder Fakery”. There is much more evidence that we have uncovered, but I hope this is enough to let you know that, with regard to the Zapruder film, we have done our homework. Let me know if you want more and I will see what I can do.

    • James, as I told you in email, if you put two or more links into the comment, the spam filter will put it into the spam trap until I can check it and release it (or not). And as I am on the other side of the world, I sleep when you post, so it can take around 8 hours or more depending on my commitments to do that.

      But I now call a halt to all discussion of 9/11, JFK, Moon Landings and other such claims that are not about the Synthese matter, or the general themes of this blog. I have allowed people to respond and discuss so far because at the least James deserved a chance to defend his credibility and standing. This he has done, and now we can stop it. There are plenty of sites where these matters can be discussed. From here on in, any discussion of this kind will be arbitrarily trashed by me.

  21. Well, I don’t endorse all of A&E911’s positions, either, because they make nanothermite, an incendiary, the principal mechanism for the destruction of the Twin Towers, which obviously required massive explosives as well. But their documentary, “Blueprint for Truth”, demonstrates–conclusively, in my view–that these cannot possibly be “collapses” of any kind, whether from so-called “truss failure” or of floors falling onto other floors. Even the gross observable visual evidence–see “New 9/11 Photos Released”, for example, archived at–makes that apparent. Does this look anything like a collapse?

    So much of the evidence is visual that language is a poor medium to explain it absent demonstrations of what you are addressing. Here I shall enumerate a baker’s dozen of crucial points about New York for your consideration. But I urge you to consider them along with one or another of my Powerpoint presentations, “Was 9/11 an ‘inside job’?”, or “Are Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan justified by 9/11?”, which is archived at . Let me know what you find to disagree with here, because if I have anything wrong, I want to know it. We are looking for the scientific explanation conferring the highest probability on the evidence. (5) and (10) are especially worthy of your consideration

    (1) The impact of planes cannot have caused enough damage to bring the buildings down, since the buildings were designed to withstand them (as Frank DeMartini, the project manager, has observed), the planes alleged to have hit were similar to those they were designed to withstand, and the buildings continued to stand after those impacts with negligible effects.

    (2) Most of the jet fuel, principally kerosene, burned up in those fireballs in the first fifteen seconds or so. Below the 96th floor in the North Tower and the 80th in the South, those buildings were stone cold steel, unaffected by any fires at all other than some very modest office fires that burned around 500 degrees F, which functioned as a massive heat sink dissipating the heat from building up on the steel.

    (3) The melting point of steel at 2,800 degrees F is about 1,000 degrees higher than the maximum burning temperature of jet-fuel-based fires, which do not exceed 1,800 degrees under optimal conditions; but the NIST examined 236 samples of steel and found that 233 had not been exposed to temperatures above 500 degrees F and the others not above 1200.

    (4) Underwriters Laboratory certified the steel in the buildings up to 2,000 degrees F for three or four hours without any significant effects, where these fires burned neither long enough or hot enough–at an average temperature of about 500 degrees for about one hour in the South Tower and one and a half in the North–to weaken, much less melt.

    (5) If the steel had melted or weakened, then the affected floors would have displayed completely different behavior, with some degree of asymmetrical sagging and tilting, which would have been gradual and slow, not the complete, abrupt and total demolition that was observed. Which means the NIST cannot even explain the initiation of any “collapse” sequence.

    (6) The top 30 floors of the South Tower pivoted and began to fall to the side, when the floors beneath gave way. So it was not even in the position to exert downward pressure on the lower 80 floors. A high-school physics teacher, Charles Boldwyn, moreover, has calculated that, if you take the top 16 floors of the North Tower as one unit of downward force, there were 199 units of upward force to counteract it.

    (7) William Rodriguez, who was the senior custodian in the North Tower and the last man to leave the building, has reported massive explosions in the sub-basements that effected extensive destruction, including the demolition of a fifty-ton hydraulic press and the ripping of the skin off a fellow worker, where they filled with water that drained the sprinkler system.

    (8) Rodriguez observed that the explosion occurred prior to reverberations from upper floors, a claim that has now been substantiated in a new study by Craig Furlong and Gordon Ross, “Seismic Proof: 9/11 Was an Inside Job”, demonstrating that these explosions actually took place as much as 14 and 17 seconds before the presumptive airplane impacts.

    (9) Heavy-steel-construction buildings like the Twin Towers are not generally capable of “pancake collapse”, which normally occurs only with concrete structures of “lift slab” construction and could not occur in redundant welded-steel buildings, such as the towers, unless every supporting column were removed at the same time, floor by floor, as Charles Pegelow, a structural engineer, has observed.

    (10) The demolition of the two towers in about 10 seconds apiece is very close to the speed of free fall with only air resistance, which Judy Wood, Ph.D., formerly a professor of mechanical engineering, has observed is an astounding result that would be impossible without extremely powerful sources of energy. If they were collapsing, they would have had to fall through their points of greatest resistance.

    (11) Indeed, the towers are exploding from the top, not collapsing to the ground, where their floors do not move, a phenomenon Wood has likened to two gigantic trees turning to sawdust from the top down, which, like the pulverization of the buildings, the government’s account cannot possibly explain. There were no pancakes.

    (12) WTC-7 came down in a classic controlled demolition at 5:20 PM after Larry Silverstein suggested the best thing to do might be to “pull it”, displaying all the characteristics of classic controlled demolitions: a complete, abrupt and total collapse into its own footprint, where the floors are all falling at the same time, yielding a stack of pancakes about 5 floors high.

    (13) Had the Twin Towers collapsed like WTC-7, there would have been two stacks of “pancakes” equal to about 12% the height of the buildings or around 15 floors high. But they were actually reduced to below ground level. Since there were no “pancakes”, there cannot have been any “pancake collapse” of either building, where these buildings were destroyed by different modes of demolition.

  22. Because I submitted them before he posted his new policy, John has allowed the rest of my replies to djd and to TTT. Here’s the last:

    As for the Pentagon, TTT, I take it you have not read “What Didn’t Happen at the Pentagon”, in which I explain (with photographs) that the hit point on the ground floor was only 10’x16-17′, that there was no massive pile of debris as we would expect from a 100-ton airliner, including the wings, the tail, and bodies, seats and luggage. Not even the engines,which are virtually indestructible, were recovered. It may be worth adding that, while the 767s in New York carved out cookie-cutter like impressions in the steel, there is no comparable impression of the 757 at the Pentagon, even though its facade is relatively soft limestone, one more indication that no 757 crashed there. If you read that study and have more questions, get back to me. Many thanks!

  23. John has kindly allowed me to complete posting my replies to djd and TTT because they were submitted before he laid out his new policy:

    As for the Pentagon, TTT, I take it you have not read “What Didn’t Happen at the Pentagon”, in which I explain (with photographs) that the hit point on the ground floor was only 10’x16-17′, that there was no massive pile of debris as we would expect from a 100-ton airliner, including the wings, the tail, and bodies, seats and luggage. Not even the engines,which are virtually indestructible, were recovered. It may be worth adding that, while the 767s in New York carved out cookie-cutter like impressions in the steel, there is no comparable impression of the 757 at the Pentagon, even though its facade is relatively soft limestone, one more indication that no 757 crashed there. If you read that study and have more questions, get back to me. Many thanks!

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