“Blindingly Obvious Artifacts” of Intelligent Design

by Sean Pitman

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It is most interesting to hear the argument, from judges and scientists, that the concept of “Intelligent Design” is a religious concept that is immune from and outside of the realm of scientific investigation.  This is interesting because several mainstream sciences are based on the ability to determine, scientifically, that certain phenomena in nature are true artefacts of deliberate intelligent design.

Of particular interest in this regard are the claims of those who are searching for signs of extra terrestrial intelligence (SETI scientists).  How will they know when they’ve found such evidence?  Upon what is this search based?

Well, to quote Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute:

Perhaps the extraterrestrials will preface their message with a string of prime numbers, or maybe the first fifty terms of the ever-popular Fibonacci series. Well, there’s no doubt that such tags would convey intelligence. (Link)

Even though Shostak went on to note that such a signal may be quite difficult to practically impossible to find at great distances, the point remains. Marked internal symmetry or a series of matching irregularities, like a sequence of numbers within a radio signal that match a series of specific prime numbers, the Fibonacci series, or any other simple or even complex mathematical tag, would be very good evidence of artifact when it comes to the medium of radio signals – as well as other materials like granite. And, this is true without any direct knowledge concerning the actual origin of either the radio signals or the granite rocks.  In fact, the shape of a granite rock does not need to be “complex” at all before it can be recognized as a “blindingly obvious artefact”.  A simple polished cube of granite isn’t very complex, but it is well beyond what can be “naturally” produced and is therefore a clear artefact of intelligent design.  The same is true for simple radio signals.  They can be very very simple and yet be very clear artefacts of intelligent design – as Shostak explains:

It seems that Nature cannot make a pure-tone radio signal.

So the point is simple and sharp. If we detect a signal from the Stygian depths of space that is the equivalent of a tuning fork’s sinusoidal whistle, then we can feel confident that we have found SETI’s vaunted needle in a haystack: a message from another world…

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.

(Link, Link)

So, it seems as though if one can find something that natural mechanisms are not known to produce, and yet are at least approximated by human-level intelligence and design, that such a phenomenon would be considered to be a true artefact of intelligent design – even if found on an alien planet (according to Shostak’s argument).

It also seems like Shostak is arguing out of both sides of his mouth.  On the one hand he claims that the difference between SETI and the search for intelligent design within living things is that, “the evidence [for ETI] is not predicated on its complexity.”  Yet, at the same time, he claims that if a radio signal were to be tagged with some complex mathematical signal, like “the first 50 terms of the Fibonacci series” that this complex mathematical tag would, “no doubt convey intelligence.”

So, which is it?

The obvious answer is that it is both.  Both simple and complex features can suggest a true artefact of intelligent design for the very same reason – i.e., the feature(s) in question go well beyond what any known mindless natural mechanism is capable of producing.  It is for this reason that those like Dr. Paul Cameron argue that a highly symmetrical granite cube is a “blindly obvious artefact” of intelligent design (or “creative intelligence” as he likes to put it – to distinguish the intelligent designer from having access to the “magic” of God) – Link.

In this line, there is no known mindless natural mechanism that is able to produce any kind of mechanical machine, biological or otherwise, beyond very very low levels of functional complexity.  While natural selection is a real force of nature, it is more of a preserving force for what already exists rather than a creative force of novel biomechanical systems.  Of course, random mutations can change the letters of DNA and natural selection can select among these changes for the ones that happen to survive or reproduce better than their peers.  However, this process is very very limited to low levels of functional complexity because of what happens to “sequence space” with each step up the ladder of minimum size and/or specificity requirements.  With each step up this ladder of “functional complexity” the ratio of what is potentially beneficial, but not yet discovered, within sequence space decreases exponentially relative to the number of non-beneficial sequences.  This dramatic drop in the ratio of potentially beneficial vs. non-beneficial completely undermines the creative potential of random mutations combined with natural selection and relegates this mechanism to the lowest rungs on the ladder of functional complexity.
Even someone like Richard Dawkins is dimly aware of the basics of this fairly obvious concept.  After all, it is Dawkins who wrote:

However many ways there may be of being alive, it is certain that there are vastly more ways of being dead, or rather not alive.

Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, p. 9

 

And, this truism is also true for biomachines or any meaningful sequence in any language system.  And, for any meaningful or functional system, this truism becomes exponentially more and more true with each step up the ladder of functional complexity.  Dawkins tries to explain this problem by arguing, “Mutation is random; natural selection is the very opposite of random.” (The Blind Watchmaker, p.41).

Beneficial Sequences in Sequence Space Ocean

Beneficial Islands in the Ocean of Sequence Space

The problem, of course, is that natural selection can’t work until random mutations actually hit upon a novel island within the vast ocean of sequence space that is actually beneficial.  The odds of this happening, within a given span of time, decrease exponentially with each step up the ladder of functional complexity.

It is also interesting to note that Shostak presents the argument that “junk DNA” is evidence of some mindless mechanism of nature being responsible for its origin.  This is interesting given the current controversy over the status of “Junk DNA” and how less and less of it seems to be around these days the more and more that is learned as to how the genome really works.

Why then do SETI scientists “get a pass” when they are presenting the very same argument as Intelligent Design theorists?  The only question that should be asked is if there is any known natural mechanism that can really explain the common ancestry and diversity of all living things on this planet over just a billion years or so?  The problem with the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and natural selection is that this mechanism is statistically limited to very low level systems this side of a practical eternity of time (i.e., nothing that requires more than 1000 specifically arranged amino acid building blocks).  Without a viable mechanism the only thing that comes close, as with the SETI artefacts, is an appeal to a very intelligent designer.

 

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31 thoughts on ““Blindingly Obvious Artifacts” of Intelligent Design

  1. What is blindingly obvious to some is impossible for others to see.

    “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

    This is the case for many issues, and can and has, resulted in many injustices. Thank God that He can open our eyes to His beautiful truths. The present state of things is soon to pass away and finally harmony and justice will fill His creation.




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  2. And now for something completely different. Logic according to John Cleese;

    Rabble; A witch. We have a witch. Burn her! burn her!
    Rabble; We have found a witch may we burn her?
    Benamere; How do you know she is a witch?
    Rabble; She looks like one
    Witch; Im not a witch
    Benamere; But you are dressed like one
    Witch: They dressed me like one
    Rabble No No Yes well a little bit. We put on the nose.
    ……
    Benamere; What makes you think she is a witch
    Rabble; She turned me into a newt.
    Benamere; A nnnewt?
    Rabble; I got better
    Rabble: Burn her. burn her anyway.
    Benamere; There are ways of telling whether she is a witch
    Rabble; Are there?
    Benamere; Tell me. What do you do with witches?
    Rabble; Burn her! burn her!
    Benamere; And what do you burn apart from witches?
    Rabble; More witches. Wood.
    Benamere; So why do witches burn?
    Rabble; —— Because theyre made of wood?
    Benamere; Goooood. So how do we tell if she is made of wood?
    Rabble; Build a bridge out of her
    Benamere; Ahhh But can you not make bridges out of stone?
    Rabble; Oh yea.
    Benamere; Does wood sink in water?
    Rabble; No It floats. Throw her into the pond.
    Benamere; What also floats in water?
    Rabble; Bread, apples, very small rocks, cider, gravy, mud, cherries, churches, lead
    Stranger; A duck.
    Benamere; Exactly! so logically?
    Rabble; If she weighs the same as a duck then she is made of wood.
    Benamere; And therefore?
    Rabble; A witch, a witch
    Benamere; Very good! We shall use my largest scales.

    Benamere; And who are you who are so wise in the ways of science?
    stranger; I am king arthur

    (Dialog from Monty Python and the holy grail).

    What on earth does that have to do with the blinding obviousness of the artefactual nature of a granite cube? The problems is that like monty python you confuse categories. You argue from an obvious artefact to suggest that anything that appears designed for a purpose must have a divine creator.
    You are arguing that a molecular “machine” is precisely the same as an artefact and therefore must accept the same implications of design. That is not at all established. Now or when Paley made the teleological argument based on a watch. It is an assertion just like the many assertions that populate this blog. We have all the usual suspects here.
    SETI; You manage to find supportive Shostak and manage to get him to say something that supports your position even tho SETI supporters have specifically dissociated themselves from IDC and its modus operandi as you will find from a simple google searh. You specifically miss his comment;

    …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.

    You repeat your usual assertion without novelty or explication;

    1] “.. there is no known mindless natural mechanism that is able to produce any kind of mechanical machine, biological or otherwise, beyond very very low levels of functional complexity.”

    2] “…natural selection is a real force of nature, it is more of a preserving force for what already exists rather than a creative force of novel biomechanical systems. Of course, random mutations can change the letters of DNA and natural selection can select among these changes for the ones that happen to survive or reproduce better than their peers. However, this process is very very limited to low levels of functional complexity..”

    3] “…because of what happens to “sequence space” with each step up the ladder of minimum size and/or specificity requirements. With each step up this ladder of “functional complexity” the ratio of what is potentially beneficial, but not yet discovered, within sequence space decreases exponentially relative to the number of non-beneficial sequences.

    4] “..random mutations and natural selection is .. statistically limited to very low level systems this side of a practical eternity of time..”

    5] “Even someone like Richard Dawkins is dimly aware of the basics of this fairly obvious concept.” This is something new. Dawkins does not know but Sean Pitman does.

    6] “The only question that should be asked is if there is any known natural mechanism that can really explain the common ancestry and diversity of all living things on this planet over just a billion years or so? The problem with the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and natural selection is that this mechanism is statistically limited to very low level systems this side of a practical eternity of time (i.e., nothing that requires more than 1000 specifically arranged amino acid building blocks). Without a viable mechanism the only thing that comes close, as with the SETI artefacts, is an appeal to a very intelligent designer.”

    And this is not a classic God of the Gaps argument because..? I guess because you say it is not.

    You seem to completely miss the point that not only Judges and Scientist but most everyone appreciates that Intelligent design or more properly IDC or Intelligent design creation is a restatement of literal creationism for the 20th century.

    1] Do you admit that this is the origin of the term? Do you admit any history of this term at all?
    2] Do you accept that there is a difference between the natural and the supernatural. They are categorically different so the method of one cannot be use for the other.

    3] You believe in an old earth and universe because of the bible not because of any science.

    4] Yet you believe in a recent literal creation around 6000 years ago not just because of the bible but because the scientific evidence for it.

    5] You seem to believe that artefacts of humans and machines are directly comparables

    6] You believe that biological systems are biological machines and just as machines are created by intelligent people so therefore must all biological machines.

    7] You make no distinction between a molecular machine and a physical machine or an artefact.

    8] If we take you logic to its extreme it is completely reductionist. Biology is just mechanics. This is certainly consistent with your incredulity about emergent properties.




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    • What on earth does that have to do with the blinding obviousness of the artefactual nature of a granite cube? The problems is that like monty python you confuse categories. You argue from an obvious artefact to suggest that anything that appears designed for a purpose must have a divine creator.

      As you know, this is strawman argument – not at all what I said. I never even suggested that a granite cube or a SETI-type radio signal or even a rotary bacterial flagellum require a “Divine Creator” to explain their origin. In fact, such things do not require a Divine Creator to explain their origin. What they do require, however, is some intelligent agent who has access to a level of intelligence that is less than the level of Divine intelligence and supernatural power to explain their origin. I think that’s quite clear.

      Is it possible for God to make our granite cube? Of course it is. However, God-like intelligence is not required to explain the granite cube or the SETI-type radio signal or a rotary bacterial flagellar motor.

      You are arguing that a molecular “machine” is precisely the same as an artefact and therefore must accept the same implications of design. That is not at all established.

      You would of course be correct if there were actually some kind of mindless natural mechanism that could explain functionally useful biomachines beyond very very low levels of functional complexity. If it is found that the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and function-based selection simply isn’t up to the job, the only other process that comes close to explaining such mechanical machines is intelligent design – i.e., exactly the same basis from which SETI scientists argue that certain types of radio signals are clearly artefacts of intelligent design. The use of your argument that some future discovery is likely to falsify the SETI hypothesis for their radio signals being true artefacts of design simply wouldn’t be rational, testable, or scientific. For the very same reason, your “future discovery hypothesis” isn’t a rational counter to the artefact hypothesis for biomachines either.

      Of course, SETI scientists try very hard to distance themselves from “IDists” by claiming that their search for ETI is somehow different from a search for intelligence behind certain features of living things. How is their search different? As you quote:

      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.

      This is exactly what I’m proposing – a signal coming from an biological environment from which neither it nor anything like it is either expected or observed by any known mindless natural mechanism. That is why SETI scientists claim that anything from a very simple sinusoidal radio signal whistle to a radio signal carrying a complex mathematical sequence would be “blindingly obvious artefacts” – the products of intelligent design. Again, no one is proposing a “supernatural biochemist” at this point. What is being proposed, at minimum, is an intelligent biochemist with a level of intelligence no less than that needed to explain SETI radio signals.

      The SETI conclusion that certain types of radio signals are “artefacts” is rational because mindless natural processes are not currently known which can produce the types of signals that SETI scientists are looking for. Exactly the same thing is true for why you claim that a highly symmetrical granite cube is a “blindingly obvious artefact” of creative intelligence. And, given that no known mindless mechanism is capable of producing certain types of sequences in DNA or certain types of biological machines, the very same thing would be true for these features as well.

      For example, you didn’t respond to my earlier illustration of you finding a DNA sequence in a virus that showed a Morse Code pattern that read, “Hi Dr. Cameron. Just checking to see if you’re paying attention. All the best. – God”

      Don’t tell me that you wouldn’t recognize such a coded sequence, even if coded within a sequence of DNA, as a true artefact of intelligent design (the same as if it came in a radio signal) – even though you’d most likely not consider God as the source of such a sequence. You’d probably think that one of your lab partners is trying to play a trick on you. However, you’d not think, not for a minute, that such a sequence might be the result of some “natural” mindless mechanism.

      Why then do you argue that something like a rotary bacterial flagellum is somehow less clearly an artefact of creative intelligence? – given that the Darwinian mechanism cannot explain it? Because, you’re not a “reductionist”? You write something that I can’t quite wrap my brain around:

      You make no distinction between a molecular machine and a physical machine or an artefact. If we take [your] logic to its extreme it is completely reductionist. Biology is just mechanics. This is certainly consistent with your incredulity about emergent properties.

      Pleased do explain this argument to me a bit more. Are you really suggesting here that a molecular machine, built of amino acid parts as basic building blocks, is not really a “physical machine”? – that a rotary flagellar motility system is something more than “just mechanics”? Are you suggesting here that humans cannot possibly build such a biological machine? – because there’s something mystical or magical about such machines? something that makes them “emergent” when “physical machines” that humans build are somehow less than “emergent”? What is your definition of “emergence” such that human-designed machines (like jet engines for example) are not emergent?

      One more thing: As far as the God of the Gaps argument is concerned, a GoG argument, as I understand it, is not a falsifiable argument because the explanation given cannot be tested in a falsifiable manner. A GoG argument can be used to explain anything and everything.

      In this light, consider that the argument SETI is forwarding, and the argument I’m forwarding, are both potentially falsifiable by the simple presentation of evidence showing that the phenomenon in question is well within the range of some mindless natural mechanism. Such evidence would neatly falsify the SETI hypothesis for their special radio signals. It would also falsify the hypothesis that the granite cube is a true artefact and it would falsify the hypothesis that a flagellar motor is a true artefact. Therefore, such artefact hypotheses are not based on a GoG argument.

      Compare this, however, to your position where you claim that some future discovery will support your hypothesis of mindless natural production. This argument is a GoG hypothesis in that it cannot be tested in a falsifiable manner. It can also be used to explain any and all observations that may appear to counter your position. It therefore explains everything and therefore nothing much more than “Logic according to John Cleese”.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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    • @Pauluc:
      Paul,

      Intelligent design believers never assume anything, that’s why they believe in ID
      instead of chance and necessity. They know full well what SETI is and what it isn’t.

      SETI is looking for radio signals on the assumption that it would take an intelligence to design the equipment to produce them.

      I can see you know little of the theory of Intelligent Design and the difference between complexity and specified complexity.

      FYI

      http://www.evidentcreation.com/DE-Spec.html

      http://www.leaderu.com/offices/dembski/docs/bd-specified.html

      PS: When you are reduced to calling Intelligent Design creationism you have lost the debate.




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  3. So Gene, tell us what things, other than man or animal made, are obviously designed. Micro evolution, colliding galaxies, elements of the periodic table made in stellar furnaces? Seems to me those things are pretty complex?




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    • Like robots, mindless natural laws can make many types of “complex” things – such as galaxies or snowflakes or hurricanes. It isn’t just any kind of complexity that determines if something is designed outside of these natural laws. This is determined by studying the limits of the natural laws themselves. As it turns out there are certain types of simplicity and complexity that mindless natural laws simply aren’t very good at creating – and higher levels of functional complexity is one example (higher levels of specified complexity is another). That is how both simple and complex things (from granite cubes to flagellar motors) can be known to be true artefacts of deliberate design – well beyond the creative abilities of mindless natural laws.




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      • @Sean Pitman:
        Sean,

        In the beginning God….

        That includes space, time, matter, light, and all the laws of physics and chemistry that make things like snowflakes and colliding galaxies a piece of cake.




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        • That’s true, but that’s a different question. The fundamental laws or “constants” of nature are themselves clearly designed. However, one can also tell if something is intelligently designed beyond the mindless robotic laws of nature that God created. A polished granite cube is an artefact of intelligent design while a snowflake can be explained by the mindless laws of nature. There’s a key difference between these two examples.




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        • Sean,

          True but some try to use snowflakes as the appearance of design.

          The ability to detect design is God given.

          Send a couple of 10 year olds through a field looking for artifacts, they will come back with arrowheads, broken pieces of pottery, nails, ……




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        • I agree. Snowflakes may have the appearance of design, but they are not designed. They are not true artefacts that require intelligent input beyond mindless natural mechanisms.

          Also, the ability to detect true artefacts is not inherent knowledge derived directly from God. In order to be able to accurately detect true artefacts of design one has to have some background experience with the material in question (i.e., some actual scientific research). For example, pyrite and salt crystals naturally form highly symmetrical cubes. This is not true of the material of granite, however. That is why a highly symmetrical granite cube is a “blindingly obvious” artefact of intelligent design while the same is not true of a cube of pyrite.




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  4. Sean
    I have been reading through some of the discussions presented in your Educate Truth website but my frustration leads me to respond to the following statement you made in this article about “Blindingly Obvious Artifacts”.

    “Why then do SETI scientists “get a pass” when they are presenting the very same argument as Intelligent Design theorists?”

    I’m sorry but they are not the same! The position of the SETI scientist is one based on methodological naturalism, intelligent design is a position based on theistic science. The scientific method applied by the SETI scientist is one of producing observations, analysis and interpretations that maintain a causal path for explaining contact with intelligent life on other worlds totally within the scientific knowledge we have of the natural universe derived through empiricism. This includes the origin and existence of the intelligent life itself and their ability to construct a communication system. However, the Intelligent Design position that you maintain intends to show that the causal path moves outside the natural realm into the metaphysical. This is clearly revealed in your last sentence:

    “Without a viable mechanism the only thing that comes close, as with the SETI artefacts, is an appeal to a very intelligent designer”,

    where the “very intelligent designer” is of course God. The SETI scientist “get a pass” because their entire enterprise stays with methodological naturalism and Intelligent Design theorists do not. You may wander around within naturalistic discussions of artifacts that appear to come into existence by the acts of intelligent agents but you choose through your own personal preference which ones must exist as a result of a causal input by God. This I see continually done throughout your blog without any acknowledgement (or apparent understanding) that you have moved from a mainstream scientific discussion into the metaphysical discussion that is appropriate for theistic science but not for mainstream science.
    As a result, you are continually committing the informal fallacy of equivocation or more specifically what Jay Richards (author of The Privileged Planet) would call the “fallacy of the personal definition”. That is, you have defined science to be equivalent to theistic science in an attempt to strong-arm “rational” thought in your direction.

    On the basis of your personal definition of what “scientific” investigation is, you expect everyone to make a seamless transition from mainstream empirical science to metaphysics in order to point to a “very intelligent designer”. To expect someone to abandon methodological naturalism and transition to a metaphysical position, without hesitation, when that person is simply trying to find out what truth empiricism can revel in the natural world, such an expectation reeks with arrogance. You arguments lack cogency in trying to demonstrate that this transition is demanded. As a result your position becomes dogmatic and implies that a person is being irrational if they hesitate at all to follow the transition.

    Your comments inappropriately criticize and alienate Christian’s such as Dr. Paul Cameron who have a strong theistic position but simply choose to make an exhaustive investigation within empiricism before implementing metaphysical scenarios that move outside mainstream science. Such a response is not a formula for meaningful dialogue with people that have more skepticism about theistic science than you do. As a result, you may have some impact in “preaching to the choir” but you disaffect everyone else. That is sad. Intelligent Design has the potential to provide the basis for justifying the detection of God’s causal inputs in the history of life on earth and the universe. Scientific Theism, applying Intelligent Design arguments, can provide criteria for determining when empirical scenarios have been exhausted. It appears however that you have chosen to put aside patience in lieu of some self-appointed desire to “defend the faith”.

    The issues I have with this blog you manage goes back to the fact that your arguments continually blur science with metaphysics leaving out any clarification needed to make valid arguments. You are clearly not willing to utilize the mainstream definition of science and you expect people to accept that your own personal definition of science as the correct one. You can take any position you want but the careful definition of terms used to support your position and continual clarification of those terms are essential if you are going to maintain a meaningful discussion. An argument becomes cogent for a person if that person you are interacting with believes it is valid and that the premises that support it are more likely than their denial. You don’t seem to be willing to go through this deductive process thus your responses with people submitting to your blog are ones of continually talking past each other because each are responding from different definitions and you end up in heated quarrels that accomplish nothing. When one is talking mainstream science and the other metaphysics without any consideration of the domains of validity it is like adding two quantities, one with units of kilograms the other with units of seconds, the result is totally meaningless. Thus I find very little intellectual value in following your blog as it is.




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    • “Why then do SETI scientists “get a pass” when they are presenting the very same argument as Intelligent Design theorists?” – Sean Pitman

      I’m sorry but they are not the same! The position of the SETI scientist is one based on methodological naturalism, intelligent design is a position based on theistic science. The scientific method applied by the SETI scientist is one of producing observations, analysis and interpretations that maintain a causal path for explaining contact with intelligent life on other worlds totally within the scientific knowledge we have of the natural universe derived through empiricism. This includes the origin and existence of the intelligent life itself and their ability to construct a communication system. However, the Intelligent Design position that you maintain intends to show that the causal path moves outside the natural realm into the metaphysical. This is clearly revealed in your last sentence:

      “Without a viable mechanism the only thing that comes close, as with the SETI artefacts, is an appeal to a very intelligent designer”,

      where the “very intelligent designer” is of course God.

      I never said that the intelligent designer of a granite cube or a flagellar motor must be God. The designer of such things does NOT have to be God or have God-like intelligence – not at all. Such things are within human-level intelligence and creative powers.

      So, you see, what I said is that the designer had to be intelligent – using scientific investigations that are in fact the very same as those used by SETI. Using the very same SETI argument one can in fact detect design behind various artefacts within living and non-living things – without any need to invoke God at all. Now, if one decides that certain artefacts of intelligent design take on religious significance or have religious implications or suggest something about God, that’s fine. However, even if one does not recognize any religious significance when viewing an artefact, like polished granite cube or a rotary bacterial flagellum or a SETI radio signal, that’s fine too. Either way, however, the conclusion that these are true artefacts of intelligent design is still the best scientific conclusion.

      Let me word it in another way: Is a God required to explain a motor like the rotary bacterial flagellar motor? Of course not. However, an intelligent mind is required to explain its existence – for the very same reasons that SETI scientists would claim that certain types of radio signals and/or granite cubes are true artefacts of intelligent design – even if they happen to be found outside of our world.

      Again, at this point, we’re not talking about invoking God to explain all artefacts of design here. We’re simply talking about the possibility of detecting true artefacts of design that do not require a God or God-like intelligence to explain.

      I tell you what. If you agree that a polished granite cube is a “blindingly obvious artefact”, just like a SETI radio signal, why don’t you explain to me why a flagellar motor is not a clear example of an intelligently designed artefact? – the same as the SETI radio signals and/or a polished granite cube? What you will most likely argue is that such a biomachine is the product of a known mindless natural mechanism. If this is actually true, such evidence would in fact falsify the artefact hypothesis. The very same thing would also be true for the SETI hypothesis – if some mindless mechanism could be shown that produces essentially the same type of radio signals. However, if you cannot produce a viable mechanism to explain such a motor, outside of deliberate design, upon what basis do you claim that such a motor is somehow different from what SETI scientists claim are true artefacts? What’s the fundamental difference in argument?

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  5. Gene Fortner: The ability to detect design is God given.

    Send a couple of 10 year olds through a field looking for artifacts, they will come back with arrowheads, broken pieces of pottery, nails, ……

    I am glad you agree with the position on design I have previously articulated.

    http://www.educatetruth.com/featured/gary-gilbert-spectrum-and-pseudogenes/comment-page-2/#comment-41560

    Design is simply pattern recognition. No science involved. It is simply a function of a brain. Ants and insects can recognize unusual variants from their natural world. Humans have at least the same capability. It is built into a brain at an early point and is reflected in the imputation of purpose in our cognition. This is evident by the studies of teological thinking in Kids
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10384737

    Adults
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19200537

    And even scientists and academics in the arts.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=23067062

    Intelligent design is really just pattern recognition. A deep psychological comfort that is built into our brains to see purpose in the natural world and atefacts as comforting reminders of our presence and volition




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    • Intelligent design is really just pattern recognition. A deep psychological comfort that is built into our brains to see purpose in the natural world and atefacts as comforting reminders of our presence and volition

      So, one is born with an inherent ability to recognize designed artefacts? vs. the products of mindless natural mechanisms? No investigation, learning, or potentially falsifiability is involved? For example, a pyrite cube and a granite cube may have exactly the same shape or “pattern” yet one is a “blindingly obvious artefact” of intelligent design while the other one isn’t. Were you born with the ability to know that a pyrite crystal is not an obvious artefact? Of course not. The only way to tell the difference is to research the material in question and study how it interacts with known mindless natural mechanisms. And yes, even children are able to use various forms of scientific thinking to investigate and learn about the world in which they live.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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    • @pauluc:

      Paul,

      The ability to determine design is God given as is the ability to communicate via spoken and written word.

      Intelligent Design is a bit more than pattern recognition. You might come out of your ivory tower and design and implement a pattern recognition system.

      An end to the madness?
      The fifth edition of the DSM psychiatric manual may be the last.

      http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/an_end_to_the_madness

      he Economist weighs in on broken peer review

      http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588069-scientific-research-has-changed-world-now-it-needs-change-itself-how-science-goes-wrong

      Peer review is failing to ensure data quality, finds a study … The analysis, led by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), found that about one-third of papers submitted to five physical-chemistry journals between 2003 and 2013 contained erroneous or incomplete data, which can make it hard to replicate findings and can lead to poor regulatory decisions. Peer review does not have the capacity to evaluate the current flood of data, say co-authors Michael Frenkel and Robert Chirico, chemists at NIST in Boulder, Colorado. “The rate of errors is an elephant in the room,” says Frenkel. – See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/10/is_nothing_sacr077661.html#sthash.MtyxsniL.dpuf




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      • @Gene Fortner:

        Im not following your logic. You cant have it both ways. Either

        1] peer review is inadequate and letting anything be published as science as you seem to suggest here or

        2] It is being highly selective in excluding from publication lots of critical novel data that is rejected because it does not fit some arbritrary idea of science.

        I think you need to have a united front on this. Sean and Bob are saying peer review is much more difficult than it was 100 years ago and Einstein Wegener would not be published today. You are saying that lots of things that are wrong are being published.

        Some real data or evidence would be helpful. A rejection letter from Sean for a publication on his theory of 1000FSAAR would certainly help me be convinced that papers are really being rejected because of ideology not poor quality science.




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        • @pauluc:

          Paul,

          FYI,

          Here is what I am suggesting;

          The billions in government grant $$$$$ that has created what Eisenhower feared; “we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.”.

          Because of that we must

          “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”

          As far as the bias at the academic level it is well documented. But then you wouldn’t know that.




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  6. Sean:

    The main point of your response on Nov. 11 appears to be

    “Again, at this point, we’re not talking about invoking God to explain all artifacts of design here. We’re simply talking about the possibility of detecting true artifacts of design that do not require a God or God-like intelligence to explain.”

    which surprises me how you just don’t seem to get it. For some reason you seem to think that you can take a reductionist approach to applying ID and suddenly become theory neutral because now you are only talking about observations, data and experimentation within the physical and natural world. You seem to be ignorant of the fact that in all domains of science ID proponents reject methodological naturalism and accept theistic science as a basis for making even the simplest observation and drawing a conclusion. That is, in every observation and analysis made by an ID proponent like you or me, one cannot avoid the fact that ID presuppositions bias them. ID presuppositions will impact experimental design, predictability and interpretation whenever applying empirical methods in identifying an artifact and its designer. It doesn’t matter if the designer is your next door neighbor or God, for with anything done by an ID proponent, theistic science is imbedded and as result, God or at least theism is implicated in every detail. If you reject this position and think you can make science-based statements that are philosophically neutral (which by your response in this blog seems to be the case) you are just fooling yourself. You need to consider that there is over 50 years of scholarly work in the philosophy of science by Thomas Kuhn, John Polkinghorne, Ian Barber and many many others that address this very issue. What is the conclusion? All observations and data are “theory-laden” by the cluster of conceptual, metaphysical, and methodological presuppositions that embody the scientific work being done. Not just the interpretation of the observations and data but the observations and data themselves. And don’t think you can pull a bait and switch by saying I am going to design my experiments and make my observations on the basis of naturalism and then make conclusions from the resulting data as an ID proponent. If you do than the logical basis for your statements and conclusions will fail the law of identity. I am sure you don’t want to keep committing this formal fallacy. If one is going to be an ID proponent, than be an ID proponent all the way. In doing so one has to be willing to accept that no two observers performing the same set of observations but within different sets of presuppositions can ever make identical statements about the observations that agree within all state of affairs. This is why your statement

    “If you agree that a polished granite cube is a “blindingly obvious artifact”, just like a SETI radio signal, why don’t you explain to me why a flagellar motor is not a clear example of an intelligently designed artifact? – the same as the SETI radio signals and/or a polished granite cube?”

    is wrongly constructed.

    Let’s consider the polished granite cube. Is it an obvious artifact? Not necessarily. If a an investigation is done from the presupposition of metaphysical naturalism and no evidence is found for the existence of a shop with machines that performed the cutting and polishing, it will have a lower probability that it is an artifact of intelligence than from an ID proponent that does not need that evidence since God can speak it into existence. Thus, an ID proponent can state based on probabilities that the granite cube is a “blindly obvious artifact”, and the mainstream scientist can say that it is not and both be right (from the standpoint of probabilities) because their assigned probabilities reflect the effects of different presuppositions.

    What about the radio signals? Well a SETI scientist can look at the evidence and rule out all potential natural causes so that he concludes with a high probability it is a signal from intelligence. The ID proponent however, would have theistic presuppositions that would be intrisic in his evaluation process such that he gives the detection an unlikely probability because there is no biblical evidence that there is life on other worlds or that if there is intelligent agents out there, they occupy unfallen worlds and unfallen worlds would not need to develop radio technology to communicate.

    Finally, let’s ponder the flagellar motor. Within the presuppositions of methodological naturalism, scientist produce scenarios that propose a causal path for the development of flagellar motors from less complex but similar life systems because their presuppositions allow for the deep time needed to have the evolution proceed (such theories do not need to go back to the origin of life to justify their investigation). ID proponents such as yourself, however, would say that there is no deep time for life on earth (though not all ID proponents would agree), thus a causal input from an intelligent agent bringing the flagellar motor into existence is most probable.

    Please note that these are meant to be illustrations only and should not be vetted for presenting the biological facts accurately. The point is that theories of the philosophy of science lead to the demand that clarification and consideration of presuppositions must be made in order to make meaningful comparative statements between mainstream and ID science. Your responses handle this badly and your discussions would improve greatly if you took this position into consideration and acted on it.




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    • You seem to be ignorant of the fact that in all domains of science ID proponents reject methodological naturalism and accept theistic science as a basis for making even the simplest observation and drawing a conclusion.

      You’re not talking to just any ID proponent here. You’re talking to me. What I’m pointing out here is that from the perspective of methodological naturalism, as it is generally applied in sciences like forensic science, anthropology, and SETI science, the same rules used to hypothesize ID in these sciences can be used to discover true artefacts of intelligent design, on a “natural level” behind certain aspects of living things.

      Also, your argument that a highly symmetrical polished granite cube would not be a clear artefact of intelligent design unless a shop were found with tools, etc., simply isn’t a valid argument. Such a cube is a clear artefact of intelligent design regardless of if evidence for how it was created is or isn’t discovered. The same is true for SETI-type radio signals.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  7. Sean,

    You stated

    “You’re not talking to just any ID proponent here. You’re talking to me.”

    This is the issue, it’s all about you. Your response as an ID proponent should be consistent with the founders of the modern ID movement but instead you have made yourself the absolute authority saying that your designation of ID is the right one. As a result, you commit the logical fallacy of the personal definition because your approach is inconsistent with current tought leaders in the ID movement. Lets see, William Demski’s The Design Revolution, Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt, or Sean Pitman’s Turtles All the Way Down. Which of these works are influencing the worldwide ID movement? We all know that Turtles All the Way Down would not make the short list. Also, when has Sean Pitman ever published in the primary ID peer-reviewed journal Philosophia Christi?

    Let’s consider some specifics. You claim to be making an ID argument, but when you say “What I’m pointing out here is that from the perspective of methodological naturalism …” you are no longer speaking as an ID proponent for ID rejects methodological naturalism in all components of science. Thus, your argument fails the Law of Identity because the philosophy behind ID (theistic science) and mainstream science (methodological naturalism) have different inherent presuppositions that can never be equalized. You claim that SETI and ID can apply “the same rules used to hypothesize” intelligence. This is where you are absolutely wrong. One can make the argument that SETI and ID can use the same tools for observation and data collection. But tools are not rules for hypothesizing. This is what you don’t get. You leave out the element that any analysis and hypothesizing will always have an adopted philosophical bases. Application of the same tools but analyzed under the basis of two different philosophies cannot be done under the same rules. Remember all observations and data (from tools applied in science) are theory-laden. If you deny this, you are out of step with accepted scholarly positions in the philosophy of science. Please note that in no place am I invoking God in this discussion.

    You seem to have a failure understanding how ID movement is structured. The ID enterprise was developed as an alternative to mainstream science committed to scientism in defining the realm of truth and methodological naturalism as the philosophical underpinning utilized when interpreting data and answering questions about the natural world. The founders of the modern ID movement, such as Phillip Johnson, Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Stephen Meyer, wanted to change the direction of science with the position that scientism is inadequate (too limiting) and that theistic science, not methodological naturalism, is a legitimate basis of interpretation in the scientific arena. Dembski, argued that ID could use the same tools as scientific programs such as SETI and apply them to potential artefacts of intelligence by identifying the properties of contingency, small probability, and independent specifiability. However, he and the other ID proponents never intended to answer any questions or make hypothesis about the intelligent beings behind the artefacts from any philosophical basis other than theistic science. Your position takes the inapt approach that questions can be answered by the tools only. Properties of objects or propositions derived from observation by themselves can never answer a question about intelligence associated with a potential artifact. It is analysis, interpretation and hypothesizing that answer the question, but one always adopts a philosophical basis in doing so.

    Because you take the erroneous position that science can answer questions about artifacts of intelligence from investigative tools only, you make your questions about those artefacts non-scientific. At best they become sociological questions (from which responses in themselves can be interesting) since you make it a non-operational scientific question because of your position. As a result your effort becomes the same as someone with a clipboard standing outside at the exit of a scientific conference taking a survey asking the question – is an intelligent mind required to explain the existence of an artefact, like polished granite cube or a rotary bacterial flagellum or a SETI radio signal? So what would be the results if the conference is a meeting of ID proponents or the National Academy of Science?

    By appealing to the tools only, you claim that you have made the question philosophically neutral. If that is the case the results should come out identical within statistical sampling uncertainties. However, we are in this discussion because of the strong polarization that exists between ID and mainstream science. Thus, we know the answers will not be the same because of the necessity of the philosophical component that must be included in answering the question.

    So what is “the fundamental difference in argument” between ID and mainstream science about the probability an object is an artefact of intelligence? You claim the same tools can be used so that there is no difference. But here is why there will always be a difference if you want to listen. Your communications about identifying artefacts from intelligence always seem to be “Just-So Stories”, consistent Rudyard Kipling’s works for little children. What one needs to do is too responded in a way that a true scientific investigation would address the process of identifying potential artefacts.

    To answer the question in an acceptable scientific process, probabilities must be calculated. Thus a cognitive process must be carried out that includes multiplying of a set of parameters that are ratios derived from applying investigative and observational tools (such as those proposed by Dembski). That is a*b*c*d = P, where the product of the parameters a, b, c, and d mathematically give us the probability P, each describing probability pieces in the causal path that would bring an artifact of intelligence into existence. This will include a time dependence in most of these parameters. Think of the Drake equation that addresses the question of the likelihood of another planet existing with intelligent life that has the ability to communicate with us. This is exactly how SETI scientist would proceed in answering your question and is the process we are following here. Thus, a Drake like equation would be set up for the polished granite cube and another for the rotary bacterial flagellum. The resulting probabilities for both equations will address the question – what is the probability these are artifacts of intelligence?

    This is where your position that both the ID proponent and the mainstream scientist will get the same answer if they use the same tools breaks down.

    First of all the parameters are different for the polished granite cube and the rotary bacterial flagellum. With the polished granite cube the parameters used will describe the state of affairs for an inorganic solid in which the material composition, shape and smoothness define the properties used to determine the likelihood of it being an artifact. For the rotary bacterial flagellum the set of parameters describe the state of affairs for a live biological system in which it mechanical functionality primarily determines its likelihood of being an artefact of intelligence. Your statement that

    “Also, your argument that a highly symmetrical polished granite cube would not be a clear artefact of intelligent design unless a shop were found with tools, etc., simply isn’t a valid argument.”

    is unjustified. The probability calculation must include parameters that take into account the process that brought about the origin of the potential artefact (that includes a shop if applicable).

    Second, the philosophical differences between ID (theistic evolution) and mainstream science (methodological naturalism) kick in big time. The philosophical positions will force the two views to choose an unequal set of parameters and different values for those parameters. Even if they choose the same set of parameters their ratios will not be the same. In the end, the probabilities of being a true artifact of intelligence will be unequal for the ID and mainstream scientist. You may think you can convince the mainstream scientist to choose the same parameters and values you assign using your arguments, but your arguments lack the cogency necessary to be successful and overcome the difference in presuppositions. Clearly, the Drake like equation for the polished granite cube will be simpler and will likely result in good agreement in the probability of being an artifact of intelligence between ID and mainstream scientist. However, the Drake like equation for the rotary bacterial flagellum will not because more complicated probability components will exist with values dependent on biological evolution and deep time. You may get a high probability based on your selected parameters and values, but the mainstream scientist will likely not. You may argue with them and say you should get the same results because both are using the same tools, but that will not overcome the effect of the difference in presuppositions.

    You have asked

    “why don’t you explain to me why a flagellar motor is not a clear example of an intelligently designed artefact? – the same as the SETI radio signals and/or a polished granite cube?”

    and I have done this based on following the process for a proper scientific investigation. Using the same tools within ID and mainstream science are not enough to make the probabilities the same because the effects from the difference in presuppositions must be taken into account. If you push aside this explanation with your self-justified reasons that is up to you. But it becomes clear that you don’t want an answer, you just want to be right.




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    • By appealing to the tools only, you claim that you have made the question philosophically neutral. If that is the case the results should come out identical within statistical sampling uncertainties. However, we are in this discussion because of the strong polarization that exists between ID and mainstream science. Thus, we know the answers will not be the same because of the necessity of the philosophical component that must be included in answering the question.

      If your philosophy causes you to reject the design hypothesis for something like a highly symmetrical polished granite cube, your philosophy simply isn’t rational. What you’re doing is rejecting the obvious implications of the empirical evidence because of a blind desire to hang onto a philosophy or a belief system that just isn’t true. What you have at this point is nothing more than wishful thinking.

      Science is supposed to go beyond mere philosophy or personal bias or wishful thinking by being open to the testing of ones hypotheses and theories with at least the potential for falsification. That’s the benefit of science. If your position is rooted so deeply in a cherished philosophy that you cannot be challenged in your thinking, your simply not being scientific or rational.

      In short, your philosophy should have nothing to do with deciding if something like a highly symmetrical polished granite cube is or is not a true artefact of intelligent design.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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    • @S. Schiller:

      You claim the same tools can be used so that there is no difference. But here is why there will always be a difference if you want to listen. Your communications about identifying artefacts from intelligence always seem to be “Just-So Stories”, consistent Rudyard Kipling’s works for little children. What one needs to do is too responded in a way that a true scientific investigation would address the process of identifying potential artifacts.

      One of the driving factors behind the SETI project is the belief that finding life beyond Earth will prove that since life has evolved elsewhere, it must have evolved here on Earth.

      Talk about “JUST SO STORIES”.

      The DRAKE equation is not science it is wishful thinking, faith in a bankrupt hypothesis.

      “the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science.”

      Michael Crichton

      If an apparently non-random pattern (which might possibly have some unknown meaning) is proof of an intelligent source, one must also believe that the clearly non-random patterns in the DNA molecule (which certainly do have some meaning) are proof of an intelligent source.
      Let’s state the same thing slightly differently. Suppose SETI discovers a non-terrestrial radio signal that contains information. That will be considered to be irrefutable evidence of an intelligent source because it could not possibly have been randomly generated. It logically follows that a DNA molecule containing information could not have been randomly generated, and must be irrefutable evidence of an intelligent source.




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  8. Sean –
    Your statement …

    “Science is supposed to go beyond mere philosophy or personal bias or wishful thinking by being open to the testing of ones hypotheses and theories with at least the potential for falsification. That’s the benefit of science. If your position is rooted so deeply in a cherished philosophy that you cannot be challenged in your thinking, your simply not being scientific or rational.”

    is very naive and out of touch. There is not a contemporary scholar active in the philosophy of science that would agree with it. To begin with, the scientific method itself is built on a philosophical basis that includes presuppositions that are not testable or falsifiable. This means that science cannot validate the scientific method itself or the presuppositions of the method. For example, the scientific method is built on the presuppositions of the Copernican principle (there is no favored location in the universe for observation) and the principle of the uniformity of nature (the laws of physics work the same everywhere). These presuppositions can only have a philosophical origin and are employed in generating the results of science such that all observations and data are interpreted in the light of them. Their use is required. It is these presuppositions (and others) that preserve the general rationality of science itself.

    Even your statement “A simple polished cube of granite… is well beyond what can be ‘naturally’ produced and is therefore a clear artefact of intelligent design.” is an existential statement, not scientific since falsification is necessary for it to be scientific (as according to Popper). Intuitively there is nothing unscientific about this claim as presented, but intuition is not an acceptable basis for making scientific conclusions. Intuition is subjective not objective. Phrases such as “well beyond “ or “clear artifact” are vague and therefore makes this stated claim unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific. For even if a naturally occurring polished cube of granite is found, one can still claim this statement is true because of the natural cube’s rare occurrence. In addition, one can never show by any amount of empirical observational evidence that zero natural polished granite cubes exist in the universe. For there, may be an unreachable planet with no intelligent life out there producing naturally polished granite cubes or the evidence of a natural polished granite cube my show up in the never-ending next shovel full of dirt.

    Everything you have written In your article “Blindingly Obvious Artifacts” of Intelligent Design is intuitive, existential, and subjective. It has biases of Sean Pitman written all over it. Statements such as
    “Both simple and complex features can suggest a true artefact of intelligent design for the very same reason – i.e., the feature(s) in question go well beyond what any known mindless natural mechanism is capable of producing.”

    have the satisfying glow of scientism in its usage but it is still existential and non-empirical. Popper himself speaks to this in his book Logic of Scientific Discovery, p. 69: “Strictly existential statements …cannot be falsified ….[N]o statement of an observed event can contradict the existential statement ‘there are no white ravens’…I therefore have to treat strictly existential statements as non-empirical or ‘metaphysical’”.

    Your statement “Science is supposed to go beyond mere philosophy or personal bias or wishful thinking” is in itself wishful thinking. Philosophy and biases cannot be avoided in any endeavor utilizing empirical investigations and they must be dealt with not denied which is what you do. Biases are minimized in a falsifiable scientific effort when quantitative data is derived from observation. However, remember all observation and data is theory-laden, so biases are still present. How does one handle them in a proper scientific manor? The biases are acknowledged, identified, and quantified as best as possible including them as uncertainty components in the observational data and propagating those uncertainties through the analysis and interpretation. The results are conclusions based on probabilistic knowledge with quantitative uncertainties that take into account the philosophical and personal basis in that effort. If you are not including quantified uncertainties in the analysis, the results are metaphysical not scientific.

    In the end, one must be cautious about underestimating capabilities of the natural development of life and one must be particularly cautious about over estimating the capabilities of science, particularly your own.




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    • Even your statement “A simple polished cube of granite… is well beyond what can be ‘naturally’ produced and is therefore a clear artefact of intelligent design.” is an existential statement, not scientific since falsification is necessary for it to be scientific (as according to Popper). Intuitively there is nothing unscientific about this claim as presented, but intuition is not an acceptable basis for making scientific conclusions. Intuition is subjective not objective. Phrases such as “well beyond “ or “clear artifact” are vague and therefore makes this stated claim unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific.

      Not true. The hypothesis that a highly symmetrical polished granite cube is a true artefact of intelligent design is testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. All that has to be done to falsify this hypothesis is to present a mindless natural mechanism that is capable of producing such a cube. Such a demonstration would effectively falsify the artefact hypothesis.

      This isn’t just “intuition”. This is science in that some real investigation of the natural world is required before one can detect true artefacts with any degree of useful predictive value. Also, your “presuppositions” are themselves testable and potentially falsifiable.

      Testability is the key element in science. Using the results of these tests to extrapolate or to predict the future is the whole purpose of science. And, this is what separates science from mere wishful thinking or pure philosophy – testability. This is the difference between pure subjectivity and objectivity. While we cannot be purely objective, while biases cannot be fully overcome, we do not have to be purely subjective either. We can actually test our ideas against external information – external reality.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  9. Gene Fortner

    Your comments create the great opportunity to explore the considerations that are necessary for performing empirical investigations that address the extremely difficult challenge of searching for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence.

    Your make the statement and quote:

    Talk about “JUST SO STORIES”.

    The DRAKE equation is not science it is wishful thinking, faith in a bankrupt hypothesis

    “the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science.”

    Michael Crichton

    indicates that there is a confusion in seeing the difference between the imaginative narrative of a unverifiable “just so story” and structured empirical and analytical analysis that simply just has large uncertainties. The calculation for the circumference of a circle can also have any value from “billions and billions” to zero depending on the value of the circle’s radius as the input parameter to the equation. Does that mean it is “an expression that can mean anything means nothing”? To come to this conclusion means the application is fully misunderstood. The distance of our sun to the center of the Milky Way allows astronomer’s to calculate the Sun’s orbital period around our galaxy. Does the large uncertainty in that distance make the Sun’ orbit around our galaxy a “just-so story”? Only 30 years ago, astronomer’s ability to determine the time to the beginning of the expansion of the universe was extremely uncertain. Studies showed that it could have any value from 10 to 20 billion years ago. A 100 % uncertainty is not very satisfying, so was that investigation a just-so story? Now the knowledge is down to a few tenths of a percent because our improved observational technology combined with better analysis tools has greatly improved the data precision. All scientific endeavors start with a lot of tentativity. If tentativity is a means for rejection, very few scientific investigations would be carried out.

    In the same way, a lot of tentativity and uncertainty has existed in solving the Drake equation, but that is also improving as technology improves. In any case, large uncertainties do not make it’s empirical elements and predictability less functional. The Drake equation represents a numerical structure that allows a reductionist analysis into the important physical, biological and sociological conditions one finds necessary to derive the probability of detecting communications by extraterrestrials. As Drake himself has said, the equation provides “a way of organizing the search that actually gives some insights into what we need to know”. Predictability is a primary component of scientific investigation. And this is what the Drake equation is trying to establish in a quantitative way. The challenge with deriving some of the equation’s components is that they require sociological analysis and modeling that the constraints of methodological naturalism make impossible to address competently (though the mainstream scientific community would not acknowledge this). As a result, an ID proponent can find himself an antagonist to this methodology since he knows that theistic science would provide a much better basis for inquiry on these issues.

    However, don’t let this shortcoming detract from the structure and functionality that makes the Drake equation a powerful empirical framework for guiding investigations into the possible existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. The Drake equation was developed by Frank Drake in 1961 on the request of the National Academy of Sciences to place his funding proposals for radio telescopes time on a firmer scientific footing. The eminence of his achievement is testified in how it has maintained its usefulness and strength for over 50 years.

    In order to see this, one must recognize its design supports a systems engineering approach to a difficult research problem. The Drake equation is constructed from seven parameters that each function as a subsystem which in turn can be broken down into smaller independent components. Each piece can be investigated and potentially tested and verified, some with relatively high precision:

    R* = Average star formation rate

    Ns = Percentage of stars capable of supporting earth-like planets

    Fp = Percentage of those stars with planets

    Ne = Average number of planets in those stars’ habitable zones

    and some with large uncertainties:

    Fl = Percentage of those planets where life begins

    Fi = Percentage of planets with life where an intelligent species evolves

    Fc = Percentage of those intelligent species that develop communication technology

    L = Average lifetime, in years, of a civilization that develops such technology.

    But its main strength is that each piece provides a probability term whose combined product results in a net quantitative prediction with uncertainties of the number of potential targets available for detection. The challenge is that the net uncertainty can be no better than the least uncertain component. But that does not detract from the result that it demonstrates the essence of applying the scientific method in developing a functional capability for prediction. It is far from being bankrupt.

    Such rigor is blatantly absent from Sean Pitman’s arguments for identifying artefacts of intelligence. As a result, his narratives may satisfy child-like curiosity (thus “just-so stories”) but not procedures important to meaningful scientific investigation.

    One needs to be honest with the condition that the SETI project’s search for artefacts of intelligence is on a much stronger empirical footing than ID’s proposal that DNA or the flagellar motor are artefacts of intelligence. With the Drake equation as a framework for investigation (whole conferences have been structured around each component of the equation) who, where, what and how questions can be addressed. It predicts that the causal input will be most likely the flipping of a switch to a communication system built by an advanced civilization living in the habitable zone of a late-type main sequence star found in the galactic habitable zone of a spiral galaxy. ID proposals comes nowhere close to this. ID proponents provide no model for the intelligence or causal input behind design claim for DNA or the flagellar motor (Sean Pitman says we don’t need to appeal to God). As a result, the SETI theory is much more open to testability than the ID theory which, from a fundamental scientific perspective, makes it a more scientifically appropriate theory. As a result, as it stands now, SETI is much stronger by “inference to the best explanation” within the constraints of methodological naturalism.

    You followed up by echoing Pitman’s totally intuitive position

    “If an apparently non-random pattern” (that the SETI program is looking for) “is proof of an intelligent source, one must also believe that the clearly non-random patterns in the DNA molecule are proof of an intelligent source.”

    I encourage you to think for yourself a little bit more. What are the set of premises for concluding that one “must” accept the conclusion of this argument? To simply say that there are non-random patterns of information in both is sufficient enough for a “must” conclusion proving that DNA is from an intelligent source? Is it a conclusion from necessity or probability? It can’t be from necessity because it is not being presented as a logically deductive argument. The SETI argument is an inductive argument built on a statistical and probabilistic model that results in quantitative predictions. For what if SETI researchers detected what appears to be a non-random pattern in a radio signal that seems to originate from the surface of the Sun or the center of the Milky Way galaxy? Would they conclude alien communication? Of course not, they would be inclined to first come up with a natural explanation. Why? It does not fit their model, which takes into account where a civilization would exist with the ability to create the observed signals. The conclusions must be probabilistic. Finding the source to be from a planet around a G type star would make it much more probable. Thus, if one is going to validate an If SETI…, than ID… argument and make it a valid argument, than the ID argument has to have the same form as the SETI argument – it must be built on a statistical and probabilistic model that makes quantitative predictions. However, Sean Pitman has presented no probabilistic model for calculating the quantitative probability that DNA or the flagellar motor are artefacts of intelligence. I am not sure if that can be done anyway to achieve the necessary correlation between the two theories because the physics involved are completely different and ID proponents make no suggestions about the when, where, or how of the causal input or who the intelligent designer is. This is necessary if one is going to generate a meaningful quantitative prediction within the constraint of methodological naturalism, which is what we are doing if Sean Pitman says God is not in the argument. Thus, any If SETI…, than ID… statement (including the one you presented) is not a sound or valid and thus fails as a potential argument.

    Further, Sean Pitman claimed that one does not need to know where the “shop” is, that is creating the artifact. Is it reasonable to accept that it matters to SETI but not Sean Pitman? That is silly. It sounds like cooking the books to me.

    But even in Sean Pitman’s argument for falsification he claims

    “The hypothesis that a highly symmetrical polished granite cube is a true artefact of intelligent design is testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. All that has to be done to falsify this hypothesis is to present a mindless natural mechanism that is capable of producing such a cube. Such a demonstration would effectively falsify the artefact hypothesis.”

    If one is going to be able to “present a mindless natural mechanism” than one has to talk about the “shop” no matter if the mechanism is natural or intelligent. Otherwise the claim of falsification can never be achieved. Finding a “polished granite cube” on the shelf of a rock shop is going to have a much higher probability of being an artefact of intelligence than one found in an ice core 1000 meters below the surface.

    Also, a hypothesis to be testable has to be specific not vague. “highly symmetrical”? Does that mean the corners are square to 90.00 +/-0.01 degrees? To 88 +/- 2 degrees? How am I to know? “polished”? What scratch and dig parameter is being applied here to determine the quality of polishing? Is natural desert polish sufficient to be polished enough? Again, how am I to know in order to falsify? Who is going to define the terms for falsification? Pitman does not seem to think such matters are important. To him, one only has to look at it to conclude “yup! that’s an artefact”.

    In addition, Pitman’s claim of falsification in this case is itself inconsequential. If scientists finds a thousand polished granite cubes and one can be shown to have been formed by “a mindless natural mechanism”, the “hypothesis” (if you want to call it that) is still proven to be true 99.9% of the time – and that is falsification? Such a measure of falsification makes no sense? Are we required to throw out our ability to identify the other 999 granite cubes as artefacts of intelligence because one was found that is not? Again, it makes no sense.

    Finally, what gives a polished granite cube the unique place of having the properties sufficient to identify a “blindingly obvious artifact” better than any other creation by intelligence? Why not choose a hexagonal stoneware dinner plate? Certainly that has to be a “blindingly obvious artefact”. What about a shiny metal toaster? How about a molded rubber ducky? It seems that all of these satisfy the properties of shape, material and surface quality needed to identify an artefact of intelligence just as well as a polished granite cube. Selecting a granite cube because it is “closer to being natural, but not” is an extraneous addition that is at best ad hoc in trying to save the argument. Identifying a polished granite cube above other artefacts adds no merit to what is supposed to be an empirical statement.

    I am sure you will not like many of the things I have said but keep in mind that not liking a conclusion is not in itself a sufficient reason for rejecting it. Sometimes we have to be honest with the argument and with ourselves, allowing one to be pushed into some hard thinking and research to discover where one’s justification for their previous position went wrong. Please be clear, that I am not saying that ID is not a valid argument. The position here is to demonstrate that Sean Pitman’s approach to ID and empiricism is untenable.

    s.j.schiller7@gmail.com




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    • If one is going to be able to “present a mindless natural mechanism” than one has to talk about the “shop” no matter if the mechanism is natural or intelligent. Otherwise the claim of falsification can never be achieved. Finding a “polished granite cube” on the shelf of a rock shop is going to have a much higher probability of being an artefact of intelligence than one found in an ice core 1000 meters below the surface.

      That’s simply not true. The location where the polished granite cube is found is irrelevant to the determination that it is a true artefact of intelligent design. That’s why, even if found on an alien planet, like Mars by one of our rovers there, it would be instantly proclaimed an artefact of intelligent design and would in fact hit the front page of every news paper and science journal in the world.

      Also, a hypothesis to be testable has to be specific not vague. “highly symmetrical”? Does that mean the corners are square to 90.00 +/-0.01 degrees? To 88 +/- 2 degrees? How am I to know? “polished”? What scratch and dig parameter is being applied here to determine the quality of polishing? Is natural desert polish sufficient to be polished enough? Again, how am I to know in order to falsify? Who is going to define the terms for falsification? Pitman does not seem to think such matters are important. To him, one only has to look at it to conclude “yup! that’s an artefact”.

      I do think such parameters are important. I’ve even posted pictures to specifically illustrate what I was talking about.

    • To be specific, let’s define “highly symmetrical” as: less than 0.001 mm variation per 10 cm – parallel and perpendicular.
    • Let’s also define “polished” as a surfaced finished to 1000 grit definition.
    • I’ve also previously mentioned a size of exactly one cubic meter for the cube, but lets use a minimum size requirement of 10 cm^3.

      Such a granite cube would be recognized as a clear artefact of intelligent design regardless of where it happened to be found in the universe.

      Are you telling me that you would not be able to recognize these granite cubes as true artefacts of intelligent design? – regardless of where they happened to be found?

      In addition, Pitman’s claim of falsification in this case is itself inconsequential. If scientists finds a thousand polished granite cubes and one can be shown to have been formed by “a mindless natural mechanism”, the “hypothesis” (if you want to call it that) is still proven to be true 99.9% of the time – and that is falsification? Such a measure of falsification makes no sense? Are we required to throw out our ability to identify the other 999 granite cubes as artefacts of intelligence because one was found that is not? Again, it makes no sense.

      It makes perfect sense. The discovery of any non-intelligent natural mechanism that can produce such granite cubes would definitively falsify the hypothesis that only intelligent design can create such granite cubes. This falsifying demonstration would make the claim for intelligent design of such a cube much much harder to support.

      Finally, what gives a polished granite cube the unique place of having the properties sufficient to identify a “blindingly obvious artifact” better than any other creation by intelligence? Why not choose a hexagonal stoneware dinner plate? Certainly that has to be a “blindingly obvious artefact”. What about a shiny metal toaster? How about a molded rubber ducky? It seems that all of these satisfy the properties of shape, material and surface quality needed to identify an artefact of intelligence just as well as a polished granite cube. Selecting a granite cube because it is “closer to being natural, but not” is an extraneous addition that is at best ad hoc in trying to save the argument. Identifying a polished granite cube above other artefacts adds no merit to what is supposed to be an empirical statement.

      You miss the point entirely. I never said that my granite cube would be the only “blindly obvious artefact” if found in nature. I only used it as an example of something that is “simple” yet clearly artificial. The method for determining that it is a true artefact of intelligent design can be used to determine that other phenomena are also “blindingly obvious” artefacts as well – to include SETI radio signals, hexagonal stoneware dinner plates, metal toasters, rubber duckies, granite cubes, other granite artefacts (see picture below), and biological machines. The very same argument applies in all of these cases – giving it universal application as a scientific method of investigating various phenomena for artefactual features.

    • http://www.thome-precision.com/precision-granite-parts-thome.html
    • http://www.pyramidgranite.com/pages/granite_surface_plates.html

      Please be clear, that I am not saying that ID is not a valid argument. The position here is to demonstrate that Sean Pitman’s approach to ID and empiricism is untenable.

      But you are actually saying that ID is not a valid argument – outside of knowing exactly how, by what precise method, the phenomenon in question was produced. If you know with absolute certainty how something was done, you no longer need science to determine how it was most likely done. Science isn’t about producing absolute certainty. Science is about producing useful predictive value given limited information. That is why a scientific hypothesis is always open to the potential for falsification…

      Your position, in comparison, invalidates SETI as well as forensic science and anthropology. You’re also not being consistent in your claims since you yourself would in fact recognize my granite cube, as described, as a true artefact of intelligent design – as would any candid observer with any background experience with the material of granite.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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    • The Drake Equation
      Schiller,

      Frank Drake is the only scientist in the world famous for what he has not found, and for his Drake Equation that calculates any answer from a series of unknowable unknowns. – See more at: http://crev.info/2010/11/seti_reinvades_oz/#sthash.KHWxB5Fz.dpuf
      The Drake Equation is a joke. It’s nothing more than a propaganda tool for atheistic cosmology, using visualization to give an air of scientific authority to ignorance. He left out the only term that can bring the possibility of life above absolute zero: intelligent causation. Only a fool would throw good money at ignorance (10/12/2007).
      The most egregious thing in Drake’s know-nothing resume (08/22/2008, 05/01/2008, 08/17/2007, 02/11/2007, 01/24/2007) has been the founding of a society that is dead-set against intelligent design (02/20/2007), while employing intelligent design principles in its core strategy (12/03/2005). SETI should be renamed the Search for Evolutionary Tricks of Imagination (04/17/2008, 04/01/2008, 03/17/2008). Thanks to Brett Miller for illustrating this in another clever cartoon. –
      http://creationsafaris.com/images/BM-Fill-in-the-Blanks.jpg

      See more at: http://crev.info/2008/11/raise_money_by_accomplishing_nothing/#sthash.A3ISaOsk.dpuf

      Organized ignorance: When you don’t know what you are talking about, does it help to organize your ignorance? Apparently Claudio Maccone thinks so. Astrobiology Magazine said Maccone took another look at the Drake Equation for calculating how many aliens inhabit the galaxy.
      But the Drake equation must not be evaluated only by the numerical values it produces. Some say the Drake equation is a way to organize our ignorance. By exposing the extraterrestrial intelligence hypothesis mathematically, we limit the real possibilities to each term and approach the final answer: how many alien civilizations are there?
      Maccone massaged the ignorance with new inputs and came up with a new estimate of how many alien civilizations there are, which nobody can check. He simultaneously solved another problem of organized ignorance: why hasn’t SETI detected any aliens yet? Answer: the average distance of these unknown civilizations might put them too far for our current detectors to find. How convenient; maybe we can use that method to explain why we haven’t found ghosts.
      See more at: http://crev.info/2012/12/are-scientists-capable-of-stupidity/#sthash.F2xKoToy.dpuf




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    • Mr. Schiller,

      I am a retired systems engineer. My job for 20 years was to put up 24/365 systems to support manufacturing factories.

      They consisted of hardware and software and protocols. I put up my first F/O network in 1985. It was/is called Intelligent Design.

      I have only recently become acquainted with Sean’s website. His argument seems to be that you can detect an artifact. I agree with him. In fact it is self evident.

      “The position here is to demonstrate that Sean Pitman’s approach to ID and empiricism is untenable.”

      Bloviating won’t cut it.




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  10. Gene Fortner

    It would be good if you took an honest look at the advances made in our knowledge related to each of the components of the Drake equation. When first proposed there was a lot of speculation in each simply because the data was not available yet to give them a reliable emperical footing. But now, the first four components are well known based on strong observational data sets and statistical analysis from the Kepler mission and other astronomical research. The 5th parameter will be become established from observation in the next 20 years as the technology is now available to detect biosigntures in the spectrum of light emitted and reflected from planets already discovered. From the beginning, the SETI program has proposed that there are billions of potentially “earth-like” planets in our galaxy and now the Kepler mission has proved this estimate to be statistically correct. To say that research guided by “the Drake Equation is a joke” is just allowing yourself to be out of touch.

    Since you are a system engineer then you know the process. Based on system requirements, functionality of each subsystem or component to be built, is to be evaluated and modeled before any hardward is constructed or system delivered. The functionality analysis is what the Drake equation is about. Some subsystems have been built and verified. Other “hardware” is under development and the complete system is still far from delivery, though engineering models been tested. It seems you are expecting delivery before the system is built. Best practice in system engineering does not include judgment based on personal desire or emotion. You seem to be struggling with this.

    It is unclear where you are coming from, because the Drake equation is all about intelligent causation. The last three terms deal specifically with estimating the probability an intelligent civilization will bring into existence radio communications.

    Fi = Percentage of planets with life where an intelligent species evolves
    Fc = Percentage of those intelligent species that develop communication technology
    L = Average lifetime, in years, of a civilization that develops such technology.

    But if you intended your comment on “intelligent causation” to include supernatual you are absolutely right, it is left out. Are we supposed to be surprised that the Drake Equation is atheistic? Of course it is. That is the way mainstream science is structured. It is built on the presuppositions of methodological naturalism. By definition it has to be atheistic though one may not like it. If you are following Sean Pitman than you should know that his arguments for identifying artifacts are supposed to be just as valid within methodological naturalism. So why the concern if the Drake equation is atheistic or not? If you are trying to define science as something else, please give the definition so the reader will know what you are talking about. Your comments are better if you avoid making categorical errors.




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  11. I like this article Sean. Not being from a very scientific background I still found it somewhat easy to understand and appreciate. It appears your distractors try and split to many hairs with you- sometimes too much learning can be detrimental and distracting to real life.
    Keep up the good work!




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