The Design Revolution:
Answering the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design

by William Dembski



(first 24 questions)

1. Intelligent Design

What is intelligent design?

2. Creation

How does intelligent design differ from a theological doctrine of creation?

3. Scientific Creationism

Is intelligent design a cleverly disguised form of scientific creationism?

4. Disguised Theology

Even though intelligent design purports to be a scientific research program, isn’t it really a theological enterprise?

5. Religious Motivation

Isn’t the real driving force behind intelligent design a fear that evolutionary theories, and Darwinism in particular, will one day permanently displace any need for God.

6. Optimal Design

Why place the word “intelligent” in front of “design”? It seems that much of the design in nature is anything but intelligent.

7. The Design Argument

How does intelligent design differ from the design argument?

8. The Design Inference

What is the design inference? How does the design inference differ from the design argument?

9. Chance and Necessity

How does the scientific community conceive of natural causes and why aren’t intelligent causes among them?

10. Specified Complexity

How does one determine whether something exhibits specified complexity?

11. The Complexity-Specification Criterion

What is the complexity-specification criterion?

12. Reliability of the Criterion

Is specified complexity a reliable criterion for detecting design?

13. Embodied and Unembodied Designers

Would the design produced by an unembodied designer be accessible to scientific investigation in the same way as design produced by an embodied designer?

14. The Chance of the Gaps

Why must any scientific theory that aims to detect design be probabilistic?

15. Information and Matter

What is the difference between information and matter and what role do they play in the theory of intelligent design?

16. Information Theory

How does the mathematical theory of information relate to intelligent design and specifically to intelligent design’s criterion for detecting design, namely, specified complexity?

17. Biology’s Information Problem

What is biology’s information problem and how do biologists attempt to resolve it?

18. Information ex Nihilo

Is nature complete in the sense of possessing all the capacities needed to bring about the entirety of information-rich structures that we see in the world and especially in biology? Or, are there informational aspects of the world that nature is not able to bridge by itself but that require the guidance of an intelligence?

19. Nature’s Receptivity to Information

What must nature be like for a designing intelligence to interact coherently with the world and generate the specified complexity we see in living things?

20. The Designer Regress

Assuming there actually is design in the natural world, who or what designed the designer?

21. Interventionism

Is intelligent design an interventionist theory in which design events punctuate an otherwise fully natural causal history?

22. The Supernatural

Isn’t the designer to which intelligent design attributes biological complexity a supernatural agent and therefore outside the bounds of science?

23. Miracles

Does intelligent design requires miracles and if so wouildn’t that place it outside the bounds of science?

24. Magic and Superstition

If you allow supernatural intelligences into biology, where are you going to draw the line? Are you, for instance, going to allow supernatural intelligences into a court of law?


Ever since Thomas Kuhn published his Structure of Scientific Revolutions, public attention has focused on the latest scientific revolution. Often the claims for a scientific revolution are overblown. I was directly involved in one such overblown revolution in the late 1980s as a graduate student in Leo Kadanoff’s physics lab at the University of Chicago. Chaos theory, or nonlinear dynamics as it was also called, was going to revolutionize science. A decade later, all the promise and hype were largely spent. Yes, chaos theory offered some interesting insights into the interdependence and sensitivity to perturbation of physical processes. But after the revolution ran out of steam, our scientific conception of the world remained largely unchanged.

As a leading proponent of intelligent design, I’m no doubt biased in seeing intelligent design as a revolution that will fundamentally change our conception of science and the world. Nonetheless, there is good reason to think intelligent design fits the bill as a genuine scientific revolution. Indeed, it is challenging not merely the grand idol of evolutionary biology (Darwinism) but it is also changing the ground rules by which the natural sciences are conducted. Ever since Darwin, the natural sciences have rejected the idea that intelligent causes could play a substantive, empirically significant role in the natural world. Intelligent causes might emerge out of a blind evolutionary process but were in no way fundamental to the operation of the world. Intelligent design challenges this exclusion of design from the natural sciences. In so doing, it promises to remake science and the world.

Revolutions are messy affairs. They are also far from inevitable. For there to be a revolution, there must be revolutionaries willing to put their necks on the line. They must be willing to take the abuse, ridicule, and threats that the ruling elite are capable of inflicting. The ruling elite in this case are the dogmatic Darwinists and scientific naturalists. They are totally committed to keeping intelligent causation outside the natural sciences and misrepresent intelligent design at every step, charging that its critique of Darwinism is completely misguided and groundless. Accordingly, the public is informed that intelligent design is religion masquerading as science or “Creationism in a Cheap Tuxedo” (the title of a newspaper headline). Moreover, the public is warned that intelligent design spells the death of science and that to teach intelligent design is morally in the same boat as teaching that the Holocaust didn’t happen.

The acceptance of radical ideas that challenge the status quo (and Darwinism is definitely status quo) typically runs through several stages. According to Arthur Schopenhauer, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” According to evolutionist J. B. S. Haldane, “Theories pass through four stages of acceptance: i) this is worthless nonsense; ii) this is an interesting, but perverse, point of view; iii) this is true, but quite unimportant; iv) I always said so.”

I would revise Haldane’s four stages as follows. First the idea is regarded as preposterous—the ruling elite feel little threat and as much as possible ignore the challenge, but when asked confidently assert that the idea is so absurd as not to merit consideration. Second it is regarded as pernicious—the ruling elite can no longer ignore the challenge and must take active measures to suppress it, now loudly proclaiming that the idea is confused, irrational, reprehensible, and even dangerous (thus adding a moral dimension to the debate). Third, it is regarded as possible—the ruling elite reluctantly admits that the idea is not entirely absurd but claims that at best it has limited applicability; meanwhile, the mainstream realizes that the idea has far reaching consequences and is far more important that previously recognized. And fourth, it is regarded as plausible—a new status quo has emerged, with the ruling elite taking credit for the idea and the mainstream unable to imagine how people in times past could have thought otherwise. With intelligent design, we are now at the transition from stage two to stage three—from pernicious to possible. This is the hardest transition.

The aim of this book is to facilitate the transition from stage two to stage three by giving supporters of intelligent design the tools they need to stem attacks by critics of intelligent design. Think of this book as a handbook for replacing an outdated scientific paradigm (Darwinism) and giving a new scientific paradigm (intelligent design) room to develop and prosper. As a handbook, this book is organized in a question and answer format. In the past ten years, I’ve spoken at over fifty colleges and universities on intelligent design. Most of these schools have been in the U.S. and Canada, though some have been in Asia and Europe. I’m also frequently interviewed on the radio and television about intelligent design. In my speaking and interviews I encounter many questions. Although the basic idea behind intelligent design is easy enough, doubts and worries assail many who examine the topic. This book seeks to put those doubts and worries to rest.

For the rest of the introduction, click here.

File Date: 06.12.03