A theory about the origin of life that holds that intelligent causes best explain the origin of many features of living systems. The theory is based on the testable assumption that structures that exhibit high information content are more likely to be the result of intelligent design than of undirected natural causes.
Intelligent design theorists propose that:
1. Design can be detected (for example, in living systems)
2. There is evidence of design in nature
Intelligent design theorists look for:
Complex arrangements or patterns that are unlikely to occur by chance, from which design can be inferred based on comparisons with other things that exhibit similar complexity and are known to be designed.
Examples of design inferences in other areas of investigation:
1. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI): looking for communication signals or signs of intelligence from outer space.
2. Insurance fraud investigation: looking for clues as to whether a house-burning is the result of arson (design) or an accident.
3. Criminal investigation (forensic pathology): determining whether a death is the result of murder (design) or natural causes.
4. Signs of intelligence in the natural world: birds' nests, arrowheads, etc.
Logical inferences of design can be drawn, and are drawn, all the time in such areas of investigation. Intelligent design theorists examining evidence for the origin of life draw a design inference when they observe high information content and high specified complexity in biologically active molecules, for example DNA, RNA, and proteins.
Intelligent design is not religion.
A design inference is compatible with belief in a Creator, but intelligent design theory is limited to the observation and detection of design in nature, not the identification of the Designer. It draws its authority from investigation, observation and logical analysis per the scientific method - not from religious text. Thus, intelligent design is not creation science, although many creation scientists are also intelligent design theorists. Creation science derives its authority from the Genesis account, which the courts have held to be a religious text. A design inference is not "creation science" and has not been held by any court to be a religion.