Design as a Research Program

14 Questions to Ask About Design

Contrary to popular accusations by critics, intelligent design theory suggests a number of questions that can be pursued as part of a research program. The following are fourteen such questions. Notice that questions 1 – 13 can be pursued without considering question 14, Who is the designer? Thus it is clear that design can and does have a number of empirical implications and can be discussed and debated quite apart from questions about the identity and nature of the designer.

For more information on objections to design, see the appendix of Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology by William Dembski.

  1. Detectability Problem — How is design detected?
  2. Functionality Problem — What is a designed object’s function?
  3. Transmission Problem — How does an object’s design trace back historically? (search for narrative)
  4. Construction Problem — How was a designed object constructed?
  5. Reverse-Engineering Problem — How could a designed object have been constructed?
  6. Perturbation Problem — How has the original design been modified and what factors have been modified?
  7. Variability Problem — What degree of perturbation allows continued functioning?
  8. Restoration Problem — Once perturbed, how can original design be recovered?
  9. Constraints Problem — What are the constraints within which a designed object functions well and outside of which it breaks?
  10. Optimality Problem — In what way is the design optimal?
  11. Ethical Problem — Is the design morally right?
  12. Aesthetic Problem — Is the design beautiful?
  13. Intentionality Problem — What was the intention of the designer?
  14. Identity Problem — Who is the designer?

William A. Dembski

Founding and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture, Distinguished Fellow, Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence
A mathematician and philosopher, Bill Dembski is the author/editor of more than 25 books as well as the writer of peer-reviewed articles spanning mathematics, engineering, biology, philosophy, and theology. With doctorates in mathematics (University of Chicago) and philosophy (University of Illinois at Chicago), Bill is an active researcher in the field of intelligent design. But he is also a tech entrepreneur who builds educational software and websites, exploring how education can help to advance human freedom with the aid of technology.