Intelligent design

Intelligent design

Intelligent design (ID) is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."[1][2] It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for the existence of God, presented by its advocates as "an evidence-based scientific theory about life's origins" rather than "a religious-based idea". It avoids specifying that the hypothesized intelligent designer is God.[3] Its leading proponents are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank,[n 1][4] and believe the designer to be the Christian God.[n 2][n 3]

ID seeks to redefine science in a fundamental way that would invoke supernatural explanations, a viewpoint known as theistic science. It puts forward a number of arguments, the most prominent of which are irreducible complexity and specified complexity, in support of the existence of a designer.[5] The scientific community rejects the extension of science to include supernatural explanations in favor of continued acceptance of methodological naturalism,[n 4][n 5][6][7] and has rejected both irreducible complexity and specified complexity for a wide range of conceptual and factual flaws.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

Intelligent design was developed by a group of American creationists who revised their argument in the creation–evolution controversy to circumvent court rulings such as the United States Supreme Court Edwards v. Aguillard ruling, which barred the teaching of "Creation Science" in public schools as breaching the separation of church and state.[14][n 6][15] The first significant published use of intelligent design was in Of Pandas and People, a 1989 textbook intended for high-school biology classes.[16] From the mid-1990s, intelligent design proponents were supported by the Discovery Institute, which, together with its Center for Science and Culture, planned and funded the "intelligent design movement".[17][n 1] They advocated inclusion of intelligent design in public school curricula, leading to the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, where U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it "cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents", and that the school district's promotion of it therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[18]



Origin of the concept

The concept of intelligent design, the teleological argument, is one of three basic religious arguments for the existence of God which have been advanced for centuries (the others being the ontological argument and the cosmological argument). In the 13th century Thomas Aquinas argued that natural things act to achieve the best result, and as they cannot do this without intelligence, an intelligent being must exist, setting the goal and providing direction, and this being is God. The version formulated in 1802 by William Paley used the watchmaker analogy to argue that complexity and adaptation in nature demonstrated God's benevolent and perfect design, for the good of humans. Paley's natural theology strongly influenced scientists of the time, who took for granted the assumption that God had designed nature and were open to a deistic interpretation that this design was implemented by laws. Charles Darwin struggled with the problem of evil and poor design in nature, and though his natural selection explained adaptation without the need for a designer, he was still inclined to think that everything resulted from designed laws. The theistic evolution of Asa Gray contributed to wide acceptance of evolution,[19] and by 1910 it was not a topic of major religious controversy in America.[20]

In the 1920s Fundamentalist Christianity took up opposition to evolution, and effectively suspended teaching of evolution in U.S. public schools. In the 1960s, after evolution was reintroduced into the curriculum, Young Earth creationists promoted Creation Science as "an alternative scientific explanation of the world in which we live", which frequently invoked the design argument to explain complexity in nature. These explanations prefigured the intelligent arguments of irreducible complexity, even featuring the bacterial flagellum. Attempts to introduce this in schools led to court rulings that Creation Science is religious in nature, and thus cannot be taught in public school science classrooms.[21]

Intelligent design also has Paley's argument from design at its centre, and shares other arguments with Creation Science but differs in avoiding overt literal Biblical references such as the age of the Earth and Noah's Flood.[21] Unlike Paley's openness to deistic design through laws, the point of intelligent design is to establish repeated miraculous interventions in the history of life. This raises theological difficulties; for those who believe that God's design must be perfect and should not need such changes, the claim to be scientific implies that science can test religion, and the problem of evil of a lack of miraculous intervention to reduce suffering.[20] Intelligent design proponents avoid the problem of poor design in nature by insisting that we have simply failed to understand the perfection of the design, or by proposing that designers do not necessarily produce the best design they can, and may have unknowable motives for their actions.[22]

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.[23]

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.[24] In November of that year Thaxton described his reasoning as a more sophisticated form of Paley's argument from design.[25] 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,[26]

Intelligent design avoids identifying or naming the intelligent designer—it merely states that one (or more) must exist—but leaders of the movement have said the designer is the Christian God.[n 2][n 3][27][n 7][n 8] 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.

Origin of the term

Of Pandas and People was the first modern intelligent design book. Rethinking Schools magazine characterizes it as "pseudo-science," rejected by most scientists.[28]

The phrase "intelligent design" can be found in an 1847 issue of Scientific American,[29] in an 1850 book by Patrick Edward Dove,[30] and in an 1861 letter from Charles Darwin.[31] The Paleyite botanist George James Allman used the phrase in an address to the 1873 annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science:

"No physical hypothesis founded on any indisputable fact has yet explained the origin of the primordial protoplasm, and, above all, of its marvellous properties, which render evolution possible—in heredity and in adaptability, for these properties are the cause and not the effect of evolution. For the cause of this cause we have sought in vain among the physical forces which surround us, until we are at last compelled to rest upon an independent volition, a far-seeing intelligent design."[32]

The biologist Alfred Russell Wallace also used the phrase in his book titled Darwinism (1889), according to Wallace: "There are some curious organs which are used only once in a creature's life, but which are yet essential to its existence, and thus have very much the appearance of design by an intelligent designer".[33] The phrase can be found again in Humanism, a 1903 book by one of the founders of classical pragmatism, F.C.S. Schiller: "It will not be possible to rule out the supposition that the process of evolution may be guided by an intelligent design". A derivative of the phrase appears in the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967) in the article titled, "Teleological argument for the existence of God": "Stated most succinctly, the argument runs: The world exhibits teleological order (design, adaptation). Therefore, it was produced by an intelligent designer".[34] Robert Nozick (1974) wrote: "Consider now complicated patterns which one would have thought would arise only through intelligent design".[35] The phrases "intelligent design" and "intelligently designed" were used in a 1979 philosophy book Chance or Design? by James Horigan[36] and the phrase "intelligent design" was used in a 1982 speech by Sir Fred Hoyle in his promotion of panspermia.[37]

Use of the terms "creationism" versus "intelligent design" in sequential drafts of the book Of Pandas and People[38]

The modern use of the words "intelligent design", as a term intended to describe a field of inquiry, began after the Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), ruled that creationism is unconstitutional in public school science curricula. A Discovery Institute report says that Charles Thaxton, editor of Of Pandas and People, had picked the phrase up from a NASA scientist, and thought "That's just what I need, it's a good engineering term".[39] In drafts of the book over one hundred uses of the root word "creation", such as "creationism" and "Creation Science", were changed, almost without exception, to "intelligent design",[16] while "creationists" was changed to "design proponents" or, in one instance, "cdesign proponentsists". [sic][38] In June 1988 Thaxton held a conference titled "Sources of Information Content in DNA" in Tacoma, Washington,[26] and in December decided to use the label "intelligent design" for his new creationist movement.[40] Stephen C. Meyer was at the conference, and later recalled that "the term came up".[41]

Of Pandas and People

Of Pandas and People was published in 1989, and was the first book to make frequent use of the phrases "intelligent design," "design proponents," and "design theory", thus representing the beginning of the modern "intelligent design" movement.[42] "Intelligent design" was the most prominent of around fifteen new terms it introduced as a new lexicon of creationist terminology to oppose evolution without using religious language.[43] It was the first place where the phrase "intelligent design" appeared in its present use, as stated both by its publisher Jon Buell,[21][44] and by William A. Dembski in his expert witness report.[45]

The National Center for Science Education has criticized the book for presenting all of the basic arguments of intelligent design proponents and being actively promoted for use in public schools before any research had been done to support these arguments.[42] Although presented as a scientific textbook, Philosopher of science Michael Ruse considers the contents "worthless and dishonest". An ACLU lawyer described it as a political tool aimed at students who did not "know science or understand the controversy over evolution and creationism." One of the authors of the science framework used by California Schools, Kevin Padian, condemned it for its "sub-text", "Intolerance for honest science" and "incompetence".[28]


Irreducible complexity

The concept of irreducible complexity was popularised by Michael Behe, in his 1996 book, Darwin's Black Box.

The term "irreducible complexity" was introduced by biochemist Michael Behe in his 1996 book Darwin's Black Box, though he had already described the concept in his contributions to the 1993 revised edition of Of Pandas and People.[42] Behe defines it as "a single system which is composed of several well-matched interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning".[46]

Behe uses the analogy of a mousetrap to illustrate this concept. A mousetrap consists of several interacting pieces—the base, the catch, the spring and the hammer—all of which must be in place for the mousetrap to work. Removal of any one piece destroys the function of the mousetrap. Intelligent design advocates assert that natural selection could not create irreducibly complex systems, because the selectable function is present only when all parts are assembled. Behe argued that irreducibly complex biological mechanisms include the bacterial flagellum of E. coli, the blood clotting cascade, cilia, and the adaptive immune system.[47][48]

Critics point out that the irreducible complexity argument assumes that the necessary parts of a system have always been necessary and therefore could not have been added sequentially.[8][9] They argue that something that is at first merely advantageous can later become necessary as other components change. Furthermore, they argue, evolution often proceeds by altering preexisting parts or by removing them from a system, rather than by adding them. This is sometimes called the "scaffolding objection" by an analogy with scaffolding, which can support an "irreducibly complex" building until it is complete and able to stand on its own.[n 9] Behe has acknowledged using "sloppy prose", and that his "argument against Darwinism does not add up to a logical proof".[n 10] Irreducible complexity has remained a popular argument among advocates of intelligent design; in the Dover trial, the court held that "Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large".[10]

Specified complexity

In 1986 Charles Thaxton, a physical chemist and creationist, used the term "specified complexity" from information theory when claiming that messages transmitted by DNA in the cell were specified by intelligence, and must have originated with an intelligent agent.[24] The intelligent design concept of "specified complexity" was developed in the 1990s by mathematician, philosopher, and theologian William Dembski.[49] Dembski, Research Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, states that when something exhibits specified complexity (i.e., is both complex and "specified", simultaneously), one can infer that it was produced by an intelligent cause (i.e., that it was designed) rather than being the result of natural processes. He provides the following examples: "A single letter of the alphabet is specified without being complex. A long sentence of random letters is complex without being specified. A Shakespearean sonnet is both complex and specified".[50] He states that details of living things can be similarly characterized, especially the "patterns" of molecular sequences in functional biological molecules such as DNA.

William Dembski proposed the concept of specified complexity.[51]

Dembski defines complex specified information (CSI) as anything with a less than 1 in 10150 chance of occurring by (natural) chance. Critics say that this renders the argument a tautology: complex specified information cannot occur naturally because Dembski has defined it thus, so the real question becomes whether or not CSI actually exists in nature.[52][n 11][53]

The conceptual soundness of Dembski's specified complexity/CSI argument has been widely discredited by the scientific and mathematical communities.[11][13][54] Specified complexity has yet to be shown to have wide applications in other fields, as Dembski asserts. John Wilkins and Wesley Elsberry characterize Dembski's "explanatory filter" as eliminative, because it eliminates explanations sequentially: first regularity, then chance, finally defaulting to design. They argue that this procedure is flawed as a model for scientific inference because the asymmetric way it treats the different possible explanations renders it prone to making false conclusions.[55]

Richard Dawkins, another critic of intelligent design, argues in The God Delusion that allowing for an intelligent designer to account for unlikely complexity only postpones the problem, as such a designer would need to be at least as complex.[56] Other scientists have argued that evolution through selection is better able to explain the observed complexity, as is evident from the use of selective evolution to design certain electronic, aeronautic and automotive systems that are considered problems too complex for human "intelligent designers".[57]

Fine-tuned Universe

Intelligent design proponents have also occasionally appealed to broader teleological arguments outside of biology, most notably an argument based on the fine-tuning of universal constants that make matter and life possible and which are argued not to be solely attributable to chance. These include the values of fundamental physical constants, the relative strength of nuclear forces, electromagnetism, and gravity between fundamental particles, as well as the ratios of masses of such particles. Intelligent design proponent and Center for Science and Culture fellow Guillermo Gonzalez argues that if any of these values were even slightly different, the universe would be dramatically different, making it impossible for many chemical elements and features of the Universe, such as galaxies, to form.[58] Thus, proponents argue, an intelligent designer of life was needed to ensure that the requisite features were present to achieve that particular outcome.

Scientists have generally responded that this argument cannot be tested and is therefore not science but metaphysics. Some scientists argue that even when taken as mere speculation, these arguments are poorly supported by existing evidence.[59] Victor J. Stenger and other critics say both intelligent design and the weak form of the anthropic principle are essentially a tautology; in his view, these arguments amount to the claim that life is able to exist because the Universe is able to support life.[60][61][62] The claim of the improbability of a life-supporting universe has also been criticized as an argument by lack of imagination for assuming no other forms of life are possible. Life as we know it might not exist if things were different, but a different sort of life might exist in its place. A number of critics also suggest that many of the stated variables appear to be interconnected and that calculations made by mathematicians and physicists suggest that the emergence of a universe similar to ours is quite probable.[63]

Intelligent designer

Intelligent design arguments are formulated in secular terms and intentionally avoid identifying the intelligent agent (or agents) they posit. Although they do not state that God is the designer, the designer is often implicitly hypothesized to have intervened in a way that only a god could intervene. Dembski, in The Design Inference, speculates that an alien culture could fulfill these requirements. Of Pandas and People proposes that SETI illustrates an appeal to intelligent design in science. In 2000, philosopher of science Robert T. Pennock suggested the Raëlian UFO religion as a real-life example of an extraterrestrial intelligent designer view that "make[s] many of the same bad arguments against evolutionary theory as creationists".[64] The authoritative description of intelligent design,[n 12] however, explicitly states that the Universe displays features of having been designed. Acknowledging the paradox, Dembski concludes that "no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life".[65] The leading proponents have made statements to their supporters that they believe the designer to be the Christian God, to the exclusion of all other religions.[n 2][n 3][27]

Beyond the debate over whether intelligent design is scientific, a number of critics argue that existing evidence makes the design hypothesis appear unlikely, irrespective of its status in the world of science. For example, Jerry Coyne asks why a designer would "give us a pathway for making vitamin C, but then destroy it by disabling one of its enzymes" (see pseudogene) and why he or she would not "stock oceanic islands with reptiles, mammals, amphibians, and freshwater fish, despite the suitability of such islands for these species". Coyne also points to the fact that "the flora and fauna on those islands resemble that of the nearest mainland, even when the environments are very different" as evidence that species were not placed there by a designer.[66] Previously, in Darwin's Black Box, Behe had argued that we are simply incapable of understanding the designer's motives, so such questions cannot be answered definitively. Odd designs could, for example, "have been placed there by the designer ... for artistic reasons, to show off, for some as-yet undetectable practical purpose, or for some unguessable reason". Coyne responds that in light of the evidence, "either life resulted not from intelligent design, but from evolution; or the intelligent designer is a cosmic prankster who designed everything to make it look as though it had evolved".[66]

Some intelligent design proponents such as Paul Nelson avoid the problem of poor design in nature by insisting that we have simply failed to understand the perfection of the design. Behe cites Paley as his inspiration, but he differs from Paley's expectation of a perfect Creation and proposes that designers do not necessarily produce the best design they can. Behe suggests that, like a parent not wanting to spoil a child with extravagant toys, the designer can have multiple motives for not giving priority to excellence in engineering. He says that "the argument for imperfection critically depends on a psychoanalysis of the unidentified designer. Yet the reasons that a designer would or would not do anything are virtually impossible to know unless the designer tells you specifically what those reasons are." This reliance on inexplicable motives of the designer makes intelligent design scientifically untestable. Phillip E. Johnson puts forward a core definition that the designer creates for a purpose, giving the example that in his view AIDS was created to punish immorality and was not caused by HIV, but such motives cannot be tested by scientific methods.[22]

Asserting the need for a designer of complexity also raises the question "What designed the designer?"[67] Intelligent design proponents say that the question is irrelevant to or outside the scope of intelligent design.[n 13] Richard Wein counters that the unanswered questions an explanation creates "must be balanced against the improvements in our understanding which the explanation provides. Invoking an unexplained being to explain the origin of other beings (ourselves) is little more than question-begging. The new question raised by the explanation is as problematic as the question which the explanation purports to answer".[53] Richard Dawkins sees the assertion that the designer does not need to be explained, not as a contribution to knowledge, but as a thought-terminating cliché.[68][69] In the absence of observable, measurable evidence, the very question "What designed the designer?" leads to an infinite regression from which intelligent design proponents can only escape by resorting to religious creationism or logical contradiction.[70]


The Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture used banners based on "The Creation of Adam" from the Sistine Chapel. Later it used a less religious image, then was renamed the Center for Science and Culture.[71]

The intelligent design movement is a direct outgrowth of the creationism of the 1980s.[15] The scientific and academic communities, along with a U.S. federal court, view intelligent design as either a form of creationism or as a direct descendant that is closely intertwined with traditional creationism;[72] [n 14][73][74][75][76] and several authors explicitly refer to it as "intelligent design creationism".[15][77][n 15][78]

The movement is headquartered in the Center for Science and Culture (CSC), established in 1996 as the creationist wing of the Discovery Institute to promote a religious agenda[n 16] calling for broad social, academic and political changes. The Discovery Institute's intelligent design campaigns have been staged primarily in the United States, although efforts have been made in other countries to promote intelligent design. Leaders of the movement say intelligent design exposes the limitations of scientific orthodoxy and of the secular philosophy of naturalism. Intelligent design proponents allege that science should not be limited to naturalism and should not demand the adoption of a naturalistic philosophy that dismisses out-of-hand any explanation that includes a supernatural cause. The overall goal of the movement is to "defeat [the] materialist world view" represented by the theory of evolution in favor of "a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions".[n 16]

Phillip E. Johnson stated that the goal of intelligent design is to cast creationism as a scientific concept.[n 7][n 17] All leading intelligent design proponents are fellows or staff of the Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture.[79] Nearly all intelligent design concepts and the associated movement are the products of the Discovery Institute, which guides the movement and follows its wedge strategy while conducting its Teach the Controversy campaign and their other related programs.

Leading intelligent design proponents have made conflicting statements regarding intelligent design. In statements directed at the general public, they say intelligent design is not religious; when addressing conservative Christian supporters, they state that intelligent design has its foundation in the Bible.[n 17] Recognizing the need for support, the institute affirms its Christian, evangelistic orientation: "Alongside a focus on influential opinion-makers, we also seek to build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians. We will do this primarily through apologetics seminars. We intend these to encourage and equip believers with new scientific evidences that support the faith, as well as to 'popularize' our ideas in the broader culture."[n 16]

Barbara Forrest, an expert who has written extensively on the movement, describes this as being due to the Discovery Institute's obfuscating its agenda as a matter of policy. She has written that the movement's "activities betray an aggressive, systematic agenda for promoting not only intelligent design creationism, but the religious world-view that undergirds it".[80]

Religion and leading proponents

Although arguments for intelligent design are formulated in secular terms and intentionally avoid positing the identity of the designer,[n 18] the majority of principal intelligent design advocates are publicly religious Christians who have stated that in their view the designer proposed in intelligent design is the Christian conception of God. Stuart Burgess, Phillip E. Johnson, William Dembski, and Stephen C. Meyer are evangelical Protestants, and Michael Behe is a Roman Catholic, while Jonathan Wells is a member of the Unification Church. Phillip E. Johnson has stated that cultivating ambiguity by employing secular language in arguments that 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 explicitly calls for intelligent design proponents to obfuscate their religious motivations so as to avoid having intelligent design identified "as just another way of packaging the Christian evangelical message".[n 19] Johnson emphasizes that "the first thing that has to be done is to get the Bible out of the discussion"; "after we have separated materialist prejudice from scientific fact [...] only then can 'biblical issues' be discussed".[n 20]

The strategy of deliberately disguising the religious intent of intelligent design has been described by William Dembski in The Design Inference.[81] In this work Dembski 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."[82] 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".[83] Both Johnson and Dembski cite the Bible's Gospel of John as the foundation of intelligent design.[27][n 17]

Barbara Forrest contends such statements reveal that leading proponents see intelligent design as essentially religious in nature, not merely a scientific concept that has implications with which their personal religious beliefs happen to coincide.[n 21] She writes that the leading proponents of intelligent design are closely allied with the ultra-conservative Christian Reconstructionism movement. She lists connections of (current and former) Discovery Institute Fellows Phillip Johnson, Charles Thaxton, Michael Behe, Richard Weikart, Jonathan Wells and Francis Beckwith to leading Christian Reconstructionist organizations, and the extent of the funding provided the Institute by Howard Ahmanson Jr., a leading figure in the Reconstructionist movement.[84]

Reaction from other creationist groups

Not all creationist organizations have embraced the intelligent design movement. According to Thomas Dixon, "Religious leaders have come out against ID too. An open letter affirming the compatibility of Christian faith and the teaching of evolution, first produced in response to controversies in Wisconsin in 2004, has now been signed by over ten thousand clergy from different Christian denominations across America. In 2006, the director of the Vatican Observatory, the Jesuit astronomer George Coyne, condemned ID as a kind of 'crude creationism' which reduced God to a mere engineer."[85] Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe, a proponent of Old Earth creationism, believes that the efforts of intelligent design proponents to divorce the concept from Biblical Christianity make its hypothesis too vague. In 2002 he wrote: "Winning the argument for design without identifying the designer yields, at best, a sketchy origins model. Such a model makes little if any positive impact on the community of scientists and other scholars… The time is right for a direct approach, a single leap into the origins fray. Introducing a biblically based, scientifically verifiable creation model represents such a leap."[86]

Likewise, two of the most prominent Young Earth creationism organizations in the world have attempted to distinguish their views from intelligent design. Henry M. Morris of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) wrote, in 1999, that ID, "even if well-meaning and effectively articulated, will not work! It has often been tried in the past and has failed, and it will fail today. The reason it won't work is because it is not the Biblical method." According to Morris: "The evidence of intelligent design… must be either followed by or accompanied by a sound presentation of true Biblical creationism if it is to be meaningful and lasting."[87] In 2002, Carl Wieland of Answers in Genesis (AiG) criticized design advocates who, though well-intentioned, "left the Bible out of it" and thereby unwittingly aided and abetted the modern rejection of the Bible. Wieland explained that "AiG's major 'strategy' is to boldly, but humbly, call the church back to its Biblical foundations… [so] we neither count ourselves a part of this movement nor campaign against it."[88]


Several surveys were conducted prior to the December 2005 decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover, which sought to determine the level of support for intelligent design among certain groups. According to a 2005 Harris poll, 10% of adults in the United States viewed human beings as "so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them".[89] Although Zogby polls commissioned by the Discovery Institute show more support, these polls suffer from considerable flaws, such as having a very low response rate (248 out of 16,000), being conducted on behalf of an organization with an expressed interest in the outcome of the poll, and containing leading questions.[90][91][92]

A May 2005 survey of nearly 1500 physicians in the United States conducted by the Louis Finkelstein Institute and HCD Research showed that 63% of the physicians agreed more with evolution than with intelligent design.[n 22]

A series of Gallup polls in the United States from 1982 through 2008 on "Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design" found support for "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced formed of life, but God guided the process" of between 35% and 40%, support for "God created human beings in pretty much their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so" varied from 43% to 47%, and support for "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced formed of life, but God had no part in the process" varied from 9% to 14%. The polls also noted answers to a series of more detailed questions.[93]


The film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed sparked further controversy in 2008. This documentary, hosted by Ben Stein, focuses on professors who have been asked to leave or have left numerous institutions because, the film insinuates, of their beliefs in Intelligent Design. One of the film's first screenings resulted in Paul "PZ" Myers, an interviewee in the film, being asked to leave the theater. There have also been allegations from some interviewees that interviews were recorded many times in order to get the exact phrasing required by the producer. The production company, Premise Media, also has helped finance some religious films such as The Passion of the Christ.[94][95]

Creating and teaching the controversy

The intelligent design movement states that there is a debate among scientists about whether life evolved. The movement stresses the importance of recognizing the existence of this supposed debate, seeking to convince the public, politicians, and cultural leaders that schools should "Teach the Controversy".[96] In fact, there is no such controversy in the scientific community; the scientific consensus is that life evolved.[97][98][99][100] Intelligent design is widely viewed as a stalking horse for its proponents' campaign against what they say is the materialist foundation of science, which they argue leaves no room for the possibility of God.[101][102]


Advocates of intelligent design seek to keep God and the Bible out of the discussion, and present intelligent design in the language of science as though it were a scientific hypothesis.[n 18][n 20] However, among a significant proportion of the general public in the United States the major concern is whether conventional evolutionary biology is compatible with belief in God and in the Bible, and how this issue is taught in schools.[103] The public controversy was given widespread media coverage in the United States, particularly during the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in late 2005 and after President George W. Bush expressed support for the idea of teaching intelligent design alongside evolution in August 2005. In response to Bush's statement and the pending federal trial, Time magazine ran an eight-page cover story on the Evolution Wars in which they examined the issue of teaching intelligent design in the classroom.[104][105] The cover of the magazine featured a parody of The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel. Rather than pointing at Adam, Michelangelo's God points at the image of a chimpanzee contemplating the caption reading "The push to teach 'intelligent design' raises a question: Does God have a place in science class?".[106] In the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, the court ruled that intelligent design was a religious and creationist position, finding that God and intelligent design were both distinct from the material that should be covered in a science class.[n 6]

Theistic science

Empirical science uses the scientific method to create a posteriori knowledge based on observation and repeated testing of hypotheses and theories. Intelligent design proponents seek to change this fundamental basis of science[107] by eliminating "methodological naturalism" from science[108] and replacing it with what the leader of the intelligent design movement, Phillip E. Johnson, calls "theistic realism".[n 23] Some have called this approach "methodological supernaturalism", which means belief in a transcendent, nonnatural dimension of reality inhabited by a transcendent, nonnatural deity.[109] Intelligent design proponents argue that naturalistic explanations fail to explain certain phenomena and that supernatural explanations provide a very simple and intuitive explanation for the origins of life and the universe.[n 24] Proponents say evidence exists in the forms of irreducible complexity and specified complexity that cannot be explained by natural processes.[1] They also hold that religious neutrality requires the teaching of both evolution and intelligent design in schools, saying that teaching only evolution unfairly discriminates against those holding creationist beliefs. Teaching both, they argue, allows for the possibility of religious belief, without causing the state to actually promote such beliefs. Many intelligent design followers believe that "Scientism" is itself a religion that promotes secularism and materialism in an attempt to erase theism from public life, and they view their work in the promotion of intelligent design as a way to return religion to a central role in education and other public spheres. Some allege that this larger debate is often the subtext for arguments made over intelligent design, though others note that intelligent design serves as an effective proxy for the religious beliefs of prominent intelligent design proponents in their efforts to advance their religious point of view within society.[110][n 25][111]

Intelligent design has not presented a credible scientific case, substituting public support for scientific research.[112] If the argument to give "equal time for all theories" were actually practiced, there would be no logical limit to the number of mutually incompatible supernatural "theories" regarding the origins and diversity of life to be taught in the public school system, including intelligent design parodies such as the Flying Spaghetti Monster "theory"; intelligent design does not provide a mechanism for discriminating among them. Philosopher of biology Elliott Sober, for example, states that intelligent design is not falsifiable because "[d]efenders of ID always have a way out".[113][114] Intelligent design proponent Michael Behe concedes "You can't prove intelligent design by experiment".[103]

The inference that an intelligent designer created life on Earth, which advocate William Dembski has said could alternately be an "alien" life force,[81] has been compared to the a priori claim that aliens helped the ancient Egyptians build the pyramids.[115][116] In both cases, the effect of this outside intelligence is not repeatable, observable or falsifiable, and it violates the principle of parsimony. From a strictly empirical standpoint, one may list what is known about Egyptian construction techniques, but one must admit ignorance about exactly how the Egyptians built the pyramids.

Inter-faith outreach

Supporters of intelligent design have also reached out to other faith groups with similar accounts of creation with the hope that the broader coalition will have greater influence in supporting science education that does not contradict their religious views.[n 24] Many religious bodies have responded by expressing support for evolution. The Roman Catholic church has stated that religious faith is fully compatible with science, which is limited to dealing only with the natural world[117]—a position described by the term theistic evolution.[118] While some in the Roman Catholic Church reject Intelligent design for various philosophical and theological reasons,[119][120] others, such as Christoph Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, have shown support for it.[121][122][123] The arguments of intelligent design have been directly challenged by the over 10,000 clergy who signed the Clergy Letter Project. Prominent scientists who strongly express religious faith, such as the astronomer George Coyne and the biologist Ken Miller, have been at the forefront of opposition to intelligent design. While creationist organizations have welcomed intelligent design's support against naturalism, they have also been critical of its refusal to identify the designer,[124][125][126] and have pointed to previous failures of the same argument.[127]

Rabbi Natan Slifkin directly criticized the advocates of intelligent design as presenting a perspective of God that is dangerous to religion.[128] Those who promote it as parallel to religion, he asserts, do not truly understand it. Slifkin criticizes intelligent design's advocacy of teaching their perspective in biology classes, wondering why no one claims that God's hand should be taught in other secular classes, such as history, physics or geology. Slifkin also asserts that the intelligent design movement is inordinately concerned with portraying God as "in control" when it comes to things that cannot be easily explained by science, but not in control in respect to things which can be explained by scientific theory.[128] Kenneth Miller expressed a view similar to Slifkin's: "[T]he struggles of the Intelligent Design movement are best understood as clamorous and disappointing double failures—rejected by science because they do not fit the facts, and having failed religion because they think too little of God.[129]

Defining science

Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the world.[130][131][132][133] The boundaries between what is and what is not to be considered science, known as the demarcation problem, continues to be debated among philosophers of science and scientists in various fields.[134]

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has stated that "creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science."[135] The U.S. National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have termed it pseudoscience.[n 26][72][n 14] Others in the scientific community have concurred,[n 27] and some have called it junk science.[n 28][136] For a theory to qualify as scientific,[n 29][137][n 30] it is expected to be:

  • Consistent
  • Parsimonious (sparing in its proposed entities or explanations, see Occam's Razor)
  • Useful (describes and explains observed phenomena, and can be used predictively)
  • Empirically testable and falsifiable (see Falsifiability)
  • Based on multiple observations, often in the form of controlled, repeated experiments
  • Correctable and dynamic (modified in the light of observations that do not support it)
  • Progressive (refines previous theories)
  • Provisional or tentative (is open to experimental checking, and does not assert certainty)

For any theory, hypothesis or conjecture to be considered scientific, it must meet most, and ideally all, of these criteria. The fewer criteria are met, the less scientific it is; and if it meets only a few or none at all, then it cannot be treated as scientific in any meaningful sense of the word. Typical objections to defining intelligent design as science are that it lacks consistency,[138] violates the principle of parsimony,[n 31] is not scientifically useful,[n 32] is not falsifiable,[n 33] is not empirically testable,[n 34] and is not correctable, dynamic, provisional or progressive.[n 35][n 36][n 37]

Critics also say that the intelligent design doctrine does not meet the Daubert Standard,[139] the criteria for scientific evidence mandated by the US Supreme Court. The Daubert Standard governs which evidence can be considered scientific in United States federal courts and most state courts. Its four criteria are:

  • The theoretical underpinnings of the methods must yield testable predictions by means of which the theory could be falsified.
  • The methods should preferably be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • There should be a known rate of error that can be used in evaluating the results.
  • The methods should be generally accepted within the relevant scientific community.

In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, using these criteria and others mentioned above, Judge Jones ruled that "... we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents".

At the Kitzmiller trial, philosopher Robert T. Pennock described a common approach to distinguishing science from non-science as examining a theory's compliance with methodological naturalism, the basic method in science of seeking natural explanations without assuming the existence or nonexistence of the supernatural.[140] Intelligent design proponents criticize this method and argue that science, if its goal is to discover truth, must be able to accept evidentially supported, supernatural explanations.[5] Additionally, philosopher of science Larry Laudan and cosmologist Sean Carroll argue against any a priori criteria for distinguishing science from pseudoscience.[141][142] Laudan, as well as philosopher Barbara Forrest, state that the content of the hypothesis must first be examined to determine its ability to solve empirical problems.[143][144] Methodological naturalism is therefore an a posteriori criterion due to its ability to yield consistent results.[143][144]

Peer review

The failure to follow the procedures of scientific discourse and the failure to submit work to the scientific community that withstands scrutiny have weighed against intelligent design being accepted as valid science.[145] The intelligent design movement has not published a properly peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal.[145]

Intelligent design, by appealing to a supernatural agent, directly conflicts with the principles of science, which limit its inquiries to empirical, observable and ultimately testable data and which require explanations to be based on empirical evidence. Dembski, Behe and other intelligent design proponents say bias by the scientific community is to blame for the failure of their research to be published.[146] Intelligent design proponents believe that their writings are rejected for not conforming to purely naturalistic, non-supernatural mechanisms rather than because their research is not up to "journal standards", and that the merit of their articles is overlooked. Some scientists describe this claim as a conspiracy theory.[147] Michael Shermer has rebutted the claim, noting "Anyone who thinks that scientists do not question Darwinism has never been to an evolutionary conference." He noted that scientists such as Joan Roughgarden and Lynn Margulis have challenged certain Darwinist theories and offered explanations of their own and despite this they "have not been persecuted, shunned, fired or even expelled. Why? Because they are doing science, not religion."[148] The issue that supernatural explanations do not conform to the scientific method became a sticking point for intelligent design proponents in the 1990s, and is addressed in the wedge strategy as an aspect of science that must be challenged before intelligent design can be accepted by the broader scientific community.

Critics and advocates debate over whether intelligent design produces new research and has legitimately attempted to publish this research. For instance, the Templeton Foundation, a former funder of the Discovery Institute and a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that it asked intelligent design proponents to submit proposals for actual research, but none were ever submitted. Charles L. Harper Jr., foundation vice-president, said: "From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don't come out very well in our world of scientific review".[149]

The only article published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal that made a case for intelligent design was quickly withdrawn by the publisher for having circumvented the journal's peer-review standards.[150] Written by the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture Director Stephen C. Meyer, it appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington in August 2004.[151] The article was a literature review, which means that it did not present any new research, but rather culled quotations and claims from other papers to argue that the Cambrian explosion could not have happened by natural processes. The choice of venue for this article was also considered problematic, because it was so outside the normal subject matter (see Sternberg peer review controversy[n 38]). Dembski has written that "perhaps the best reason [to be skeptical of his ideas] is that intelligent design has yet to establish itself as a thriving scientific research program."[152] In a 2001 interview, Dembski said that he stopped submitting to peer-reviewed journals because of their slow time-to-print and that he makes more money from publishing books.[153]

In the Dover trial, the judge found that intelligent design features no scientific research or testing.[154] There, intelligent design proponents cited just one paper, on simulation modeling of evolution by Behe and Snoke,[155] which mentioned neither irreducible complexity nor intelligent design and which Behe admitted did not rule out known evolutionary mechanisms.[156] Michael Lynch called the conclusions of the article "an artifact of unwarranted biological assumptions, inappropriate mathematical modeling, and faulty logic".[157] In sworn testimony, however, Behe said: "There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred".[158] As summarized by the judge, Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting his claims of intelligent design or irreducible complexity. In his ruling, the judge wrote: "A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory".[145]

The Discovery Institute insists that a number of intelligent design articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals,[159] including in its list the two articles mentioned above. Critics, largely members of the scientific community, reject this claim, stating that no established scientific journal has yet published an intelligent design article. Rather, intelligent design proponents have set up their own journals with peer review that lacks impartiality and rigor,[n 39] consisting entirely of intelligent design supporters.[n 40]

Intelligence as an observable quality

The phrase intelligent design makes use of an assumption of the quality of an observable intelligence, a concept that has no scientific consensus definition. William Dembski, for example, has written that "Intelligence leaves behind a characteristic signature". The characteristics of intelligence are assumed by intelligent design proponents to be observable without specifying what the criteria for the measurement of intelligence should be. Dembski, instead, asserts that "in special sciences ranging from forensics to archaeology to SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), appeal to a designing intelligence is indispensable".[160] How this appeal is made and what this implies as to the definition of intelligence are topics left largely unaddressed. Seth Shostak, a researcher with the SETI Institute, disputed Dembski's comparison of SETI and intelligent design, saying that intelligent design advocates base their inference of design on complexity—the argument being that some biological systems are too complex to have been made by natural processes—while SETI researchers are looking primarily for artificiality.[161]

Critics say that the design detection methods proposed by intelligent design proponents are radically different from conventional design detection, undermining the key elements that make it possible as legitimate science. Intelligent design proponents, they say, are proposing both searching for a designer without knowing anything about that designer's abilities, parameters, or intentions (which scientists do know when searching for the results of human intelligence), as well as denying the very distinction between natural/artificial design that allows scientists to compare complex designed artifacts against the background of the sorts of complexity found in nature.[n 41]

As a means of criticism, certain skeptics have pointed to a challenge of intelligent design derived from the study of artificial intelligence. The criticism is a counter to intelligent design claims about what makes a design intelligent, specifically that "no preprogrammed device can be truly intelligent, that intelligence is irreducible to natural processes".[162] This claim is similar in type to an assumption of Cartesian dualism that posits a strict separation between "mind" and the material Universe. However, in studies of artificial intelligence, while there is an implicit assumption that supposed "intelligence" or creativity of a computer program is determined by the capabilities given to it by the computer programmer, artificial intelligence need not be bound to an inflexible system of rules. Rather, if a computer program can access randomness as a function, this effectively allows for a flexible, creative, and adaptive intelligence. Evolutionary algorithms, a subfield of machine learning (itself a subfield of artificial intelligence), have been used to mathematically demonstrate that randomness and selection can be used to "evolve" complex, highly adapted structures that are not explicitly designed by a programmer. Evolutionary algorithms use the Darwinian metaphor of random mutation, selection and the survival of the fittest to solve diverse mathematical and scientific problems that are usually not solvable using conventional methods. Intelligence derived from randomness is essentially indistinguishable from the "innate" intelligence associated with biological organisms, and poses a challenge to the intelligent design conception that intelligence itself necessarily requires a designer. Cognitive science continues to investigate the nature of intelligence along these lines of inquiry. The intelligent design community, for the most part, relies on the assumption that intelligence is readily apparent as a fundamental and basic property of complex systems.[163]

Arguments from ignorance

Eugenie Scott, along with Glenn Branch and other critics, has argued that many points raised by intelligent design proponents are arguments from ignorance.[164] In the argument from ignorance, a lack of evidence for one view is erroneously argued to constitute proof of the correctness of another view. Scott and Branch say that intelligent design is an argument from ignorance because it relies on a lack of knowledge for its conclusion: lacking a natural explanation for certain specific aspects of evolution, we assume intelligent cause. They contend most scientists would reply that the unexplained is not unexplainable, and that "we don't know yet" is a more appropriate response than invoking a cause outside science.[164] Particularly, Michael Behe's demands for ever more detailed explanations of the historical evolution of molecular systems seem to assume a false dichotomy, where either evolution or design is the proper explanation, and any perceived failure of evolution becomes a victory for design. Scott and Branch also contend that the supposedly novel contributions proposed by intelligent design proponents have not served as the basis for any productive scientific research. Philosopher of science Bradley Monton defends Behe on this point, noting that Behe does not view every complex biological system whose evolution is currently unknown as irreducibly complex.[165] This shows, Monton continues, that Behe is not appealing to ignorance, but is "giving a positive argument that it's unlikely for such systems to evolve without an intelligent designer."[165]

God of the gaps

Intelligent design has also been characterized as a God-of-the-gaps argument,[166] which has the following form:

  • There is a gap in scientific knowledge.
  • The gap is filled with acts of God (or intelligent designer) and therefore proves the existence of God (or intelligent designer).[166]

A God-of-the-gaps argument is the theological version of an argument from ignorance. A key feature of this type of argument is that it merely answers outstanding questions with explanations (often supernatural) that are unverifiable and ultimately themselves subject to unanswerable questions.[167] Philosopher of science Bradley Monton states that Behe's claim of irreducible complexity is a positive claim rather than an argument from ignorance, and therefore not a God-of-the-gaps argument.[165]

Historians of science observe that the astronomy of the earliest civilizations, although astonishing and incorporating mathematical constructions far in excess of any practical value, proved to be misdirected and of little importance to the development of science, because they failed to inquire more carefully into the mechanisms that drove the heavenly bodies across the sky.[168] It was the Greek civilization that first practised science, although not yet a mathematically-oriented experimental science, but nevertheless an attempt to rationalize the world of natural experience without recourse to divine intervention.[169] In this historically motivated definition of science any appeal to an intelligent creator is explicitly excluded for the paralysing effect it may have on the scientific progress.

Kitzmiller trial

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was the first direct challenge brought in the United States federal courts against a public school district that required the presentation of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. The plaintiffs successfully argued that intelligent design is a form of creationism, and that the school board policy thus violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.[170]

Eleven parents of students in Dover, Pennsylvania, sued the Dover Area School District over a statement that the school board required be read aloud in ninth-grade science classes when evolution was taught. The plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and Pepper Hamilton LLP. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) acted as consultants for the plaintiffs. The defendants were represented by the Thomas More Law Center.[171] The suit was tried in a bench trial from September 26 to November 4, 2005, before Judge John E. Jones III. Ken Miller, Kevin Padian, Brian Alters, Robert Pennock, Barbara Forrest and John Haught served as expert witnesses for the prosecution. Michael Behe, Steve Fuller and Scott Minnich served as expert witnesses for the defense.

On December 20, 2005, Judge Jones issued his 139-page findings of fact and decision, ruling that the Dover mandate was unconstitutional, and barring intelligent design from being taught in Pennsylvania's Middle District public school science classrooms. The eight Dover school board members who voted for the intelligent design requirement were all defeated in a November 8, 2005, election by challengers who opposed the teaching of intelligent design in a science class, and the current school board president stated that the board does not intend to appeal the ruling.[172]

In his finding of facts, Judge Jones made the following condemnation of the Teach the Controversy strategy:

"Moreover, ID's backers have sought to avoid the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard."


Judge Jones himself anticipated that his ruling would be criticized, saying in his decision that:

"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."[173]

As Jones had predicted, John G. West, Associate Director of the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute, said:

"The Dover decision is an attempt by an activist federal judge to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work. He has conflated Discovery Institute's position with that of the Dover school board, and he totally misrepresents intelligent design and the motivations of the scientists who research it."[174]

Newspapers have noted with interest that the judge is "a Republican and a churchgoer".[175][176][177][178]

Subsequently, the decision has been examined in a search for flaws and conclusions, partly by intelligent design supporters aiming to avoid future defeats in court. In the Spring of 2007 the University of Montana Law review published three articles.[179] In the first, David K. DeWolf, John G. West and Casey Luskin, all of the Discovery Institute, argued that intelligent design is a valid scientific theory, the Jones court should not have addressed the question of whether it was a scientific theory, and that the Kitzmiller decision will have no effect at all on the development and adoption of intelligent design as an alternative to standard evolutionary theory.[105] In the second Peter Irons responded, arguing that the decision was extremely well reasoned and spells the death knell for the intelligent design efforts to introduce creationism in public schools,[180] while in the third, DeWolf et al. answer the points made by Irons.[181] However, fear of a similar lawsuit has resulted in other school boards abandoning intelligent design "teach the controversy" proposals.[15]

In April 2010, the American Academy of Religion issued Guidelines for Teaching About Religion in K-12 Public Schools in the United States, which included guidance that Creation Science or intelligent design should not be taught in science classes, as "Creation science and intelligent design represent worldviews that fall outside of the realm of science that is defined as (and limited to) a method of inquiry based on gathering observable and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning." However, they, as well as other "worldviews that focus on speculation regarding the origins of life represent another important and relevant form of human inquiry that is appropriately studied in literature or social sciences courses. Such study, however, must include a diversity of worldviews representing a variety of religious and philosophical perspectives and must avoid privileging one view as more legitimate than others."[182]

Status outside the United States


In June 2007 the Council of Europe's "Committee on Culture, Science and Education" issued a report, The dangers of creationism in education, which states "Creationism in any of its forms, such as 'intelligent design', is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes."[183] In describing the dangers posed to education by teaching creationism, it described intelligent design as "anti-science" and involving "blatant scientific fraud" and "intellectual deception" that "blurs the nature, objectives and limits of science" and links it and other forms of creationism to denialism. On October 4, 2007, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly approved a resolution stating that schools should "resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion", including "intelligent design", which it described as "the latest, more refined version of creationism", "presented in a more subtle way". The resolution emphasises that the aim of the report is not to question or to fight a belief, but to "warn against certain tendencies to pass off a belief as science".[184]

In the United Kingdom, public education includes Religious Education as a compulsory subject, and there are many faith schools that teach the ethos of particular denominations. When it was revealed that a group called Truth in Science had distributed DVDs produced by the Discovery Institute affiliate Illustra Media[n 42] featuring Discovery Institute fellows making the case for design in nature,[185] and claimed they were being used by 59 schools,[186] the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) stated that "Neither creationism nor intelligent design are taught as a subject in schools, and are not specified in the science curriculum" (part of the National Curriculum, which does not apply to independent schools or to education in Scotland).[187][188] The DfES subsequently stated that "Intelligent design is not a recognised scientific theory; therefore, it is not included in the science curriculum", but left the way open for it to be explored in religious education in relation to different beliefs, as part of a syllabus set by a local Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education.[189] In 2006 the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority produced a Religious Education model unit in which pupils can learn about religious and nonreligious views about creationism, intelligent design and evolution by natural selection.[190][191]

On June 25, 2007, the UK Government responded to an e-petition by saying that creationism and intelligent design should not be taught as science, though teachers would be expected to answer pupils' questions within the standard framework of established scientific theories.[192] Detailed government "Creationism teaching guidance" for schools in England was published on September 18, 2007. It states that "Intelligent design lies wholly outside of science", has no underpinning scientific principles, or explanations, and is not accepted by the science community as a whole. Though it should not be taught as science, "questions about creationism and intelligent design which arise in science lessons, for example, as a result of media coverage, could provide the opportunity to explain or explore why they are not considered to be scientific theories and, in the right context, why evolution is considered to be a scientific theory". However, "Teachers of subjects such as RE, history or citizenship may deal with creationism and intelligent design in their lessons".[n 5]

The British Centre for Science Education lobbying group has the goal of "countering creationism within the UK" and has been involved in government lobbying in the UK in this regard.[193] Northern Ireland's Department for Education says that the curriculum provides an opportunity for alternative theories to be taught. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)—which has links to fundamentalist Christianity—has been campaigning to have intelligent design taught in science classes. A DUP former Member of Parliament, David Simpson, has sought assurances from the education minister that pupils will not lose marks if they give creationist or intelligent design answers to science questions.[194][195] In 2007, Lisburn city council voted in favor of a DUP recommendation to write to post-primary schools asking what their plans are to develop teaching material in relation to "creation, intelligent design and other theories of origin".[196]

Plans by Dutch Education Minister Maria van der Hoeven to "stimulate an academic debate" on the subject in 2005 caused a severe public backlash.[197] After the 2007 elections she was succeeded by Ronald Plasterk, described as a "molecular geneticist, staunch atheist and opponent of intelligent design".[198] As a reaction on this situation in the Netherlands, in Belgium the President of the Flemish Catholic Educational Board (VSKO) Mieke Van Hecke declared that: "Catholic scientists already accepted the theory of evolution for a long time and that intelligent design and creationism doesn't belong in Flemish Catholic schools. It's not the tasks of the politics to introduce new ideas, that's task and goal of science."[199]

Relation to Islam

Muzaffar Iqbal, a notable Muslim in Canada, signed the Scientific Dissent list of the Discovery Institute.[200] Ideas similar to intelligent design have been considered respected intellectual options among Muslims, and in Turkey many intelligent design books have been translated. In Istanbul in 2007, public meetings promoting intelligent design were sponsored by the local government,[201] and David Berlinski of the Discovery Institute was the keynote speaker at a meeting in May 2007.[202]

Relation to Hinduism

In 2010 the ISKCON Bhaktivedanta Book Trust published an intelligent design book titled Rethinking Darwin: A Vedic Study of Darwinism and Intelligent Design chapters included contributions from Intelligent design advocates William Dembski, Jonathan Wells and Michael Behe as well as from Hindu creationists Leif A. Jansen and Michael Cremo.[203]


The status of intelligent design in Australia is somewhat similar to that in the UK (see: Education in Australia). When the former Australian Federal Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, raised the notion of intelligent design being taught in science classes, the public outcry caused the minister to quickly concede that the correct forum for intelligent design, if it were to be taught, is in religious or philosophy classes.[204] The Australian chapter of Campus Crusade for Christ distributed a DVD of the Discovery Institute's documentary Unlocking the Mystery of Life to Australian secondary schools.[205] The head of one of Australia's leading private schools supported use of the DVD in the classroom at the discretion of teachers and principals.[206]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Q. Has the Discovery Institute been a leader in the intelligent design movement? A. Yes, the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Q. And are almost all of the individuals who are involved with the intelligent design movement associated with the Discovery Institute? A. All of the leaders are, yes." Barbara Forrest, 2005, testifying in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. TalkOrigins Archive. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District Trial transcript: Day 6 (October 5), PM Session, Part 1.; 2005 [cited 2007-07-19].
  2. ^ a b c "the writings of leading ID proponents reveal that the designer postulated by their argument is the God of Christianity". Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (December 20, 2005). , Ruling p. 26. A selection of writings and quotations of intelligent design supporters demonstrating this identification of the Christian God with the intelligent designer are found in the pdf Horse's MouthArchived June 27, 2008 at the Wayback Machine (PDF) by Brian Poindexter, dated 2003.
  3. ^ See: 1) List of scientific societies explicitly rejecting intelligent design 2) Kitzmiller v. Dover page 83. 3) The Discovery Institute's A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism petition begun in 2001 has been signed by "over 700 scientists" as of August 20, 2006. A four day A Scientific Support for Darwinism petition gained 7733 signatories from scientists opposing ID. The AAAS, the largest association of scientists in the U.S., has 120,000 members, and firmly rejects ID. More than 70,000 Australian scientists and educators condemn teaching of intelligent design in school science classes List of statements from scientific professional organizations on the status intelligent design and other forms of creationism. According to The New York Times "There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth". Dean, Cordelia (September 27, 2007). "Scientists Feel Miscast in Film on Life's Origin". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  4. ^ a b "Teachernet, Document bank". Creationism teaching guidance. UK Department for Children, Schools and Families. September 18, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-01. "The intelligent design movement claims there are aspects of the natural world that are so intricate and fit for purpose that they cannot have evolved but must have been created by an 'intelligent designer'. Furthermore they assert that this claim is scientifically testable and should therefore be taught in science lessons. Intelligent design lies wholly outside of science. Sometimes examples are quoted that are said to require an 'intelligent designer'. However, many of these have subsequently been shown to have a scientific explanation, for example, the immune system and blood clotting mechanisms. Attempts to establish an idea of the 'specified complexity' needed for intelligent design are surrounded by complex mathematics. Despite this, the idea seems to be essentially a modern version of the old idea of the "God-of-the-gaps". Lack of a satisfactory scientific explanation of some phenomena (a 'gap' in scientific knowledge) is claimed to be evidence of an intelligent designer." 
  5. ^ a b "ID is not a new scientific argument, but is rather an old religious argument for the existence of God. He traced this argument back to at least Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, who framed the argument as a syllogism: Wherever complex design exists, there must have been a designer; nature is complex; therefore nature must have had an intelligent designer." "This argument for the existence of God was advanced early in the 19th century by Reverend Paley" (the teleological argument) "The only apparent difference between the argument made by Paley and the argument for ID, as expressed by defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich, is that ID's 'official position' does not acknowledge that the designer is God." Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (December 20, 2005). , Ruling, p. 24.
  6. ^ a b Phillip Johnson: "Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of Intelligent Design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools." Johnson 2004. Let's Be Intelligent About DarwinArchived June 8, 2007 at the Wayback Machine. "This isn't really, and never has been a debate about science. It's about religion and philosophy." Johnson 1996. World magazine. Witnesses For The Prosecution. "So the question is: "How to win?" That's when I began to develop what you now see full-fledged in the "wedge" strategy: "Stick with the most important thing"—the mechanism and the building up of information. Get the Bible and the Book of Genesis out of the debate because you do not want to raise the so-called Bible-science dichotomy. Phrase the argument in such a way that you can get it heard in the secular academy and in a way that tends to unify the religious dissenters. That means concentrating on, "Do you need a Creator to do the creating, or can nature do it on its own?" and refusing to get sidetracked onto other issues, which people are always trying to do." Johnson 2000. Touchstone magazine. Berkeley's Radical An Interview with Phillip E. Johnson at the Wayback Machine (archived June 9, 2007)
  7. ^ Stephen C. Meyer: "I think the designer is God ..." (Darwin, the marketing of Intelligent Design. Nightline, ABC News, with Ted Koppel, August 10, 2005); Nancy Pearcey: "By contrast, design theory demonstrates that Christians can sit in the supernaturalist's "chair" even in their professional lives, seeing the cosmos through the lens of a comprehensive biblical worldview. Intelligent Design steps boldly into the scientific arena to build a case based on empirical data. It takes Christianity out of the ineffectual realm of value and stakes out a cognitive claim in the realm of objective truth. It restores Christianity to its status as genuine knowledge, equipping us to defend it in the public arena". (Total Truth, Crossway Books, June 29, 2004, ISBN 1-58134-458-9, pp. 204–205)
  8. ^ For example, Bridgham et al. showed that gradual evolutionary mechanisms can produce complex protein-protein interaction systems from simpler precursors. Bridgham et al.. Evolution of Hormone-Receptor Complexity by Molecular Exploitation. Science. 2006;312(5770):97–101. doi:10.1126/science.1123348. PMID 16601189.
  9. ^ Devolution. The New Yorker. May 30, 2005. This article draws from the following exchange of letters in which Behe admits to sloppy prose and non-logical proof: Discovery Institute. Has Darwin met his match? Letters—An exchange over ID; March 26, 2003 [cited 2006-11-30].
  10. ^ Some of Dembski's responses to assertions of specified complexity being a tautology can be found at William A. Dembski. "Another way to detect design". ARN. 
  11. ^ Dembski. Discovery Institute. Questions About Intelligent Design. "The theory of Intelligent Design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection."
  12. ^ IDEA "One need not fully understand the origin or identity of the designer to determine that an object was designed. Thus, this question is essentially irrelevant to intelligent design theory, which merely seeks to detect if an object was designed ... Intelligent design theory cannot address the identity or origin of the designer—it is a philosophical / religious question that lies outside the domain of scientific inquiry. Christianity postulates the religious answer to this question that the designer is God who by definition is eternally existent and has no origin. There is no logical philosophical impossibility with this being the case (akin to Aristotle's 'unmoved mover') as a religious answer to the origin of the designer..." FAQ: Who designed the designer? FAQ: Who designed the designer?
  13. ^ a b American Association for the Advancement of Science. Professional Ethics Report [PDF]; 2001. "Creationists are repackaging their message as the pseudoscience of intelligent design theory."
  14. ^ Robert T. Pennock. Wizards of ID: Reply to Dembski. In: Robert T. Pennock. Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press; 2001. ISBN 0-262-66124-1. "Dembski chides me for never using the term "intelligent design" without conjoining it to "creationism". He implies (though never explicitly asserts) that he and others in his movement are not creationists and that it is incorrect to discuss them in such terms, suggesting that doing so is merely a rhetorical ploy to "rally the troops". (2) Am I (and the many others who see Dembski's movement in the same way) misrepresenting their position? The basic notion of creationism is the rejection of biological evolution in favor of special creation, where the latter is understood to be supernatural. Beyond this there is considerable variability..." p. 645–667.; Pennock, Robert T.. Tower of Babel: Evidence Against the New Creationism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press; 1999.
  15. ^ a b c "The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a 'wedge' that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. The very beginning of this strategy, the 'thin edge of the wedge,' was Phillip Johnson's critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe's highly successful Darwin's Black Box followed Johnson's work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions". Wedge Document Discovery Institute, 1999. (PDF file)
  16. ^ a b c "I have built an intellectual movement in the universities and churches that we call The Wedge, which is devoted to scholarship and writing that furthers this program of questioning the materialistic basis of science. [...] Now the way that I see the logic of our movement going is like this. The first thing you understand is that the Darwinian theory isn't true. It's falsified by all of the evidence and the logic is terrible. When you realize that, the next question that occurs to you is, well, where might you get the truth? [...] I start with John 1:1. In the beginning was the word. In the beginning was intelligence, purpose, and wisdom. The Bible had that right. And the materialist scientists are deluding themselves." Johnson 1999. Reclaiming America for Christ Conference. How the Evolution Debate Can Be Won
  17. ^ a b "...intelligent design does not address metaphysical and religious questions such as the nature or identity of the designer," and "...the nature, moral character and purposes of this intelligence lie beyond the competence of science and must be left to religion and philosophy". In: Discovery Institute. Truth Sheet # 09-05 Does intelligent design postulate a "supernatural creator? [cited 2007-07-19].
  18. ^ Phillip Johnson. 'Keeping the Darwinists Honest' an interview with Phillip Johnson. 1999. "Intelligent Design is an intellectual movement, and the Wedge strategy stops working when we are seen as just another way of packaging the Christian evangelical message. [...] The evangelists do what they do very well, and I hope our work opens up for them some doors that have been closed".
  19. ^ a b Phillip Johnson. Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity. 1999. "...the first thing that has to be done is to get the Bible out of the discussion.... This is not to say that the biblical issues are unimportant; the point is rather that the time to address them will be after we have separated materialist prejudice from scientific fact". The Wedge
  20. ^ Barbara Forrest. Expert Testimony. Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial transcript, Day 6 (October 5) "What I am talking about is the essence of intelligent design, and the essence of it is theistic realism as defined by Professor Johnson. Now that stands on its own quite apart from what their motives are. I'm also talking about the definition of intelligent design by Dr. Dembski as the Logos theology of John's Gospel. That stands on its own. [...] Intelligent design, as it is understood by the proponents that we are discussing today, does involve a supernatural creator, and that is my objection. And I am objecting to it as they have defined it, as Professor Johnson has defined intelligent design, and as Dr. Dembski has defined intelligent design. And both of those are basically religious. They involve the supernatural".
  21. ^ According to the poll, 18% of the physicians believed that God created humans exactly as they appear today. Another 42% believed that God initiated and guided an evolutionary process that has led to current human beings. The poll also found that "an overwhelming majority of Jewish doctors (83%) and half of Catholic doctors (51%) believe that intelligent design is simply "a religiously inspired pseudo-science rather than a legitimate scientific speculation". The poll also found that "more than half of Protestant doctors (63%) believe that intelligent design is a "legitimate scientific speculation".
    "Majority of Physicians Give the Nod to Evolution Over Intelligent Design" (Press release). Retrieved 2007-10-08. 
  22. ^ Phillip E. Johnson. Access Research Network. Starting a Conversation about Evolution: Johnson, Phillip; August 31, 1996 [cited 2008-10-18]. "My colleagues and I speak of 'theistic realism'—or sometimes, 'mere creation'—as the defining concept of our [the ID] movement. This means that we affirm that God is objectively real as Creator, and that the reality of God is tangibly recorded in evidence accessible to science, particularly in biology."
  23. ^ a b Enlisting Science to Find the Fingerprints of a Creator; March 25, 2001 [cited 2007-07-22]. "[Phillip E. Johnson quoted]: We are taking an intuition most people have and making it a scientific and academic enterprise.... We are removing the most important cultural roadblock to accepting the role of God as creator."
  24. ^ The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. Let's Be Intelligent About Darwin; January 10, 2003 [archived 2007-06-08; cited 2007-07-23]. "[Phillip E. Johnson quoted]: Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of Intelligent Design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools."
  25. ^ National Science Teachers Association, a professional association of 55,000 science teachers and administrators "National Science Teachers Association Disappointed About Intelligent Design Comments Made by President Bush" (Press release). National Science Teachers Association. August 3, 2005. "We stand with the nation's leading scientific organizations and scientists, including Dr. John Marburger, the president's top science advisor, in stating that intelligent design is not science....It is simply not fair to present pseudoscience to students in the science classroom." 
  26. ^ Evolution critics seek role for unseen hand in education. Nature. 2002;416(6878):250. doi:10.1038/416250a. PMID 11907537. "But many scientists regard 'intelligent design' as pseudoscience, and say that it is being used as a Trojan Horse to introduce the teaching of creationism into schools"
  27. ^ Attie, A. D.. Defending science education against intelligent design: a call to action. Journal of Clinical Investigation. 2006;116(5):1134–1138. doi:10.1172/JCI28449. PMID 16670753. PMC 1451210.
    • H. Allen Orr. Devolution—Why intelligent design isn't; 2005 May. "Biologists aren't alarmed by intelligent design's arrival in Dover and elsewhere because they have all sworn allegiance to atheistic materialism; they're alarmed because intelligent design is junk science."
    • Robert T. Pennock Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism.
    • Mark Bergin. Junk science; February 25, 2006.
  28. ^ Scientific Method in Practice. Cambridge UP; 2003. ISBN 0-521-01708-4. Chapters 5–8. Discusses principles of induction, deduction and probability related to the expectation of consistency, testability, and multiple observations. Chapter 8 discusses parsimony (Occam's razor)
  29. ^ Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, cv 2688 (December 20, 2005). , 4: whether ID is science. The ruling discusses central aspects of expectations in the scientific community that a scientific theory be testable, dynamic, correctible, progressive, based upon multiple observations, and provisional,
  30. ^ Intelligent design fails to pass Occam's razor. Adding entities (an intelligent agent, a designer) to the equation is not strictly necessary to explain events. See, e.g., Branden Fitelson, et al.. How Not to Detect Design–Critical Notice: William A. Dembski The Design Inference. In: Robert T. Pennock. Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives. MIT Press; 2001. p. 597–616.
  31. ^ See, e.g., Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University. Thoughts on Evolution and Intelligent Design; 2005. "Q: Why couldn't intelligent design also be a scientific theory? A: The idea of intelligent design might or might not be true, but when presented as a scientific hypothesis, it is not useful because it is based on weak assumptions, lacks supporting data and terminates further thought."
  32. ^ The designer is not falsifiable, since its existence is typically asserted without sufficient conditions to allow a falsifying observation. The designer being beyond the realm of the observable, claims about its existence can be neither supported nor undermined by observation, making intelligent design and the argument from design analytic a posteriori arguments. See, e.g., Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, cv 2688 (December 20, 2005). Ruling, p. 22 and p. 77.
  33. ^ That intelligent design is not empirically testable stems from the fact that it violates a basic premise of science, naturalism. See, e.g., Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, cv 2688 (December 20, 2005). Ruling, p. 22 and p. 66.
  34. ^ Intelligent design professes to offer an answer that does not need to be defined or explained, the intelligent agent, designer. By asserting a conclusion that cannot be accounted for scientifically, the designer, intelligent design cannot be sustained by any further explanation, and objections raised to those who accept intelligent design make little headway. Thus intelligent design is not a provisional assessment of data, which can change when new information is discovered. Once it is claimed that a conclusion that need not be accounted for has been established, there is simply no possibility of future correction. The idea of the progressive growth of scientific ideas is required to explain previous data and any previously unexplainable data. See, e.g., the brief explanation in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, 04 cv 2688 (December 20, 2005). p. 66.
  35. ^ "Nobel Laureates Initiative" (PDF). The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. September 9, 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-19.  The September 2005 statement by 38 Nobel laureates stated that: "Intelligent design is fundamentally unscientific; it cannot be tested as scientific theory because its central conclusion is based on belief in the intervention of a supernatural agent".
  36. ^ Intelligent Design is not Science: Scientists and teachers speak out. 2005 October [archived 2006-06-14; cited 2009-01-09]. University of New South Wales. The October 2005 statement, by a coalition representing more than 70,000 Australian scientists and science teachers said: "intelligent design is not science" and called on "all schools not to teach Intelligent Design (ID) as science, because it fails to qualify on every count as a scientific theory".
  37. ^ The Sternberg peer review controversy and several similar academic disputes are the subject of the 2008 documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed".
  38. ^ Is It Science Yet?: Intelligent Design Creationism and the Constitution [PDF]. Washington University Law Quarterly. 2005 [cited 2007-07-18];83(1). "ID leaders know the benefits of submitting their work to independent review and have established at least two purportedly "peer-reviewed" journals for ID articles. However, one has languished for want of material and quietly ceased publication, while the other has a more overtly philosophical orientation. Both journals employ a weak standard of "peer review" that amounts to no more than vetting by the editorial board or society fellows."
  39. ^ TalkOrigins Archive. Index to Creationist Claims; 2006. "With some of the claims for peer review, notably Campbell and Meyer (2003) and the e-journal PCID, the reviewers are themselves ardent supporters of intelligent design. The purpose of peer review is to expose errors, weaknesses, and significant omissions in fact and argument. That purpose is not served if the reviewers are uncritical"
  40. ^ "For human artifacts, we know the designer's identity, human, and the mechanism of design, as we have experience based upon empirical evidence that humans can make such things, as well as many other attributes including the designer's abilities, needs, and desires. With ID, proponents assert that they refuse to propose hypotheses on the designer's identity, do not propose a mechanism, and the designer, he/she/it/they, has never been seen. In that vein, defense expert Professor Minnich agreed that in the case of human artifacts and objects, we know the identity and capacities of the human designer, but we do not know any of those attributes for the designer of biological life. In addition, Professor Behe agreed that for the design of human artifacts, we know the designer and its attributes and we have a baseline for human design that does not exist for design of biological systems. Professor Behe's only response to these seemingly insurmountable points of disanalogy was that the inference still works in science fiction movies".—Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, cv 2688 (December 20, 2005). , p. 81
  41. ^ Illustra Media. WIRED Magazine response [cited 2007-07-13]. "It's also important that you read a well developed rebuttal to Wired's misleading accusations. Links to both the article and a response by the Discovery Institute (our partners in the production of Unlocking the Mystery of Life and The Privileged Planet)"


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