Intelligent design (ID) is the pseudoscientific view that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” Educators, philosophers, and the scientific community have demonstrated that ID is a religious argument, a form of creationism which lacks empirical support and offers no tenable hypotheses. Proponents argue that it is “an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins” that challenges the methodological naturalism inherent in modern science, while conceding that they have yet to produce a scientific theory. The leading proponents of ID are associated with the Discovery Institute, a politically conservative think tank based in the United States. Although they state that ID is not creationism and deliberately avoid assigning a personality to the designer, many of these proponents express belief that the designer is the Christian deity.
ID presents negative arguments against evolutionary explanations, and its positive argument is an analogy between natural systems and human artifacts, a version of the theological argument from design for the existence of God. Both irreducible complexity and specified complexity present detailed negative assertions that certain features (biological and informational, respectively) are too complex to be the result of natural processes. Proponents then conclude by analogy that these features are evidence of design. Detailed scientific examination has rebutted the claims that evolutionary explanations are inadequate, and this premise of intelligent design—that evidence against evolution constitutes evidence for design—has been criticized as a false dichotomy.
Though the phrase “intelligent design” had featured previously in theological discussions of the design argument, the first publication of the term intelligent design in its present use as an alternative term for creationism was in Of Pandas and People, a 1989 textbook intended for high school biology classes. The term was substituted into drafts of the book after the 1987 United States Supreme Court‘s Edwards v. Aguillard decision, which barred the teaching of creation science in public schools on constitutional grounds. From the mid-1990s, the intelligent design movement (IDM), supported by the Discovery Institute, advocated inclusion of intelligent design in public school biology curricula. This led to the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in which U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled that intelligent design is not science, that it “cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents,” and that the school district’s promotion of it therefore violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.