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FAQ: What is intelligent design theory?

The Short Answer: Intelligent design is a scientific theory which seeks to determine if some objects in the natural world were designed through recognizing and detecting the types of information known to be produced by the intelligent agents when they act.

The Long Answer:

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 (
Intelligent design is a scientific theory which holds that certain features of the universe and living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, and are not the result of an undirected, chance-based process such as Darwinian evolution.

Intelligent design begins with observations about the types of information produced by intelligent agents. 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." Darwinists believe natural selection did the "designing" but intelligent design theorist Stephen C. Meyer notes, "in all cases where we know the causal origin of 'high information content,' experience has shown that intelligent design played a causal role."

Intelligent design is thus heavily dependent upon "information theory." One of its fundamental premises is that "information" which is complex (highly ordered) and specified (fits a pre-existing pattern) is not produced by naturally occurring events (chance or law-governed processes), but rather this sort of observable information and complexity is best explained as the product of intelligent action.

Intelligent design implies that life is here as a result of the purposeful action of an intelligent designer, standing in contrast to Darwinian evolution, which postulates that life exists due to the chance, purposeless, blind forces of nature.