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Casey Luskin Scientist and Public Defender of ID

Does Intelligent Design Theory Implement the Scientific Method?

Published at Idea Center
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The Short Answer: Yes. The scientific method goes from observation –> hypothesis –> experiment –> conclusion. Intelligent design begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex and specified information (CSI). Design theorists hypothesize that if objects were designed, they will contain CSI. They then seek to find CSI. One easily testable form of CSI is irreducible complexity (IC). ID researchers can then experimentally reverse-engineer biological structures to see if they are IC. If they find them, they can conclude design. 

The Long Answer:

Intelligent design uses the scientific method to detect design. The following is a description of the scientific method:The Scientific Method

Basic Intelligent Design

i. Observation

The ways that intelligent agents act can be observed in the natural world and described. When intelligent agents act, it is observed that they produce high levels of “complex-specified information” (CSI). CSI is basically a scenario which is unlikely to happen (making it complex), and conforms to a pattern (making it specified). Language and machines are good examples of things with much CSI. From our understanding of the world, high levels of CSI are always the product of intelligent design. 

ii. Hypothesis

If an object in the natural world was designed, then we should be able to examine that object and find the same high levels of CSI in the natural world as we find in human-designed objects. 

iii. Experiment

We can examine biological structures to test if high CSI exists. When we look at natural objects in biology, we find many machine-like structures which are specified, because they have a particular arrangement of parts which is necessary for them to function, and complex because they have an unlikely arrangement of many interacting parts. These biological machines are “irreducibly complex,” for any change in the nature or arrangement of these parts would destroy their function. Irreducibly complex structures cannot be built up through an alternative theory, such as Darwinian evolution, because Darwinian evolution requires that a biological structure be functional along every small-step of its evolution. “Reverse engineering” of these structures shows that they cease to function if changed even slightly. 

iv. Conclusion

Because they exhibit high levels of CSI, a quality known to be produced only by intelligent design, and because there is no other known mechanism to explain the origin of these “irreducibly complex” biological structures, we conclude that they were intelligently designed. 

Intelligent Design as a Theory of Information:

Putting Intelligent Design to the Test:

Table 1. Ways Designers Act When Designing (Observations):
(1) Take many parts and arrange them in highly specified and complex patterns which perform a specific function.
(2) Rapidly infuse any amounts of genetic information into the biosphere, including large amounts, such that at times rapid morphological or genetic changes could occur in populations.
(3) ‘Re-use parts’ over-and-over in different types of organisms (design upon a common blueprint). 
(4) Be said to typically NOT create completely functionless objects or parts (although we may sometimes think something is functionless, but not realize its true function). 
Table 2. Predictions of Design (Hypothesis):
(1) High information content machine-like irreducibly complex structures will be found.
(2) Forms will be found in the fossil record that appear suddenly and without any precursors.
(3) Genes and functional parts will be re-used in different unrelated organisms.
(4) The genetic code will NOT contain much discarded genetic baggage code or functionless “junk DNA”.
Table 3.  Examining the Evidence (Experiment and Conclusion):
Line of EvidenceData (Experiment)Prediction of Design Met? (Conclusion)
(1) Biochemical complexity / Laws of the Universe.High information content machine-like irreducibly complex structures are commonly found. The bacterial flagellum is a prime example. Specified complexity found in the laws of the universe may be another. Yes.
(2) Fossil RecordBiological complexity (i.e. new species) tend to appear in the fossil record suddenly and without any similar precursors. The Cambrian explosion is a prime example. Yes.
(3) Distribution of Molecular and Morphological CharacteristicsSimilar parts found in different organisms. Many genes and functional parts not distributed in a manner predicted by ancestry, and are often found in clearly unrelated organisms. The “root” of the tree of life is a prime example. Yes.
(4) DNA Biochemical and Biological FunctionalityIncreased knowledge of genetics has created a strong trend towards functionality for “junk-DNA.” Examples include recently discovered functionality in some pseudogenes, microRNAs, introns, LINE and ALU elements. Examples of DNA of unknown function persist, but discovery of function may be expected (or lack of current function still explainable under a design paradigm).Yes.