Skip to comments.SETI and Intelligent Design
Posted on 12/02/2005 8:35:59 AM PST by ckilmer
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The curious thing about the SETI arguement is that he makest the point that the sign of intelligence is its artificiality. Artificiality being defined as a 1.)relatively simple, and 2.)out of context -- signal.
This pretty much describes the Garden of Eden.
The question from a decade or two ago went like this. "What evidence do we have of God in the Garden of Eden."
The answer is: The Garden.
The Garden of Eden is a relatively simple & out of context-- that is, artificial place.
Now of course the SETI people, the materialists and the atheists will say that the Garden of Eden is evidence for man--just as a simple -- out of context ie artificial signal from space might be.
Similiarly, ID people will say that that proposition ie that the Garden is Evidence for man -- is what the snake said. (And that's what got everyone into trouble.)
The old joke on skitzophrenia went like this: what do you think of skitzophrenia: Answer: I'm of two minds about it.
But its better to be single minded.
So maybe the SETI people are looking for snakes in space.
That still begs the question of origins. Because even if you have a complex organism ie a snake in space creating simple out of context signals in space--just like humans here on earth...you still have the question of where did the complexity of the space snake come from--just as the question here on earth remains--where did the immense complexity of the human organism --not to mention all the other critters here on earth--come from.
At this point we're talking about everything outside of the garden of eden that is the wilderness or in modern terms -- the space through which the space snake's artificial signal contends--- as also being evidence for God. Not to mention the biological complexity of the dna of man and woman. And then of course there's that snake.
On the matter of origins science has given us two breaks in the history of the cosmos which map over very well onto the book of genesis--and require leaps of faith. The first is the creation of the elements in the big bang. The second is the creation of complex organisms out of simple elements.
ug...this is too much for me before my morning coffee.
Back to the original topic, neither can the SETI test for signs of extra-terrestrial intelligence. It's looking for signals that are likely artificial. IC is looking for systems that are likely created. But I should also point out that science accepts all sorts of ideas based on their probability of truth rather than certainty. That's why there are so many more theories than laws in science. In other words, from the other direction, science can't exclude a supernatural explanation or some other non-evolutional explanation for life on Earth, either. I think the level of certainty your demanding simply doesn't exist very often, even in real Science®.
If you've ever debated philosophy with a postmodernist, you'd realize that about the only thing we can really prove is "cognito ergo sum" -- "I think therefore I am". Almost everything else is conjecture because you can't exclude the possibility that everything you experience is artificial, a point played to great effect in movies like The Matrix.
No, I didn't say that. I only said that it is impossible to verify a designed process via your definition of IC.
It's only impossible if you rule out the ability to identify and understand the mutation paths necessary to get between two points. Given not only our growing understanding of genetics but our ability to reconstruct DNA from very old remains, it's no unthinkable that we will someday understand the starting point, the possible intermediate points, and the end point of a sequence of mutations and determine whether there is or there isn't a natural explanation of how to get between those two points because of the complexity of the changes. Essentially, you are making an appeal to ignorance here (which Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kid defines as "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence") -- we can't ever know if ID is true, thus we must assume it is false.
We are also blind to most of the em-spectrum. Radiation of heat is also part of the em-spectrum. If their shamans allow them to study physics they will discover em-waves.
We are blind to most, but not all. That's important. I again reference science fiction author Larry Niven's Kdatlyno, a race that uses sonar and touch but has no sight. They look up at their night sky to see only the end of their world because no stars or moons shine down on their eyes. Imagine doing electro-magnetic physics while totally blind.
As for "shamans", there are plenty of those in the sciences, too. Don't think that there isn't an orthodoxy and dogma in science. Scientists are human, after all.
They will keep on searching. Why? The possibility for live is not zero in the universe. If something happened once, it could happened twice, three times ... .
The possibility of God is not zero, either. The possibility that we are all brains in a vat, living life Matrix-style, is not zero. All you are really saying is that having one example of intelligent life crosses your own personal level of probability such that a search for intelligent life on other planets seems prudent to you. Against your single example, there are plenty of things pushing the odds in the other direction, including the Fermi Paradox and the large number of factors that could make a planet unsuitable for the development of life (remember that just because current life forms can exist in some very hostile environments does not mean that life could have started out in those same hostile environments -- the environment needed for life to first form could be so specialized that Earth is unique).
Going back to the original topic, that's why I said it's all about a gut level assessment of the odds. You believe that the odds were good that life evolved naturally on Earth and, thus, could have done so on other planets, even if you can't prove it beyond any doubt. Other people look at the same things you are looking at and assess the odds differently. You aren't being unreasonable, but neither are they. So long as it remains a guess, educated or not, one is not necessarily superior to the other.
I also want to know that if they failed to find an obvious EM signal, what other things might SETI search for?
That is the point where scientists draw the line between science and faith. Observations have to be reproducible no matter the observer is religious or not.
And that's fine. What ID is looking for is observable evidence of God via IC. Like I've said, that may be a fool's errand, but they are attempting to do exactly what you claim they should be doing to do Science®.
As I told you before, you don't need to know purpose or meaning of any em-signal. It's the physical structure of the signal itself.
And as I've told you, finding an EM signal with no known purpose or meaning only proves that you've found an EM signal that may not be natural. Applying your own test of validity, such a signal, without a known purpose, meaning, or method of creation, could not exclude that idea that it may have been formed naturally through some yet-unknown natural process. Thus, it would prove nothing. All it might do is increase the odds in favor of ET intelligence. Prove it? No.
I just noticed your post before my bed time, so I better not have any coffee if I want to sleep. :)
Since I'm getting sleepy, here's just a quick post - an excerpt that I thought was interesting:
"The biggest problem with the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe is philosophical--perhaps even theological--what was there before the bang? This problem alone was sufficient to give a great initial impetus to the Steady State theory; but with that theory now sadly in conflict with the observations, the best way round this initial difficulty is provided by a model in which the universe expands from a singularity, collapses back again, and repeats the cycle indefinitely" John Gribbin, "Oscillating Universe Bounces Back," Nature, Vol. 259, 1976: 15.
In spite of other successes of the general theory of relativity, the Big Bang, and in particular the idea that the universe had a beginning, was fought bitterly every step of the way. Hubert P. Yockey, Information Theory and Molecular Biology, 1992, Cambridge University Press.
The reluctance to consider a beginning to the universe adversely affected scientific research in this area for several decades. Though the Big Bang Theory has philosophical and religious implications, it does not have any religious or philosophical premises, just as is the case for ID. Yet, the Big Bang is taught and discussed in science classes. Furthermore, the Anthropic Principle, states that the universe appears to be designed for life based on the fine tuning discovered in the physical laws and constants that govern the universe. Clearly, this could be viewed as a design argument for the cosmos, and valuable research regarding this design is routinely discussed in scientific peer reviewed articles for several decades now. Recent research by ID proponents Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez and Dr. Jay Richards related to this field has provided great insight into the curious correlation between habitability and measurability. In other words, not only is the Earth a great place to live, it also is a wonderful place to make scientific discoveries about the cosmos; to use some of their words, it is as if our place in the cosmos is designed for discovery. (This is discussed thoroughly in the recent book, The Privileged Planet see http://www.privilegedplanet.com/ for further information.)
I find it rather curious that while many neo-Darwinists wish to reduce things down to brute physical and chemical laws, with no intelligent design involved, many physicists already agree that the physical laws and constants are themselves evidence of design.
ID and IC are Trademarks of the Discovery Institute (DI).
ID and IC may never prove anything, as you claim, but they are at least asking scientifically legitimate questions. And I think it's useful to tell kids that science doesn't have all the answers yet, to encourage them to take an interest in it. I suspect that you see ID as a slippery slope to full-blown 6,000 year-old Earth, Noah's Flood Fundamentalist Creationism in schools. Maybe that's exactly what the Discovery Institute wants, too. But I think that slide is far more likely to gain traction if scientists insist on alienating deeply religious Christians by telling them that science has no place for God. ID is a compromise and I think it's a good one because it still encourages a deeper understanding of how biology works and encourages people not to treat science as unquestionable dogma. People should be asking how certain biological systems evolved, regardless of their motivation for doing so.
Perhaps not, but in a republic that lets people vote on school boards and laws, what gets taught in public schools is a matter of compromise.
It's about testing your hypothesis and theories. Therefore science as researchers understand it today is and will never be an unquestionable dogma.
In theory, that's fine. In practice, science is clouded by politics and other agendas. Some theories are more strongly supported than others, but they tend to get taught and absorbed as facts in public schools to many students who will never test or think deeply about those theories. As such, what's taught to most children, be it evolution and general relativity or global warming and enviro-pseduo-science, does get absorbed as unquestionable dogma, particularly if dissenting viewpoints are never presented.
And please don't forget that looking for evidence of irreducable complexity, even though no broadly convincing candidates have been found, is an attempt to test a hypothesis. Basically, it's looking for a system in which the odds of natural development are 0% since evolutionists assume that any chance greater than 0% is sufficient to assume that natural development through evolutoin occurred, thus placing all competing theories in the position of proving a negative. Is demanding that competing theories prove a negative (that the development of life didn't happen naturally through evolution) really testing a theory or is it assuming the theory is already proven and putting the burden of proof and testing on others?
"It's to complex ... therefore it's designed" is a dogma because "It's to complex" is dogmatic. The ID hypothesis is a dogma.
"It's too complex" is not dogmatic. It's a valid odds assessment when dealing with the unknown. So is your belief in the validity of evolution. You believe, that the preponderance of evidence makes evolution a legitimate explanation for all life on Earth. Other's look at the preponderance of evidence and, for a variety of reasons, do not. Similarly, SETI advocates look at the preponderance of evidence and think the odds are good enough that there is life on other planets that they actually go look for it. Others do not and think it's a waste of money. Some people think that the preponderance of evidence proves global warming while others do not.
You make it seem as if there is one right answer and one wrong answer when, in truth, the evidence does not provide 100% proof of any answer. Is it foolish to play the lottery? Someone looking only at the odds will usually tell you that it is. Yet some small number of those people foolish enough to take the bad gamble do walk away with millions while those too smart to play the lottery have no chance of winning. Similarly, the odds are slim that one will die in an airplane flight yet people do die in air accidents. Whether one considers air travel "safe" or not will depend on whether they emphasize or dismiss the risks.
As long as evolution remains a theory and not a fact, it's not unreasonable to buck the odds based on a gut feeling any more than it's unreasonable to play the lottery or avoid air travel. It's only seems unreasonable if your focus is only on the odds of winning or loosing rather than the pay off if you win or the cost if you lose.
For the science room, no free speech
By Bill Murchison
Dec 28, 2005
Will the federal courts, and the people who rely on the federal courts to enforce secular ideals, ever get it? The anti-school-prayer decisions of the past 40 years -- not unlike the pro-choice-in-abortion decisions, starting with Roe vs. Wade -- haven't driven pro-school-prayer, anti-choice Americans from the marketplace of ideas and activity.
Neither will U.S. Dist. Judge John Jones' anti-intelligent-design ruling in Dover, Pa., just before Christmas choke off challenges to the public schools' Darwinian monopoly.
Jones' contempt for the "breathtaking inanity" of school-board members who wanted ninth-grade biology students to hear a brief statement regarding Darwinism's "gaps/problems" is unlikely to intimidate the millions who find evolution only partly persuasive -- at best.
Millions? Scores of millions might be more like it. A 2004 Gallup Poll found that just 13 percent of Americans believe in evolution unaided by God. A Kansas newspaper poll last summer found 55 percent support for exposing public-school students to critiques of Darwinism.
This accounts for the widespread desire that children be able to factor in some alternatives to the notion that "natural selection" has brought us, humanly speaking, where we are. Well, maybe it has. But what if it hasn't? The science classroom can't take cognizance of such a possibility? Under the Jones ruling, it can't. Jones discerns a plot to establish a religious view of the question, though the religion he worries about exists only in the possibility that God, per Genesis 1, might intrude celestially into the discussion. (Intelligent-designers, for the record, say the power of a Creator God is just one of various possible counter-explanations.)
Not that Darwinism, as Jones acknowledges, is perfect. Still, "the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent scientific propositions."
Ah. We see now: Federal judges are the final word on good science. Who gave them the power to exclude even whispers of divinity from the classroom? Supposedly, the First Amendment to the Constitution: the odd part here being the assumption that the "free speech" amendment shuts down discussion of alternatives to an establishment-approved concept of Truth.
With energy and undisguised contempt for the critics of Darwinism, Jones thrusts out the back door of his courthouse the very possibility that any sustained critique of Darwinism should be admitted to public classrooms.
However, the writ of almighty federal judges runs only so far, as witness their ongoing failure to convince Americans that the Constitution requires almost unobstructed access to abortion. Pro-life voters and activists, who number in the millions, clearly aren't buying it. We're to suppose efforts to smother intelligent design will bear larger, lusher fruit?
The meeting place of faith and reason is proverbially darkish and unstable -- a place to which the discussants bring sometimes violently different assumptions about truth and where to find it. Yet, the recent remarks of the philosopher-theologian Michael Novak make great sense: "I don't understand why in the public schools we cannot have a day or two of discussion about the relative roles of science and religion." A discussion isn't a sermon or an altar call, is it?
Equally to the point, what does secular intolerance achieve in terms of revitalizing public schools, rendering them intellectually catalytic? As many religious folk see it, witch-hunts for Christian influences are an engrained part of present public-school curricula. Is this where they want the kids? Might private schools -- not necessarily religious ones -- offer a better alternative? Might home schooling?
Alienating bright, energized, intellectually alert customers is normally accounted bad business, but that's the direction in which Darwinian dogmatists point. Thanks to them and other such foes of free speech in the science classroom -- federal judges included -- we seem likely to hear less and less about survival of the fittest and more and more about survival of the least curious, the least motivated, the most gullible.
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Note: this topic is from 12/02/2005. Thanks ckilmer.
From the 1970s -- Thomas J Gold: "But I am not really willing to accept your premise, because it may well be that the means of communications they have are of a kind that we do not know how to receive, and that they would not have the means of communicating with sufficiently powerful radio or optical signals. That is something which, technologically, is too difficult for them but they would have some other means we would not recognize." and "What we can conclude from this is that we must think very widely as to what it takes to develop intelligence and not take us so much as a model of what is necessary." [Communication with Extraterrestial Intelligence, p 123; Sagan editor -- CETI was the old acronym]