What is intelligent design? There are several definitions, which warrant varying degrees of skepticism. The most generic is that in some situations we cannot justify a natural explanation for the form or structure of something, therefore some sort of intelligence must have been involved. The most specific form is that the Christian God created the Universe, all life, etc as described in the Bible. Most IDers believe in a form which is mid way between these extremes. The most common reason to invoke ID is as an alternative to evolution. This has recently caused a controversy because ID supporters want to teach their belief in school science classes, along with or instead of, evolution.
By any reasonable analysis of the situation the Christian God hypothesis is totally false. We know beyond any reasonable doubt that the creation myths in the Old Testament are wrong. Have a read through the religion section of this web site (link below) to see why. The more generic argument isn't so much wrong, as useless. It is too general, and based on bad logic anyway. Even if we can't find a natural explanation for something we shouldn't assume that we will never be able to. And just because one explanation can't be supported doesn't automatically mean that a competing view true, especially if it is described in such vague terms that it is totally untestable.
So ID is a classic case of a specious argument. Unfortunately, few people look beyond the superficial facade and see what lies beyond. For example, most people will say that it is reasonable to study all competing theories of the origin and development of life in science, but how reasonable is this? In fact it isn't reasonable. We should study science in science, and ID is not science. If you say, let's study non-scientific alternatives, where does it end? Should we study creation myths from every culture in the world? Why should ID get special treatment? The fact is we should only study scientific theories, and the development of life on Earth is one of the few areas where there is only one theory, and that is the Theory of Evolution (see note 1).
Is ID Science?
There is no doubt that most supporters of ID support it because of their religious beliefs. If ID was real science why are the vast majority of its supporters Christians? A few years back a similar campaign was waged by Creationists. They wanted something called creation science to be taught in schools in the US. This was deemed unconstitutional by the courts. Now they are trying again but have changed the name to ID and toned down references to god a bit. But its still creationism underneath and has about the same amount of validity.
So is ID science? I've already said I don't think so. Here's a few more people and groups who agree: a conservative, Christian, Bush appointed judge, Judge John Jones (see note 2), said "We find that the secular purposes claimed by the board amount to a pretext for the board's real purpose, which was to promote religion." The American Academy of Science have said it isn't science (they should know). Even the Discover Institute, who are the leading supporters of ID, have said in the famous "Wedge Document" that it is just a way to get religion into science teaching. Its simple really, ID isn't science. Its just another cheap trick the creationists have to try to push their ridiculous beliefs on the public.
Even if ID was a scientific theory its one which has been totally rejected. Its supporters have been revealed as either deluded or liars. There is just no merit in it either from a religious or scientific perspective. Therefore I give it a high score on the crap-ometer!
1. Don't let the fact that evolution is a theory lead you to believe it cannot be trusted.
In science, a theory is a well tested and supported explanation for a phenomenon. An idea
which hasn't yet been well tested is usually called a hypothesis. There is no doubt that
evolution is essentially true. Some of the details might need some work but the basic
theory is totally solid.
2. See Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Case No. 04cv2688. The judge saw ID for what it was and even accused its supporters of being liars.
Sources of Further Information
There are many web sites with information on this subject. Below I have shown some which present both skeptical and neutral information.
Comment by Dave on 2007-02-12 at 16:01:08: How can you rate ID as being so "crappy"? It is supported by many scientists and deserves to be ranked ahead of many other topics you have mentioned here. Maybe you are just a bit scared that someone has come up with a viable alternative to your precious theory of evolution?
Comment by OJB on 2007-02-12 at 19:16:23: I was tougher on ID because it has been presented as a scientific theory, and some of its supporters are real scientists. ID has been destroyed both scientifically and legally. It doesn't even measure up very well theologically!