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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2006
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Claim CI100:

Life looks intelligently designed because of its complexity and arrangement. As a watch implies a watchmaker, so life requires a designer.


Cicero, Marcus Tullius. 1896 (45 B.C.). De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods), transl. Francis Brooks. London: Methuen; Book 2, chap. 34.
Paley, William, 1802. Natural Theology: or, Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity. London: J. Faulder.
Davis, Percival and Dean H. Kenyon, 1989. Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins (2nd ed.). Dallas, TX: Haughton.


  1. According to the definition of design, we must determine something about the design process in order to infer design. We do this by observing the design in process or by comparing with the results of known designs. The only example of known intelligent design we have is human design. Life does not look man-made.

  2. Nobody argues that life is not complicated. However, complexity is not the same as design. There are simple things that are designed and complex things that originate naturally. Complexity does not imply design; in fact, simplicity is a design goal in most designs.

  3. In most cases, the inference of design is made because people cannot envision an alternative. This is simply the argument from incredulity. Historically, supernatural design has been attributed to lots of things that we now know form naturally, such as lightning, rainbows, and seasons.

  4. Life as a whole looks very undesigned by human standards, for several reasons:

  5. Life is nasty. If life is designed, then death, disease, and decay also must be designed since they are integral parts of life. This is a standard problem of apologetics. Of course, many designed things are also nasty (think of certain weapons), but if the designer is supposed to have moral standards, then it is added support against the design hypothesis.

  6. The process of evolution can be considered a design process, and the complexity and arrangement we see in life are much closer to what we would expect from evolution than from known examples of intelligent design. Indeed, engineers now use essentially the same processes as evolution to find solutions to problems that would be intractably complex otherwise.

  7. Does evolution itself look designed? When you consider that some sort of adaptive mechanism would be necessary on the changing earth if life were to survive, then if life were designed, evolution or something like it would have to be designed into it.

  8. Claiming to be able to recognize design in life implies that nonlife is different, that is, not designed. To claim that life is recognizably designed is to claim that an intelligent designer did not create the rest of the universe.

  9. As it stands, the design claim makes no predictions, so it is unscientific and useless. It has generated no research at all.


  1. Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, pg. 70.
  2. Walker, Gabrielle, 2003. The collector. New Scientist 179(2405) (26 July): 38-41.

Further Reading:

Aulie, Richard P., 1998. A reader's guide to Of Pandas and People

Isaak, Mark, 2003. What design looks like. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 23(5-6): 25-26,31-35.

Miller, Kenneth R., n.d. Of pandas and people: A brief critique.

Pennock, Robert T., 1999. Tower of Babel. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Perakh, Mark, 2003. Unintelligent Design. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.
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created 2003-5-13, modified 2004-4-3