March 2011

Sahotra Sarkar wrote a largely negative review of my book for NDPR. Since I’m so involved it’s hard for me to tell how fair-minded it is. Trent Dougherty has written an impressive defense of my book in response to Sarkar’s review.

Regarding Sarkar’s review,  there is just one point that I want to respond to. Sarkar writes:

These probabilities are not based on a specification of the reference class against which all probability estimates should be founded. Critics of ID have routinely argued this rather elementary point (Fitelson et al. 1999; Shallit and Ellsbury 2004; Sober 2004; Sarkar 2007) and it is intellectually irresponsible for Monton not to have addressed these criticisms.

The problem with Sarkar’s criticism of me here is that the points those critics make aren’t relevant for the main line of thought I was trying to develop, which was that the universe potentially being spatially infinite has an impact on these biology-based arguments. (In other words, it doesn’t matter whether the critics are right or not, for the point I was trying to make. (For more on the point I was trying to make, see my paper “Design Inferences in an Infinite Universe”, which is published in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion Volume I; a preprint is here.))

And that’s all I have to say about Sarkar’s review. I wish he had made more philosophically substantive points, because then I would have more to say. It’s worth contrasting Sarkar’s review with an NDPR review Rebecca Chan and I recently wrote of J. Alberto Corlett’s book The Errors of Atheism. Even though we weren’t particularly impressed with the book, we didn’t insult it or him; instead we presented a number of philosophical objections in response to his philosophical arguments.


I’ll be speaking at this conference on time travel at North Carolina State on April 9; it should be enjoyable!

Call For Papers: The 27th Boulder Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science

University of Colorado at Boulder

September 23rd – 25th, 2011


The Boulder Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science is an annual event focusing on a key topic in history and philosophy of science. Special invitations are extended to scholars in the Colorado area, but national and international participants are equally welcome.


This year’s topic is: History and Philosophy of Physics


Keynote speakers:

Daniel Kennefick (Department of Physics, University of Arkansas)

Laura Ruetsche (Department of Philosophy, University of Michigan)



Papers on any aspect of the history or philosophy of science are encouraged. Since the conference focus this year will be on history and philosophy of physics, some preference will be given to papers that focus on topics related to either of those areas.


To be considered for the program, either submit a completed paper with short abstract, or an extended (up to 1000 words) abstract. (Graduate students are asked to submit a completed paper.)


Any questions may be directed to one of the two conference organizers: Allan Franklin (Department of Physics, or Bradley Monton (Department of Philosophy, Submissions are due by 15 July 2011 and should be sent as an email attachment ( in .doc or .pdf format) to both Professors Franklin and Monton. Acceptances will be announced by 1 August 2011.


Graduate students are encouraged to submit for the program; those whose papers are accepted will receive a modest stipend of $100 to help offset expenses.


The Committee on the History and Philosophy of Science at University of Colorado at Boulder is cosponsored by the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, the Center for the Humanities and the Arts, and by the following University of Colorado Departments:  Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Geological Sciences; History; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; Philosophy; Mathematics; and Physics.