• SETI and Intelligent Design

    Once again, the staff writer of Evolution News and Views (which is not about evolution and is not news) betrays their complete lack of understanding of physics and science.

    There’s actually an interesting discussion possible about signals from aliens and the possibility of life on other planets (intelligent or otherwise), but this statement is where the flaw is.

    Communication with alien intelligence, after all, presupposes ID. We’ve discussed this in regard to signal reception: listening and eavesdropping on ET (see Paul Nelson’s piece on this). The whole premise of SETI is that human minds can distinguish between intelligent and natural signals, even without knowing anything about the identity of the senders.

    Yes, humans can distinguish between intelligently designed signals and natural signals. We know, for example, that the signals that SETI searches for are not found in nature nor made by non-intelligent objects. In fact, it appears that the signals SETI searches for cannot be made by natural sources. They can only be manufactured by an intelligence that has specifically altered radio signals in a specific pattern.

    We’re not talking about a series of beeps that indicate a sequence of prime numbers. But we’re talking about a pure tone on a single band of radio, not the hundreds of bands blasted out by a pulsar for example.

    And, we will know something about the identity of the senders if we find such a tone. We will know that they are a technic species. We will know that they understand electromagnetic physics. We will know that they have power sources that can send an extremely powerful signal through space. We will know a lot about them. Because there’s absolutely no other way that those signals could exist.

    And that’s where ID proponents analogies to SETI, forensics, and anthropology fail. Not because we can’t detect the differences between artificial and natural information, but because we know about the designers (and manufacturers) of the artificial signal.

    In forensics, if we find a dead body with a pair 9mm slugs in it, we can safely assume that it wasn’t a wild animal attack. Bullets are manufactured by an intelligence. Guns to fire the bullets are manufactured by an intelligence. But most importantly, we know what that intelligence is and we know it’s capabilities.

    Why is this different from intelligent design claims about DNA and evolution? Because we know that evolution works. There is nothing that any ID proponent has ever suggested that is a way to distinguish between evolution and an intelligent designer.

    There is plenty of talk about what evolution can’t do. But that’s never been able to be shown in a way that actually matters to evolution.

    Yes, the odds of even a single modern gene or protein randomly assembling from component acids is vanishingly small. But no biologist thinks that any modern gene, cell, protein, or any other biological factor was randomly assembled. Every extant biological system has a 3.5 billion year history of incremental improvements.

    Yes, when you take pieces out of an exceedingly complex system, sometimes it breaks. But not always, and sometimes, taking those things out can make the system more efficient. Mutations are not always bad. Even mutations that look bad in one environment are not in another environment.

    Yes, our proteins are highly specialized, but that doesn’t mean that they are the only possible protein that will do the job. It also doesn’t mean that a mutated protein, that no longer does the job, is completely useless. It may have another, perfectly useful function that no one knows about… yet.

    These are all things that ID proponents have made claims about. But none of that matters. ID is still not talking about the elephant in their room. The designer.

    Unlike an alien designer of a radio signal, we still no nothing about what a proposed Intelligent Designer could do, how it could do it, or where it came from. If evolution doesn’t work here, then how could a designer appear? Magic?

    Well… that’s what that staff author seems to think.

    This discussion is going to go on for a while. Let’s give a friendly counter-jab, then, right back at them, and ask, “Is your naturalism ready to meet ID?”

    Naturalism is the idea that everything that exists is all that exists.¬†There is no such thing as ‘supernatural’. There are no souls, there are no spirits. there are no deities. But ID believers do think that… unless they posit a group of immortal (or time-travelling), alien, biochemical engineers, who also didn’t evolve.

    So, when an ID proponent can provide evidence of the supernatural and that it actually exists and that the abilities of these supernatural agents are able to create life, the universe, and everything… then we’ll have something to talk about. But until they do, they can try to poke holes in science all they want. It doesn’t matter.

    For the record, I do think that there is life on other planets. We have found so many planets, in just a short time. It’s staggering. In just 2014 alone, scientists discovered over 850 planets outside of our solar system. That’s with just a few telescopes dedicated to the task.

    There are more galaxies in the universe than there are stars in our galaxy. There is an almost unbelievable number of planets in our universe. It is the height of hubris and ignorance to declare that Earth is the only planet with life.

    Will we ever meet that life, find it, or even travel to other planets… well… that’s a completely different idea. The amount of energy required to travel to other stars is an astronomical (heh!) value. And maybe that’s a good thing. We can’t even be nice to each other. We, as a species, have a hard time being nice to people that share our own values, much less a culture with different values. Much less a culture that is literally alien.

    I want to believe that we will find out before I die. But I doubt it will happen.

    Regardless, ID proponents confuse the difference between what they want to do and what SETI and forensics and anthropology do. They have a long way to go before even attempting do to the very thing that they must be able to do… distinguish between an artificially designed thing and a naturally designed thing.

    Category: CreationismEvolutionPhysicsScienceSkepticism

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