Intelligent Design is a Social Theory

12/09/18: Links to sources in this post have been updated where necessary.

There are many school districts across the United States on their own or by law adding Intelligent Design to the high school science curriculum. The State Legislatures of Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia and five others have hadantievolution bills introduced in 2005. The language of these bills, in essence, state “alternatives” to evolution must be given equal time. Many putforth Intelligent Design (ID) as such an alternative and William Dembski in 1998 declared ID a robust scientific theory.1 However, is Intelligent Design a scientific theory? In order to discuss this question, one must be clear about what a scientific theory is. For this article, a scientific theory is defined as follows: a scientific theory is a model that describes accurately a large class of observations and makes definitepredictions about the results of future observations.2 The theory of evolution describes accurately a large class of observations andmakes definite predictions about the results of future observations and has survived countless experiments. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, has not. Intelligent Design is the view that nature shows tangible signs of having beendesigned by a preexisting intelligence. It has been around, in one form oranother, since the time of ancient Greece.3 This is an interesting conjecture; but it is a long way from a scientific theory. The main postulate of Intelligent Design is a preexisting intelligence,which cannot be proved, nor disproved by observation or experiment. As such,any preexisting intelligence would be outside the hot big bang model of the universe, and any actions taken by such a preexisting intelligence would havebeen before the beginning of time. Therefore, according to the law of economy, a preexisting intelligence should be cut out of any model of the universe, for any actions taken by it cannot be observed.

Intelligent Design cannot be put onequal footing with the theory of evolution in the high school sciencecurriculum, for it is not a scientific theory. At best, Intelligent Design is a social theory. A social theory refers to the use of abstract and often complex theoretical frameworks to explain and analyze social patterns and large-scale social structures.4 Historically societies have used a preexisting intelligence to explain phenomena that have no clear explanation. Intelligent Design is, therefore, confined to the high school social studies curriculum.

Once in its proper place the discussion of Intelligent Design changes from should it be taught to—is it Constitutional? The answer to that depends on how one defines a preexisting intelligence. Is it God in the Judeo-Christian sense? Alternatively, is it a race of little green men from another star system or another universe? Intelligent Design is vague in this area. If it is God, then Intelligent Designis just another term for creationism, and thus is Unconstitutional as the Supreme Court has found:

First, the Court concluded that legal mandates to teach creationism did nothing to advance thecause of academic freedom because the open and unregulated field of academicscience already permitted consideration of alternative theories. Legal mandatesto include creationism were not necessary to protect academic freedom becausethe free market in scientific ideas had already considered creationism andrejected it on the merits. Second, the Court took note of the long history ofstrong links between creationist theory and certain fundamentalist religious sects. These two elements led the Court to conclude that the argument of asecular purpose for creationism was a “sham.”5

For Intelligent Design to be Constitutional the preexisting intelligence would have to be that of a race of little green men from another star system or another universe, and once that case is made, Intelligent Design loses 99% of its supporters. If the above case is made, then man is no longer the center of the universe, and Intelligent Design then would be no better thanthe theory of evolution in the eyes of the people that support Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design is creationism by another name, for the supporters of Intelligent Design would not accept anypreexisting intelligence, but that of God in the Judeo-Christian sense that makes Intelligent Design a social theory and a political issue. If any science were behind the claims of Intelligent Design, there would be no need for State Legislatures to introduce bills calling for Intelligent Design to be placed inthe high school science curriculum. Intelligent Design would have made it into the curriculum on its own merits.

Why should there be bills promoting creationism in the public schools? If people want their children taughtIntelligent Design/creationism there are private schools that will do it. Science has its own problems in the United States without having to fight-off religion. Not enough students are interested in science. That is not to say itis the fault of science teachers; science is expensive (the really interesting stuff usually is) and when the budget needs to be cut the first slice is takenfrom science. A subject that needs the latest and best textbooks and equipmentat all times nationwide. American society is, has been, and always will be heavily dependent on science and the technology it provides for its survival. Thus, the teaching of science should be of the first importance. Yet, American society keeps getting sidetracked by debates that were or should have been settled over 200 years ago. The First Amendment states “Congress shall make nolaw respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”6 This also holds true for the states. The above bills are repugnant to the Constitution and therefore cannot become law. Americans need to remember we, not only,  have freedom of religion; we have freedom from religion as well.


1 Nick Matzke, “Intelligent Design bill proposed in Pennsylvania,” NationalCenter for Science Education, last modified April 1, 2005,

2 Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History ofTime (New York: Bantam, 1988), 9.

3 “What is Intelligent Design?” Access Research Network, accessed December 8, 2018,

4 “What is social theory?” Social Theory Applied, accessed December 8 2018,

5 Matthew J. Brauer, Barbara Forrest, and Steven G. Gey, “Is It Science Yet?: Intelligent Design Creationism and The Constitution,” Washington University Law Quarterly 83.1 (2005): 101-102,

6 Constitution of the United States Amendment One,



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