Intelligent design or ID has been in the news recently where it is usually criticized for various reasons. Intelligent design can be described as studying patterns in nature that are best described as created by intelligence.
For example, are the words in a book more likely created by intelligence or by accident. Another example would be whether Mount Rushmore is the result of natural wind and erosion or intelligence.
The answers to these questions seem easy – and it is. We all know intuitively that complicated structures that contain information are more likely created by intelligence. We also understand that as the complexity and information increase, the chances of intelligent creation increases.
Codes such as the Enigma Machine used by Nazi Germany in World War 2 were obviously made by intelligence and not by chance. This leads to a rule that coded structures containing information are more likely created by intelligence and not chance.
These same ideas can be applied to biological structures. Along these lines, even the most simple bacteria have a very complicated code and complex inner structure. It should be obvious that bacteria are made by intelligence than through chance.
Many evolutionists wish to avoid this conclusion. Secular scientists suggest that science cannot assign a metaphysical or intelligence cause to life. This is true even though the association seems obvious.
Francisco Ayala believed Darwin’s greatest achievement was to show how the complexity of life could be made without intelligence.
Alternatively, intelligent design attempts to find patterns in a biological system that show intelligent cause. Intelligent design directly challenges secular assumptions concerning the creation of life.
History of Intelligent Design
The history of intelligent design has been difficult. Causation has been ascribed to intelligent design that later was found to be from natural causes.
For example, Kepler thought the craters on the moon were made by intelligent creatures living there. He based his assessment on the best science known at the time. We now know the craters have a very natural origin and not caused by moon people.
Times have changed in the four hundred years since Kepler. Design theorists have developed precise methods to determine whether something is intelligently made or has a natural origin.
Intelligent design’s central claim is that only intelligence can explain complicated life. This is because life is very complicated and contains vast amounts of information. This information is encoded into a special code called DNA.
The determination of intelligent interference or natural causation is important for many branches of science. These branches include forensic science, cryptography, and archaeology. Maybe the most famous is SETI or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
All these branches of science use special methods to determine whether something has an intelligent origin.
Science and Intelligent Design
Let’s examine some of the sciences which use methods to determine an intelligent design.
Forensic science might try to determine whether somebody was killed by intelligence (murdered) or died by accident. The recent death of Epstein shows how important this determination can be.
Cryptography uses intelligent design looking into whether a serious of letters has an underlying message. There are special algorithms developed to make this determination and help break a code. The ability to break codes helped defeat Germany and Japan during World War 2.
Archaeology uses intelligent design frequently. They try to determine whether an archaeological feature such as markings on a cave wall was man-made or a feature of nature.
SETI is another great example. There are signals from space hitting earth all the time. SETI uses radio telescopes to amplify these signals. Most of them are random noise but occasionally there may be a pattern.
Once they heard a pulsing signal that was remarkably regular, maybe every 0.1 seconds. Initially, they thought this might be an intelligent signal from another civilization. They were disappointed when it was shown to be a “pulsar” or rapidly rotating neutron star.
Sagan, SETI, and Contact
The atheist astronomer wrote a novel called Contact which was made into a movie starring Jodie Foster. The novel concerned SETI and its evaluation of random signals from space.
After years of listening to random signals at thousands of frequencies, they finally get a signal with information. The signal was every prime number from 2 to 101 repeated over and over again.
Eventually, the SETI scientists were able to determine the signal had an intelligent origin. They could use the rules of intelligent design and show the signal had complexity and information. The rest of the story involves what they found within that signal and what actions they took.
The importance of this movie for the topic of intelligent design is how it determines intelligent origins.
Intelligence leaves behind a characteristic signature or being complex and having information.
Intelligent design requires information to have complexity and that it contains information. For example, a crystal may have a complex structure but it carries no information.
Intelligent design requires events not be imposed after the fact. So for example, consider a deck of cards. If you lay out the 52 cards in a deck on a desk, the sequence of cards on the desk is very improbable.
The skeptic would say the shuffled deck is an unusual sequence with a remote chance of occurring, but the sequence was not made by intelligence. Therefore, the whole concept of intelligent design is wrong.
The real test of intelligent design in the card example would if to lay down another shuffled deck in the same sequence. The chance of this occurring is about 52 times 51 times 50 … to times 1 or 52 factorial (52!). This number is about 1 change in 0 with 68 zeroes after it. That would be a remote chance indeed.
Intelligent design would suggest a randomly shuffled deck of cards laid down in a certain sequence would suggest cheating.
Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance
Skeptics with the intelligent design theory would counter with the example of antibiotic resistance. They would suggest the development of resistance suggests information created in fact of antibiotics occurred by chance.
The problem is several-fold. First, most antibiotic resistance is due to the loss of information – and not the gain. Also, resistance involves the shuffling of information already contained in the gene. Resistance is not the development of new bacteria.
The Bacterial Flagellum
The bacterial flagellum is a good example of intelligent design. The flagellum contains complexity and has significant information to provide a purpose.
The flagellum is an acid-powered rotor that spins at twenty-thousand rpm allowing the bacteria to navigate through water. The nature of the flagellum contains a rotor, a stator, O-rings, bushings, and a drive shaft requiring the interaction of thirty complex proteins.
The absence of any protein would make the flagellum inoperable. The complexity and information contained within the common bacterial flagellum defy any natural chance explanation.
The development of a testable hypothesis makes intelligent design a full-fledged scientific theory. This distinguishes it from the simple “design” arguments of philosophers and theologians called “natural theology.”
The claim of intelligent design is that the world contains countless events and structures that cannot be explained by chance. These structures exhaust the probabilistic resources of chance occurrence. Therefore, there is not enough time since the creation of the universe for only chance to produce such complexity.
The intelligent design theory takes a long-standing philosophical theory and develops it into a testable scientific one. The test depends upon probability theory, molecular biology, information science, computer science to name a few.
The development of intelligent design as a formal, testable theory has been on the greatest advances in understanding origins. This includes the origin of the universe, the origin of life, social systems, embryological development, among many others.
Intelligent design is still a foreign concept to many scientists. Naturalism is very pervasive in scientific circles for good reason; it discovers the causes of natural phenomena.
But naturalism does not explain everything. Intelligent design is a philosophy that follows a testable method used in many fields of science. The implications of the broader scope of intelligent design is threatening to some investigators.
It is a great time to be alive!