Is Intelligent Design Theory ‘Science’?


monkeyThe Rap on Theists

Theists are often accused of being unscientific. Perhaps this is due to the much publicized controversy related to the “Intelligent Design” (ID) movement. Opponents of ID have been quite verbal about the relationship between science and ID Theory. John Marburger (President George W. Bush’s Chief Science Advisor) once said:

“Evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology… Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory… I don’t regard Intelligent Design as a scientific topic.”

Marburger is not alone. Literally hundreds of scientists have been vocal opponents of ID and have argued that, as a theory, ID is not ‘science’. Because theists are, by definition, creationists who believe that God was involved as the designer of the universe and everything in it, any critical comment directed toward the ID movement invariably applies to all theists as well.

And let’s face it, when opponents of ID Theory say something like, “ID Theory is NOT science” they are usually saying this as a simple ‘ad hominem’ attack intended to cast the Christian in an unfavorable light. For many critics of ID, the statement, “ID Theory is not science” is really intended to be a statement of condemnation for those who believe that there is an intelligent designer in the first place. They might as well say something like:

“Theists are irrational”

“Theists ignore the scientific evidence”

“Theists believe something that is without evidence”

“Theists believe something that is untrue”

So let’s begin by taking a look at the definition of science and see if this second set of claims about theists can be drawn from the first claim about ID Theory. Let’s start by taking a look at a rather classic definition of ‘science’ that can be found in our dictionaries today:

1. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena.

2. Methodological activity, discipline, or study

3. An activity that appears to require study and method

You’ll notice that a definition like this, commonly accepted in scientific communities, describes two separate activities. First there is the activity of observing, identifying and collecting data. But there is another activity involved in ‘science’. Once the data is collected, a process of interpretation, ‘experimental investigation’ and ‘theoretical explanation’ takes place. In other words, scientists do more than just observe and collect; they interpret and form conclusions, then devise experiments that will allow them to see if their conclusions are correct. This is the methodology and activity that embodies science. To do true ‘science’, you need to do more than collect data. You need to do more than interpret data. You need to be able to construct experimental investigations that will help you to collect even more data and confirm your theories about the phenomena you are seeing.

ID Theory is Not Science

Based on this understanding of the definition of ‘science’, let me now say something controversial to my brother and sister Christians who have been tracking with the ID Movement: The Intelligent Design Theory is NOT Science. Why not? Secular scientists are correct when they say that the theory of Intelligent Design may be good at making observations and even interpreting data, but woefully deficient in developing investigative experiments and methodological activities that can move their observations forward. It’s in this second area of experimentation and scientific methodology that ID theorists fail to measure up to the traditional definition of science…


Intelligent Design Theory is Not Science

The Poached Egg

Recommended Resources: Blind Chance or Intelligent Design?: Empirical Methodologies and the Bible | Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (dvd)