How to Test for Intelligent Design

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 04/01/2011

Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute writes an interesting article in response to a scientist’s statement that “the Intelligent Design hypothesis is untestable by science, exactly because we can never empirically know or understand the actions of God or any other Intelligent Designer.”

Luskin points out that, on the contrary, we can understand when actions are being taken by intelligent designers (such as human beings), and from that, make testable predictions.

He first identifies four ways in which designers act:

  • Intelligent agents think with an “end goal” in mind, allowing them to solve complex problems by taking many parts and arranging them in intricate patterns that perform a specific function...
  • Intelligent agents can rapidly infuse large amounts of information into systems...
  • Intelligent agents re-use functional components that work over and over in different systems (e.g., wheels for cars and airplanes)...
  • Intelligent agents typically create functional things (although we may sometimes think something is functionless, not realizing its true function)...

Then Luskin follows up with four predictions that can be made from these observations of designers:

  • Natural structures will be found that contain many parts arranged in intricate patterns that perform a specific function (e.g. complex and specified information).
  • Forms containing large amounts of novel information will appear in the fossil record suddenly and without similar precursors.
  • Convergence will occur routinely. That is, genes and other functional parts will be re-used in different and unrelated organisms.
  • Much so-called “junk DNA” will turn out to perform valuable functions.

He concludes by comparing the predictions to the evidence and explaining the ways in which a hypothesis of design, far from being a “science-stopper,” has led to an increase in scientific knowledge.

I think the clearest example of how all of this works is the “junk DNA” issue. If one expects to find bits of purposeless DNA left over from random evolution, is that not a “science-stopper”? Wouldn’t one be likely to ignore those bits of DNA because nothing of value could be learned from random mistakes?

But if, on the other hand, one predicts that because DNA was designed, then one can discover what each part of DNA is meant to accomplish, would that not prompt further research and discovery of a kind that would have been suppressed by a random evolutionary view? And, in fact, recent research into so-called “junk DNA” has been yielding results, as ID predicts.

(Incidentally, I’m only using the “science-stopper” language because this is the accusation evolutionists make of ID, and I think this is an example of a double-standard on their part. I actually don’t think that “science-stopper” is necessarily a valid criticism. If one comes to a correct conclusion, it’s not a “science-stopper” to admit that the answer has been found and then move on to the next question. So if there were indeed junk DNA, then it would make sense to leave it alone and move on to the next question. However, this is a clear example where a Darwinian worldview has slowed down true scientific discoveries by making the wrong predictions about what we should expect to find. And so in this case, to say “random forces did it” is to repress the finding of true scientific conclusions.)

I encourage you to read the whole article as a brief, yet clear summary of the claims of intelligent design theory.