A new scientific journal, BIO-Complexity, is set to accelerate the pace and heighten the tone of the debate over intelligent design. The purpose of the journal, according to its self-description, is to combine the rigors and accountability of peer-review, at its best, with an editorial policy open to the debate over intelligent design. It is an open-access journal, which means everyone can download all articles for free.
Here’s its stated purpose:
BIO-Complexity is a peer-reviewed scientific journal with a unique goal. It aims to be the leading forum for testing the scientific merit of the claim that intelligent design (ID) is a credible explanation for life. Because questions having to do with the role and origin of information in living systems are at the heart of the scientific controversy over ID, these topics–viewed from all angles and perspectives–are central to the journal’s scope.
To achieve its aim, BIO-Complexity is founded on the principle of critical exchange that makes science work. Specifically, the journal enlists editors and reviewers with scientific expertise in relevant fields who hold a wide range of views on the merit of ID, but who agree on the importance of science for resolving controversies of this kind. Our editors use expert peer review, guided by their own judgement, to decide whether submitted work merits consideration and critique. BIO-Complexity aims not merely to publish work that meets this standard, but also to provide expert critical commentary on it.
For years, scientists and other scholars who want to pursue design-theoretic research have had to deal with a Catch-22. Though many big scientific ideas appear in books, specialized science develops, in large part, through the peer-reviewed publishing process. At the same time, anyone with the slightest acquaintance with the subject knows that arguing explicitly for design in an article submitted to a scientific journal is a sure-fire way to prevent the article from seeing the light of day. But it looks like that is about to change.
As we learned recently with the “Climategate” controversy, despite the merits of the peer-review concept, it can often be used as an ideological gatekeeper. This is nowhere more true than with ID. So ID-oriented scientists have been forced either to avoid the subject in their scientific publishing, or, when dealing with design-relevant evidence, to write in such an elliptical fashion that that relevance is thoroughly disguised.
It’s a Catch-22, of course, because critics claim that ID “isn’t science” since it’s not in the peer-reviewed literature. (That’s not true; but the Catch-22 means that explicitly ID-oriented work is vastly under-represented in that literature.)
But surely, you might ask, there’s an open-minded editor at some journal somewhere who would give ID a fair shake? I do know of one such editor, Richard Sternberg, who several years ago sent out for review an article by some guy defending a design perspective and then, when the article passed peer-review, Sternberg published it. If there are any remaining open-minded editors willing to send out similar articles for peer-review, the Sternberg affair reminds them what will happen if they do.
Hence the need for a journal like BIO-Complexity, especially in the biological sciences where the opposition to ID is particularly intense. The editorial board is composed of an international group of scientists with differing views about the merits of ID. But all are committed to a fair and honest assessment of the question. No doubt they will receive heat for their effort, so they are to be commended for their commitment to a fair and open exchange of ideas.
Of course, the journal itself is simply a forum for the evidence to be presented, defended, debated, and critiqued–not to be a mouthpiece for ID. The scientific merits of ID depend, of course, on the content. So stay tuned.