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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2005
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Claim CI001:

Intelligent design theory is science.


Dembski, William A., 1998. The Design Inference. Cambridge University Press.


  1. The terms used in design theory are not defined. "Design", in design theory, has nothing to do with "design" as it is normally understood. Design is defined in terms of an agent purposely arranging something, but such a concept appears nowhere in the process of distinguishing design in the sense of "intelligent design." Dembski defined design in terms of what it is not (known regularity and chance), making intelligent design an argument from incredulity; he never said what design is.

    A solution to a problem must address the parameters of the problem, or it is just irrelevant hand waving. Any theory about design must somehow address the agent and purpose, or it is not really about design. No intelligent design theorist has ever included agent or purpose in any attempt at a scientific theory of design, and some explicitly say they cannot be included (Dembski 2002, 313). Thus, even if intelligent design theory were able to prove design, it would mean practically nothing; it would certainly say nothing whatsoever about design in the usual sense.

    Irreducible complexity also fails as science because it, too, is an argument from incredulity that has nothing to do with design.

  2. Intelligent design is subjective. Even in Dembski's mathematically intricate formulation, the specification of his specified complexity can be determined after the fact, making "specification" a subjective concept. Dembski now talks of "apparent specified complexity" versus "actual specified complexity," of which only the latter indicates design. However, it is impossible to distinguish between the two in principle (Elsberry n.d.).

  3. Intelligent design implies results that are contrary to common sense. Spider webs apparently meet the standards of specified complexity, which implies that spiders are intelligent. One could instead claim that the complexity was designed into the spider and its abilities. But if that claim is made, one might just as well claim that the spider's designer was not intelligent but was intelligently designed, or maybe it was the spider's designer's designer that was intelligent. Thus, either spiders are intelligent, or intelligent design theory reduces to a weak Deism where all design might have entered into the universe only once at the beginning, or terms like "specified complexity" have no useful definition.

  4. The intelligent design movement is not intended to be about science. Phillip Johnson, who spearheaded and led the movement, said in so many words that it is about religion and philosophy, not science (Belz 1996).


  1. Belz, Joel. 1996. Witnesses for the prosecution. World Magazine 11(28): 18.
  2. Dembski, William A., 2002. No Free Lunch. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  3. Elsberry, Wesley R., n.d. What does "intelligent agency by proxy" do for the design inference?

Further Reading:

Elsberry, Wesley, 2000. The anti-evolutionists: William A. Dembski.

Frank, Patrick, 2004. On the assumption of design. Theology and Science 2(1): 109-130.

Pennock, Robert T., 2003. Creationism and intelligent design. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics 4: 143-163.
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created 2001-2-18, modified 2005-4-15