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  • Writer's picture Peter Kupisz

Intelligent Design (ID) Theory Testable?

Intelligent Design (ID) theory is the view that biological life has all the marks of design because it is in fact designed by an intelligent mind. Exactly who this “mind” is, is something that ID is neutral about. The “mind” could be the Christian God or the Muslim God, or even a plurality of extraterrestrials in a far off galaxy. One of the most common criticisms of ID is that the theory does not make predictions and therefore is not testable. But at least two good points that could be made in response to this.

First, ID advocates have made predictions that have been verified. For example, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, ID advocates were predicting that the extensive amount of purported “junk DNA” would, given further study, turn out to have an important role in the life of organisms. This has turned out to be correct.

Second, Philip Kitcher (Ph.D., Princeton University), an opponent of ID and an atheist, points out that defining science as a discipline that makes “testable predictions,” is not as simple as many people think. Kitcher writes that it may be difficult to know exactly how to test the ID hypothesis but that is true of many legitimate scientific theories. Hence, ID cannot be so easily dismissed; there is no "magic formula" that allows it to be quickly and easily dispelled. Kitcher writes the following.

Many scientists believe that there is a magic formula, an incantation they can utter to dispel the claims of intelligent design. Indeed, intoning the mantra ‘science is testable,’ in the public press or even in the courtroom can produce striking effects. This, however, is only because of an overly simple understanding of testability. When the proponent of intelligent design points to some collection of natural phenomena, declaring that these could not be products of Darwinian natural selection but must instead be the effects of a rival causal agent, intelligence, it isn’t directly obvious how to test the hypothesis advanced. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the core hypotheses of many important scientific theories.

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Philip Kitcher, Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith, Philosophy in Action (Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 145–49.



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