SETI and Intelligent Design

A subject that comes up often in Intelligent Design vs macro-evolution debates is that of SETI using ID techniques.

The people at seti released a denial of any ID theory or relation in their work –

here are excerpts :

the signals actually sought by today’s SETI searches are not complex, as the ID advocates assume. We’re not looking for intricately coded messages, mathematical series, … Our instruments are largely insensitive to the modulation—or message—that might be conveyed by an extraterrestrial broadcast. A SETI radio signal of the type we could actually find would be a persistent, narrow-band whistle….

Well, it’s because the credibility of the evidence is not predicated on its complexity. If SETI were to announce that we’re not alone because it had detected a signal, it would be on the basis of artificiality. An endless, sinusoidal signal – a dead simple tone – is not complex; it’s artificial. ….

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

They also publish the following:

Narrow-band signals, say those that are only a few Hertz or less wide, are the mark of a purposely built transmitter. Natural cosmic noisemakers, such as pulsars, quasars, and the turbulent, thin interstellar gas of our own Milky Way, do not make radio signals that are this narrow.

The Targeted Search System looks for signals in the range 1,000 MHz to 3,000 MHz, with a frequency resolution of 1 Hz.

Any signal less than about 300 Hz wide must be, as far as we know, artificially produced. Such narrow-band signals are what all SETI experiments look for. Other tell-tale characteristics include a signal that is completely polarized or the existence of coded information on the signal.

If the signal is intentional, it might be decipherable. In order to send or receive a signal over interstellar distances, a civilization must understand basic science and mathematics. Hence, a message from another civilization might use science and math to build up a common language with other socieites. Signals sent by a civilization for its own purposes may be impossible for us to unravel. But one thing we would know irrespective of content is that another intelligent civilization is out there.

Hmmmm…. They are stubbornly trying to pull the wool over our eyes with rather weak and anemic response. If there were no complex radio transmitter behind the “simple” signal there would be no signal. They are hiding behind a layer of abstraction (ie smoke and mirrors talk) that merely pushes the design element & complexity one step further back in the detection process.

I find it hard to believe they think no one is smart enough to see through this. I find it even harder to believe that they don’t see through their own smoke and mirrors!?? So either they’re a lot dumber than we think, or they are being deceptive – perhaps deceiving themselves.

There are simple things that require intelligent design as well as complex things. The key is specification (purpose, precision, concision etc)

It’s not looking for intelligence directly but for “signs” or evidence of it through the things intelligence does…. make sense? It’s not that intelligence itself is complex (it is) but that the “simple” byproducts of intelligence can imply the complex – a meter deeper down the well so to speak.

IDists are highly concentrated on the aspects of irreducible and specified complexity these days. And I would say rightfully so thus far. But sooner or later there are also “signs” of intelligence in a lot of apparently simple things as well. SETI’s simple signal, if found, will tell them a possible source of alien intelligence has been found. As mentioned, the signal is simple but the complex is needed to produce it. I think that the same will be found in biology as well.

Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence – that pretty much says it all.

They say, “Other tell-tale characteristics include a signal that is completely polarized or the existence of coded information on the signal.” What’s this!!? “coded information” in the signal?! Sound like DNA & ID in any way? Frankly one must be adamant in denial not to admit this “similarity” both of principle and design detection. They use exactly the same language as ID on the one hand and deny it on the other. So they play with semantics to avoid any admission of the simple truth.

Some would object that SETI is not looking for irreducible complexity (IC). ID is not a search for irreducible complexity either, nor of CCIS (complex coded information system). That’s a wrong view of ID. ID looks for the signs, earmarks, indicators of design. It doesn’t have to be IC or CCIS. In archaeology, determining whether a pointed stone is actually an ancient arrow or spearhead is also ID in action. But what is simpler than an old arrow head? Signs of intelligent agency are what is looked for. IC and CCIS are a part of that and crucial to biology but they are not the only signs.

How does an archaeologist determine whether a wall of stone is designed or just natural? Or the arrowhead? Simple – abductive reasoning. That is a vital part of all sciences!

So what exactly is abductive reasoning?

Abduction, or abductive reasoning, is the process of reasoning to the best explanations. In other words, it is the reasoning process that starts from a set of facts and derives their most likely explanations. The term abduction is sometimes used to mean just the generation of hypotheses to explain observations or conclusions, but the former definition is more common both in philosophy and computing.

Deduction and abduction differ in the direction in which a rule like “a entails b” is used for inference (see also logical reasoning for a comparison with induction):

allows deriving b as a consequence of a; in other words, deduction is the process of deriving the consequences of what is known;
allows deriving a as an explanation of b; abduction works in reverse to deduction, by allowing the precondition a of “a entails b” to be derived from the consequence b; in other words, abduction is the process of explaining what is known.

Logic-based Abduction
In logic, abduction is done from a logical theory T representing a domain and a set of observations O. Abduction is the process of deriving a set of explanations of O according to T. For E to be an explanation of O according to T, it should satisfy two conditions:

O follows from E and T;
E is consistent with T.
In formal logic, O and E are assumed to be sets of literals. The two conditions for E being an explanation of O according to theory T are formalized as……..

SETI’s denial is either an equivocation fallacy (or something “similar” ;-), or intentional deception.