A parent’s guide to intelligent design and science education

An excellent PDF report prepared by the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

Here are the contents:


  • Part 1: What Is Intelligent Design?
  • Part 2: What Is Evolution?
  • Part 3: What are the Scientific Problems with Neo-Darwinian Evolution?
  • Part 4: How Can Parents Influence Evolution-Education in Local Schools?
  • Part 5: What is Theistic Evolution?
  • Part 6: What Can Parents do to Support Intelligent Design?
  • Part 7: Basic Tips for Parents and Students
  • Part 8: Recommended Resources

First, there’s a definition of intelligent design: (the thing that people in the news media never define correctly!)

Intelligent design (“ID”) is a scientific theory which holds that some features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID theorists argue that design can be inferred by studying the informational properties of natural objects to determine if they bear the type of information that, in our experience, arises from an intelligent cause.

Proponents of neo-Darwinian evolution contend that the information in life arose via purposeless, blind, and unguided processes. ID proponents contend that the information in life arose via purposeful, intelligently guided processes. Both claims are scientifically testable using scientific methods employed by standard historical sciences. ID is based upon the claim that there are “telltale features of living systems and the universe which are best explained by an intelligent cause.”

Scientists investigating ID compare observations of how intelligent agents design things to observations of phenomena whose origin is unknown. Human intelligent agents provide a large dataset for studying the products of the action of intelligent agents. Mathematician and philosopher William Dembski observes that “[t]he principal characteristic of intelligent agency is directed contingency, or what we call choice.” When “an intelligent agent acts, it chooses from a range of competing possibilities” to create some complex and specified event. Dembski calls ID “a theory of information” where “information becomes a reliable indicator of design as well as as a proper object for scientific investigation.” ID seeks to find in nature the types of information which are known to be produced by intelligent agents, thus inferring a prior action of intelligence.

The type of information which indicates design is generally called “specified complexity” or “complex and specified information” (CSI). Dembski suggests that design can be detected when one finds a rare or highly unlikely event (making it complex) that conforms to an independently derived pattern (making it specified).

Intelligent design looks at features of nature, like cosmic fine-tuning and DNA, and infers an intelligent cause because of the nature of the effect. Information is best explained by an intelligence. Computer programs are best explained by an intelligence. Blog posts are best explained by an intelligence. Cross stitched art is best explained by an intelligence. Intelligence can create complex things that are composed of simple parts that are sequenced together in such a way that they have meaning and purpose that is independent of the properties of the components themselves.

Here’s a good video explaining intelligent design applied to biological information in proteins and DNA: (suitable for complete beginners)

For anyone who is looking for a good basic book on intelligent design, I recommend “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design” by Johnathan Wells. He holds a Ph.D in biology from the University of California at Berkeley. The best intermediate book on intelligent design is Stephen Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell“. He has a Ph.D in the philosophy of science from Cambridge University. The best advanced book is Michael Behe’s “The Edge of Evolution“. He has a Ph.D in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. For Christians looking to understand the relationship between science, evolution and monotheism, I recommend “God and Evolution” edited by Jay Richards. He has a Ph.D in philosophy and theology from Princeton University.

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