Intelligent Design The Definitive Source on ID

What Is Intelligent Design?

A simple, straightforward definition explained.

Intelligent design — often called “ID” — is a scientific theory which holds that some features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID theorists argue that intelligent design can be inferred by finding in nature the type of information and complexity which in our experience arises from an intelligent cause.

Proponents of neo-Darwinian evolution contend that the information in life arose via blind, mechanistic processes that show no scientific evidence of guidance by intelligent design. ID proponents contend that the information in life does not appear to have an unguided origin, but arose via purposeful, intelligently guided processes. Both claims are scientifically testable using the standard methods of science. But ID theorists say that when we use the scientific method to explore nature, the evidence points away from blind material causes, and reveals intelligent design.

The cell confirms our expectations from design. Our DNA contains incredible amounts of encoded information. Living cells transform this encoded chemical message into machines which are engineered to perform necessary biochemical functions. The conversion of DNA into protein relies upon a software-like system of commands and biochemical codes.  This is an information processing system which Bill Gates has described as “like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”

The protein-machines produced by our DNA are often “irreducibly complex.” Irreducible complexity is a purposeful arrangement of parts, where if any part is removed or mutated, the structure ceases to assemble or function properly. For example, the “bacterial flagellum,” is a rotary-engine on bacteria which fails to assemble or function properly if we mutate any one of its approximately 35 protein components. Natural selection cannot account for this irreducible complexity because it only preserves structures which provide a functional advantage. In this “all-or-nothing” game, mutations cannot produce the complexity needed to provide a functional flagellar rotary engine one incremental step at a time, and the odds are too daunting for it to do it in a great leap. 

The past 50 years of biological research have found that life is fundamentally based upon:

  • A vast amount of complex and specified information encoded in a biochemical language.
  • A computer-like system of commands and codes that processes the information.
  • Irreducibly complex molecular machines and multi-machine systems.

Where, in our experience, do language, complex and specified information, programming code, and machines come from? They have only one known source: intelligence. This is an argument based upon scientific methods and the evidence from nature — the argument is not based upon faith, religion, or divine revelation. 

Contrary to what many might suppose, ID is much broader than the debate over Darwinian evolution. That’s because much of the scientific evidence for intelligent design comes from areas that Darwin’s theory doesn’t even address. In fact, much evidence for intelligent design comes from physics and cosmology.

The fine-tuning of the laws of physics and chemistry to allow for advanced life is a profound example of extremely high levels of CSI in nature. To give a few examples, the strength of gravity (gravitational constant) must be fine-tuned to within 1 part in 1035; the expansion rate of the universe be fine-tuned to within 1 part in 1055; and the cosmological constant must be fine-tuned to within 1 part in 10120 Cosmologists have calculated the initial entropy of the universe must have been fine-tuned to within 1 part in 1010^123. That’s ten raised to a power of 10 with 123 zeros after it — a number far too long to write out! The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles Townes observed:

Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all.

Even the atheist cosmologist Fred Hoyle observed, “[a] common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.” From the tiniest atom, to living organisms, to the architecture of the entire cosmos, the fabric of nature shows strong evidence of intelligent design.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.