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

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: 6/2/2014 Category: Religion
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,132 times Debate No: 55940
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




I will argue that Intelligent Design is not a valid scientific theory.

This debate is not to discuss the merits or perceived problems with evolution.

The definition of a scientific theory shall be taken directly off the wikipedia page:

  1. First round acceptance only please.
  2. Con should support that ID is a scientific theory.
  3. Pro (myself) will support that ID is not a scientific theory.
  4. Any factual or scientific claims made outside of the linked Wikipedia definition should have source. Sources should preferably be from credible and established scientific organisations and institutions.
  5. Any other claims (historical, etc) should provide sources as well, so that readers can easily verify and investigate.
  6. All debate is to be polite and respectful.




I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


As discussed in the debate topic, a scientific theory is:

A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation andexperimentation.[1][2] ...Scientific theories are testable and make falsifiable predictions... This is significantly different from the common usage of the word "theory", which implies that something is a guess (i.e., unsubstantiated and speculative).[5]

This gives us at least two criterion for a scientific theory:

1. It must be repeatedly confirmed.
2. It must be testable and falsifiable.

I contend that neither are case for Intelligent Design.


Intelligent design has never been confirmed through the scientific method, by observation or via experimentation. Credible journals lack any peer-reviewed publications supportive of Intelligent Design, and one can see that a search of the internationally renown Nature journal for Intelligent Design only brings up criticsm of intelligent design or studies of it as a social development [1]. I therefore invite my opponent to provide examples of peer reviewed articles supporting intelligent design. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that this is not a conversation on evolution, and an article bringing up a perceived problem or inconsistency with evolution is not presenting evdidence for Intelligent Design.

It is also important to note published articles for ID do exist, indeed there are several ID targeted journals which are not credible. I am therefore asking for published articles to be restricted to known, high quality journals.

The lack of publicaions (and thus peer-reviewed, credible confirmtion) is nicely summed up from the results of the famour Kitzmiller v Dover School Trial [2]. From page 87 and 88 of the official findings [3], we have:

"A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory...On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: “There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” (22:22-23 (Behe))... In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing. (28:114-15 (Fuller); 18:22-23, 105-06 (Behe))."


The largest problem with Intelligent Design is that it makes no predictions, there is no way to falsify the idea. My opponent is free to provide methods by which ID can be falsified to show me wrong. This comes from the simple fact that an intelligent designer is consistent with any evidence. For example, looking at the similarity of human and chimp DNA, it is often argued to be consistent with ID, for the designer to use a similar code. However, were the similarity not the case, it is also consistent with ID if the designer decided to use a different genetic code, and thus both scenarios are always consistent with ID. ID propoents often regularly confuse attacks on evolution as predictions for ID [4] (please see page 71 and 64 of [3]).

I would therefore request from my opponent how ID is falsifiable, and ask why ID has failed to gain traction and peer-reviewed suport in the scientific community [5].








I would like to begin by stating that the designer as referred to by the term "intelligent design" is not necessarily a god. The designer can also be referring to highly advanced aliens capable coming to Earth and creating life [1]. I will be arguing that intelligent design by aliens is a scientific theory.

For it to be possible for aliens to travel to a distant planet and create life there, two things must be possible: the ability to travel to a distant planet, and the ability to genetically engineer life. The fact that we have travelled to the moon [2] proves that space travel is possible. We have also successfully genetically engineered animals [3]. These are two examples of experiments that help demonstrate the possibility that aliens before us could have had the ability to come to Earth and create all life forms on Earth. Also both of these examples have been repeated. This gives some confirmation to intelligent design by aliens, which gives some confirmation to intelligent design in general.

If it can be proven that everything we observe can more likely be explained by natural processes, it would falsify intelligent design. Intelligent design predicts that this will not be proven, thus intelligent design is falsifiable.

Whether or not intelligent design is supported by peer reviews in the scientific community is irrelevant to whether or not intelligent design is a scientific theory. I have shown that intelligent design has confirmation and falsifiability, thus showing that intelligent design meets the two criteria stated to be necessary for something to be considered a scientific theory.

Debate Round No. 2


I thank RainbowDash52 for his response, however I do feel concerned that my opponent is using the terms confirmation and falsifiabilty in non-scientific ways.


My opponent seems to have confused Intelligent Design in general with whether or not advanced space travel is possible. Quoting again from the agreed upon definition:

A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is... repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.[1][2]

It should be immediately obvious that travelling to the moon and cloning animals is evidence respectively that we can utilise space travel and genetic manipulation, and nothing further. It cannot be said that humans landing on the moon is evidence for an intelligent designer, as the moon landing is physically possible whether or not we are intelligently designed. I ask for my opponent, if any variant of Intelligent Design (including the alien variant) has been confirmed by observation and/or experimentation to simply provide me the published, peer-reviewed literature. However, as I think both my opponent and I know, there will be scant luck in finding an article titled "Alien Intelligent Design confirmed by moon landing."

My opponent says whether or not peer-reviewed articles exist is irrelevant to the question of if ID is a scientific theory. This to me seems to be confusing a scientific hypothesis (in which he would be correct) to a scientific theory. A requirement for a scientific theory, as mention in the quote above, is to be repeatedly confirmed in the scientific field. How someone can claim something is scientifically confirmed but be unable to provide any scientific literature demonstrating this is honestly confusing to me.

In order to help my opponent in his search for evidence, I wish to point out that confirmatory evidence can be judged quickly on one easy question: "If the evidence was the other way, would it disconfirm the theory?". For example, with the moon landing, we can see that even if humans had not managed to land on the moon that there would be no outcry from the Intelligent Design community. Indeed, ID was prevalent in laymen before and after the moon landing.


Unfortunately, my opponent makes another mistake in this section, when he infers that the success of natural processes would falsify intelligent design. This is trivially incorrect if we use the given alien example, as it is of course perfectly logically possible for the aliens to have been created by natural processes, and Earth life by aliens, thus showing that a complete natural explanation in fact has nothing to do with Intelligent Design.

To illustrate the concept of falsifiable predictions further, I shall present several examples:

1. The theory of evolution predicts tranisitional forms from one species to the next as time progresses. Thus, finding a fossil of a descendent older than that of its ancestor would overturn evolution. Ie, if we found a chicken in the precambrian.
2. General relativity predicts that the curvature of space depends on the energy content. Thus if we found increased energy content did not increase curvature, general relativity would be overthrown.
3. The heliocentric theory predicts that the planets revolve around the sun and not the earth. Thus if we found planetary motion with the earth as a focus and not the sun, the heliocntric theory would be overturned.

Notice that in every example the theory makes a prediction which can be direclty tested and observed, and the prediction makes a risk - that is, if we did not find what we expect it disconfirms the theory.

I would like my opponent to provide a unique and falsifiable prediction which can be observed currently in the natural world or in experimentation that would cause ID to be discarded if incorrect.


I still await scientific literature on the falsifiable predictions made by ID which have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation.


I would like to mention that when it comes to science, there is no such thing as 100% proof. Science is only capable of proving claims to a certain degree of likelihood. For example, every time we observe an object fall as predicted by Newtonian physics, it increases the likelihood of Newtonian physics being correct, but no matter how many times we observe this, Newtonian physics will never be proven correct with 100% certainty. Since 100% confirmation of a hypothesis is unobtainable using science, in order to make a hypothesis confirmed, it only needs to be confirmed to a certain degree of certainty. And it is the case that ID has a certain degree of confirmation. Alien ID predicts space travel is possible, and going to the moon confirms this scientific prediction giving a certain degree of confirmation to ID theory, thus alien ID is scientifically confirmed.

Not everything that is scientifically verified appears in peer-reviewed articles. Science can be done by anyone anywhere, regardless of whether or not these scientific experiments are mentioned in peer reviewed articles.

As for my opponent"s request for evidence where "If the evidence was the other way, would it disconfirm the theory?" The definition of "disconfirm" is "Show that (a belief or hypothesis) is not or may not be true." [1] Yes if it was the case that we did not go to the moon, it would show that space travel may not be possible, therefor alien ID may not be true. So yes, if the evidence was the other way, it would disconfirm the theory.

I will give a more specific example of something that would falsify ID. All versions of ID would rely on evolution from a universal common ancestor being false. I will not be discussing the validity of evolution as agreed on, but I will point out that if certain evidence was observed, it would prove evolution to a strong enough degree to falsify ID, and thus ID predicts that such evidence will never be found. One example of evidence that could confirm evolution and falsify ID would be finding multiple series of unambiguous transitional fossils. People have searched for such fossils for over a hundred years, and none have been found. ID is easily falsified, but has not been falsified after hundreds of years of discovering fossils.

As for my opponent"s request for scientific literature making falsifiable predictions for ID that have been repeatedly confirmed, here: [2] under the sections "Table 2. Predictions of Design (Hypothesis):" and "Table 3. Examining the Evidence (Experiment and Conclusion):".

Debate Round No. 3


Unfortunately my opponent continues to misunderstand how evidence works in scientific enquiry. A proposition has confirmatory evidence, if we observe something that would not be expected if the proposition was false. For example, if evolution was false, we would not expect to find transitional fossils, and thus finding transitional fossils is confirmatory evidence that evolution is correct.My opponent states that us developing [limited] space travel confirms intelligent design. But obviously we would not expect space travel to be impossible without intelligent design, and hence space travel and the question of whether or not we are intelligently designed have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

I wish to clarify to my opponent that I fully understand that space-travel is a prerequisite for alien intelligent design. However, the question here is if intelligent design in general is a scientific theory. Having prerequisites is not the same as making testable, falsifiable predictions.

My opponent then tries to explain his inability to find any credible scientific sources supporting this claims by stating science can be done anywhere, by anyone. However, the scientific process - creating a model, determining predictions, running rigorous experiments to test the model and having the results reviewed up experts in the field - is obviously not the same as arm-chair philosophy or thought experiments.

My opponent again states that ID is incompatible with absolute confirmation of universal descent from evolution. This is obviously incorrect if we, just like in the previous post, take con's alien intelligent design idea - where alien life forms intelligent design a single species on Earth and it then evolves into all life seen today. More importantly, a scientific theory has to be evaluated on its own merits, not in reference to other theories. ID frequently also employs the reverse technique, by stating that if evolution is disconfirms, it supports ID. Referring back to a previous source (as new arguments and information should not enter a concluding statement), from the Kitzmiller v Dover trial [1]:

"ID is at bottom premised upon a false dichotomy, namely, that to the extent evolutionary theory is discredited, ID is confirmed. ..."the defendants relied upon the same false premise as the two model approach ... all evidence which criticized evolutionary theory was proof in support of creation science.” ...We do not find this false dichotomy any more availing to justify ID today than it was to justify creation science two decades ago."

I thank my opponent for trying to provide some proper predictions of ID that allow it to be tested, though I find his source not credible. In the first post for scientific sources to be from credible and established scientific organisations and institutions, not from an author from the scientifically discredited religious organisation the Discover Institute. All 'predictions' made in the linked article are already expected under evolution, and would not disconfirm intelligent design if found wrong. For example, the third prediction is that genes and functional parts will get reused between organisms. Not only is this already expected from evolution (so now there is no way to uniquely test ID), it is perfectly logically consistent for an intelligent designer to not reuse parts. This is trying to play it both ways, and is scientifically useless.


My opponent is supporting that ID is a scientific hypothesis - that it is testable and makes predictions that have been repeatedly observed and confirmed. My opponents has been unable to substantiate that statement with any scientific literature from any credible scientific journal, and given the complete lack of credible scientific support, I believe it is clearly obvious that ID does not fulfill the requirements of a scientific theory.



My opponent dismissed my source because the author was from the Discovery Institute, and my opponent claims the Discovery Institute is scientifically discredited. My opponent failed to give any sources to support his/her claim that the Discovery Institute has been scientifically discredited. As a reminder, the burden of proof is on my opponent to prove that intelligent design is not a scientific theory, so the burden of proof is on my opponent to prove that my source is not credible, which he/she has not done.

My opponent attempted to discredit my examples of scientific evidence for ID by stating:
1. evidence against evolution is not evidence for ID
2. successful predictions made by ID that are shared with predictions of evolution is not evidence for ID

Individually my opponent's arguments would be valid, but when predictions that are shared with ID and evolution prove to be correct, and when there is evidence against evolution, together these are clearly evidence for ID, so my examples of scientific evidence for ID are valid.

My opponent also tried to discredit my source by saying "it is perfectly logically consistent for an intelligent designer to not reuse parts." I will argue that if it were the case that it is logical for an intelligent designer not to reuse parts, my opponent should have been able to give an example of something that was intelligently designed that did not have reused parts, which he/she has not given. A good reason for why it is logical for intelligent design to not reuse parts has not been given.

My opponent was unable to give evidence of my source being discredited, so it may be the case that my source is credible and makes ID well-substantiated. My opponent has also failed in his/her attempt at discrediting my scientific evidence for ID required for making ID a scientific theory. In conclusion, my opponent has failed to fulfill his/her burden of proof of why ID is not a scientific theory.
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Samreay 7 years ago
Awesome, I'll check the page out. Cheers.
Posted by KuriouserNKuriouser 7 years ago
Here's a cool page for anyone who wants to learn more of the evidence for evolution and keep up with the latest developments in the field:
Posted by Mike_10-4 7 years ago
Could the Laws of Nature be the footprint of Intelligent Design? The Constructal Law gives a very good display of such a footprint.
Posted by Samreay 7 years ago
Hi saxman. That indeed is indeed correct. However, both evolution and ID are non-random processes, so I suppose that is alright. But I am trying to keep evolution out of this debate, and simply see if people think ID satisfies the basic requirements to be considered a scientific theory.
Posted by saxman 7 years ago
Life is like a clock. It is too complex to have formed randomly.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by KuriouserNKuriouser 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro demonstrated the invalidity of Con's arguments and offers credible and objective testimony, for example, the judicial ruling that ID is not scientific, to support his case. Pro correctly pointed out the errors in Con's reasoning. For example, Con's argument that going to the moon was evidence of ID via aliens. Pro showed that Con mistook the fact that something is conceivable as evidence that it actually happened. Pro points out that Con's argument that problems with evolutionary theory are support for ID is a false dichotomy. The requirement of falsification in science is not met by falsifying another theory. Con seems to misunderstand the concept as it is understood in science.

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