Q&A on the Nature of Science
and Intelligent Design
What is science?
A: Science is a systematic form of inquiry, based on
observation, prediction, reasoning, and testing, that explains how the natural
universe works and seeks to continually advance our knowledge. Science operates
by means of the scientiﬁc method—the formulation of hypotheses
that are consistent with observed phenomena and the subsequent testing of these
hypotheses to determine their validity. Scientiﬁc knowledge is
constantly reﬁned or altered by new evidence; if a hypothesis can be
disproved by experimentation, scientists reject it and formulate a new
hypothesis that better ﬁts the observed data.
Isn't evolution just a theory, not a fact?
A: In science, a theory is a well-supported systematic
explanation of some aspect of the natural world that incorporates facts,
scientific laws (such as the laws of gravity and thermodynamics), and tested
hypotheses. A fact is an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed.
Evolution, deﬁned as descent with modiﬁcation, is a theory
supported by overwhelming evidence, facts, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
What is intelligent design?
A: Intelligent design, or ID, is the idea that
certain features of the universe and life are too complex to have arisen by
natural causes and instead are best explained as being the product of an
not teach intelligent design, or creationism, alongside evolution?
A: The federal courts have ruled that creationism,
creation science, and intelligent design are not science but instead endorse a
speciﬁc religious belief. Therefore, these topics are not appropriate
content for a science classroom. Neither ID nor any other form of creationism
has met any of the standards of a science and cannot be tested using the
scientific method. On the other hand, evolutionary theory, like all other
science, is founded on a growing body of observable and reproducible evidence
in the natural world. The state of knowledge in evolutionary biology is the
product of 150 years of rigorous challenges using the methods of science,
whereas intelligent design is not supported by scientiﬁc evidence.
Teaching evolution alongside these other approaches would imply that creation
science and intelligent design meet these same high standards of testability,
and they do not.
Q: Can you
accept evolution and still believe in religion?
A: Yes. The common view that evolution is inherently
anti-religious is simply false. All that evolution tells us is that life on
this planet could have arisen by natural processes. For many people of various
faiths, showing that something is due
to a natural process doesn't take it outside the realm of the divine.
Religious thinkers across the ages have written that merely showing that
something is natural puts it within the influence of God, the creator of all
nature. By definition science
cannot address supernatural causes because its methodology is confined to the
natural world. Therefore science has nothing to say about the nature of God or
about people's spiritual beliefs. This does not mean science is
anti-religious; rather, it means science simply cannot engage in this level of