Design as a Research Program:
14 Questions to Ask About Design

William A. Dembski
June 13, 2000

Contrary to popular accusations by critics, intelligent design theory suggests a number of questions that can be pursued as part of a research program. The following are fourteen such questions. Notice that questions 1-13 can be pursued without considering question 14, Who is the designer? Thus it is clear that design can and does have a number of empirical implications and can be discussed and debated quite apart from questions about the identity and nature of the designer.

For more information on objections to design, see the appendix of Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology by William Dembski .

  1. Detectability Problem --- How is design detected?
  2. Functionality Problem --- What is a designed object's function?
  3. Transmission Problem --- How does an object's design trace back historically? (search for narrative)
  4. Construction Problem --- How was a designed object constructed?
  5. Reverse-Engineering Problem --- How could a designed object have been constructed?
  6. Perturbation Problem --- How has the original design been modified and what factors have been modified?
  7. Variability Problem --- What degree of perturbation allows continued functioning?
  8. Restoration Problem --- Once perturbed, how can original design be recovered?
  9. Constraints Problem --- What are the constraints within which a designed object functions well and outside of which it breaks?
  10. Optimality Problem --- In what way is the design optimal?
  11. Ethical Problem --- Is the design morally right?
  12. Aesthetic Problem --- Is the design beautiful?
  13. Intentionality Problem --- What was the intention of the designer?
  14. Identity Problem --- Who is the designer?