Tuesday, June 13, 2006

DI Desperate for SETI

One of Dembski's favourite claims is that ID's attempt to discover intelligence is legitimate because SETI, which is widely held to do legitimate science, is also looking for intelligence.

To be able to support this claim, Dembski must attempt to prove that both he and SETI use the same sorts of methodology to complete their ivestigations.

In a recent post in his blog Dembski makes a pathetic and desperate attempt to conflate the two.

He cites a Physics Today article which says that SETI has begun searching for extremely bright and narrow beams of light, which cannot be produced by any known astronomical sources.

Dembski says this is the same as his "explanatory filter" which seeks to eliminate possibilities of chance and nature producing observed effects. However, even in the material Dembski quotes, we can see striking differences that Dembski has had to overlook in order to rationalize the differences between the two fields away so that he may pretend that what he is doing has merit.

The first thing he overlooks is that the article mentions that it does not conclusively rule out astronomical sources.
If it’s not from an alien civilization, at least we will have discovered an astrophysical phenomenon that no one anticipated. Not a bad consolation prize.
So what's the difference here? With Dembski, he can't explain it and it passes through his filter. Thus it must be design. With SETI, they can't explain it, so it bears further investigation. Thus it may be design, or it may be an "astrophysical phenomenon".

What this reveals is that Dembski has no interest in using the scientific method in which things must be reexamined. Instead he washes his hands of the process as soon as he gets a result which he likes, refusing to accept that there is any other possibility.

In responding to a comment left, Dembski's faithful hound, Dave Scott, claims to have insight into how intelligent beings will attempt to communicate:
Any technological entity capable of generating high power nanosecond laser pulses is going to encode a message of some sort in a stream of pulses. (Emphasis added)
From this we see that the ID proponent's frequent claim that it's impossible to know the identity, motives, or methods of a designer, are all just fluff. Dave Scott clearly states that he's able to predict exactly how an alien race would communicate.

This bias is not one that SETI accepts. Because SETI realizes that its impossible for us to know the data format of an alien race, we should not expect to find a "message in a bottle". Instead of finding something complex that we may not recognize and just pass over as astronomical noise, SETI instead looks for extremely simple and unmistakable patterns that do not rely on language, culture, or any other preconcieved notions. This is why things like sequences of prime numbers work exceptionally well.

One of the later posters responds to DaveScott's egregarious comment and points out that, when one reads the full article (which Dembski apparently didn't read even though most universities provide free online subscriptions to such publications), SETI explicitly states that they do not seek the "phase-encoded messageing one seeks with radio-telescope".

Once again the DI's sloppy academics and desperate attempts for legitimacy have fallen flat.

2 comments:

Don said...

And of course, the most spectacular difference between science and ID is that "intelligence" is not the same in the two realms.

ID posits an intelligence outside of the natural world. Science is only looking for signs of intelligence as we know it in the natural world.

For Dembski to equate the two, shows a lack of, well, intelligence.

ID's (mis)use of the word "intelligence" appears akin to the pseudoscientists' (mis)use of the word "energy". But what the bleep do I know?

Don said...

And of course, the most spectacular difference between science and ID is that "intelligence" is not the same in the two realms.

ID posits an intelligence outside of the natural world. Science is only looking for signs of intelligence as we know it in the natural world.

For Dembski to equate the two, shows a lack of, well, intelligence.

ID's (mis)use of the word "intelligence" appears akin to the pseudoscientists' (mis)use of the word "energy". But what the bleep do I know?