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Correspondence from Dr Bill Cooke

August 6th, 2007 by Madeleine

I received the following last night:

Dear Matthew

Thank you telling your readers you apologised for not seeking my side of the story with regard to the Visiting Associate
Professor imbroglio. I appreciate your honesty there.

However, I was dismayed to read a new litany of innuendo about this. I am depressed that you should spend so much time on ad hominem attacks. Surely we can communicate in a more civil way?

Having read your accusations I am not even sure what crime I am supposed to have committed this time. I am a philosopher in the same way you are. Your PhD is in theology, is it not? We are both philosophers in the sense of being interested in how the world works and seeking coherent answers. I have never made any other claim.

I recognise fully that the Visiting Associate title was entirely honorary, and have never used it inappropriately. I have
mentioned it on my CV and in publications written during the timespan of the Visiting Professorship. All this is perfectly normal use of a title like that. I have certainly never described myself as a Professor, let alone a Professor of Philosophy in the formal sense. And once the lifespan of the position expired, I stopped using it. Where is the crime in any of this?

The way you spun the story allowed some of your readers (hiding behind pseudonyms) to jump to their own conclusions and decide beyond reasonable doubt as to my dishonesty.

I’m not making any specific request of you beyond asking that this ad hominem campaign come to a close. Please,
let us converse, and contest ideas if it comes to that. But this muck-raking is a waste of our time and does your cause little credit. We may not agree on how the world works, but that does not mean we have to dispute in an uncivil manner, does it?

If you want to add this letter to your blog, feel free.

Yours sincerely

Bill Cooke

I need to thank Dr Cooke for his civil and conciliatory tone in sending this. I will make only a couple of comments about this.

First a clarification, Cooke notes that my PhD was in Theology that’s correct. As I note in my profile my area of specialisation within Theology is ethics and philosophical theology. These subjects are subfields of both Philosophy and Theology and hence areas where the two disciplines overlap. In this respect I am like a law lecturer who works in the area of philosophy of law, or a physicist who works in philosophy of science. Moreover, my master’s degree was in Philosophy and I have taught philosophy at both Waikato and Otago University and my PhD thesis was on a Philosophical topic and examined by Philosophers.

This aside however, I agree with Cooke that dialogue between evangelical theologians (like myself) and Humanists (like him) should be civil and not a series of ad hominem arguments and muck raking. The reason I posted on the whole “professorship issue” was because I perceived the debate was not being conducted in this way. A few years ago NZARH published a newsletter, which was circulated in the media, this letter stated following “We will pass over Flanagan’s rather odd notion of the ‘law of nature;’ he is, after all, a PhD candidate in Theology, not a real subject like Law or Biology”. This was an unprovoked attack upon my academic credentials. NZARH also published attacks on Bernie Oligvy because he used the term Dr and yet only had an honorary doctorate and NZARH attacked Maxim because one of its members engaged in plagiarism. I could cite other examples.

The point I wanted to make regarding these comments was that if this line of argument is valid (which it is not) then Cooke’s claim to being a professor and Litterick’s continual reliance on the research of Craig Young provide an argument for rejecting the position of NZARH. I was reluctant to post any more on this question and only did so because one of Cooke’s supporters stated I was “a cheap blogist who has disinterest in nor sought counter argument in defence of cheap accusations that fact would spoil his pitch” when I did not respond to Cooke’s counter argument .

Cooke however clarifies his position, he is a religious historian with an interest in the philosophical debate regarding religion and he has received an honorary professorship and never been on faculty. Moreover, he like I, is committed to civil dialogue and is interested in discussing issues of philosophy and religion. In light of this I will take up his offer and post no more on the issue of his professorship. I hope that under Cooke’s guidance NZARH will lay off similar attacks against me and other Christians . I look forward to dialogue with NZARH on these more civil terms in the future.

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1 response so far ↓

  • I am deriving great pleasure from watching Dr Cooke dig himself deeper and deeper into a hole of his own making. Now he tells you that he is a philosopher in the sense of “being interested in how the world works;” of course, that sense.

    No, the truth is that Dr Cooke wanted everyone to believe that he was a real philsopher in a real Philosophy Department. He may have deluded himself that he was such a person while he was there but the university said over a year ago that he was not. Nevertheless, he and the NZARH continue to promulgate this deception on its website.

    As I have observed earlier, Dr Cooke is a buffoon and a fraud.