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SETI researchers expect they can detect design (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (SETI researchers expect they can detect design (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CI190:

SETI researchers expect that they can recognize artificial signals, proving that there is an objective criterion for recognizing intelligent design.

Source: Dembski, William A., 1998. Science and Design. First Things 86 (Oct.): 21-27.


CreationWiki response: Talk.Origins' source is an article by William Dembski that does not discuss SETI researchers per se, but rather uses fictional SETI researchers from the movie Contact to illustrate his point.

(Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. SETI researchers do not expect to find recognizably designed messages in the signals they are looking for; in fact, they expect that the signal modulation would be smeared out and lost. They are looking for narrow-band signals, which are what people build and are not found in known natural radio signals (SETI Instutute n.d.).

Note that Talk.Origins has erected a straw man argument by twisting Dembski's claim. Dembski claimed that the artificial nature of the signals could be detected, which T.O explicitly upholds by saying that SETI is looking for particular types of signals that "are not found in known natural radio signals".

The objective criterion for recognizing intelligent design is to look for things that look like what people build.

As the context is extraterrestrial intelligence, one would presume that Talk.Origins is using the word "people" here to refer not to humans, but to any being with sufficient intelligence to design things. This contradicts their next response in which they claim that intelligent design can only be recognized by matching patterns made by human designers!

In any case, does this response not prove the ID claim altogether? Dembski is simply quantifying and generalizing the design criteria. So basically, T.O's response could be summed up as "Dembski's wrong because it's ID, but he's right if you don't call it ID."

Always be on the lookout for people who attempt to refute the SETI-type claims, because usually they only do so by completely missing the point of what is being looked for and why it is important.

2. The SETI Institute itself recognizes "Intelligent Design" as creationism with no scientific value (DeVore 2005).

DeVore does not discuss the similarity of SETI research to Intelligent Design. Furthermore, she gives no evidence that ID is creationism nor that it is unscientific. The article is almost entirely reporting what other evolutionist individuals and organisations believe. This reference—and the article itself—is an example of argument by authority. Neither provide any evidence that ID is unscientific. If creationists tried to argue that evolution is unscientific merely by repeating that other creationists claim that it is unscienctific, Talk.Origins would be very quick to dismiss the argument as invalid. Yet they do it themselves by citing an article that itself does it!

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