After considering SETI from a higher resolution perspective, let’s again turn to the comparison of ID with SETI. Seth Shostak argues the two differ in two crucial regards:
In short, the champions of Intelligent Design make two mistakes when they claim that the SETI enterprise is logically similar to their own: First, they assume that we are looking for messages, and judging our discovery on the basis of message content, whether understood or not. In fact, we’re on the lookout for very simple signals. That’s mostly a technical misunderstanding. But their second assumption, derived from the first, that complexity would imply intelligence, is also wrong. We seek artificiality, which is an organized and optimized signal coming from an astronomical environment from which neither it nor anything like it is either expected or observed. Very modest complexity, found out of context. This is clearly nothing like looking at DNA’s chemical makeup and deducing the work of a supernatural biochemist.
Shostak is correct in noting there are two ways in which SETI and ID differ, but these are not them. Yes, SETI is looking for very simple signals, but as we have seen, should they succeed, it is unlikely that many people, apart from the enthusiasts, will embrace such ambiguous evidence as evidence for ETI. The SETI people would have to focus more closely on the region that emits the simple signal in search for something that is unequivocal – something the human mind would recognize as a message.
As for the second difference, the ID people don’t infer design from complexity; they too look for artificiality; they too look for something organized and optimized that is out of context. That’s why they propose various molecular machines and codes that cannot be explained by natural processes.
Since Shostak fails to clearly distinguish ID from SETI, what are the two ways in which they differ?