SETI vs ID

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On December 1, SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) researcher Seth Shostak posted this brief essay. It's purpose was to dispel the myth that the techniques proffered by ID folks for the purpose of detecting intelligently-caused signals bear any resemblance to those used by SETI. (William Dembski in particular is fond of making this comparison). Shostak made two especially important points. First:

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. 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 -- for example, DNA's junk and redundancy. (Emphasis in original)

Later we come to this:

There's another hallmark of artificiality we consider in SETI, and it's context. Where is the signal found? Our searches often concentrate on nearby Sun-like star systems -- the very type of astronomical locale we believe most likely to harbor Earth-size planets awash in liquid water. That's where we hope to find a signal. The physics of solar systems is that of hot plasmas (stars), cool hydrocarbon gasses (big planets), and cold rock (small planets). These do not produce, so far as we can either theorize or observe, monochromatic radio signals belched into space with powers of ten billion watts or more---the type of signal we look for in SETI experiments. It's hard to imagine how they would do this, and observations confirm that it just doesn't seem to be their thing.

Fine points, well made.

I provided some further commentary on this article later that day in this blog entry over at EvolutionBlog. I pointed out that as much as I liked Shostak's article, I felt he had made a small error that would permit people like Dembski to weasel his way out.

Shostak, you see, used the term “complexity” in it's everyday sense. In other words, he was viewing “complex” as the opposite of “simple.” But in ID fantasy land “complex” means something different. When used by people like Dembski, the word is meant to refer to phenomena that are improbable when viewed as the result of chance or natural causes alone. This distinction, I felt, would allow Dembski to argue that what Shostak was referring to as “artificiality” falls under the rubric of what Dembski calls “complexity.”

In other words, he could argue that the very things that alerted Shostak to the presence of artificiality (not produced by a natural source), were the same things that would alert Dembski to complexity (something very improbable without the input of intelligence).

As I predicted, Dembski took this approach when he replied to Shostak the following day:

But in fact, my criterion for design detection applies to the very signals that Shostak's SETI Institute is looking for. Yes, as narrow bandwidth transmissions, the signals are simple to describe. But they are difficult for purely material processes to reproduce by chance. So we have simplicity of description combined with complexity in the sense of improbability of the outcome. That's specified complexity and that's my criterion for detecting design.

More recently, Casey Luskin parroted the same defense.

Now, this answer is plainly inadequate even if we were to accept Dembski's musings about detecting design. In his world a probability calculation is required to establish that something is complex. And specification is supposed to be something more rigorous than “simplicity of description.” So until Dembski fills in those details, it is difficult to take seriously his claims here.

But there is a more serious objection, and it is one I also made in my original blog entry. The point of Shostak's argument lies not in some semantic distinction between “artificiality” on the one hand and an idiosyncratic view of “complexity” on the other. It is that SETI researchers have a firm basis in experience for concluding that the sort of simple tones Shostak describes could not be produced naturally. It is that experience, and not some back of the envelope probability calculation, that provides the foundations for SETI's work.

To use another favored example of ID folk, we know that Mt. Rushmore is not the result of weathering and erosion because we have seen the effects of those forces on countless other mountains. That is what alerts us to the fact that Mt. Rushmore represents something requiring a special sort of explanation. But no one in his right mind draws that conclusion from a probability calculation.

It is precisely this experience that Dembski lacks in forming conclusions about what evolution can and cannot produce. In drawing conclusions about what evolution is likely to produce in the course of four billion years, we have only one example to look at. This simple fact exposes the folly of trying to discuss the probability of a flagellum or a blood clotting cascade. It would require God-like knowledge of natural history to carry out these sorts of probability calculations. And that is why Dembski blathers about mathematics when he is trying to impress people with how rigorous his work is, but quickly retreats to intuitive arguments when pressed for details. It is why his one example of an actual probability calculation, for the bacterial flagellum, in Section 5.10 of No Free Lunch, was easily seen to reside upon a mountain of false assumptions.

Dembski in particular is fond of arguing that scientists draw design inferences all the time (in SETI, forensic pathology, and archeology, for example). Typically he tells us this after bemoaning the fact that scientists simply dismiss design out of hand as a legitimate explanation. But the point made here applies to those other branches of science Dembski mentions. In every case where scientists draw actual design inferences it is based on extensive background knowledge of the relevant natural forces and the sorts of designers whose action is being hypothesized.

ID folks refuse to address this point, with good reason. It is obvious and fatal to Dembski's entire approach. It is not that Dembski's arguments are currently in a preliminary form, but with some tweaking might be ready for prime time. It is that his whole method is fundamentally and irretrievably flawed.


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SETI and ID Again from Dispatches from the Culture Wars on December 9, 2005 11:48 AM

Jason Rosenhouse has a follow up post on SETI and ID, responding to Dembski's reply to Seth Shostak's article debunking the link between the two. Well worth reading.... Read More

61 Comments

So we have simplicity of description combined with complexity in the sense of improbability of the outcome. That’s specified complexity and that’s my criterion for detecting design.

Man, that is lame. That’s something I expect from Charlie Wagner. Bill, you’ve got a math degree, put it to use. Sling some complicated-sounding junk at us, like “Stochasticly Irregular Fitness Topology” or some other bullshit. Come on, hit us with the good stuff.

I’ve already made my comments on this matter, and may as well copy them onto this forum:

I don’t know that I’m especially impressed [by Shostak’s arguments]. Even a simple speech made by aliens would be rather complex, and in a sense, “specified” (all sorts of problems arise from the word “specified”, but I’ll grant specification in this case so long as I point out that “specification” is a question, not the end of the discussion).

What sort of amazes me is that IDists think that language and speech are designed. Language above all is rather more evolved than it is “designed” (which presumably is why it is complex), and hardly counts as the finding of anything “designed” in SETI signals. Speech may be somewhat more “designed”, indeed, particularly very deliberate speech, but even most of what comprises speech is far less design than it is a sort of “animal process”. The famous, “how do I know what I think before I say it?” kind of thing. While I’m not denying all design in speech, or even in language itself, it’s absurd to take evolved communication patterns as “Design” in some Platonic, Stoic, or Theological sense.

This is the stupidity of ID. They have no idea what “design is”, and in fact when we do our best to define it with more subtlety and sophistication, we also find ourselves having problems with saying where evolved patterns and forms leave off from the processes that we reductively name “design”. Languages, literary forms, and even scientific terms and speech, all evolve and produce both complexity marks of derivation within themselves. Design per se is less certain to diagnose in the process than is derivation both from past speech and from observation/empiricism, and from the knowledge and personality of the speaker. In fact we are not likely to concern ourselves at all with “design” when we’re really considering speech production (or signal production of any kind in humans) with some sophistication, because often the best speech hardly amounts to something “designed” in any deliberate sense. And even where deliberate design occurs in speech and writing, we’re really interested in what produces such “design”, since we don’t really take “design” to be a fundamental aspect of our world.

The fact of the matter is that we’re really only looking for animal signaling in SETI searches, which is why we have some notion of what to look for. Those in SETI research rarely make the mistake of talking about picking up signs of design in an overall sense (some designs might be noticeable in SETI communications, but much of the rest would not be design in any meaningful sense), since this seriously confuses the issue of what occurs during animal signaling, including sophisticated versions of it. If we were looking for Design without constraints, such as would be expected of the inscrutable God, we would not know what to look for, since God is not constrained by physics and evolution into predictable aspects of communication. The IDists make a muck of things, as usual, because they have no notion of what gives us complex speech patterns (it is emphatically not design), plus they have no notion of why we think we likely know something about humanoid aliens might signal us. The latter is due to the fact that we know that aliens would be signaling in some manner that had evolved among animals, and far from “design” explaining this, it is rather due to empiricism, physics, and evolution of “intelligence”.

(originally posted: http://tinyurl.com/7oswq except it was message #2, not #4))

If we could perform the probability calculations, such calculations would render Dembski’s methods superfluous. If I calculate that the natural occurence of something is ridiculously improbable, why can’t I skip all the EF/CSI stuff and just conclude that it didn’t occur naturally?

I was amused by one IDer’s comment on Dembski’s SETI thread: I think “specified improbability” might be a better term than “specified complexity”. The commentor doesn’t realize that substituting the word complexity for improbability is an obfuscation, intended to mask the fact that Dembski’s method is pure question-begging. Of course, the obfuscation comes at a price. Dembski has to call a rectangular monolith complex, which makes him look rather silly.

Glen said:

and in a sense, “specified” (all sorts of problems arise from the word “specified”, but I’ll grant specification in this case so long as I point out that “specification” is a question, not the end of the discussion).

Yep. If IDers could formally define Information as they use it, formally define Specification, and then prove that evolution can’t create CSI, they’d really be in business.

Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory now, and that’s a real problem. Without a theory it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as “irreducible complexity” and “specified complexity” - but as yet no general theory of biological design.

Yeah, you suck.

Shostak Wrote:

Such a tone just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural astrophysical processes.

Isn’t this an argument from ignorance, just like the IDiots propose that “such /an organism/ just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural /biological/ processes”?

Jason quotes Dembski’s as follows:

So we have simplicity of description combined with complexity in the sense of improbability of the outcome. That’s specified complexity and that’s my criterion for detecting design.

. This Dembski’s statement succinctly displays the absurdity of his thesis. “Simplicity of description combined with complexity in the sense of improbability of the outcome” - it is a meaningless notion. “complexity in the sense of improbability” is one of Dembski’s favorite notions, which is contrary to facts. Complexity is tantamount to improbability only in Dembski’s dream world. In the real world complexity by no means implies improbability. There are multiple examples of situations where a simple outcome is less probable than a complex one. If we discard Dembski unsubstantiated assertion that “complexity = improbability” (as we should) then Dembski’s notion becomes a transparently incorrect assertion that “simplicity in description” in some mysterious way can simultaneously be “complexity.” “complexity is simplicity” is an Orwellian doublespeak having no meaning.

Adding to “complexity” a qualifier “specified” does not help because “specification” a la Dembski is a rather fuddled concept (as, for example, was shown in Elsberry-Shallit’s essay). To put it in simple terms, specification is just disguised low probability and nothing beyond that. Overall, Dembski’s thesis boils down to argument from improbability, i.e. argument from personal incredulity, i.e. argument from ignorance, i.e. god-o-the gaps argument. His incessant attempts to point to SETI methodology as allegedly tantamount to his method of design inference are contrary to facts. Shostak’s essay just shows this once again.

Shostak wrote: Such a tone just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural astrophysical processes.

Isn’t this an argument from ignorance, just like the IDiots propose that “such /an organism/ just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural /biological/ processes”?

Why do you think he wrote that it “just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural/biological processes”? It’s because he’s relying upon actual investigation into natural processes, instead of deciding a priori that such and such is not produced “naturally”.

That is, the good SETI researcher has knowledge of what is produced “naturally” and what is not, and looks for what is not “natural”. This is unlike the IDist practice of looking at sequences which are indistinguishable from evolved sequences and deciding that one is “too improbable” to have evolved.

Shostak is not appealing to ignorance, he’s appealing to “investigations into nature” that have shown that some patterns are not occurring “naturally”. Now if he were to decide that one certain pattern conclusively determined something to be produced by aliens, he would indeed be begging the question, but no good SETI researcher would pull and ID move by deciding that this single factor indicates intelligence by itself. If only this one “indication of life” ever showed up from a small section of sky, then one might begin to think that an unusual “natural process” created it, because no other sort of “artificial signal” shows that aliens are there (which is similar to the actual experience of finding the unknown signal of pulsars, but deciding that it had to be “natural” for several reasons, including the fact that nothing else corroborated the “little green men hypothesis”).

The good researcher relies upon several lines of evidence, while the IDists rely upon only one bogus determination based in their ignorance of evolution and misapprehensions of what design is.

Comment #61972

Posted by Worldwide Pants on December 7, 2005 08:44 PM (e) (s)

If we could perform the probability calculations, such calculations would render Dembski’s methods superfluous. If I calculate that the natural occurence of something is ridiculously improbable, why can’t I skip all the EF/CSI stuff and just conclude that it didn’t occur naturally?

Improbable, natural, these are all slippery terms. Here’s an example. Hook a Gieger-Muller tube up to a timer such that every time the tube registes a pulse, the last digit of the timer is concatenated to a number. Let this go on until the number is 200 digits long. The chance of getting that particular 200 digit number is well beyond Dembski’s “Universal Probability Bound”. Yet it resulted from a natural process. That doesn’t prove design. So that’s where the IDers add the magic sauce, “Specification”. Specification is supposed to add meaningfulness. Problem is, there’s no way to define it. They’ve tried several definitions, nothing works. So they always wind up with Specification being some variant of “and it looks like designed stuff we’ve seen” and the question is utterly begged.

buddha Wrote:

Isn’t this an argument from ignorance, just like the IDiots propose that “such /an organism/ just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural /biological/ processes”?

An unfair comparison. Saying that a dead simple tone is too simple to be produced naturally is like saying that a perfectly cubical block of wood is too simple too have grown naturally. That’s what SETI is looking for.

Life is complex and mushy, as is interstellar matter. The setup needed to produce a nice constant sine wave is not going to happen when the signals are being produced by collisions in clouds of superhot gasses.

I know this is off the SETI vs ID topic, but I nominate, for Panda’s Thumb’s motto, ““From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,”

from that Templeton guy.

In general, all anti-evolutionary “information theory” challenges are premised upon trying to conflate meaning with information. This is why Lee Spetner doesn’t want to discuss quantification of “information”, why Royal Truman dismisses Shannon’s concept of information, and why William Dembski deploys the concept of “specification” to obtain complex specified information.

(Source, 2001/01)

buddha Wrote:

Isn’t this an argument from ignorance, just like the IDiots propose that “such /an organism/ just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural /biological/ processes”?

No not really. A monochromatic tone is made of only one (or a few) frequency. Naturally occurring signals are very complex resulting from several frequencies mixed together in a more or less random fashion based on all the different sources of the signals.

In radio communications we pull the “intelligence” signal from all the random noise by looking for the simple signal hiding in all complex background noise.

By studying the radio electronic environment we find time and time again that naturally occurring “noise” is more complex (in the standard usage of the word) than any designed “intelligence” signal. Even highly complex multiplexing and modulation techniques are still simpler than all the naturally occurring background noises.

The art and science of cryptology is all based on making the signal MORE COMPLEX to make it appear like naturally occurring background noise.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 4, column 2, byte 190 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

(apologies for the previous… my postings have recently been sent to the black hole…)

i think this entire discussion is chasing a red herring. trashing demski is preaching to the choir here.

here’s what i think is the crucial distinction between SETI and IC: the foundation of all scientific endeavor is curiosity allied with skepticism: all observations are subjected to scrutiny and only enter the body scientific when verified beyond all reasonable doubt. the more revolutionary the observation the greater the scrutiny. this philosophy also applies to SETI (in spades).

the process of skeptical scrutiny will apply to any putative signal from space: it will be ruthlessly dissected by a huge body of incredulous investigators who will first attempt to discredit it as a hoax, an earthly signal reflected off from nearby object, a trace from a man-made satellite or deep-space probe, a naturally occurring physical phenomenon, etc., until they have exhausted ALL conceivable (and some currently inconceivable) natural explanations.

only when natural expanations have been eliminated will the signal be acknowledged as such (and even then, intense skepticism will remain).

this the difference between SETI and IC: the IC folk have not exhausted all possible natural explanations ; they simply apply a cunningly-disguised “hurricane assembling a 747 in a junkyard” argument to assert that we should stop looking for them.

IC advocates a surrender in science’s attempt to explain what we see: an abandonment of curiosity.

I posted this elsewhere so excuse the double post

Dembski’s and many Fundies nightmare = The Dream of Reason

Obscured by Dembski using Sesquipedalian Obscurantism

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A640207

Perfectly illustrated in art by Goya, Munch, Bosch In Literature by Kafka, Joyce, Nabokov, Conrad

http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.[…]ciofalo.html

http://www.infinitematrix.net/stori[…]eason_1.html

this the difference between SETI and IC: the IC folk have not exhausted all possible natural explanations ; they simply apply a cunningly-disguised “hurricane assembling a 747 in a junkyard” argument to assert that we should stop looking for them.

Moreover, the SETI folks aren’t trying to rule out natural explanations. They’re looking for signals of non-“natural” origin in the sense of artificiality, but they assume designers who are the product of nature and whose attributes can therefore be guessed at. That’s why they’re looking for “Earth-size planets awash in liquid water,” rather than, say, black holes. SETI hopes to detect phenomena best explained by a certain class of naturalistic explanation; the IDers hope to detect miracles. That makes all the difference in the world.

I think the example Glen brought up is very telling. When Bell and Hewish found the first pulsar, they had something that fit Dembski’s “Specified Complexity” criterion perfectly (or as perfectly as anything can until he provides a rigorous formal definition and sticks to it). Simple to describe, difficult for material processes to produce by chance–as far as anybody knew at the time. Did Bell and Hewish immediately publish on the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence, go on the lecture circuit, start lobbying for high school science curricula to be changed?

Moreover, the SETI folks aren’t trying to rule out natural explanations. They’re looking for signals of non-“natural” origin in the sense of artificiality, but they assume designers who are the product of nature and whose attributes can therefore be guessed at. That’s why they’re looking for “Earth-size planets awash in liquid water,” rather than, say, black holes. SETI hopes to detect phenomena best explained by a certain class of naturalistic explanation; the IDers hope to detect miracles. That makes all the difference in the world.

Doesn’t it also make a difference that when SETI folks DO get a “non-natural” signal, they’re going to try their best to look FOR natural explanations? Like how LGMs became pulsars?

So.… Dembski has developed a method to tell exactly how improbable something is?

Quick, get the man a hot cup of tea and let’s conquer the galaxy on our infinite improbability drives!

SETI is absolute poison to ID. It binds to all the ID receptors tighter than ID itself can manage, and then delivers a killer payload.

What’s ID got? A pseudo-mathematical treatment of ‘very improbable’ events - well, so has SETI with the Drake Equation. ID is connected with information theory, and so is SETI. ID’s very existence is based on the idea that design is detectable - and so, of course, has SETI. ID’s got a massive appeal to the metaphysical and spiritual: so has SETI. I doubt there’s anyone involved in either who isn’t inspired by the hope that they’ll witness a discovery that will fundamentally change our view of ourselves and our place in the universe. ID’s got… well, there the well runs dry. ID has nothing else.

But SETI has more. SETI does not conflate improbability and design per se; it is quite clear about context and mechanism, where ID has nothing to say. It is not afraid to show its workings. It says things about the designers. Most importantly, SETI uses its ideas to determine a plan of action which it then executes. Experiments, remember them? Early work has produced results that have led to more sophisticated approaches, it is branching out to optical and other fields, there is an amateur and professional side to it. You can do SETI.

As a result, SETI has made the transition from being something mildly eccentric and a bit embarrassing to a respectable, funded, publishing field that adds to and draws from the main corpus of science. ID cannot do this. It is drastically incomplete, in a way that SETI remorselessly illustrates.

I lied above, of course. The well hadn’t quite run dry. There is one thing that ID has which SETI lacks. ID is theology, not a science. It is “just the Logos of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.”

SETI might well embody the spirit of golden age SF, but nobody’s praying to the aliens.

R

No matter how much Dembski tries to ally his methods with the likes of SETI, the fact remains that nobody is properly using his formal methods to detect design. That includes himself.

Hmmmmm .….infinite improbability drives.…Dembski to drop all pretense of philosophy,religion, sweetness and moderation .…to project his true inner-self as expressed on his blog. I would say “definite probability drives” him.

Not to go down the without a gasp he is still trying to redefine the meaning of the world around him e.g. Fundamentalism is redefined as someone else, but not him.…the lesser of two evils has already been exploded when it comes to Fundamentalism. Not in politics though.

The Absurdity of the Fundamentalist.

hypocrisy, ambiguity, and moral confusion

I think you guys are beating around the bush. Its really quite simple

SETI:: We know how such artifical signals might be produced, we know what technology (radio/whatever) might be harnessed and how physics is exploited to produce such signals. I.E. WE KNOW HOW THEY DID IT

ID:: We know nothing about how a designer might produce its designs, we know nothing about what technology might be harnessed or how physics can be exploited to design and create life. I.E. IDCers BASE THEIR CONCLUSIONS ON IGNORANCE.

To buddha:

The difference between SETI and ID can be summed up in the fact that *if* a SETI scan revealed a bizarre signal, the first thing the scientists do is check that it came from space and was not generated on Earth. Then they would try to find a natural explanation for the signal. This is what happened with pulsars. When they were first detected, they were nothing more than incredibly regular bursts of radio noise. They sure looked designed. But further investigation revealed them to be natural phenomena.

In contrast, ID looks at something and tries to find evidence of design in it, and if it appears to be designed ID concludes immediately that it was designed, refuses to investigate further, and even refuses to acknowledge evidence that it wasn’t designed. The best example of this is the bacterial flagellum, which Behe concluded was designed despite the fact that there is a wealth of evidence for its evolutionary heritage. This evidence has now been made available to Behe and he simply refuses to ackowledge it. This is how ID works.

Let’s look at the “WOW!” signal, a massive radio spike that was detected by the Big Ear Radio Observatory in 1977. You can read Jerry Ehrman’s account of it here (http://www.bigear.org/wow20th.htm). Note that after analysing the WOW! signal, Ehrman and his colleagues went through every possible non-ET explanation they could think of, from overhead aircraft to scintillation, and even after concluding that each and every one of these explanations was not sufficient to explain the signal, they concluded (in Ehrman’s words) “Thus, since all of the possibilities of a terrestrial origin have been either ruled out or seem improbable, and since the possibility of an extraterrestrial origin has not been able to be ruled out, I must conclude that an ETI (ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence) might have sent the signal that we received as the Wow! source. Of course, being a scientist, I await the reception of additional signals like the Wow! source that are able to be received and analyzed by many observatories. Thus, I must state that the origin of the Wow! signal is still an open question for me. There is simply too little data to draw many conclusions. In other words, as I stated above, I choose not to “draw vast conclusions from ‘half-vast’ data”.”

To this day, the WOW! signal is seen not as proof of ET intelligence, but an open question. It could just as easily be a natural phenomenon that occurs too rarely to be observed regularly. If SETI had anything in common with ID, the WOW! signal would have been hailed as the triumphant proof of ET intelligence. In fact, it has a better hold on the claim for an intelligent agent than all the “IC” systems Behe came up with like bacterial flagella and clotting cascades, because the WOW! signal at least remains unexplained.

I think you guys are beating around the bush. Its really quite simple

SETI:: We know how such artifical signals might be produced, we know what technology (radio/whatever) might be harnessed and how physics is exploited to produce such signals. I.E. WE KNOW HOW THEY DID IT

ID:: We know nothing about how a designer might produce its designs, we know nothing about what technology might be harnessed or how physics can be exploited to design and create life. I.E. IDCers BASE THEIR CONCLUSIONS ON IGNORANCE.

Been there, done that.

budda Wrote:
Shostak Wrote:

Such a tone just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural astrophysical processes.

Isn’t this an argument from ignorance, just like the IDiots propose that “such /an organism/ just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural /biological/ processes”?

As others have pointed out, Shostak’s argument isn’t ignorant, it is informed. But nobody seems to have addressed the flip side, that the ID argument is far worse. They aren’t even arguing from ignorance, they’re arguing from denial. The idea that “such an organism just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural biological processes” is an obvious and absolute denial of abundant evidence all around us. Anytime anybody sees a mammal anywhere and ask’s where did this organism come from, they should obviously think that it was born. Thus cows are generated by natural processes every day. To claim that living organism are never created by natural processes is simply a sweeping denial of reality.

Of course the newborn calf is not exactly the same as the cow that birthed her and is sometimes significantly different. So it is another denial of abundant evidence to argue that natural biological reproduction can never make something new and different. Real scientists have flushed this out much further in much detail and the ID supporters are in complete denial about it all.

The most useful contribution Seth Shostak could provide is to list all the assumptions (and that means all, whether overt or implicit or buried so deep one never notices) that SETI makes - and would eventually make to be convinced - regarding the nature/qualities/properties of the “designers” of the signals SETI is searching for.

My amateur list is surpisingly long.

Posted by buddha on December 7, 2005 09:10 PM (e) (s)

Shostak wrote:

Such a tone just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural astrophysical processes.

Isn’t this an argument from ignorance, just like the IDiots propose that “such /an organism/ just doesn’t seem to be generated by natural /biological/ processes”?

No. It’s an observation from reality. He has noted that the tones are absent from detection (and possibly existence) and their best understanding is that there are no known natural processes that would produce said tone. It’s no different than saying there’s no such thing as telepathy because we’ve studied it to death, found nothing, and can’t figure out natural process by which it may work, despite claims from the crackpots.

Eyes, OTOH, exist (in many forms). ID says there must be a creator because eyes exist and we refuse to accept that nature could have produced the eye because we didn’t see it happen. This while ignoring things like pseudo-eyes and blind cave-fish which support the Theory of Evolution and call into question the “creator.”

Chris Lawson Wrote:

To this day, the WOW! signal is seen not as proof of ET intelligence, but an open question. It could just as easily be a natural phenomenon that occurs too rarely to be observed regularly.

What would convince you of ET intelligence? Two WOW! signals? Three? Perhaps these may all have “natural” explanations. Will the existence of ETs (and the cause of these WOW! signals) remain an open question until there is direct evidence?

Is SETI a misnomer, then, if we cannot infer the existence of ETs in any event, but neither can we reject the possibility of ETs in any given star system on the basis of signals received.

What is the hypothesis that SETI tests? That ETs exist? That ETs do not exist? What are the falsification criteria that SETI uses for this hypothesis, whatever it is?

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Jason said “ it’s far more fun to ask an ID person if the BACK of Mt. Rushmore is designed”

That reminds me of one of the funniest cartoons I’ve ever seen

Don Martin from Mad Mag.

Picture If you will a helicopter tour of Mt. Rushmore

1st frame everyone oohs and ahhs over the front view

they all fly around the back and you see the rest of bodies carved out kneeling down.

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This page contains a single entry by Jason Rosenhouse published on December 7, 2005 8:58 PM.

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