Intelligent design

Intelligent design

Intelligent design (ID) theory holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. In the biological sciences, ID theory stands in contrast to evolutionary theory, which claims that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.

As in forensic science, which tries to determine causation, ID theory divides the causation of phenomena into three categories:

  • Necessity (natural regularities)
  • Chance (random chance)
  • Design (intelligent design)

ID theory contends that these various causes are empirically detectable; that is, well-defined methods exist which, based on observable features of the world, can reliably distinguish intelligent causes from undirected natural causes.

Following are some of the the many books on intelligent design:

  • The Design Inference by mathematician William A. Dembski
  • Darwin's Black Box by biochemist Michael J. Behe
  • Darwinism, Design, and Public Education by John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer
  • The Design of Life by William A. Dembski and biologist Jonathan Wells
  • The Design Revolution by William A. Dembski
  • Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells
  • The Privileged Planet by astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher Jay W. Richards
  • Signature in the Cell by Stephen C. Meyer
  • The Myth of Junk DNA by Jonathan Wells

The following DVDs about intelligent design are also available:


Various misconceptions exist regarding intelligent design and evolution.

One misconception is that intelligent design is creationism in disguise. Although the theories have similarities, they are not the same. Creationism accepts the biblical revelation as input; ID theory does not. ID theory allows neither supernaturalistic bias nor antisupernaturalistic bias; it advocates following wherever the evidence leads.

A second misconception is that intelligent design theory takes a God-of-the-gaps approach: We can't explain it; therefore God must have done it. On the contrary, ID theory does not mention God, and ID theory is based on knowledge not lack of knowledge. ID theory uses known principles for determining whether a phenomenon is caused by necessity, chance, or design.

A third misconception is that evolution is a scientific fact. Merriam-Webster defines evolution as "a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations; also : the process described by this theory." Evolution is an unproven theory. See Icons of Evolution, Unlocking the Mystery of Life, and other sources.

A closely related misconception is that antibiotic-resistant bacteria provide evidence of evolution. However, antibiotic-resistant bacteria are not an example of evolutionary advancement but of a harmful mutation that happens to have a benefit only in a specific abnormal environment. The loss or garbling of genetic information involved in this mutation cripples a particular metabolic pathway that the antibiotic happens to attack. This makes antibiotic-resistant bacteria less fit to survive in a normal environment but better able to survive when the antibiotic is present. Thus it is not really evidence for evolution but merely of variation. No new genetic information has been added to advance the species.

Another misconception is that DNA is the sole controller of heredity and through random mutation acted on by natural selection leads to evolution. The analogy is that monkeys typing at typewriters could produce the words of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, given enough monkeys and enough time. However, nongenetic factors such as the cytoskeleton and the cell membrance play a crucial role in heredity. In some ways they are more important in controlling development than DNA is. Jonathan Wells writes in Signs of Intelligence edited by William A. Dembski and James M. Kushiner:

According to a small but growing number of biologists, there is considerable evidence that genes do not control development. For example, when an egg's genes are removed and replaced with genes form another type of animal, devleopment follows the pattern of the original egg until the embryo dies from lack of the right proteins. The Jurassic Park approach of putting dinosaur DNA into ostrich eggs to produce a Tyrannosaurus rex makes exciting fiction, but it ignores scientific fact.
This changes the analogy from monkeys producing the words of the Encyclopaedia Britannica to monkeys producing the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica in bound volumes. The probability changes from extremely small to zero, in other words, impossible.


The following links pertain to intelligent design:

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