What is the Intelligent Design Theory?


This theory essentially holds that random-chance theories are easily disproven, if we observe the intelligent causes that are necessary to explain this complex world. Simply, a unique design necessitates an intelligent designer. While most who hold to the Intelligent Design Theory are theists, they don't explain who the intelligent designer actually is; it could be God, aliens, etc.

There are three primary arguments in the Intelligent Design Theory. They include: (1) irreducible complexity; (2) specified complexity; and (3) the anthropic principle.

Irreducible Complexity

Irreducible complexity is a phrase coined by Michael Behe, who defines it as follows:

Irreducible complexity is just a fancy phrase I use to mean a single system which is composed of several interacting parts, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to cease functioning. [1]

In other words, everything is connected to everything else, so life is comprised of an endless assortment of intertwined parts that rely on each other in order to be useful. So, life is made up of some rather complex systems that must operate together. For instance, an eye is not a very useful body part system unless all of its parts are present and functioning properly at one and the same time. Charles Pritchard stated:

I cannot understand how, by any series of accidental variations, so complicated a structure as the eye could have been successively improved. The chances of any accidental variation in such an instrument being an improvement are small indeed. Suppose, for instance, one of the surfaces of the crystalline lens of the eye of a creature, possessing a crystalline and a cornea, to be accidentally altered, then I say, that unless the form of the other surface is simultaneously altered, in one only way out of the millions of possible ways, the eye would not be optically improved. An alteration also in the two surfaces of the crystalline lens, whether accidental or otherwise, would involve a definite alteration of the form of the cornea, or in the distance of its surface from the centre of the crystalline lens, in order that the eye may be optically better. All these alterations must be simultaneous and definite in amount, and these definite amounts must coexist in obedience to an extremely complicated law. To my apprehansion then, that so complex an instrument as an eye should undergo a succession of millions of improvements, by means of a succession of millions of accidental alterations, is not less improbable, than if all the letters of the "Origin of Species" were placed in a box, and on being shaken and poured out millions on millions of times, they should at last come out together in the order in which they occur in that fascinating and, in general, highly philosophical work. [2]

So, the miracle of the human eye couldn't evolve by natural selection, rather it was created by Intelligent Designer.

Specified Complexity

Specified complexity is an idea developed by mathematician and philosopher William Dembski. It essentially states that complex patterns found in organisms require a form of guidance to account for their origin. Could 100 monkeys with 100 typewriters in a room eventually type out Shakepares' Hamlet? Glen Tickle had some fun developing the actual odds of such a thing happening. He writes:

There are 169,541 characters in the text according to the tool at That includes all 26 letters of the alphabet, spaces, periods, commas, apostrophes, question marks, exclamation points, colons, semicolons, ampersands, and hyphens. Altogether, that's 36 possible characters.

We'll increase the monkeys' chances here and assume that they're using special monkey typewriters with only the 36 keys they need to type. That's one key per character, so they don't have to worry about a shift key.

Each time a monkey presses a random key, they have a 1 in 36 chance of hitting the right one. The odds of them hitting the right sequence of characters decrease exponentially with each additional character. Just typing the name H-A-M-L-E-T with these parameters is highly unlikely, since each letter of the name only has a 1 in 36 chance of being typed correctly. So that's: 36 x 36 x 36 x 36 x 36 x 36 or 366, which works out to 1 in 2,176,782,336. Since we're working with 100 monkeys, that gives them slightly better odds as a group with 1 in 21,767,823, but it's still not likely. And again, that's on our special monkey typewriter. The odds would be much worse on a regular typewriter with more keys and variables like the shift key and caps lock.

The odds of monkeys randomly typing out 169,541 correct characters in a row are 1 in 36^169,541 [that is 36 to the 169,541 power] which, if you type into Google's calculator, gives you the following result: "Infinity."

Seriously. That's the answer we got. The chances of monkeys typing Hamlet are one in infinity.

The anthropic principle

The anthropic principle is a phrase Brandon Carter coined in 1974, essentially stating that the universe is "fine-tuned" to allow for life on Earth. A definition of Strong Anthropic Principle (SAP) is "the Universe must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage in it's history" [4]. Without specific fine tuning in numerous areas at the same time, life would not exist.

Irreducible complexity, specified complexity and the anthropic principle all point to an Intelligent Design. While not identical to Biblical Creationism, the above-mentioned principles are evidence of an Intelligent Designer (i.e. God). Some atheists desire to maintain that it was some master race or aliens. But who then created them? Please see "Extraterrestrials and the Bible?" below.


[1] Michael J. Behe, "Evidence for Intelligent Design from Biochemistry, " Discovery Institute, August 10, 1996.

[2] Charles Pritchard, "The Continuity of the Schemes of Nature and Revelation," (Bell and Daly, 1866), p 33, ( Last Accessed 29 November 2017.

[3] Glen Tickle, "The Actual Odds of 100 Monkeys With Typewriters Randomly Outputting Hamlet: A Descent Into Madness," ( Last Accessed 29 November 2017.

[4] Frank J. Tipler and John D. Barrow, "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, " (Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 21.

Various Creation Positions

What is the Big Bang Theory?
What is the Day Age Theory?
What is Ex-nihilo?
The Framework Theory
What is the Gap Theory?
What About Hebrews 11:3?
What is the Mature Universe Theory?
What is Old Earth Creationism (OEC)?
What is Progressive Creationism?
What is Theistic Evolution?
What is Young Earth Creationism (YEC)?

Related Topics

What is the meaning of Day in Genesis 1?
Are there two different accounts of Creation?
What is BioLogos?
Did man eat meat before the Fall and the Flood?
A Universal or Regional Flood?
What about the evidence of Carbon-14 dating?
What About Dinosaurs?
Scientific Evidence for YEC?
How could there be evening and morning the first three days of Creation?
Extraterrestrials and the Bible?
What was the Scopes Monkey Trial?
Can a person be born an atheist?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).