What are the core principles of ID?

There are certain core principles of evolutionary that are accepted by practically all workers in the field and without which the theory would not work as an explanatory model. Such as:

The earth is over 4 billion years old, and life has existed on it for over 3 billion years.

All life forms currently on earth are related to one another thru common descent.

This diversity of life arose thru the processes of mutation, natural selection and genetic drift.

Are there any similar principles that form part of a coherent model of Intelligent Design, beyond the vague notions that evolution was wrong, and life was somehow “designed”? I can’t think of any, but I may be wrong.


Core principles of ID?

As best I can tell, there are two:

  1. I ain’t descended from no monkey;
  2. Liberalism is bad.

At least that’s the impression that they leave.

  1. Keep your rhetoric sciency-sounding yet as vague and nebulous as possible.
  2. Never commit to any details or predictions which may then be tested and falsified.
  3. To keep up the charade ID is scientific never admit your Designer is the Christian God.

ETA: 3A. Attack Darwin and “Darwinism” at every chance.


ID takes a big tent approach, mostly due to being a fringe group. They embrace YEC, OEC, and theistic evolution to a certain extent, so I think they would have a tough time coming up with some core principles. If anything, they all share the belief that God was somehow involved in the creation of the Universe and life in a way that is not purely natural.

It seems two key principles are:

  1. Maintain a clear sense of who is inside and who is outside the ID group.
  2. Do not publicly critique or criticize anyone on the inside.

In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. … There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. … Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.

— William Paley, Natural Theology (1802)


When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence, when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers?

— Cicero, De Natura Deorum , II.34


Look round the world: contemplate the whole and every part of it: You will find it to be nothing but one great-machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain. All these various machines, and even their most minute parts, are adjusted to each other with an accuracy, which ravishes into admiration all men who have ever contemplated them. The curious adapting of means to ends, throughout all nature, resembles exactly, though it much exceeds, the productions of human contrivance; of human design, thought, wisdom, and intelligence. Since therefore the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man; though possessed of much larger faculties, proportioned to the grandeur of the work which he has executed. By this argument a posteriori, and by this argument alone, do we prove at once the existence of a Deity, and his similarity to human mind and intelligence.[[67]]

Hume characterizing the design argument, though Hume is not an IDist


20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world – Paul, speaking for God, Romans 1:20

1 Like

“This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’”

Douglas Adams


Sal points out another core principle of ID:

“If it looks designed to my scientifically untrained eye that counts as evidence it IS designed!” :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

quod erat demonstrandum😀

I do appreciate @stcordova stating that ID, as he views it, is not scientific. Arguing beliefs and arguing science are often very different things.


« The strong appearance of design allows a disarmingly simple argument: if it looks, walks and quacks like a duck, then, absent compelling evidence to the contrary, we have warrant to conclude it’s a duck. Design should not be overlooked simply because it’s so obvious. »
Michael Behe

If you encountered a table that had 500 fair coins 100% heads would think the 100% condition was the result of design or chance? Granted you know there are such designers capable of doing this (humans).

Those who accept ID are willing to make a guess that there are designs in nature even if they don’t see a designer. The 500 fair coins 100% is a violation of the law of large numbers. It is echoed in the problem of DNA and or protein assembly in a pre-biotic environment because of the homochirality, and homolinkage problem that are violations of the law of large numbers. There are many more levels of violation of expectation, but those are the clearest examples.

Also, universal common descent isn’t necessarily evidence against design arguments in general.

I posed this question to ex-Christian-turned-atheist Tracie Harris on a call in Radio Show – if she were blind and Jesus healed her like the blind man in John 9 or in the account by Astronaut Charles Duke healing a blind girl in the name of Jesus, would she follow Jesus the rest of her life. She said “no”, she would look for a natural explanation. Harris is thus implicitly rejecting the design argument on some level.

There may be a point for each person where they might accept design.

@stcordova how are all the things you mentioned there “design”?

Seems like you use it for a synonym of Gods action.

You asked what are ID principles. Things that violate normative expectation by sufficient degree are considered designs, either human-made, animal-made, God-made, space alien made. However, presumably the first life, if it sufficiently violates normative expectation, would be presumed to be God-made by Creationists.

I didn’t say the argument was necessarily right, since I personally think, questions of God and Design are practically if not formally undecidable. Everyone makes their best guess at the causes, but I’m merely describing the faith-based heuristic that is applied in some sort of Design argument from Cicero to even atheist Fred Hoyle.

Seems like you use it for a synonym of Gods action.

For origin of life, yes. For man-made designs, no.

10 posts were split to a new topic: Is Helicase a House of Cards?

3 posts were split to a new topic: Comments on ID core principles


There are different and somewhat conflicting models of ID. I’m representing what I would teach as core principles of ID, namely, if something is a violation of normative expectation from random and deterministic forces, it inspires design, like Paley’s watch.

Various claims of design may have different models for the age of the Earth. Even as a Young Life Creationist (YLC), I will sometimes argue ID from an Old Earth model for the sake of argument.

1 Like

On a conceptual level, I think that, stated by ID proponents themselves, one key principle to which everything is mapped too: Complex Specified Information. For example, they argue that fine tuning and irreducible complexity are special cases of CSI.

I’ve rejected the concept. I won’t teach it as a workable ID concept. I’ll get flak for saying so from my colleagues, but I can’t make CSI work as a theory.

1 Like

Again, this is not really what I am asking about. These are general statements or arguments about “design” in principle, but they are not specific facts regarding how “design” actually occurs. Sorry for not being more clear about this.

For instance, there is no disagreement among evolutionary biologists over whether the earth is 6000 years old. First of all, the facts are quite clear on that question. And if the earth were that young, then none of the other parts of the theory really work, either. If an ID proponent says “The flagellum was designed”, that is no more meaningful as part of a working theory than saying “The flagellum evolved.”

Is this really all ID has to offer?