Intelligent Design, the best explanation of Origins

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Intelligent design is science

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1 Intelligent design is science on Mon Feb 22, 2016 3:32 am


Intelligent design is science 1

Just before Thanksgiving a friend e-mailed me because his daughter was about to give a presentation on whether intelligent design is science. She was looking for resources on the topic to read over the holiday. Thanksgiving is now behind us, but this reading list should still be useful to readers interested in the question of ID as science. Here's an updated and expanded version of my reply:

First, I can outline how we know ID is science. We know ID is science because it uses the scientific method to make its claims.
The scientific method is commonly described as a four-step process involvingobservations, hypothesis, experiments, and conclusion. ID begins with theobservation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that if a natural object was designed, it will contain high levels of CSI. Scientists then performexperimental tests upon natural objects to determine if they contain complex and specified information. One easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity, which can be tested and discovered by experimentally reverse-engineering biological structures through genetic knockout experiments. The purpose is to determine if they require all of their parts to function. When experimental researchers uncover irreducible complexity in biology, theyconclude that such structures were designed. For some nice, easy articles that further discuss why ID is science, please see any of the following links:
Now some who are more philosophically inclined might object that philosophers can't define science, so we can't know that ID is science. It is true that philosophers have long debated the precise definition of science. In fact, current trends in philosophy of science eschew the use of demarcation criteria to distinguish between science and non-science. Larry Laudan comments on the consensus of this field:

[T]here is no demarcation line between science and non-science, or between science and pseudo-science, which would win assent from a majority of philosophers.
(Larry Laudan, Beyond Positivism and Relativism: Theory, Method, and Evidence, p. 210 (Westview Press 1996).)

As an initial response, I would point out that if we can't say ID is science, then we also can't definitely say ID isn't science. Still, I believe it is possible to show that ID qualifies as science. While the precise definition of science may be unclear, most would agree there are certain qualities that clearly place some ideas on the side of science. One of those qualities is the scientific method. If an idea uses the scientific method, most would agree that it is scientific.

Second, a main source cited by ID-critics on this question is the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling. If you aren't familiar with it, the Kitzmiller v. Dover case was the first -- and to date the only -- lawsuit to assess the constitutionality of teaching ID in public schools. Unfortunately the judge in that case found ID was not science, that it was religion, and he ruled ID is unconstitutional to teach in public schools. But he could only make that ruling by getting numerous things wrong, including defining ID incorrectly, and completely ignoring the evidence of pro-ID peer-reviewed scientific papers that were submitted to him during the trial. We wrote a law review article -- a pretty strong one in my opinion -- responding to the judge's ruling in the case. Our article addresses, in some detail, why ID is science. You might wish to skip past some of the technical legal analysis, but I think that overall, the article is very readable by anyone, even if you're not a legal scholar. Titled "Intelligent Design Will Survive Kitzmiller v. Dover," it can be found free online. See especially Part VI, "Error #3: Dismissing the Scientific Case for Design."
Third, Michael Behe also wrote a response to the Dover ruling titled "Whether Intelligent Design is Science?" It's a good resource too, and is free online.
Fourth, I wrote a lay-level article on this issue a couple years ago on the merits of ID, which got posted on the website The article is titled "ID is Constitutional and Has Educational and Legal Merit" (also free online). That article explains, in more basic terms, some the reasons that we know ID is science, and also responds to common objections.
Finally, regarding the issue of ID and peer-reviewed scientific papers, you should be aware that ID proponents have published many peer-reviewed scientific papers. Nonetheless, it's not necessary to be published in peer-reviewed papers to be scientific. For details, please see the following two links:
I hope this helps!

Two other great resources I neglected to mention are Stephen Meyer's bookSignature in the Cell--especially chapters 18 and 19 where he addresses whether ID is science, as well as Meyer's chapter in the book Nature of Nature, "Sauce for the Goose: Intelligent Design, Scientific Methodology, and the Demarcation Problem."


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2 Re: Intelligent design is science on Fri Feb 26, 2016 5:15 pm



The rejection of demarcation arguments among philosophers of science has not stopped critics of intelligent design from attempting to settle debates about biological origins by the expedient of formulating such arguments against intelligent design. Some use these arguments to justify methodological naturalism (which has the same effect). 

Advocates of methodological naturalism have argued that the theory of intelligent design is inherently unscientific for some, or all, of the following reasons: 

(a) is not testable, 
(b) is not falsifiable 
(c) does not make predictions
(d) does not describe repeatable phenomena
(e) does not explain by reference to natural law
(f) does not cite a mechanism
(g) does not make tentative claims and 
(h) has no problem-solving capability.

 They have also claimed that it is not science because it (i) refers to an unobservable entity.28 These critics also assume, imply, or assert that materialistic evolutionary theories do meet such criteria of proper scientific method. Readers may wish to consult Signature in the Cell for a more detailed response to these specific arguments. There I show that many of these claims are simply false (e.g., contrary to the claims of its critics intelligent design is testable; it does make predictions; it does formulate its claims tentatively; and it does have scientific problem-solving capability). But I also show that when the claims of those making demarcation arguments are true—when intelligent design doesn’t meet a specific criterion— that fact does not provide good reason for excluding intelligent design from consideration as a scientific theory. Why? Because the materialistic evolutionary theories that intelligent design challenges, theories widely regarded by convention as “scientific,” fail to meet the very same demarcation standard. In other words, there is no defensible definition of science, and no specific demarcation criterion, that justifies both excluding intelligent design from science and including competing materialistic evolutionary theories. Instead, attempts to use demarcation criteria specifically to disqualify intelligent design as a scientific theory have repeatedly failed to differentiate the scientific status of intelligent design from that of competing theories. Depending upon which criteria are used to adjudicate their scientific status, and provided metaphysically neutral criteria are selected to make such assessments, intelligent design and materialistic origins theories invariably prove equally scientific or unscientific. For example, some critics of intelligent design have argued that it fails to qualify as a scientific theory because it makes reference to an unseen or unobservable entity, namely, a designing mind in the remote past. Yet many accepted theories—theories assumed to be scientific—postulate unobservable events and entities. Physicists postulate forces, fields, and quarks; biochemists infer submicroscopic structures; psychologists discuss their patients’ mental states. Evolutionary biologists themselves infer unobserved past mutations and invoke the existence of extinct organisms and transitional forms for which no fossils remain. Such things, like the actions of an intelligent designer, are inferred from observable evidence in the present, because of the explanatory power they may offer. If the demarcation criterion of observability is applied rigidly, then both intelligent design and materialistic theories of evolution fail to qualify as scientific. If the standard is applied more liberally (or realistically)—acknowledging the way in which historical scientific theories often infer unobservable past events, causes, or entities—then both theories qualify as scientific. And so it goes with other such criteria as well. There is no specific (non-question-begging) demarcation criterion that succeeds in disqualifying the theory of intelligent design from consideration as a scientific theory without also doing the same to its materialistic rivals.

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