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Is intelligent design a legitimate science?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/21/2011 Category: Science
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,743 times Debate No: 17603
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (2)




As a future teacher I would like my opponent to bring up legitimate and relevant reasons as to why intelligent design (or creationism, or any other term for this theory) is science and should therefore be regarded as such in the scientific community and eventually taught in schools.

First Round: Intro
Second Round: CX
Third Round: Rebuttal
Fourth Round: Conclusion


I will be arguing that Intelligent Design is a "science," it is observable and testable, has meaningful predictions, and is falsifiable. It can be put under thescrutiny of the Scientific method. Further, just as religion is taught in school and is not a science, I will be arguing that ID does not have to be a science to be taught in school. I don't see why both biology and ID can't be taught in schools. I will develp these points the following debate.
Debate Round No. 1


I apologize as I was not aware that my initial posting of this debate would count as the first round. For that reason I will include both my introduction and my cross examination of my opponent.


Intelligent design is a hypothesis that states that natural phenomena, specifically the anatomical and physiological traits of living things, are explained by the presence of a creator. As one cannot prove a negative, no one can disprove the presence of this entity. The lack of this ability to disprove does not make this claim true. Just as I can tell you that I can fly and no one can truly know that to be false. It is this quality of intelligent design that makes it a poor science, if it is one at all.

Every hypothesis within science must be tested rigorously and must hold up to most of the findings in other disciplines. For instance, if I was to say that leaches travel faster than the speed of light, this would not become a theory. This is because physics, chemistry, and biology all refute this claim. In this case, evolution and intelligent design are mutually exclusive in that only one explanation can align with current scientific knowledge at one point in time.

The data collection that has been presented thus far for ID has been in the form of "if-then" arguments. An example being, "If this bird is so complex, then it must have been designed." The problem with this is that the word "design" brings about connotations of intelligence. Thus the "intelligent" component of this theory's title. Design does not have to have an intelligent mind behind it. For example, the crystalline structure of some metamorphic rocks is extremely complex. This complexity can be brought about in a laboratory by heating rocks to the point at which their crystalline structures change. There is very little chance that a scientist will know exactly what will happen to this structure but it remains complex nonetheless. Therefore, complexity does not require intelligent thought.

To clarify my point on the usage of intelligent design in schools, I would like to say that intelligent design should not be taught in the context of science. This theory is a very interesting one from a theological or sociological perspective and should be made known to students within those contexts.

Cross Examination

What tests have been performed by intelligent design scientists?
What methods did they use?
What results were found?
How do these results fit in with our current knowledge of how the mechanisms of our world work in disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and biology?
Where can one find the documentation of these findings?
What evidence was left by the creator that allows us to make this entity a more credible source of biological traits than the process of evolution?


What is now known to us in "physics, chemistry, and biology all refute" evolution, and support creation. Even the fossil record agrees with the sudden creation of life forms at specific periods rather than a slow evolution of simple forms to more complex ones. Take for example the Cambrian explosion, in which many complex forms of life appeared with no incomplete life forms linking them to what came before in the gradual procession required by evolutionary standards. From the start of the Cambrian period and reaching about 10 million years (according to evolutionists), all major groups of skeletonized invertebrates made their first appearance in spectacular diversity. Snails, sponges, starfish, etc. Some trilobites even developed more complex and efficient eyes than any living arthropod possesses. In Darwin's time there were no known fossil links between this outburst of life and what went before it. He admitted: "To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer." (The Origin of Species, Part Two, p. 90) Paleontologist A. S. Romer commented on Darwin's statement about "the abrupt manner in which whole groups of species suddenly appear" saying: "Below this [Cambrian period], there are vast thicknesses of sediments in which the progenitors of the Cambrian forms would be expected. But we do not find them; these older beds are almost barren of evidence of life, and the general picture could reasonably be said to be consistent with the idea of a special creation at the beginning of Cambrian times. ‘To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system,' said Darwin, ‘I can give no satisfactory answer.' Nor can we today," (Natural History, "Darwin and the Fossil Record," by Alfred S. Romer, October 1959, pp. 466, 467)

"Design does not have to have an intelligent mind behind it. For example, the crystalline structure of some metamorphic rocks is extremely complex."

Such crystals have uniformity of structure, but are still quite simple, and they lack both complexity and specificity. Also, nature produces patterns, which is what we have in these crystals, but patterns and information are two different things. Information is the product of the mind, not nature.

"What tests have been performed by intelligent design scientists? What methods did they use?"

Reverse engineering of irreducible complex organisms, examination of bacterial life, cells, DNA, cells, etc, under the microscope for complex specified information, to name a few.

What results were found?

Below I give a quote from one of the results of the reverse engineering experiments showing irreducible complexity in the cilium.

""Because the cilium is irreducibly complex, no direct gradual route leads to its production.
So an evolutionary story for the cilium must envision a circuitous route, perhaps adapting
parts that were originally used for other purposes." (Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box, pg. 65-66)
"For example, suppose you wanted to make a mousetrap. In your garage you might have a
piece of wood from an old Popsicle stick (for the platform), a spring from an old wind-up
clock, a piece of metal (for the hammer) in the form of a crowbar, a darning needle for the
holding bar, and a bottle cap that you fancy to use as a catch. But these pieces couldn't form a
functioning mousetrap without extensive modification, and while the modification was going
on, they would be unable to work as a mousetrap. Their previous functions make them illsuited
for virtually any new role as part of a complex system. In the case of the cilium, there
are analogous problems. The mutated protein that accidentally stuck to microtubules would
block their function as "highways" of transport. A protein that indiscriminately bound
microtubules together would disrupt the cell's shape--just as a building's shape would be
disrupted by an erroneously placed cable that accidentally pulled together girders supporting
the building. A linker that strengthened microtubule bundles for structural supports would
tend to make them inflexible, unlike the flexible linker nexin. An unregulated motor protein,
freshly binding to microtubules, would push apart micrutubules that should be close together.
The incipient cilium would not be at the cell surface. If it were not at the cell surface, then
internal beating could disrupt the cell; but even if it were at the cell surface, the number of
motor proteins would probably not be enough to move the cilium. And even if the cilium
moved, an awkward stroke would not necessarily move the cell. And if the cell did move, it
would be an unregulated motion using energy and not corresponding to any need of the cell."
(Do Car Engines Run on Lugnuts? A Response to Ken Miller & Judge Jones's Straw Tests of
Irreducible Complexity for the Bacterial Flagellum (Version 1.0) By Casey Luskin Copyright � 2006 Casey Luskin. All Rights Reserved intelligent design theory -

How do these results fit in with our current knowledge of how the mechanisms of our world work in disciplines such as physics, chemistry, and biology?

Physics: the fine-tuning of the forces that are necessary for life in the universe are such that if adjusted by even one zero in some cases, no life would exist. I.e., many physicists think the electromagnetic force to be 10 to the 40th power times that of gravity. Adding just one more zero to make gravity proportionately weaker, and stars would be smaller, their interiors would not be hot enough to generate nuclear fusion reactions, and hence the sun couldn't shine – no more life! But if we make it just 39 zeros, then the sun's longevity would be drastically reduced, again, wiping out all life on earth. The strong nuclear force binds protons and neutrons in the nucleus of the atom. This binding force facilitates the forming of various elements. If this binding force were just %2 weaker, only hydrogen would exist. If it were slightly stronger only heavier elements such as gold and lead, but no hydrogen would exist. Without hydrogen the sun wouldn't have the needed fuel to give us needed energy, and this hydrogen is an essential element in food and water.

As scientists discovered the elements of the universe, they found that they reflected a distinct order. Because there were gaps in the order, scientists such as Mendeleyev, Ramsay, Moseley, and Bohr theorized the existence of unknown elements and their characteristics. Those elements were discovered just as predicted. Why could those scientists predict that there were forms of matter that were unknown at the time? Because the elements follow a numerical order based on the structure of their atoms. This is a proven law. Thus, school textbooks can set out a periodic table of elements in rows and columns. So the entire universe—even down to its atomic particles—reveals astonishing harmony and order. Such order, harmony, and design among the building blocks of the universe supports the ID hypothesis. Its not what you would expect from blind, meaningless, undirected natural forces.

Biology: DNA carries instructions necessary for the production of proteins, stores and transmits genetic information from one generation of cells to the next. Information, especially coded information, for example morse code, is deliberate, and comes from a mind. Such is more rational for the information in DNA than mere chance or natural forces. Can nature nature write a will? I'll finish in this reply next round.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent's argument has followed the same framing as the argument made by Intelligent Design promoters in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case in Pennsylvania in which members of a school board tried to require the teaching of intelligent design in schools. This case was resolved in favor of the plaintiff. The resulting legislation stated that teaching intelligent design in a public school violated the constitution in that it infringed upon the separation of church and state. The reason that this was ruled so was the the every argument that the ID promoters had came back to a central principle: if science has not proven it to be otherwise, then god is responsible for any and every phenomenon. This is the case in my opponent's argument as well. These arguments are never about the legitimacy of intelligent design. Rather, they are about "holes" in evolutionary theory. These "holes" are then filled in with whatever makes ID look plausible until scientists humor the ID promoters and disprove those claims at the expense of time and money for researchers that should be used to do research that benefits mankind rather than defend science itself from religious fundamentalists.

In the case of the Cambrian explosion, this increase in biological diversity is attributed to geological changes that allowed for greater adaptation, and thus an increased rate of speciation.
The "lack of fossils" argument is key to a classic ID case. Even though only .01% of all life on earth could have ever been fossilized, ID promoters will point to gaps in the fossil record as evidence. It is these types of claims that perpetuate the thought that lack of evidence for evolution justifies the explanation of Intelligent Design without any evidence. In short, if scientists have not studied a piece of natural history, then ID wins by default until scientists waste money refuting this claim with data.

My opponent's argument also revolved around the thought that information lacks patterns and must have a mind to come about. "Also, nature produces patterns, which is what we have in these crystals, but patterns and information are two different things. Information is the product of the mind, not nature." This statement in itself proves nothing. The truth of the matter is that information is MADE of patterns, and universally recognizable ones at that in this case. For instance, DNA is made of patterns of four nucleotide bases in sets of three, called codons. Each codon codes for an amino acid. These amino acids make up proteins which make up all life. For example, if you were to take the DNA sequence that codes for a cell wall and look at all of the nucleotides in the sequence, then reconstruct that same pattern artificially, you would have DNA for a cell wall. It is a pattern because it codes for something specific, but it is a pattern in that it is a sequence of nucleotides that will code for the same thing no matter what ribosome you put it through.

My opponent also brings up the case of "irreducibly complex organisms". Specifically, he refers to the cilium, a structure used for movement in unicellular organisms that is similar in structure to the flagellum. This argument goes as far back as the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case also. In that case, the defendants claimed that if one were to take away one part of a flagellum, it would be rendered useless. This would not allow for evolution to be the explanation. Therefore, ID wins by default again. This claim was refuted in the case but I will repeat the reasoning here. One can find structures in nature that contain only parts of a flagellum motor. One of which is a channel used in bacteria to inject adjacent cells with toxins. If scientists were to use enough money for the research, they could find functions for every phase of flagellum evolution. The reason that every stage is not explained yet is that it is not of scientific significance at this point in that these stages are not useful in the betterment of mankind.

"the fine-tuning of the forces that are necessary for life in the universe are such that if adjusted by even one zero in some cases, no life would exist."
This is true. If physics and chemistry and biology weren't the way they are, then I wouldn't be here to argue this. That is not evidence of a creator. This "fine-tuning" is simply chance. If things were not so "fine-tuned" then we wouldn't know it because we wouldn't exist. This is an argument that ID promoters cannot seem to get past. This is due to the religious base of ID that revolves around a human-inhabited universe. No people, no religion, no ID. It is this lack of consideration that makes ID a poor science.

"So the entire universe—even down to its atomic particles—reveals astonishing harmony and order."
This statement goes against my opponent's previous statement about patterns and intelligence. Order is based upon patterns. Also, this harmony ties in with physics. If one has an element with one proton, it will act differently than one with two protons. This is the reasoning that Mendeleyev, Ramsay, Moseley, and Bohr used to predict the existence of these elements. They did not attribute this order to an intelligent being.

"Its not what you would expect from blind, meaningless, undirected natural forces."
Though I am not one for semantics, this is a blatant oxymoron. A force is something that is directed by definition. An "undirected" natural force does not exist. Natural selection causes mutations to be fixed according to pressures exerted by the environment. Unfavorable traits are not fixed unless if it is by genetic drift in which case one chromosome is used instead of another during reproduction. Even at that, the principle of genetic drift only has precedence in situations involving neutral mutations.

"Information, especially coded information, for example morse code, is deliberate, and comes from a mind. Such is more rational for the information in DNA than mere chance or natural forces. Can nature write at will?"

I have already covered the intelligence vs nature argument. I will now explain how nature can "write at will". DNA is constantly mutated and altered during life of an organism as well as during reproduction in processes such as crossing over. These changes are like drafts of a paper. Most of the time, the organism's systems recognize mutations and get rid of them, thus throwing away the draft. Other times they are passed on. Now time for the peer review. If the mutations cause that organism to reproduce when it otherwise could not, the paper is published in the form of offspring. If that organism not only reproduces, but reproduces more than its competitors, then many copies of this "paper" fill the shelves. In some cases, such as the HOX gene sequences, these "papers" become classics and every organism has them. Thus, nature not only writes at will, it writes efficiently and makes a lot of copies.


Contrary to my opponent's claim, my argument is that that because Science can't explain it, that God did it; rather, that the evidence itself points towards intelligent design. What is the nature of meaningful information? Is such information a product of the mind, or not? These are important questions I'd like him to answer. I maintain the rational view that complex specified information (CSI) is the product of minds, therefore, only a mind could be behind the programming information stored in the DNA. Just ask paper and ink is not information, but only the medium of transporting it, so to the DNA and other organic material is not the information (instructions) themselves, but only the medium. "Genes and proteins are long molecules that contain information in the sequence of their compartments in much the same way as sentences of the English language contain information in the sequence of their letters and words." (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol.18, p.858, The Theory of Evolution) Language is a product of conscious minds, is it not? How then is not the "language" of DNA not the product of intelligence?

Variation within a kind (microevolution) does happen, but there are strict limits to variation that are never crossed. When pushed to extremes by selective breeding to get more milk from cows, bristles from fruit flies, etc, the linage becomes sterile and dies. They don't become new types of creatures. Evolutionists claim it takes to long for evolution to happen for us to see it in the real world with humans and apes, so let's use bacteria. A new generation grows up in a few hours depending on the type and environment (20 mins to 24 hrs). There is much variation and mutation but they never become anything other than bacteria. Fruit flies mature in 9 days, so scientists can test many generations in every conceivable condition, yet they always remain fruit flies. Many generations of fruit flies and bacteria worldwide show evolution just isn't happening. In fact, they used variation to breed fruit flies over hundreds of generations for 35 years, but again they ran into the limits of variation. "Despite decades of sustained selection in relatively small, sexually reproducing laboratory populations, selection did not lead to the fixation of newly arising unconditionally advantageous alleles." "The probability of fixation in wild populations should be even lower than its likelihood in these experiments." --Burke, Molly K., Joseph P. Dunham, Parvin Shahrestani, Kevin R. Thornton, Michael R. Rose, Anthony D. Long. 30 September 2010. Genome-wide analysis of a long-term evolution experiment with Drosophila. Nature, Vol. 467, pp. 587-590.

We don't find in the pre-Cambrian layer the ancestors of clams, snails, trilobites, etc. These sediments were laid down over hundreds of millions of years and are perfectly suited for the preservation of such fossils. Scientist today still find fossils of microscopic bacteria and algae in these sediments; and if the soft tissue organisms without bones were preserved, such as worms and the like, then we should expect to find some of the intermediate forms between these algae, worm, etc, and the complex trilobites of the Cambrian. We should have tons of them, at least more than the lower forms of life beneath them, and be able to trace their evolutionary history. Yet, no one on earth has found the ancestors of the billions of complex vertebra of the Cambrian period. These Cambrian all appear fully formed in separate phyla, unconnected to anything that came before. Clams and snail show no intermediates to show they evolved from a common ancestor. Of the billions of billion of intermediate forms necessary to produce this wide array of distinct phyla, we have none. This supports creation of separate kinds rather than evolution.

To illustrate what I mean when I said that nature produces patterns but not information, let's say a submarine picks up two signals; one of them is Morse code, the other is a simple beat that repeats itself over and over. One of these could be an accident of nature, but the other must be the product of intelligence. Why? Because that Morse code carries a deep meaning that shows it was the product of a mind.

My opponent ignored cilia and chose to focus on the bacteria flagellum, saying that they found a part of the flagellum in nature as if that somehow shows its evolutionary history. He didn't address the fact that separate parts would not be equipped to bond together to form a flagellum. In reply to the fine-tuning of the universe for life he says that if it didn't happen that way, we wouldn't be here; but that hardly answers the question. That's like saying "a watch only looks designed because I'm looking at it, but if I wasn't here to see it wouldn't appear to be." But we all know that when a tree falls it makes a noise even if nobody hears it, so this philosophy won't pass the test. The fact is that the probability of a life-permitting universe is so small that the mere fact that we have one challenges us to believe it was deliberate. It's like the odds of a dealer giving you a perfect flush in a game of cards, not once, but 50 times. There are about 50 constants that all need to be finely tuned for life to exists, and most need to be at the initial "bang" the started the universe. Considering the odds, if its all by change, we really wouldn't be here.

"Most of the time, the organism's systems recognize mutations and get rid of them, thus throwing away the draft."

I agree. Evolutionists set aside natural selection, saying all mutations in DNA needed to build a complicated new part quietly accumulate in the population, perhaps in duplicate genes, because by themselves each of the necessary mutations is neutral, neither beneficial nor harmful. Then, millions of years later, all are in place. The new part starts working, natural selection chooses it, and the improved creature is off to the races. This scenario exists only in the mind of the evolutionist. But we do not find new parts under construction in living creatures or fossils, so it obviously does not happen. Furthermore, everyone agrees that harmful mutations appear many, many times more often than mutations needed for new construction ever could. Over those millions of years, slightly harmful mutations that are hidden, or not destructive enough for natural selection to remove, would also quietly accumulate. This would produce creatures loaded up with highly polluted genes. Survival of the barely functional? We do not find this either because cells have mechanisms that maintain the original design of a creature within its variation boundaries, and minimize the accumulation of mutations. These include:
•A proofreading system that catches almost all errors
•A mismatch repair system to back up the proofreading system
•Photoreactivation (light repair)
•Removal of methyl or ethyl groups by O6 - methylguanine methyltransferase
•Base excision repair
•Nucleotide excision repair
•Double-strand DNA break repair
•Recombination repair
•Error-prone bypass (Weaver, Robert F. 2008. Molecular Biology, Fourth Edition. McGraw-Hill, New York. pp. 660-680)

Harmful mutations happen constantly. Without repair mechanisms, life would be very short indeed and might not even get started because mutations often lead to disease, deformity, or death. So even the earliest, "simple" creatures in the evolutionist's primeval soup or tree of life would have needed a sophisticated repair system. But the mechanisms not only remove harmful mutations from DNA, they would also remove mutations that evolutionists believe build new parts. The evolutionist is stuck with imagining the evolution of mechanisms that prevent evolution, all the way back to the very origin of life.

Why would evolution give our brains such a huge capicity for storing information? Even this fits creation over evolution.
Debate Round No. 3


I would first like to thank my opponent for the opportunity to debate this issue as it is an important one in contemporary education.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, my opponent has failed to show significant, legitimate scientific reasoning behind intelligent design. I do applaud his use of logical arguments to back up his side. This tactic has been infinitely useful in persuading people to take the ID side of this argument. On the other hand, these arguments have no scientific backing. An observation and a conclusion are rarely so closely connected as they have been portrayed in my opponent's argument. All of his arguments have followed the "if-then" logic that works for most anything else in this world, except for science. Science requires a third parameter, "because". Without this vital piece of information, an observation could lead to a limitless number of conclusions. Living things could have just as easily "fallen together by random chance" as is often the summary of evolution by ID proponents.

The bottom line is, I have yet to be convinced that Intelligent Design is a legitimate science. I would not allow this "science" to be taught as such in my classrooms nor in any science classroom in an educational institution that I may work at in that not scrutinizing a science to the full degree and not accepting scrutiny that comes one's way is bad science. Scientists in every discipline have put ID to the test and it has failed. Many hypotheses end this way. For some reason, ID promoters just don't see why they should abandon this hypothesis when most of the scientific community sees it as a joke.

ID is an interesting idea, one that should be noted in theology or cultures classes. Thank you once again everyone for reading this debate and thank you Daley for the opportunity to debate with you. It was a pleasure.


Design theory is no doubt a legitimate science. There are clear signs that tell us if something has been designed or not. Probability theory also comes into play when we consider the chances of any event happening at random, or by necessity of natural laws. It's amazing that if we were to get just one constant signal from deep space in the form of a broadband transmission or a series of prime numbers, we'd know aliens were real. Can we see them? No. Can we get at them with scientific instruments? No. Do we know the mechanism they used to create the message? No. But examining the message in itself tells us so much about the intelligence behind it, just as reaing a book tells us so much about its author though we never met him. I close by asking you readers to simply look at creation in detail. Look at how complex an specified the information in your genes are. The fact that the information in your DNA is "coded." Look at the odds of getting all the constants just right to have a life-permitting universe, and ask yourself, is this really all just an accident of nature? Is your love for your wife and kids just a mere aid to survival passed on by animal ancestors? Or is there something deeper at work here? The more science reveals about us and about our universe, the more it shows that our very existence and nature is so highly improbable, that creation is really the best explanation for us being here to begin with. Intelligent design is a new science, it may take more time to develop, hey, the other sciences had much more time to mature. I know this may sound like an emotional appeal, but if your feelings aren't real, then what are? If your love for those close to you isn't real, then what is? You don't need science to tell you that you love someone, do you? So, emotional? Here it is; search your hearts an ask yourself; am I here for a reason? Or am I just an accidental product of evolution that happend to be because some gene happened to mutate a certain way by chance a hundred thousand years ago? Your choice.

I thank my opponent for debating this with me; it was a pleasure.
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by thejudgeisgod 5 years ago
Not a problem :)
Posted by freedomsquared 5 years ago
You should generally do your resolutions as a statement "Resolved: ...", not a question.
Posted by GreenGlassHead 5 years ago
Thank you for allowing me to clarify that by the way.
Posted by GreenGlassHead 5 years ago
I am proposing that it should not be presented as a science and therefore should not be an alternative to biology. I am all for a broad range in curriculum in all subjects as long as topics stay in relevant subject areas.
Posted by thejudgeisgod 5 years ago
Question: are you proposing that Theology has no place in schools? Or are you proposing that it oughtn't be offered as an alternative to biology?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by ReformedArsenal 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Until Darkness points out where these "terrible arguments" and "lies" are, I'm countering his vote bomb.
Vote Placed by Darknes 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro made terrible arguments and resorted to outright lies.