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How Intelligent Design Works

Origins and Progress of the ID Movement

Photo courtesy Morguefile

In the 18th and 19th centuries and until the introduction of Darwin's theory of evolution, the "argument from design" was the prevailing view of the origins of the natural world.

In 1802, this view was crystallized in William Paley's watchmaker analogy. It goes something like this: If you find a watch in the middle of a field, you note that it is a complex object that serves a particular purpose. It has many different parts that all work together to tell time. When you see the watch, you automatically understand it is the product of design, not chance. It follows that we should assume the same of natural world when it displays complex processes that meet a particular need.


The argument from design reigned until Darwin published "The Origin of Species" in 1859. Biological science responded overwhelmingly to Darwin's evidence and quickly adopted evolution as the prevailing explanation of the development of the universe and life. And by 1940, almost all the biologists in the world believed that natural selection was driving force behind evolution.

Then, in 1991, law professor Phillip E. Johnson effectively launched the intelligent-design movement with his best-selling book, "Darwin on Trial." The movement quickly gained momentum in the United States. In 1996, the Discovery Institute, a think tank based in Seattle, launched the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC). The CRSC's original mission statement included studying and promoting intelligent design as a scientific theory.

Politically, the ID movement has made incredible strides in a short amount of time. In 1999, just eight years after the movement really took off, the Kansas Board of Education voted to remove evolution from Kansas schools' science curriculum, and the decision was widely attributed to campaigning by proponents of intelligent design. In 2004, the Dover Area School Board in Pennsylvania decided to require that all public schools in the district teach ID alongside evolution in science classes. A year later, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the requirement was unconstitutional.

For more information on intelligent design, creation, evolution and related topics, check out the links below.

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More Great Links


  • Dembski, William A., Ph.D. "The Explanatory Filter: A three-part filter for understanding how to separate and identify cause from intelligent design."
  • Dembski, William A., Ph.D. "The Intelligent Design Movement."
  • "Intelligent Design?" Natural History, April 2002.
  • The Maclellan Foundation.
  • Miller, Kenneth R. "Darwin's Pope?" Harvard Divinity Bulletin.
  • Orr, Allen H. "Master Planned." The New Yorker, May 30, 2005.
  • "Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive." The New York Times, August 21, 2005.
  • The Skeptic's Dictionary: Intelligent Design.