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An Intelligent Design Debate With a Chatbot

Discovery Institute Fellow stumps OpenAi’s new chatbot in just a few rounds

Discovery Institute Senior Fellow William Dembski had an interesting “conversation” with OpenAI’s new ChatGPT this week on the topic of intelligent design. He shared a transcript of the exchange with Mind Matters.

Dembski started by asking, “What is intelligent design?”

ChatGPT gave this coherent, but notably biased, response:

Intelligent design is the belief that certain features of the universe and living things show signs of having been designed by an intelligent cause. It is often seen as an alternative to the theory of evolution, which proposes that species have changed over time through natural processes. Proponents of intelligent design argue that certain features of the natural world are too complex to have evolved through natural processes, and therefore must have been created by a higher power. This belief is not supported by scientific evidence, and is considered a form of creationism by many scientists.”

When Dembski asked ChatGPT to clarify its claim of there being no evidence for intelligent design in nature, the bot gave another similar response:

There is no scientific evidence to support the belief in intelligent design. The theory of evolution, on the other hand, is supported by a vast amount of scientific evidence, including fossil records, genetic data, and observations of natural selection in action. Scientists have studied the natural world for centuries, and the evidence overwhelmingly supports the idea that species have evolved over time through natural processes. In contrast, there is no scientific evidence to support the belief that certain features of the natural world were created by a higher power.”

Dembski went on the challenge ChatGPT about the complexity of cell structures and information in DNA sequences, saying,

Seriously, no evidence? What do you make of the specified complexity that is evident in the genes and proteins of the cell? Why don’t you consider this as constituting evidence for intelligent design?”

To which ChatGPT rebutted,

The complexity of genes and proteins does not constitute evidence for intelligent design. In fact, scientists have been able to explain the complexity of these structures through the theory of evolution. The genetic code, for example, is the result of natural selection acting on random mutations over countless generations. The same is true for the proteins found in cells. While these structures are certainly complex, that complexity can be explained through natural processes.”

However, the exchange took a turn when Dembski wrote,

All organisms share the genetic code and would not be alive without it. So the genetic code must in some sense predate existing life forms. Natural selection, by contrast, requires life already to exist. So it is misguided to claim that natural selection acting on random mutations can ‘produce the genetic code.’ Wouldn’t you agree?”

Apparently, ChatGPT wasn’t prepared for this argument, and responded with, “An error occurred. If this issue persists please contact us through our help center at help.openai.com.”

Dembski’s experience with the new chatbot extraordinaire shows its limits in articulating complex arguments. Despite its coherence of delivery, the chatbot still has a long way to go. Or, perhaps the programmers need to get better at anticipating valid questions and points from ID proponents!


Peter Biles

Peter Biles graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois in 2019 and went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. He is the author of Hillbilly Hymn (Resource Publications, 2022) and Keep and Other Stories (Resource Publications, 2022). He has also written for a variety of publications, including Plough, Dappled Things, The Gospel Coalition, Salvo, and Breaking Ground. Born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma, he currently serves as Writer & Editor for Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.

An Intelligent Design Debate With a Chatbot