The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Resolution: Intelligent Design is not a Scientific Theory

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/3/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,348 times Debate No: 20856
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




Round 1 is for Acceptance and a brief statement of purpose. If Con wishes to make opening argumentation and use round 1 as a platform to begin that argument, message me or leave a comment with suggestion of terms and we will come to some agreement.

My Intention will be to demonstrate that it is a category error to classify Intelligent Design as a Scientific Theory.

This debate is primarily philsophical. It is not intended to pertain to the perennial election-cycle legal controversy surrounding teaching Intelligent Design in school. The debate, therefore, will not focus on court rulings or legal testimony, but rather philosophy of science; particularly a discussion of what science is and how it is practiced.

By engaging in this debate, Con is at least implicitly accepting the position "Intelligent Design is a Valid Scientific Theory." Dicussions related to the burden of proof for this debate will be resolved depending on whether Con wants to initiate the debate or to defend against opening argument.


As stated above the debate will be 2 rounds of argumentation and 1 for conclusion.

If terms are settled and Con wishes to begin with opening arguments in Round 1, I would ask that she/he cede the final round of argumentation (round 4) so that we both have equal time in the ring, so to speak. Otherwise, I will begin with my opening argument in Round 2 and we will be off to the races.



I accept this debate. I will use this round for acceptance and allow Pro to make the first argument.
Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, I would like to thank my opponent for taking up my offer to debate on this subject.

As the initiator of the debate, I am happy to take on the burden of proof. It is my intent to demonstrate that Intelligent Design does not meet standards of qualification that distinguish a Scientific Theory from other ideas.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear before we begin though: it is not my intent through this argument to make a value judgement as to the truth or falsity of ID, just show that it is unscientific. Unscientific is not, in this sense, an epithet intended to denigrate an idea as "bad" or "dumb" or "unfounded," rather, it is intended to mean exactly as the Merriam-Webster defines it:

not scientific: as
b: not being in accord with the principles and methods of science


So how does one determine whether or not an idea is scientific? Well as long as were in the Merriam-Webster, let's hop on over to "Scientific Method" and see what it says. The Scientific Method is described here as:

principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses [2]

Basically, if we were to simplify it down to its bare bones science is methodology that aims to explain why things are the way that they are. We all learned the steps to the scientific method in elementary school: observe, research, hypothesize, experiment, conclude, present. Namely: observe a phenomenon (ask a question), see what others who have asked that question have found, come up with an educated guess, test that guess, observe again (your results), and present your results for review. If you discover something new and others are able to repeat and verify your results, then you've added a new observation to the collection of facts in need of explanation. This, at its most basic, is how science works. [3]


Which brings us to Theories. A Theory, in the scientific sense, is either a consistently verified hypothesis (proven again and again through retesting) or a framework used to explain a group of related observations. [4] Colloquially, "theory" often is used as a synonym for "guess"; in the scientific community, however, it is one of the strongest affirmations of an idea's merit. [5] In order to become a theory, an idea has to be supported by a vast body of evidence.

Colloquially, there is sometimes confusion about the difference between a law and a theory. Because the word "law" has a connotation of absolutism and objectivity and theory sounds like a less absolute term, people who don't regularly participate in the scientific community sometimes make the mistake of assuming that a law is more true than a theory. Laws, however, are functionally different from theories. A theory is a principle that is used to explain and predict relations around a set of observations. A law generally predicts how nature will behave in certain circumstances without always providing an explanatory element

For example: Newton's Law of Universal Gravity states that F= G(m1-m2/r^2)

Newton's Theory of Gravity laid out in full in his Principia is an explanation that posits that gravity is a force proportional to the mass between two objects but inversely proportional to the distance between them. [6]

The word Theory is used to describe such influential and established ideas as the Atom, the Germ Theory of Disease, the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection, The Heliocentric Theory (that the earth orbits the sun), and, of course, the Theory of Gravity (among others.) Theories are in no sense absolutely true (which we'll get to in a bit) but they are established, reliable, and respected in the scientific community.

WHAT IS ID (Intelligent Design)?

Intelligent Design is the idea that Darwinian evolution cannot account for the irreducible complexity of living organisms. In place of natural selection, ID posits the existence of a supernatural designer that actively involves itself in the intentional crafting biological creatures through evolutionary processes to arrive at the complexity we observe in even the simplest forms of living organisms today. [7]

For the sake of Brevity I will let that definition of ID stand unless he feels that I've unfairly characterized the idea.

One Note: Intelligent Design should not be confused with classic Creationism. Proponents of Intelligent Design do not question the evolution of complex mufti-cellular life from single-celled organisms, nor do they generally suggest that humans are fundamentally different from the rest of the animal kingdom in that they came to exist by processes other than evolution. The difference between ID and evolution by natural selection is the belief that the evolutionary process is intentionally crafted by a Designer.


To recap, then, in order for something to rightly be called a scientific theory it has to fall within the confines and principles of the scientific method and has to explain a number of observations. It has to begin with an observation or set of observations that propose(s) a question. It has to present a hypothesis that attempts to answer that question. It has to test that hypothesis or test predictions that would be true if the hypothesis were true. It has to observe the results of the experiment, and come to a conclusion that takes the new data into account.

The method begins and ends with observation, and at every point is checked by a principle called falsification. Falsification is the idea that if a supposed scientific "theory" doesn't yield testable results (if it can't be proven to be false) then it isn't really science. It's one of the primary ways that science is distinguished from both pseudoscience and philosophy. [8] This very point has led to contention by a number of theoretical physicists that "String Theory" should be considered more a philosophical idea than scientific theory at this point since it's not an idea that makes testable predictions. [9]

THE ARGUMENT (at last)

Being that a scientific theory is classified as an idea with explanatory power that falls within the parameters and confines of the scientific method, and being that the scientific method requires the checks of either direct or indirect testability (falsifiability) to in order for an idea to fall under the umbrella of science, I think that it's clear that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory.

Intelligent Design posits as its primary explanatory principle a totally untestable and unverifiable variable: namely, its Designer. It can never be falsified because the idea of a Designer is neither predictive nor testable. You cannot design a test to specifically demonstrate that a Designer takes an active role in evolutionary development. Also, because of the arbitrary nature of an Intelligent Agent, you can't use the notion of a designer to make any predictions about the ways things would be if the theory were true. Basically, an Intelligent Designer will always design things to be the way that they are (or, at least, it cannot be demonstrated that he wouldn't), so the observations or predictions of Intelligent Design are always post-hoc reasoning based on a preconceived bias.

It may be a philosophical idea, but it does not meet the criteria to be a scientific theory. That does not make it bad; it makes it not science.

I await my opponent's response.



I would like to thank Pro for initiating this challenge.

Unfortunately, I became very busy this weekend and was not able to give the debate the attention it deserves. So I must, unfortunately, concede the round to Pro. If he wishes, he may push his arguments to the next round or claim victory of the debate. I'm not sure what the protocol on this site is for conceded/forfeited rounds. I do apologize.
Debate Round No. 2


I appreciate CON's Predicament. I know that real life can occasionally pull us away from our "Internet obligations." In the spirit of the conversation, I will pass this round and use round four to rebut CON's opening argument and briefly conclude. My one request is that CON uses round four towards similar purposes and doesn't introduce any new arguments in his response to my rebuttal or his conclusion.

I look forward to CON's response.


I would like to thank Pro's understanding in the matter, and I fully expect to lose the point for conduct due to having to concede the last round. I will use this round as argumentation and then conclude in the next and last round.

What is science?

Before I begin I would like to add something to the definition of science. Science comes from the Latin word, scientia, which means "knowledge." [1] From this definition alone, any area that teaches us about the world around us or how it came to be should be considered a scientific pursuit, even if the effects of it can't be immediately seen or felt in the world around us.

In fact, more than a couple hundred years ago, the scientists were the theologians and philosophers. Science gave philosophy a way of empirically testing theories and concepts, while philosophy has helped to develop the scientific method used today. [2]

Until after the lifetime of Darwin, the developers of modern science were creationists, in that they believed in the supernatural origin of the universe and of life. Their number includes: Johann Kepler, Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, and many others. [3]

Isaac Newton once noted: "The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One." [4]

Not only were founders of modern science creationists, but the very concept of creation was a significant factor in the impetus for science. M. B. Foster, writing in the prestigious English journal, Mind, in 1934 observed that: "The general question arises: What is the source of the un-Greek elements which were imported into philosophy by the post-reformation philosophers, and which constitute the modernity of modern philosophy? And...what is the source of those un-Greek elements in the modern theory of nature by which the peculiar character of the modern science of nature was to be determine? The answer to the first question is: The Christian revelation, and the answer to the second: The Christian doctrine of creation" (p.448).

Two Different Kinds of Science

It is a common misconception that the universe and all forms of life being created by God is not considered true science because science deals with theories that can be verified by testing. However, this objection is based on a misunderstanding of two kinds of science: empirical and forensic. Operation science deals with the world as it now exists and origin science deals with the past. Operation science is an empirical science that deals with present regularities, but origin science is a forensic science that considers past singularities -- the origin of the universe and life-forms.

The "big bang," macro-Evolution, and abiogenesis belong in the realm of origin science, as does creationism. They were events that happened in the past and all we have are the results to test. Since there is no direct way to test a theory or model of origin science, it must be judged to be plausible or implausible, based on how consistently and comprehensively it reconstructs the unobserved past in conformity with the available evidence.

If we are to reject Intelligent Design as unscientific, one must also reject macro-Evolution for the same reason.

Intelligent Design is scientific.

A creationist view of origins is just as scientific as an Evolutionist's view of naturalistic evolution. Both are origin science, not operational science. Both deal with past singularities and take a forensic approach by reconstructing a plausible scenario of the past unobserved event in the light of the evidence that remains in the present. Both use the principles of causality and analogy. Both seek an appropriate explanation of the data. Both sometimes appeal to a primary (intelligent) cause to explain the data. Archaeology posits an intelligent cause for pottery. Anthropologists do the same for ancient tools. Likewise, when creationists see the same kind of specified complexity in a simple one-cell animal, such as the first living thing is supposed to be, they too posit an intelligent cause for it. Their view is as scientific in procedure as the evolutionists when they offer a natural explanation for the first living thing.

Likewise, the creationists' view of the origin of the cosmos is as scientific as is the evolutionists' position. Both use scientific evidence in the present. And both use the principle of causality. The creationist points to the evidence for the Second Law of Thermodynamics that the universe is running down as evidence that it had a beginning along with the other evidence for the Big Bang Theory. This, combined with the principle of causality, yields the conclusion that:

1. The cosmos had a beginning.
2. Everything that begins had a cause.
3. Therefore, the cosmos had a cause.

I believe it is quite evident that Intelligent Design is as scientific as Evolution. I look forward to our final round.

[3] Geisler, Norman L., The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Books, p. 168
[4] Netwon, Isaac, General Sholium in Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, p. 369
Debate Round No. 3


I'm glad to see that CON was able to find time for such a thorough response. I'd like briefly address a few of the arguments that my opponent made before reaffirming my initial position, which I believe remains unchallenged.

Before moving on to rebuttal though I would like to make the point that the development of the scientific method is a process that, as my opponent rightly pointed out, played itself out over the course of several centuries of thought and experimentation. Being that, due to circumstance, we've only been allotted one round of argumentation and one of rebuttal in what is certainly a thorny if not overly-complex topic, I would be happy to rehash this conversation in a more complete manner regardless of the outcome of this debate if my opponent feels at his position has not been as completely presented as he would wished.


My opponent has made several claims around Intelligent Design and the philosophy of Science, but has only indirectly addressed the initial claim rather than directly refuting it. Briefly, he begins from the position that "any area that teaches us about the world around us ... should be considered science" .... a claim that is clearly fallacious. The reason that we have different words for different disciplines is precisely because they are different. A Jackson Pollock painting may teach us a good deal about the world around us, but it most certainly should not be referred to as a scientific work. [1] Similarly, the metaphysics of Aristotle, the arguments of Aquinas, and even this very conversation, while based observation and logical argumentation and while striving to "teach about the world", are more rightly considered philosophy than science because they do not follow the scientific method. That is what distinguishes Science from the Arts, Philosophy, Religion, Logic and Mathematics, and other realms of higher thought.


My opponent, in his treatment of Isaac Newton also neglected to mention that he and many of the other great scientists of his day were also avid alchemists. Their value to the history of scientific thought notwithstanding, I think that you'd find few laymen or experts willing to argue that alchemy is as scientifically valid as modern chemical theory or that the steps of transmutation should be taught alongside the periodic table simply because Isaac Newton was an alchemist. [2] Isaac Newton is well known not because of his work in biology or chemistry, but in the physical sciences.


The distinction between empiric and forensic science is here a manufactured division. In my opening argument I made the point that a scientific idea can be tested either directly or indirectly. The theory or general relativity, for example, was originally created to explain some observations of Mercury's orbit that classical mechanics couldn't explain, it wasn't however, considered a validated theory despite its explanatory power until 1919 when Arthur Eddington tested a prediction made by general relativity that the gravity of the sun could cause light to bend. [3] Through this indirect mode of testing (experimentation based around a prediction of the theory ... not the specific considerations of the theory) the general theory of relativity was verified ... particularly after a follow up experiment in 1922 confirmed Eddington's observations.

Similarly, the idea that would become the modern big bang theory was hotly contested in the scientific community and deemed by many to be unscientific philosophical speculation until 1967 when the cosmic microwave background radiation (a prediction of the big bang theory) was accidentally discovered by two scientists trying to conduct radio observations. [4] In this case again, indirect empirical evidence lines up with the predictions of the theory. If the radiation had not been discovered, or if Hubble's Law turned out to conflict rather than confirm the predictions of the big bang and inflationary theory [5] They would have been discarded as unscientific regardless of implications about cosmic origins. Again, in line with the scientific method, these ideas are checked at every stage by observation and falsifiability. If at any point a bit of data had conflicted fundamentally with their predictions, the theories would need to be restructured to take in the new data or discarded for new theories. That is how science works.

I would challenge readers still taken by the possible distinction between forensic and empiric science to do a google search for "forensic vs. empirical science." The one source that pops up is a creationist website followed by several referring to the forensic science we're used to watching on Law and Order or CSI. [6] The distinction is not recognized by the scientific community. If an idea cannot be directly or indirectly tested than it is not science.


My opponent has referred throughout his argument to "creationism" and "creationists." I would like to remind any readers that this debate is not about classic creationism per se. It is about intelligent design. Both intelligent design and evolution by natural selection accept that the origin of species is explained by evolution from single celled organism to the modern diversity of living species today (due to the overwhelming evidence and consistent reconfirmation of evolution itself and its predictions). Creationism ... a thoroughly and unambiguously religious idea that the earth and all its animals were created by a divine creator is much easier to distinguish as religious than the more deistic notion of an intelligent designer using natural processes to craft the diversity of life. Both, however, have the common element of an unfalsifiable explanatory principle at their center. Creationism vs. evolution is another debate that I would be happy to take up with CON at a later but it is unfortunately only tangential to the current conversation.


I will restate my original point as it remains unchallenged: this deistic idea is not a scientific idea. In order to be scientific it would have to meet the criteria of a scientific theory. My opponent has provided an alternate definition of science that is clearly fallacious and ignores the point that we use categories to distinguish between different things. My opponent has provided an argument from authority. My opponent has asserted as a blunt fact a distinction between a science that deals with the past and a science that explains present phenomenon while ignoring that both are, in fact, based on empirical evidence (either direct or indirect). I will restate that this distinction is not recognized by the scientific community at large and would probably even be rejected by many intelligent design proponents.

My opponent has not, however, shown that my initial argument is anything other than true. If anything, his final assertion (a philosophical argument of causality) only serves to underline the distinction between philosophy and science. Both use logic and induction to teach us things about the world, but they do so by different methods. Philosophy accomplishes by argumentation based on logical rules and axioms. Science does this by argumentation based on observation and experiment. The Big Bang is a scientific theory. His syllogism is a philosophical idea ... as is intelligent design. Neither can be experimentally verified at this time and so are unfalsifiable. This does not make them bad ideas. It simply makes them philosophical rather than scientific in nature.

Vote Pro.









I apologize. I'm going to have to concede this debate. My life has just gotten busy and since this is a topic I haven't really debated before, it's a topic I'm having to research extensively. I just haven't had the time to do the research. So I must concede the debate, and I hope he tries again and finds an opponent with more time to debate this topic. Please vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Knologist_Prime 4 years ago
So you are saying, Intelligent Design is not believable or plausible?

Then explain, animal husbandry, as an example. Is that not people with intelligence, designing a certain type of breed of animal they want and expect to see to as the end result?
By using intelligent breeding methods?

I have not ever read where evolutionist scientist have observed intimate elements 'deciding' on their own to come together and form a so-called simple living cell? Have you?

When evolutionary scientist do an experiment to prove some sort of evolution process, are not they the "external influence" that are using intelligence to bring about a so-called 'mindless, thoughtless, and happened by chance' occurrence, that they 'say' happened with no outside external influence?

Talk about unreasonableness and unscientific failure in logical thinking.

Evolution cannot rightly use any terms of, words of intelligence.

You can't use 'make, build, plan, create, remembered, pass down' and words like these.
Because evolution is all about mindless, thoughtless, chance.

And evolutionist cannot prove it. All they do is throw a lot of words up hoping to confuse people cause they are confused themselves.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by KRFournier 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: All points to Pro for Con's concession. I will say, this does seem to be a battle of definitions. I like how Con showed that ID and Macro-Evolution--however they are classified--ought to be classified similarly.