Intelligent design among topics of new Internet-based society

by Tammi Reed Ledbetter, posted Thursday, December 20, 2001 (12 years ago)

PRINCETON, N.J. (BP)--An Internet-based professional society envisions offering a new forum for the study of complex systems such as intelligent design.

"The International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID) is a cross-disciplinary group that investigates complex systems apart from external programmatic constraints like materialism, naturalism or reductionism," said William Dembski, editor of the society's quarterly online journal titled Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design.

Dembski is the author of "No Free Lunch," a sequel to an earlier publication titled "The Design Inference," describing how intelligent design applies to biology, as well as co-editor of "Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design." He serves as an associate research professor in the conceptual foundations of science at Baylor University's Institute for Faith and Learning.

He is joined by Bruce Gordon, an assistant research professor at the Baylor institute, and 43 other scholars who collectively serve as fellows of the new society. Having distinguished themselves for their work in complex systems, the group serves as the editorial advisory board that peer reviews the journal Dembski edits.

Gordon also is interim director of the Baylor Center for Science, Philosophy and Religion where Dembski serves in an advisory role. Gordon deals with the broader area of the history and philosophy of religion and its interaction with theistic metaphysics, while Dembski's research has been in the area of mathematics.

The society provides a forum for formulating, testing and disseminating research on complex systems through critique, peer review and publication. Its aim is to pursue the theoretical development, empirical application and philosophical implications of information and design-theoretic concepts for complex systems, Dembski explained.

Members and nonmembers may submit articles through the website's archive at the Internet address of www.iscid.org. A Web-based commenting function allows members to comment on articles, with the editorial board subsequently deciding whether submissions will be included in the journal.

The debut of the website offers increased opportunity for discussions in the area of intelligent design, a conviction that scientific evidence points to a purposeful agent outside the universe. The intelligent design movement has made progress in recent years in providing an alternative to Darwinian evolution.

Dembski explained, "Intelligent design establishes that there is an intelligence behind the complex information-rich structures we find in nature, especially in biology." He added, however, that the nature of that intelligence is not a proper object of speculation by the scientific research program known as intelligent design.

In fact, those who hold to intelligent design come from diverse religious perspectives, including Christians, Jews, agnostics, Muslims and Hare Krishnas. Some are young-earth advocates, while others accept the prevalent scientific view that the earth is ancient. "The intelligence that operates in nature could be the Christian God, but could also be advanced space aliens or a pantheistic God who is one with the world," Dembski conceded.

The composition of the new society also reveals diverse interests and backgrounds. Among the participants are scholars from the University of Oxford, University of Notre Dame, U.S. Department of Energy, Center for Islam and Science, Texas A&M University and Messiah College.

Intelligent design is only one aspect of the academic pursuits of the society. "ISCID is concerned with all aspects of complex systems and with treating them from all points of view," Dembski said, adding that intelligent design is just one of those points of view. He said the society differs from the scientific mainstream by "not allowing materialistic, naturalistic and reductionist ideologies to limit inquiry into those systems."

"It's not so much that intelligent design proves God," Dembski clarified. "It doesn't." Instead, he said, "It clears the ground of the materialistic and naturalistic ideologies that prevent Christian theism from being taken seriously. Its benefit for Christian theism and the Christian belief in the doctrine of creation is therefore indirect. It clears out obstacles rather than proving God."

Citing Darwinist Richard Dawkins' notation that "'Darwin made it possible to become an intellectually fulfilled atheist,'" Dembski said that Darwin purported to show how complex information-rich biological systems could be formed without intelligence. "Intelligent design," he said, "shows that Darwin's theory is fatally flawed and that intelligence is indispensable for the formation of such systems."

Other activities of the society include a biannual conference, annual essay contests and summer workshops. "Bright undergraduate and graduate students as well as exceptional high school juniors and seniors have the opportunity each summer to converge on Princeton, N.J., and learn about complex systems from premier researchers in the field," Dembski said.

A postdoctoral fellowship program will encourage research in the natural sciences, the engineering sciences and the theoretical foundations of complex systems, while research grants will be awarded for proposals that promise significantly to extend understanding of complex systems.