Intelligent Design Creationism lacks explanatory power

Intelligent Design Creationism lacks explanatory power

Author and Professor of Philosophy of Science / Logic at Calvin College, Del Ratzsch, explains how the approach chosen by Dembski to infer ‘design’ is far from the robust agency driven conception of design that most people would imagine. In other words, the concept of design as used by Dembski has little similarity to what most people imagine design to involve.

Del Ratzsch wrote:

“I do not wish to play down or denigrate what Dembski has done. There is much of value in the Design Inference. But I think that some aspects of even the limited task Dembski set for himself still remains to be tamed.” “That Dembski is not employing the robust, standard, agency-derived conception of design that most of his supporters and many of his critics have assumed seems clear.”

Source: Del Ratzsch in “Nature, Design, and Science:The Status of Design in Natural Science”, SUNY Press, 2001.

Not only does Intelligent Design use a watered down concept of design, this concept also leads to the admission that design does not necessarily leads to agency (a designer).

Ryan Nichols wrote:

Before I proceed, however, I note that Dembski makes an important concession to his critics. He refuses to make the second assumption noted above. When the EF (Explanatory Filter) implies that certain systems are intelligently designed, Dembski does not think it follows that there is some intelligent designer or other. He says that, “even though in practice inferring design is the first step in identifying an intelligent agent, taken by itself design does not require that such an agent be posited. The notion of design that emerges from the design inference must not be confused with intelligent agency”

Source: R. Nichols, Scientific content, testability, and the vacuity of Intelligent Design theory The American Catholic philosophical quarterly , 2003 , vol. 77 , no 4 , pp. 591 - 611

At Darwin or Design Jason Rennie talks to Dr Ryan Nichols.

And finally, William Dembski himself, when asked to describe how Intelligent Design explains something responds that:

William Dembski wrote:

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.

Source: William A. Dembski Organisms using GAs vs. Organisms being built by GAs thread at ISCID 18. September 2002

While ID proponents are quick to claim that ID does lead to predictions, logic dictates that these claims are without merrit. In order to make a prediction, one has to know the motives, means and opportunities of the designer, one has to be able to constrain the designer.

A major disanalogy between the ID hypothesis and other scientific hypotheses is that the ID hypothesis fails to be scientifically tractable, at least insofar as the appeal to a trancendent intelligent agent as the designer: that is, an agent that transcends the confines of this universe. (As defined above, an hypothesis is scientifically tractable if and only if through scientific and empirical means we can develop and test models of its internal dynamics, often through applying the scientific results we have obtained in other domains.) Suppose, for instance, one claims that the designer is the monotheist’s God. Almost all monotheists would agree that one cannot significantly develop and test models of God’s internal dynamics through scientific means, since we cannot use science to significantly probe and test God’s psychology. On the other hand, suppose one adopts Michael Behe’s proposal (and that of many leading advocates of ID) to leave unspecified the nature of the designer. If we take this approach, then it is difficult to see how the intelligent design hypothesis could even be minimally scientifically tractable, since we would be unable to say much of anything about the internal dynamics of the designer.


Moreover, notice that, just as in the big bang theory, no additional scientific work is done if we add to the above hypotheses the claim that God, or some other transcendent intelligence, created or designed life on earth. In the big bang theory, for instance, neither the claim that God created the big bang, nor that it occurred uncaused, gives the hypothesis any significant additional explanatory or predictive power. Theists, for example, might find it philosophically necessary to hypothesize a creator to account for the big bang, but it is best not to consider such an hypothesis part of science since it is not scientifically tractable, and adds nothing of interest scientifically. Similarly, the hypothesis that some designer created the basic kinds will not give hypothesis (ii) above–that is, the hypothesis that the basic kinds simply appeared fully formed at various points in earth’s history–any additional explanatory or predictive power. And the reason for this is that the designer’s psychology is not scientifically tractable: we cannot form models of the designer’s internal dynamics. Of course, in analogy to the big bang, one might nonetheless feel philosophically compelled to hypothesize a creator to explain the origination of life.


It is often stated by anti-evolution forces that evolution is not a fact; a rhetorically powerful but ultimately meaningless statement. As should be obvious from the discussions in this paper, evolution is a model. A model, by its very nature, never becomes a “fact” that is it never becomes certain but always remains tentative. Trying to classify evolution or any empirical model as fact or not-fact is a failure of categories and indicates a profound ignorance of the nature of empirical knowledge. Evolution is a model, hence tentative, but a model with extraordinary predictive power. That is high praise, the highest science can give. Similar arguments are also made against other models: science has not proven X . For example X might be global warming due to green-house gases. Of course science has not proven X . Proofs are the domain of mathematics, not the empirical sciences. When people use the X is not a fact or Y is not proven gambits it is a tacit admission they have lost the science argument and they are just trying to downplay the significance of that failing.

Source: B.K. Jennings On the Nature of Science