But What About SETI?

In the previous posting, I argued that science needs some independent information about the designers before it can use an intelligent cause as part of an explanation.  For as I noted, the science of archaeology and forensics rely extensively on our knowledge about humans.  But there is one exception and Bilbo raised it:

Further, if SETI ever received the wished for radio signal, that would be considered sufficient evidence of a designer, even though we had no other independent evidence for one. And even if Mike wouldn’t consider SETI to be science, I think most scientists would.

Before getting to this point, to set the stage, it would help tremendously if you read how SETI replies to this argument and also read some of my own observations.

SETI reply

SETI in the Matrix

More Matrix and SETI

Similarities between SETI and the Design Matrix

7 responses to “But What About SETI?

  1. That’s a lot of reading you’ve assigned. It might take a while before I get through it all.

  2. Let me respond to the articles as I read them.
    The first is a reply from SETI, saying in essence that they would detect design by the criteria of Discontinuity and Rationality. Discontinuity: Nature is unable to produce narrow band radio signals, especially in the neighborhood of solar systems. Rationality: A smart designer would use narrow band radio signals, to save on energy costs.
    So SETI would infer design on the basis of two of your criteria, Mike. Do I need to read more?

  3. In SETI and Intelligent Design, SETI researcher Seth Shostak wants to assure everyone that the two don’t have anything in common.

    However it is obvious that Seth doesn’t completely understand ID’s argument, and he misrepresents the anonymous quote he provided.

    Seth on ID:

    The way this happens is as follows. When ID advocates posit that DNA–which is a complicated, molecular blueprint–is solid evidence for a designer, most scientists are unconvinced. They counter that the structure of this biological building block is the result of self-organization via evolution, and not a proof of deliberate engineering. DNA, the researchers will protest, is no more a consciously constructed system than Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Organized complexity, in other words, is not enough to infer design.

    Yes specified complexity is used as evidence for design. Not mere complexity and not organized complexity. A hurricane is an example of organized complexity. DNA is an example of specified complexity.

    Seth on IDists on SETI:

    “upon receiving a complex radio signal from space, SETI researchers will claim it as proof that intelligent life resides in the neighborhood of a distant star. Thus, isn’t their search completely analogous to our own line of reasoning–a clear case of complexity implying intelligence and deliberate design?” anonymous IDist(s)

    (No IDist claims complexity implies intelligence so methinks Seth made it all up)

    What does Seth say about his made-up quote?:

    In fact, the signals actually sought by today’s SETI searches are not complex, as the ID advocates assume.- S Shostak

    1- All that quote said was about RECEIVING, not searching.
    2- And if you did RECEIVE a signal of that nature you would claim it as such
    3- By ID’s standards of complexity is related to probability your narrow band meets the complexity criteria

    An endless, sinusoidal signal – a dead simple tone – is not complex; it’s artificial.- Shostak

    Not if we use the word complexity in terms of (im)probability then that sine wave would meet the criteria.
    However Seth does add some insight:

    Such a tone just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural astrophysical processes. In addition, and unlike other radio emissions produced by the cosmos, such a signal is devoid of the appendages and inefficiencies nature always seems to add –

    Exactly! And if natural astrophysical processes can be found that generate such a tone then you would have to search for something else. Something that natural astrophysical processes cannot account for.

  4. The second article is your response to the first article, and you draw the same conclusions that I did. SETI is using Discontinuity and Rationality. We might wonder if “context” is meant to be a separate criterion or not.

  5. The third article, by Novella, may be more of a challenge for ID. He points out that we know how the radio signal can be produced, because we possess the same technology — radio astronomy. I think you interpret this as an argument from Analogy. I don’t think it is. Or if it is, then it could count against ID, since we don’t have the technology to produce living cells.
    I discuss this at TT, in my thread on Inferring Design from Technology. I think we’re far enough along in biotechnology and nanotechnology that we recognize what kind of technology is needed to design the cell. So while I think a design inference for the cell would be weaker than for a radio signal, I think we have enough information of the necessary technology to make design a reasonable hypothesis.

  6. And your fourth article is your summary of the similarities between SETI and The Design Matrix, including your opinion that neither one is science, though you do not explain why. You also mention that there are significant differences, and that you will explain why in an upcoming post. Why do I get the feeling that post is coming up soon?

  7. The two significant differences that I can think of are:

    1. We know exactly how to send a radio signal.
    2. SETI has predicted that if we receive a certain kind of signal, it will imply design. Whereas ID didn’t make the prediction. It already had the the phenomena, and is now explaining it.

    I think both differences make SETI’s conclusions stronger than ID. That doesn’t mean ID lacks all evidentiary strength.

    And I’m still curious why you think neither is science.

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