Somewhere between evolutionists and creationists are a group of scientists who believe science can show us the origin of life—and that the evidence inexorably points to the influence of a superior being. This theory is called "intelligent design." Proponents of intelligent design believe that the origin of the universe can be determined by science alone, without the initial presumption of evolution or creation. They believe that the complexity of life, the mathematical improbability of life occurring spontaneously, and the nature of the universe to decay into chaos over time, instead of growing into more and more complex systems, proves that an intelligence outside of our world influenced the development of life forms and their habitat. They point to the theories of specified complexity, irreducible complexity, and the law of the conservation of information to argue their points.
Intelligent Design Theory - What is it?
Specified complexity: "Complexity" means the pattern is naturally improbable. A natural rock formation in the form of an arch has a low complexity; it is generally monolithic, and its shape was caused by natural erosion. The St. Louis Gateway Arch, with its interior structure, exterior skin, and tram system, exhibits high complexity. The probability of those specific materials naturally occurring in that particular shape approaches zero.
"Specified" means the complex pattern has a specific purpose. A natural arched rock formation has no specific purpose other than to be an ever-eroding barrier to wind and rain. The Gateway Arch has several specific purposes. It is a tourist attraction and a monument for the western expansion. It also gives a nice view of the St. Louis skyline. From a biological standpoint, the process of turning DNA into proteins is obviously complex, having many different parts that were statistically unlikely to form naturally. It is also specific in that it has a specific purpose—to manufacture proteins in support of the biological organism.
Design theorists infer that because something is complex and has a specific purpose, it follows there was an architect behind the complexity and the purpose. It does not follow that we can know anything about the architect or the architect's original purpose for the thing, because the design of the thing was done in the past, where we have no ability to observe. We just know there was a maker, and the maker had a reason. But, using observation of currently present systems, we can deduce the ultimate purpose of the design. In biology, that design is to procreate.
Irreducible complexity: Evolution assumes that complex systems develop because the simpler versions of those systems proved useful to the survival of a species and were passed on through natural selection. What evolution doesn't explain is the presence of highly complicated systems which have no simpler form. Intelligent design proponents point to the flagella, or propellers, of bacteria as an example. Each flagellum has thirty proteins and almost all of them are absolutely necessary for the flagellum to work. It is statistically improbable that flagella "evolved" in such a ready-made, complex state when any simpler version would be useless.
Law of conservation of information: The Law of conservation of information is similar to the creationist argument that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics. Conservation of information states that neutral forces cannot create more complex information from simple information. Evolution, therefore, cannot increase in complexity.
Intelligent design in ecology: Kind of a macro version of specified complexity, this argument points out that the ecology of the earth is strangely adaptable to continue the support of life. When CO2 levels rise, more trees grow. When disasters such as Mount St. Helens occur, restoration is never as long as expected. Even polar bears, faced with dangerously melting ice caps, are adapting by mating with grizzlies. Such adaptability is complex (involving all the systems of the world) and specific in intent (the preservation of life). In this way, the entire planet exhibits specified complexity.
The explanatory filter: The explanatory filter is a series of questions designed to determine if something shows signs of being designed by an intelligence. 1. Does a law explain it? If the item could have been produced via a natural law (such as gravity, conservation of mass/energy, or conservation of momentum), the item does not necessarily show signs of a designer. Two blue-eyed parents will not have a brown-eyed child. That is set by the natural working of recessive and dominant genes. 2. Does chance explain it? Chance does not infer intentionality. If each parent has one dominant brown-eyed gene and one recessive blue-eyed gene, their child will have a 25% chance of having blue eyes. 3. Does design explain it? If intentional manipulation of the criteria is the only conceivable method, then an intelligent designer is inferred (but not proven). Two blue-eyed parents conceiving a child with brown eyes indicates either faulty criteria (the mother cheated) or intelligent manipulation of the genes.
Intelligent design is broadly theistic in that proponents believe in a powerful, extra-earthly force that affects biological development. But intelligent design does not categorically support the Genesis creation account. Design theorists admit there is "something" out there that intentionally worked in the formation of lifeforms. But it needn't be the Christian God; it could be aliens that worked within evolution. Young-earth creationists, for this reason, tend to steer clear of intelligent design. Evolutionists reject intelligent design because it assumes an exterior force working within the development of life. In their attempt to uncover the origins of life through purely scientific methods, design scientists are sometimes rejected by both camps which require assumptions (evolution or a Creator God) before they consider the evidence.
Is theistic evolution biblical? What is theistic evolution?
Irreducible complexity - What is it?
Is creationism scientific?
What is the importance of biblical creationism?
Creation vs. evolution - What does the Bible say?
Truth about Creation