Why Intelligent Design isn't Science


A short guide to the difference between evolution as a scientific theory and intelligent design theory as a theistic belief.

Darwinian Evolution

Intelligent Design

Seeks a natural explanation

Seeks a supernatural explanation

Relies on the scientific method

Draws on analogy to human artifacts


Not testable

Theory *

Axiom **

Descent with modification

Irreducible (specified) complexity ***
Some modification allowed, but not speciation

Trial and error design

Planned design

Undirected change (isotropic)

Goal oriented, hidden bias

Mutations and survival ****

Unknown (sic) creator


Unknown creator



Speciation (Macroevolution)

Intelligent design (creator)

Function follows form

Form follows function

No purpose, yet program dependent

Engineering to fit purpose

Knowledge through experimentation

Knowledge through faith

Materialistic belief

Theistic belief

The creationist dispute of evolution is not solvable because creationist’s intention is the proof of God’s existence, while the biologist’s intention is the proof of a mechanism of function. Even if the creationists' solution that God creates organisms is tenable, the biologist still wants to know HOW? (not why). It is this HOW we came into existence that we teach in the class room, not the why of our existence. Thus, the question to ask is not if God did it, but how did God do it? It is the IDs job to propose a mechanism. Did God snap her fingers, stir a stick in a pond, blew her breath over a barren desert?

* A scientific theory is a coherent explanation of a collection of many facts in an internally consistent manner (i.e., consistent with the theory). All known biological facts are consistent with the theory of evolution. They are of course also consistent with intelligent design, because everything is consistent with the notion of a creator. Only the theory of evolution offers physical mechanisms, intelligent design does not (unknown creator).

** A statement accepted as true as the basis for argument or inference (definition from Merriam-Webster)

*** Irreducible complexity and the relationship between order of a system and its information content pose a critical challenge to evolutionary models of complexity. While biologists offer testable hypotheses through models of molecular evolution, intelligent design theory offers no mechanism other than a creator or the presence of mind. The question is when and how the creator intervenes and produces evolutionary changes or novel irreducibly complex structures. No testable solution to this question is even suggested by supporters of intelligent design other than saying that intelligent design itself is the solution to these questions. The real issue is the analogy to human artifacts; we know how humans make a machine or encode information (writing), but we do not know, and ID proponents do not tell us, how an unspecified intelligence [mind, God, creator ... pick your choice] makes a living organism. (see talkdesign.org for an arguments demystifying irreducible complexity)

**** Survival is measured by the number of individuals in the next generation (offspring) that themselves have offspring. Survival depends, among other things, on natural selection (e.g. infertility, disease), geographic isolation and chance elimination (natural catastrophe, accidents etc.) and is not about survival of the fittest; otherwise diseases would have been eliminated a long time ago.


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Copyright © 2000-2009 Lukas K. Buehler