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Intelligent design

Intelligent design

This article was generated from theopedia.com

Intelligent design is a controversial topic that finds itself in the realm of science, theology, and apologetics. Adherents of this view state that the best explanation for the origin of the universe and humanity is not evolution, but “an intelligent cause or agent, as opposed to an unguided process such as natural selection.” ^[1]^

Some have criticized this view, stating that it is not based on the Bible and restricts itself to natural theology. Proponents agree, but are quick to point out that Intelligent design implies that life is here as a result of the purposeful action of an intelligent designer, standing in contrast to Darwinian evolution.^[2]^ More frequent are attacks from advocates of evolutionary thought. ID has yet to gain mainstream acceptance in the scientific community. However, there are mainstream scientists who do a accept this view, even if they are not young-earth creationists. This notably includes The Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA) Center and Michael Behe, professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University and advisory board member at IDEA.

Arguments from Behe's Darwin's Black Box

In his book Darwin's Black Box (1998), Michael Behe says that

“the conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself – not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs. Inferring that biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent is a humdrum process that requires no new principles of logic or science. It comes simply from the hard work that biochemistry has done over the past forty years, combined with the consideration of the way in which we reach conclusions of design every day.” ^[3]^

Behe goes on to talk about “irreducible complexity” which is shorthand for the view that sometimes the most basic pieces of a system must all be in place in order for the pieces a)not to harm the organism, and b) to make any sense in the supposed natural selection process. For example, considering a mousetrap, it would be hard to think of a way for the “pieces” of a mouse trap to gradually be introduced in this process since the individual pieces would have no value. In order for a mouse trap to function, the basics of the trap must be in place. A mousetrap would be “irreducibly complex.”

In one of his real-world examples, Behe writes about the blood clotting process.^[4]^ All the chemicals of the blood clotting process must be present and triggered in the right sequence from the start, otherwise death would result to the animal. If the clotting factors were not present, any cut would cause life-threatening bleeding. If the clotting factor is triggered too early, the entire blood stream would solidify, and if the clotting factor was activated more quickly then the body would not have the means to flush much of the dirt and infection present in many initial wounds.

A final example is the bombadier beetle.^[5]^ How do the chemicals used by this beetle evolve to exist in the same organism, but kept separate so the beetle doesn't blow itself up? How do the chamber and mechanisms evolve to allow the safe combination of the chemicals, directing them to an attacker?

Darwin had little knowledge of the complexity of the miniature structures of the cells and beyond. Behe writes,

“Neither of Darwin's starting points – the origin of life and the origin of vision – has been accounted for by his theory. Darwin never imagined the exquisitely profound complexity that exists even at the most basic levels of life.”^[6]^


  1. “‘ Questions About Intelligent Design
  2. “‘ What is intelligent design theory? at IDEA Center.
  3. “‘ Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Free Press, 1998) p. 193.
  4. “‘ Ibid. See pp. 77-97 for a more thorough discussion.
  5. “‘ Ibid. See pp. 31-36
  6. “‘ Ibid. p. 173.

Notable Quotes

“We have only to see a few letters of the alphabet spelling our name in the sand to recognize at once the work of an intelligent agent. How much more likely, then is the existence of an intelligent Creator behind human DNA, the colossal biological database that contains no fewer than 3.5 billion 'letters' – the longest 'word' yet discovered?” John Lennox, God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway?, p. 75.

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