Theory of Intelligent Design

Intelligent Design (or ID) is the controversial assertion that certain features of the universe and of living things exhibit the characteristics of a product resulting from an intelligent cause or agent, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Though publicly most ID advocates state that their focus is on detecting evidence of design in nature, without regard to who or what the designer might be, in statements to their constituents and supporters nearly all state explicitly that they believe the designer to be the Christian God.

Adherents of ID claim it stands on equal footing with the current scientific theories regarding the origin of life and the origin of the universe. This claim has not been accepted by the scientific community and intelligent design does not constitute a research program within the science of biology. Despite ID sometimes being refered to popularly and in the media as "Intelligent Design Theory", it is not recognized as a scientific theory and has been categorized by the mainstream scientific community as creationist pseudoscience.

The National Academy of Sciences has said that Intelligent Design "and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life" are not science because their claims cannot be tested by experiment and propose no new hypotheses of their own.

Critics argue that ID proponents find gaps within current evolutionary theory and fill them in with speculative beliefs, and that ID in this context may ultimately amount to the "God of the gaps".

Both the Intelligent Design concept and the associated movement have come under considerable criticism.

This criticism is regarded by advocates of ID as a natural consequence of philosophical naturalism which precludes by definition the possibility of supernatural causes as rational scientific explanations. As has been argued before in the context of the creation-evolution controversy, proponents of ID make the claim that there is a systemic bias within the scientific community against proponents' ideas and research based on the naturalistic assumption that science can only make reference to natural causes.Media organizations often focus on other qualities that the designer(s) in Intelligent Design theory might have in addition to intelligence, e.g., "higher power", "unseen force", etc.

Intelligent Design is presented as an alternative to purely naturalistic forms of the theory of evolution. Its putative main purpose is to investigate whether or not the empirical evidence necessarily implies that life on Earth must have been designed by an intelligent agent or agents.

For example, William Dembski, one of ID's leading proponents, has stated that the fundamental claim of ID is that "there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence."

Proponents of ID look for evidence of what they call signs of intelligence - physical properties of an object that imply "design". The most common cited signs being considered include irreducible complexity, information mechanisms, and specified complexity.

Many design theorists believe that living systems show one or more of these, from which they infer that life is designed. This stands in opposition to mainstream explanations of systems, which explain the natural world exclusively through impersonal physical processes such as random mutations and natural selection.

ID proponents claim that while evidence pointing to the nature of an "Intelligent Designer" may not be observable, its effects on nature can be detected. Dembski, in Signs of Intelligence claims "Proponents of intelligent design regard it as a scientific research program that investigates the effects of intelligent causes. Note that intelligent design studies the effects of intelligent causes and not intelligent causes per se."

In his view questions concerning the identity of a designer fall outside the realm of the idea.Critics call ID religious dogma repackaged in an effort to return creationism into public school science classrooms and note that ID features notably as part of the campaign known as Teach the Controversy.

The National Academy of Sciences and the National Center for Science Education assert that ID is not science, but creationism.

While the scientific theory of evolution by natural selection has observable and repeatable facts to support it such as the process of mutations, gene flow, genetic drift, adaptation and speciation through natural selection, the "Intelligent Designer" in ID is neither observable nor repeatable.

Critics argue this violates the scientific requirement of falsifiability. Indeed, ID proponent Behe concedes "You can't prove intelligent design by experiment". [8]Critics say ID is attempting to redefine natural science.

They cite books and statements of principal ID proponents calling for the elimination of "methodological naturalism" from science and its replacement with what critics call "methodological supernaturalism", which means belief in a transcendent, non-natural dimension of reality inhabited by a transcendent, non-natural deity.

Natural science uses the scientific method to create a posteriori knowledge based on observation alone (sometimes called empirical science). Critics of ID consider the idea that some outside intelligence created life on Earth to be a priori (without observation) knowledge.

ID proponents cite some complexity in nature that cannot yet be fully explained by the scientific method. (For instance, abiogenesis, the generation of life from non-living matter, is not yet understood scientifically, although the first stages have been reproduced in the Miller-Urey experiment.) ID proponents infer that an intelligent designer is behind the part of the process that is not understood scientifically. Since the designer cannot be observed, critics continue, it is a priori knowledge.

This allegedly a priori inference that an intelligent designer (a god or an alien life force[12]) created life on Earth has been compared to the a priori claim that aliens helped the ancient Egyptians build the pyramids.

In both cases, the effect of this outside intelligence is not repeatable, observable, or falsifiable, and it violates Occam's Razor as well. From a strictly empirical standpoint, one may list what is known about Egyptian construction techniques, but must admit ignorance about exactly how the Egyptians built the pyramids.

The phrase intelligent design, used in this sense, first appeared in Christian creationist literature, including the textbook Of Pandas and People (Haughton Publishing Company, Dallas, 1989). The term was promoted more broadly by the retired legal scholar Phillip E. Johnson following his 1991 book Darwin on Trial. Johnson is the program advisor of the Center for Science and Culture and is considered the father of the intelligent design movement.However, for millenia, philosophers have argued that the complexity of nature indicates supernatural design; this has come to be known as the teleological argument.

The most notable forms of this argument were expressed by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica (thirteenth century), design being the fifth of Aquinas' five proofs for God's existence, and William Paley in his book Natural Theology (nineteenth century) where he makes his watchmaker analogy. The modern concept of intelligent design is distinguished from the teleological argument in that ID does not identify the agent of creation.

Intelligent design arguments are carefully formulated in secular terms and intentionally avoid positing the identity of the designer.

Phillip E. Johnson has stated that cultivating ambiguity by employing secular language in arguments which are carefully crafted to avoid overtones of theistic creationism is a necessary first step for ultimately reintroducing the Christian concept of God as the designer. Johnson emphasizes "the first thing that has to be done is to get the Bible out of the discussion" and that "after we have separated materialist prejudice from scientific fact... only then can "biblical issues" be discussed."

Johnson explicitly calls for ID proponents to obfuscate their religious motivations so as to avoid having ID identified "as just another way of packaging the Christian evangelical message."

Though not all ID proponents are motivated by religious fervor, the majority of the principal ID advocates (including Michael Behe, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, and Stephen C. Meyer) are Christians and have stated that in their view the designer of life is clearly God. The preponderance of leading ID proponents are evangelical Protestants.

The conflicting claims made by leading ID advocates as to whether or not ID is rooted in religious conviction are the result of their strategy. For example, William Dembski in his book The Design Inference lists a god or an "alien life force" as two possible options for the identity of the designer. However, in his book Intelligent Design; the Bridge Between Science and Theology Dembski states that "Christ is indispensable to any scientific theory, even if its practitioners don't have a clue about him.

The pragmatics of a scientific theory can, to be sure, be pursued without recourse to Christ. But the conceptual soundness of the theory can in the end only be located in Christ."

Dembski also stated "ID is part of God's general revelation..." "Not only does intelligent design rid us of this ideology (materialism), which suffocates the human spirit, but, in my personal experience, I've found that it opens the path for people to come to Christ."

The Intelligent design movement is an organized campaign to promote ID arguments in the public sphere, primarily in the United States. The movement claims ID exposes the limitations of scientific orthodoxy, and of the secular philosophy of Naturalism. ID movement proponents allege that science, by relying upon naturalism, demands an adoption of a naturalistic philosophy that dismisses out of hand any explanation that contains a supernatural cause. Phillip E. Johnson, considered the father of the intelligent design movement and its unofficial spokesman stated that the goal of intelligent design is to cast creationism as a scientific concept.

The intelligent design movement is largely the result of efforts by the conservative Christian think tank the Discovery Institute, and its Center for Science and Culture. The Discovery Institute's wedge strategy and its adjunct, the Teach the Controversy campaign, are campaigns intended to sway the opinion of the public and policymakers. They target public school administrators and state and federal elected representatives to introduce intelligent design into the public school science curricula and marginalize mainstream science. The Discovery Institute acknowledges that private parties have donated millions for a research and publicity program to "unseat not just Darwinism, but also Darwinism's cultural legacy."

Critics note that instead of producing original scientific data to support IDŐs claims, the Discovery Institute has promoted ID politically to the public, education officials and public policymakers. Also oft mentioned is that there is a conflict between what leading ID proponents tell the public through the media and what they say before their conservative Christian audiences, and that the Discovery Institute as a matter of policy obfuscates its agenda. This they claim is proof that the movement's "activities betray an aggressive, systematic agenda for promoting not only intelligent design creationism, but the religious worldview that undergirds it."

Richard Dawkins, biologist and professor at Oxford University, compares "Teach the controversy" with teaching flat earthism, perfectly fine in a history class but not in science. "If you give the idea that there are two schools of thought within science, one that says the Earth is round and one that says the Earth is flat, you are misleading children."

Underscoring claims that the ID movement is more social and political enterprise than a scientific one, intelligent design has been in the center of a number of controversial political campaigns and legal challenges. These have largely been attempts to introduce intelligent design into public school science classrooms while concurrently portraying evolutionary theory as a theory largely scientifically disputed; a "theory in crisis." This has been despite a consensus in the scientific community that ID lacks merit and ID proponents have yet to propose an actual scientific hypothesis. These campaigns and cases are discussed in depth in the Intelligent design movement article.


Whether the order and complexity of nature indicates purposeful design has been the subject of debate since the Greeks. In the 4th century BCE, Plato posited a good and wise "demiurge" as the creator and first cause of the cosmos in his Timaeus.

In his Metaphysics, Aristotle developed the idea of an "Unmoved Mover".

In De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods, 45 BCE) Cicero wrote that "the divine power is to be found in a principle of reason which pervades the whole of nature."

This line of reasoning has come to be known as the teleological argument for the existence of God. Some well-known forms of it were expressed in the 13th century by Thomas Aquinas and in the 19th century by William Paley. Aquinas, in his Summa Theologiae, used the concept of design in his "fifth proof" for God's existence.

In the early 19th century, Paley's argument from design in Natural Theology (1802), used the watchmaker analogy, and such arguments led to the development of what was called natural theology, the study of nature as way of understanding "the mind of God". This movement fueled the passion for collecting fossils and other biological specimens, which ultimately led to Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859). <> Similar reasoning postulating a divine designer is embraced today by many believers in theistic evolution, who consider modern science and the theory of evolution to be compatible with the concept of a supernatural designer. In correspondence about the question with Asa Gray, Darwin wrote that "I cannot honestly go as far as you do about Design. I am conscious that I am in an utterly hopeless muddle. I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; & yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of Design." Though he had studied Paley's work while at university, by the end of his life he came to regard it as useless for scientific development.

Intelligent design in the late 20th and early 21st century is a development of natural theology that seeks to change the basis of science and undermine evolutionary theory.

As evolutionary theory expanded to explain more phenomena, the examples held up as evidence of design changed, though the essential argument remains the same: complex systems imply a designer. Past examples have included the eye and the feathered wing; current examples are typically biochemical: protein functions, blood clotting, and bacterial flagella; see irreducible complexity.

Philosopher Barbara Forrest writes that the intelligent design movement began in 1984 with the publication by Jon A. Buell's the Foundation for Thought and Ethics of The Mystery of Life's Origin by Charles B. Thaxton, a chemist and creationist. Thaxton held a conference in 1988, "Sources of Information Content in DNA," which attracted creationists such as Stephen C. Meyer. Forrest writes that, in December 1988, Thaxton decided to use the term "intelligent design," instead of creationism, for the movement.

In March 1986 a review by Meyer used information theory to suggest that messages transmitted by DNA in the cell show "specified complexity" specified by intelligence, and must have originated with an intelligent agent.[29] In November of that year Thaxton described his reasoning as a more sophisticated form of Paley's argument from design.[30] At the Sources of Information Content in DNA conference in 1988 he said that his intelligent cause view was compatible with both metaphysical naturalism and supernaturalism.

Intelligent design avoids identifying or naming the agent of creation - it merely states that one (or more) must exist - but leaders of the movement have said the designer is the Christian God. Whether this lack of specificity about the designer's identity in public discussions is a genuine feature of the concept, or just a posture taken to avoid alienating those who would separate religion from the teaching of science, has been a matter of great debate between supporters and critics of intelligent design. The Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District court ruling held the latter to be the case. Intelligent Design