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About IDEA Center

The Science of IDEA

The bacterial flagellum

Many proponents of intelligent design have cited the bacterial flagellum as an example of intelligent design and irreducible complexity in the cell. Graphic courtesy of the Access Research Network (
Our mission statement states that the IDEA Center aims to:

  1. "At the heart of our advocacy is to promote intelligent design theory purely on its scientific merits."
  2. "Our other advocacy goals include to challenge mechanistic and undirected scientific explanations for the origin and diversification of life, to challenge the philosophical assumptions underlying methodological naturalism..."

These aspects of our mission statement will be explained briefly below:

1. Intelligent Design Theory:
Intelligent design is a scientific theory which says that some aspects of nature are best explained by an intelligent cause. Intelligent design begins with observations about how intelligent agents act when they design things. In short, intelligent design theory makes inferences based upon observations about the types of complexity that are produced by the action of intelligent agents.

Intelligent design begins with observations about the types of information that we observe being produced by intelligent agents in the real world. Even the atheist zoologist Richard Dawkins says that intuitively, "[b]iology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose." Dawkins would say that natural selection is what actually did the "designing," however intelligent design theorist Stephen C. Meyer rightly notes that, "[i]ndeed, in all cases where we know the causal origin of 'high information content,' experience has shown that intelligent design played a causal role." Thus, like any true scientific theory, intelligent design theory begins with empirical observations from the natural world.

When intelligent agents act, they tend to produce high levels of "complex-specified information" (CS) and in our experience, complex-specified information is always the product of the action of intelligent design. From observing intelligent agents in the natural world, we know produce machines containing high levels of complex and specified information. CSI is a mathematical concept employed by William Dembski, philosopher/mathematician. In our experience, CSI is always the product of ID. The origin of CSI cannot be explained by any naturalistic process, such as evolution.

To better understand complex specified information, consider this analogy: If you saw a mountainside in South Dakota bearing a striking resemblance to four famous presidents, you would not be tempted to comment "Look what the wind and rain did!" It would be clear that the likenesses arose by design, even though you did not see the design occur, and know nobody claiming to be the sculptor. We intuitively recognize the mountainside was designed because it contains complex information (the shape of the mountainside) that conforms to specific pattern (the likeness of the presidents).

When we look at biology, very complex machine-like entities exist, which must be exactly as they are, or they cease to function properly. They have CSI because they are specified in that they conform to a particular pattern of arrangement organization which is necessary for them to function, and complex because they have an unlikely arrangement of many interacting parts.

The high level of complex-specified information in these biological machines makes them "irreducibly complex": they have many interacting parts (making them complex) which must be EXACTLY as they are in order for the machine to work properly (making them specified). In irreducible complexity, any change in the nature or arrangement of these parts would destroy their function and make the machine stop working. They are irreducibly complex in that they could not be any less complex and still function. Importantly, irreducibly complex structures cannot be built up through a Darwinian evolutionary process, because Darwinian evolution says that a biological structure must be functional along every small-step of its evolution, and "reverse engineering" of these structures shows that they cease to function if changed even slightly.

Because these structures exhibit complex-specified information, a quality known only to be produced by intelligent design, we conclude that these irreducibly complex structures are intelligently designed. There is also no known natural mechanism to explain the origin of these "irreducibly complex" biological structures, firming up the inference to design.

In all of this, there have been no mentions of God, religion, or adherence to any religious text but rather intelligent design is seen to rely solely upon observations about how intelligent design works in the present to look at aspects of the natural world to see if they were designed. Intelligent design theory is based solely upon applying observations about intelligent action and principles of information theory to the construction of biological systems, and nothing more. There is nothing mystical, supernatural, religious, or non-scientific about intelligent design theory. Intelligent design theory makes no statements beyond which are possible to make using inferences from the available observations of the natural world. The IDEA Center believes that intelligent design is a potent and compelling scientific theory which can explain the origin of much of life on Earth.

For more information about intelligent design theory please see:

  • Intelligent Design Theory in a Nutshell
  • The Science Behind Intelligent Design
  • Introduction to Intelligent Design
  • Intelligent Design Jargon Explained
  • Evidence for Design of the Universe through Anthropic Principles
  • 2. Deficiencies in Naturalistic Explanations of Life's Origins
    The IDEA Center believes that there are many problems with naturalistic explanations for the origin and diversification of life. Naturalistic explanations are those which assume that there were no forces involved in the history of life other than matter, energy, and the chemical and physical laws governing their interactions. Naturalistic explanations assume that there were no intelligent agents which could have influenced life in the past.

    To explain very briefly, problems in naturalistic explanations go down to the very beginning of the universe. There is no explanation for the "fine-tuning" of the physical laws of universe which allows life to exist and flourish on Earth. Models for the natural chemical origin of life face major evidential problems, such as how a "primordial soup" might have formed, or how the irreducible complexity of the simplest cell could arise.

    Once life does form, the fossil record indicates that biological complexity typically appears with a "bang" and that rapid increases in biological diversity stretch Darwin's theory of evolution beyond what can be accounted for through naturalistic mechanisms of evolutionary change. Furthermore, there appear to be few plausible examples of transitional forms in the fossil record, a major line of evidence counting against naturalistic evolutionary transitions in the history of life.

    Many lines of evidence that supposedly support a natural evolutionary history seem to be deficient. Methods of producing evolutionary family trees or "phylogenies" provide weak evidence for common descent as comparisons of different characteristics commonly lead to conflicting trees. Developmental biology is forced to resort to extreme examples of convergent evolution as supposedly analogous body parts are produced by the same genes in different organisms! Similarly many supposedly "homologous" organs are produced via different developmental pathways, bringing into question claims of evidence for common ancestry. Additionally, many development biologists has accepted that a famous line of evidence supposedly supporting evolution, the notion that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" (the development of an organism replays its evolutionary history), is not supported by developmental data.

    Perhaps most importantly, many recently-discovered examples of biological complexity exhibit "irreducible complexity" which could not be built in the step-by-step manner envisioned by Darwin. As our understanding of the cell expands, it is becoming increasingly apparent that Darwinism is incapable of explaining the origin of much biological complexity. This increased knowledge is also forcing scientists to discard what once were thought to be examples of genetic "junk DNA" and vestigial organs which supposedly provide evidence of an undesigned naturalistic evolutionary history. Current trends in biology are revealing complexity beyond that which evolution can produce--the cell is a finely tuned micro-city reflecting what we would expect to be produced by intelligent design.

    The IDEA Center believes that naturalistic explanations have their place in explaining the origin of some biological complexity. Evolutionary theory does have some explanatory power, and its useful scope is primarily limited to microevolutionary processes. However, for the most part, naturalistic explanations are incapable of accounting for much of life on Earth.

    For more information about problems with naturalistic explanations for the origin and diversification of life, please see:
  • Problems with the Origins of Life
  • Evolution Primer
  • Problems with Evolutionary Explanations of the Fossil Record
  • Irreducible Complexity
  • Evolution and the Problem of Non-Functional Intermediates
  • Design vs. Descent: A War of Predictions
  • 3. Darwinism, Naturalism, and Materialistic Philosophy:
    The fact that science supports a theory which fails to explain so much of the data can only be explained by the fact that a philosophy is preventing scientists from considering new ideas to explain the origin and diversification of life. This philosophy is called "materialism" and is it holds that there were no forces involved in the history of life other than matter, energy, and the chemical and physical laws governing their interactions. Naturalistic explanations often assume that there were no intelligent agents which could have influenced life in the past.

    We believe that science should follow the evidence wherever it leads, and should not be constrained by any philosophical presuppositions. Natural explanations may indeed be the best way to explain the origin and diversification of life on Earth. But such hypotheses should be tested--and not assumed. If they are tested with a skeptical mindset, then investigating the origins of life becomes an exciting endeavor where we can test between intelligent design theory and other mechanistic theories of life's origins. The IDEA Center hopes to contribute to this debate and encourage others to participate in this investigation. Naturalism Primer