SETI in Odd Places

One of the most common objections to a design inference in life is the belief that we must first have independent knowledge and evidence of the designers – their identity, their motivations, their psychology, and their methods – in order to infer design. I call this designer-centrism. It would indeed be nice if we had this independent knowledge about the designer(s), but there is no good reason for thinking it is necessary. For example, Paul Davies doesn’t think it is necessary:

“If ET has put a message into terrestrial organisms, this is surely where to look,” said Davies.

A computer could be used to find obvious attention-grabbing patterns within these stretches of DNA, he said. If a sequence of junk units of DNA were displayed as an array of pixels on a screen and produced a simple image “the presumption of tampering would be inescapable”.

Yet why would such a presumption of tampering would be inescapable? What is the reasoning process that would lead us to this conclusion? I propose it would be just as I described in my book:

Or consider the example of a message in the DNA from Chapter 6. Th e discovery of written text in the DNA might trigger a design inference even among the most extreme of skeptics because it would simultaneously satisfy both criteria. The text itself would be strongly analogous to things human beings produce and such text would unlikely have been spawned by non-teleological processes…..The key is that an analogy to designed things is coupled to a discontinuity with non-teleological processes. They are two sides of the same coin.

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4 responses to “SETI in Odd Places

  1. Being relatively new to the online argument, I’m still trying to get a handle on the issue. How prevalent is the belief in aliens as the creator as opposed to a supreme being among the ID community? I have read forums (perhaps propaganda) that ID is just creationism under a different name.

    P.S. – At what level is “The Design Matrix” written?

  2. Hi Alaninnont,

    How prevalent is the belief in aliens as the creator as opposed to a supreme being among the ID community?

    I would think it would be quite uncommon. I myself am not arguing that aliens are the creator. First, as a theist, I am not arguing about the origin of creation; I am focusing on the origin of one part of creation – life. Second, I do not think science is capable of determining whether or not life was designed, so I am focusing more closely on how SETI proposes to detect design. Third, I am finding that SETI’s proposed methodology is very similar to the method I independently devised in my book.

    I have read forums (perhaps propaganda) that ID is just creationism under a different name.

    Most people associate ID with the socio-political movement that culminated in the Dover trial and it certainly appears to me that most members of this movement are creationists. But I am not part of this movement. I take a broader and deeper perspective that allows me to view ID as just one expression of an ancient teleological perspective. I am not a creationist; I accept evolution fully and focus on how design might have influenced evolution.

    P.S. – At what level is “The Design Matrix” written?

    If you have ever read anything by Behe or Dawkins, it is about at that level.

    From the book’s Introduction:

    It is my belief that there are people in the world like me—people who are tired of the heated debates, name-calling, innuendo, and political fights. Such people might find themselves in the middle ground and would rather focus on the hypotheses, the arguments, and the evidence. We might not be completely convinced that life was designed, yet we find the hypothesis to be tremendously intriguing. Rather than belaboring the concern as to whether the study of Intelligent Design should be labeled science, metaphysics, or religion, it is my belief that there are people who would rather just ponder the issues that are raised by design and evolution.

    You can also click on the “About “ section of this blog and read some of the reviews.

  3. Thanks. I haven’t read Behe but I’ve read some of Dawkins’ stuff. I’ve ordered your book. I get the feeling that it will talk to where I’m at. You said, “I do not think science is capable of determining whether or not life was designed…” I’m not sure if science can answer the question of existence. I see problems with the science of evolution and creationism. I haven’t seen any theories that would make either train of thought acceptable to scientific scrutiny. Maybe science is not the be all and end all. Maybe it’s time to combine logic and science to create less precise but more realistic answers.

  4. Hi Alaninnont,

    Thanks for ordering the book. And it looks like you might indeed enjoy it. After reading it, feel free to offer any candid feedback.

    I think you are correct in noting that “maybe science is not the be all and end all.” Science is about experiments which is about controls, variables, measurement, and regularities. Because science seeks consensus by rooting its claims in objective measurement, it will miss the more subtle aspects of our reality – aspects that cannot be measured sufficiently to generate consensus. Our everyday lives tell us this. I am part of the world, as are my daughters. I can tell you that recently we had a very enjoyable moment together – a subtle, tiny piece of history on planet Earth. Science cannot tell you this as science is blind that that reality. If science was the be all and end all, I’d have to conclude that my experience is a delusional thought.

    The problem is not with science, but with scientism.

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