The theory of Intelligent Design, as promoted by organizations such as the Discovery Institute, is one of the most misunderstood and mischaracterized theories in the mass media you will ever see. A typical newspaper or TV reporter will say something like this: “Intelligent Design is the theory that biological organisms are really complex, and so God must have created them.” Perhaps you’ve seen it reported this way. I know that I have many, many times.
Well, if that’s not the true definition, then what is it? I believe it can be defined in two simple statements:
- Intelligent agents sometimes leave behind detectable empirical evidence of their activity.
- There exists, in biological life, detectable empirical evidence of intelligent agency.
Statement 1 is hardly controversial. Many scientific fields detect signs of intelligence: cryptography, archaeology, forensic pathology, just name a few. In our every day lives, we routinely detect signs of intelligence. When we see “I love Coke!” written in the sky, we don’t assume that it’s an unusual cloud formation. We assume that an intelligent agent, namely a sky-writing pilot, left the message. When we look at Mount Rushmore, we don’t think the faces got there from wind and erosion. We know that somebody sculpted those faces – an intelligent being.
Intelligent Design theory just uses the exact same techniques that are used in other scientific fields that detect intelligence, and applies it to biological organisms. When we look at biological organisms, we detect signs of intelligent agency. There are numerous examples of these signs, but one of them is the existence of DNA. DNA is composed of a four-letter biological alphabet and is mathematically equivalent to any other kind of language. One human cell contains DNA that is the equivalent of 5 million pages of information, and your body has trillions of cells!
Take a look at these two photos side by side. The one on the left is the view of a stained glass window in a cathedral and the one on the right is the view down the axis of a DNA double helix. If that doesn’t give you a little pause, I can’t help you…