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Study the Vision of George Gilder in a Seminar Setting, July 26-29 in Seattle

David Klinghoffer

George Gilder

Although the United States is a large and prosperous country, it often strikes me that we are increasingly poor in vision. There is no shortage of politicians, pundits, or professors, ready with ideas for many a facile op-ed on their pet topics. But when you try to imagine great, sweeping pictures of the world, how it works, man’s place in it, and why any of that really matters, these seem to be strangely confined to thinkers of the near or distant past.

There are some exceptions, though — visionaries still going strong today — and one of those is Discovery Institute co-founder George Gilder. It’s a pleasure, then, to be able to offer a unique experience this summer in Seattle: the Gilder Fellows Seminar, July 26-29. The program is sponsored by the Institute’s Center on Wealth, Poverty, & Morality, not its program on intelligent design (which is the Center for Science & Culture). But two participants in the Gilder program also happen to be Senior Fellows with the CSC, so I thought I would mention it here.

Discovery Institute is accepting applications now for this selective program aimed at university undergraduates and grad students, with some additional spaces for young professionals. With a teaching faculty including George Gilder, Michael Medved, Jay Richards, and John West, the focus is on what Gilder calls the “spirit of enterprise.”

The program is free, and includes lodging, meals, and course materials. Based on need, we are also able to offer scholarships to cover travel costs. More information, including an online application, is here.

Topics to be considered include:

  • Is free enterprise still the best system for human flourishing?
  • How do we cultivate the “spirit of enterprise”?
  • What do cultures need to alleviate poverty and create wealth?
  • How should we respond to the resurgence of interest in socialism?
  • How does capitalism relate to the Judeo-Christian tradition?
  • What makes the information economy unique?
  • What are the promises and perils of future technology?
  • How do we prepare for a future of smart machines and artificial intelligence?
  • What is the future of cryptocurrencies?

No one can crystalize the Gilderian vision better than George himself, and he did so in a speech in Washington, DC, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of Discovery Institute. If you had to condense his theme into two words, the phrase “intelligent design,” applied not only in biology or cosmology, but in economics, culture, and more, gets pretty close.

You really must read the whole thing, but this is the heart of it.

We do not only believe in intelligent design in the universe; we believe such a design manifests itself across the sciences and pervades economics and culture. Not only is God the creator; but human beings are creative in his image, in the image of the creator. This is a scientific proposition, following the insights of a great new science called information theory. Information theory upholds the idea of a hierarchical universe and underlies all the programs at Discovery.

In his essay “Transposition,” C.S. Lewis explained a crucial principle of information theory. Imagine, he said, you are a figure in a great landscape painting, living in a flat world. You occupy just two dimensions. You have worked out all the distances and colors and shadings, shadows and light patterns, textures and angles. You have analyzed all the oils and pigments. You have collected all the data in your flat world and you believe you have a satisfactory 2D explanation of reality.

If an outsider comes to you and tells you that this picture is only a attenuated reflection or pale imitation of a vast three- or even four-dimensional cosmos beyond it, you might answer: “Three dimensions? I have no need for that hypothesis.”

But as C.S. Lewis put it: “What is happening in a lower medium can only be understood if you know the higher medium.”

In his essay, I believe, Lewis refuted what I call the flat universe theory. This is the assumption that mind, creativity, consciousness, and creation are all merely chance or emergent results of material forces: physics and chemistry.

The mission of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture is about science and culture, not, of course, about economics. And supporters of intelligent design have a range of views about economic and other policy matters. But countering “flat universe theory” with a compelling scientific alternative is a helpful way of encapsulating a great deal of what we do here.

If you’d like to spend the better part of a week in Seattle, at the height of the gorgeous Pacific Northwest summer, probing the meaning of this vision for enterprise and entrepreneurship, please consider applying now. Or if you know others who might be right for the Gilder Fellows Seminar, please do them a favor by sharing this with them.

Photo: George Gilder speaking at Discovery Institute 25th anniversary reception, Ritz-Carlton, McLean, VA.