Klinghoffer: More Evidence for Intelligent Design

A star known as KIC 8462852, according to Wikipedia, is:

between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra, approximately 454 parsecs (~1481 light years) from Earth. In September 2015, several astronomers published a paper analyzing the peculiar light output of the star. Measuring light fluctuations is a common way of detecting planets orbiting distant stars. However, this star had several extraordinarily peculiar results. Its light output was found to be consistent with a large mass (or many small masses together) orbiting the star in “tight formation”, which lead to a series of peculiar hypotheses.

Peculiar hypotheses? Yes. Wikipedia says:

Researchers think the most likely explanation for the star’s odd reduction in light is due to a large dust cloud of broken up comets orbiting the star elliptically. … Other explanations for the star’s dip in luminosity as measured by the Kepler space telescope could be due to the star recently capturing an asteroid field, or from a temporary debris field caused by a massive planetary impact.

Then it gets interesting:

Other speculations have been proposed. Some astronomers think these observations are consistent with mega structures made by alien civilizations, such as Dyson spheres. SETI astronomers plan to examine the star’s radio frequencies to look for potential signs of unnatural activity indicative of intelligent extraterrestrial life. [Bold font added by us.]

The press has become interested. London’s Daily Mail has this headline: Have researchers discovered an alien MEGASTRUCTURE? ‘Bizarre’ star could be surrounded by a Dyson sphere built by extraterrestrials, researchers claim. It’s fun to read, but we’ll leave that to you.

Things like this provoke the Discovery Institute to demonstrate their awesome analytical powers. Look what just showed up at their creationist blog: Seeking Alien “Megastructures” Around a Puzzling Star, Astronomers Debate Intelligent Design.

Astronomers are debating intelligent design? Who, you’re wondering, wrote this Discoveroid post? They assigned the task to one of their best minds — David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. He says, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

A fascinating article for The Atlantic describes a disagreement among astronomers over intelligent design.

The Atlantic? Yes, that’s Klinghoffer’s source. Here’s their article: The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy. Is it really about intelligent design? No, not really. Klinghoffer admits:

Though the phrase isn’t used, it’s clearly about design detection and when such a determination is legitimately triggered.

It’s amazing that the Discoveroids can not only detect intelligent design when no one else does, they can also detect when their “theory” is being used, even though the people alleged to be using it are unaware that they are doing so. Klinghoffer quotes from the article and then explains it to his readers:

The problem is simple. A young star could have such a “mess” of matter circling it but a middle-ages star would not — the mess would have since been hoovered up. KIC 8462852 is not young but middle-aged, so what is that stuff? One group of scientists, led by Yale postdoc Tabetha Boyajian, sorted through a variety of natural explanations — “blind nature” — all unsatisfactory, until they settled on one they could accept:

What explanation did they settle on? Klinghoffer gives us this quote from the article:

If another star had passed through the unusual star’s system, it could have yanked a sea of comets inward. Provided there were enough of them, the comets could have made the dimming pattern.

Then he mentions one other explanation:

But astronomer Jason Wright at Penn State begs to differ. Reluctantly, he’s ready to consider the hypothesis that what they’re looking at is alien technology — orbiting “megastructures” build to capture energy from TK.Wright considers the design inference a last resort: “the very last hypothesis you consider.” But not out of the question, and worth testing by a closer inspection.

That’s enough to get Klinghoffer’s Discoveroid juices flowing. He says:

SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has long sought such evidence of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. Could this be it? I have no idea. The point to take away is that what these scientists are doing is practicing the science of intelligent design — the detection and identification of intelligence and its residues, sorting natural processes from purposeful ones, distinguishing “blind nature” from directed, goal-driven activity resulting in unmistakable artifacts.

The Discoveroids have previously claimed that SETI is using their “theory” of intelligent design — see Discoveroids: SETI and Intelligent Design. Now they’re doing it again. Klinghoffer concludes with this:

It’s ID. Precisely that. It’s testable. And it’s science.

So there you are. If KIC 8462852 is evidence of intelligent aliens, it supposedly validates the Discoveroids’ “theory” of intelligent design. And that means the designer — blessed be he! — made the universe, life, and you.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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28 responses to “Klinghoffer: More Evidence for Intelligent Design

  1. “They assigned the task to one of their best minds.”
    Technically the last few words of this sentence are correct. The question remains thought – what does that say about the rest of the bunch?

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    The thing is, it is just another metaphor, not actual ID-science. Mount Rushmore, but parsecs away. Dopes.

  3. Yet, whenever I ask an IDer for their Comprehensive Theory of Intelligent Design, ask for heuristic rules I can use to detect ID, and request a falsification experiment that I can use to TEST their ID theory, all I get is crickets.

    Do they still need more time to get organize and publish?

    P.S. In recent years I’ve started getting this reply from some IDers as to the specifics of their Theory of ID: “The Intelligent Design Theory states that there are complex structures which can’t be explained any other way than by the work of an intelligence.” No joke. After I remind them that a scientific theory should explain all of the available data, they tell me “Yes, this theory does exactly that.”

    So I guess their idea of science is “When I don’t consider your theories valid, my theory is the correct explanation by default”—-even though their “theory” explains nothing.

  4. I’m skeptical that actual, real, professional astronomers are seriously suggesting the Dyson Sphere hypothesis, even as a last resort. I’m tempted to think that this might be an example of the media going crazy about an idea that real scientists didn’t really suggest. In the Earth sciences, Mark McMenamin is a university geology professor, but he’s not really a scientist – he advocates intelligent design and he doesn’t use the scientific method and he doesn’t objectively interpret evidence. When he suggested at some geology conferences over the years that there is fossil evidence for telepathic worms in the Precambrian rock record and that there is fossil evidence for artistic giant squid (“krakens”) that did self-portraits on Mesozoic seafloors using ichthyosaur bones, all audience members rolled their eyes and amusingly discussed his nonsense in the halls afterward. We’re not quite sure what McMenamin is – genuinely crazy or deluded or lying. Journalists reported his “findings” as if they were real science. Are astronomers rolling their eyes at the media reporting in this case? I wonder. Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to see evidence of intelligent life out there. I still think that the “Wow signal” from years ago means something.

  5. As long as no one shows the least interest in describing what “Intelligent Design” is, then it is pointless to discuss it. Anything can be counted as evidence for (or against) it. For there is no telling what sort of result is more or less likely to result from ID.
    I note these words:
    can’t be explained any other way
    That does not even make a claim that ID can explain. It merely says that no other way can explain. (Of course, that is a remarkable claim, given the vast number of possible ways to explain, but let’s not get distracted by that red herring.) Maybe human intellect is limited, and we just don’t have the capacity of explaining everything. Or maybe not. Whatever, it doesn’t justify – it is not an attempt at a justification for ID.
    But I guess that Prof. Tertius has said it better.

  6. Mike Elzinga

    “The Intelligent Design Theory states that there are complex structures which can’t be explained any other way than by the work of an intelligence.”

    Whenever ID/creationists have managed to come up with that “explanation” – which they often do – it really means that their own ID/creationist pseudoscience can’t explain it.

    ID/creationists have been bending, breaking, and butchering scientific concepts and evidence to comport with sectarian dogma ever since Henry Morris and Duane Gish started it back in the 1970s. I think that, over the years, I have read just about every “major work” of the ID/creationist “PhDs;” and in every case, what I have encountered is gross incompetence and the pushing of a pseudoscience that has nothing to do with the real world. ID/creationists – to a person – don’t seem to have any awareness of what the real science is; nor do they recognize their own incompetence or that their own pseudoscience is irrelevant.

    They are all sectarian apologists and nothing else.

  7. Richard Bond

    When I saw the apparent gibberish posted by Tomato Addict in response to the previous post, I immediately identified it as intelligently designed and worked out its purpose. I could do that because I knew a few things about the designer and could reasonably infer some others.

    When I first saw the Echo 1 satellite, I likewise instantly identified this very peculiar object as intelligently designed because I knew about the motivation of the designers.

    Similarly, the speculation about the odd feature of KIC 8462852 is based on an inference that its putative designers have motives and capabilities that are qualitatively similar to ours.

    If the IDiots want to convince me that their attempts so far to find examples of intelligent design are any better than these trivial applications of common sense and a little knowledge, they had better start solving some genuine problems, preferably about evolution. If the methods in use above are actually examples of their “scientific” method, then their explanation must obviously include some data about their designer.

  8. “The Intelligent Design Theory states that there are complex structures which can’t be explained any other way than by the work of an intelligence.””
    That’s a nice reformulation of the God of the Gaps.

  9. I just note that no one has yet pointed out the famous history of the first reception of pulsars. There was a moment when some facetiously referred to the first pulsar as LGM-1, for “little green men”.

  10. What drivel.

    Even if what astronomers have found turns out to be structures “intelligently designed” by an alien civilization, that proves nothing whatever about ID as Klinghoffer et al. usually define it, any more than the presence of cities on Earth does.

    This looks like a job for the Drool-o-meter!

  11. Wright considers the design inference a last resort: “the very last hypothesis you consider.” But not out of the question, and worth testing by a closer inspection.

    Klinghoffer writes the above without apparently noticing that he is highlighting the difference between ID Creationism and science.

    Unlike science, there is no testing in IDC – else we would all be able to duplicate the “tests” performed by ID advocates and validate or invalidate their results.

    The only work involved in IDC is the effort to write books and blogs attempting to disprove existing scientific explanations, utilizing the IDC technique of misrepresenting those explanations and their supporting evidence. When the IDC’er believes that they created adequate doubt about the scientific explanations in the minds of their audience, they end their written piece with the conclusion that whatever the subject of their exposition is, it is designed. Unlike what Wright proposes, IDC’ers do not test their design conclusions in any way.

    btw, despite protestations by IDC’ers, calculations of probabilities are not tests of design, they are attempts to induce a sense of incredulity toward natural explanations in the minds of their followers.

  12. Ed says: “btw, despite protestations by IDC’ers, calculations of probabilities are not tests of design”

    Oh yeah? Well, how do you explain the observed fact that this morning I saw a fly in my coffee cup? When you consider the number of flies, the size of a fly, and the surface area of the Earth, what are the odds against that particular fly ending up precisely in my coffee cup? My calculations prove that the odds are greater than 10×69^3,456,789 to one. That means it’s virtually impossible — unless it was the work of blessed designer. My logic is undeniable.

  13. Klinklepooper to witless benefactors: “When we look at Mt. Rushmore thru binoculars, we can see the sculpted heads! We’re doin’ scientifical stuff! Send money!”

  14. I feel that ID Proponents fail to see any difference between ‘I’ntelligent ‘D’esign and intelligent design. Humans have been intelligently designing things for centuries without requiring the invocation of a specific deity. Just because someone’s brain is engaged designing something doesn’t imply, by any stretch of the imagination, that they are using the Discovery Institute’s poorly, if at all, defined Intelligent Design Theory.

  15. @waldteufel-
    That analogy of Mt. Rushmore particularly fascinates me. (Yes, they actually have used it. It is not a strawman to ridicule ID analogies.)
    When I am told that they have concluded that the images of presidents on Mt. Rushmore are ID … and that by the same reasoning, that the flora and fauna on Mt. Rushmore are also, in the same sense of the terms, ID – and that they expect me to take them seriously!
    They have, by their magnificent deep thought, have informed me that the images of presidents might just as well have grown there.
    What they have done, by their practice of unintentional apophasis, drawn attention to just how empty their “concept” (in the sense of an advertising campaign: their hook) is.

  16. The Wikipedia article had a section on “Popular culture” reporting on Art Bell et al.’s interest in this – although even at that, Klinghoffer seemed not to merit mention. (How does K feel about that evaluation?) Alas, someone at Wikipedia removed the “Popular culture” section, and you have to go way back in the history of the article to find about Art Bell.

  17. michaelfugate

    I certainly haven’t read everything associated with ID, but I get the feeling of a distinct ancient philosophical bent – definitely pre-enlightenment and pre-scientific – the Greeks filtered through Aquinas?
    For instance the SEP has this on Plato’s metaphysics:

    The world that appears to our senses is in some way defective and filled with error, but there is a more real and perfect realm, populated by entities (called “forms” or “ideas”) that are eternal, changeless, and in some sense paradigmatic for the structure and character of the world presented to our senses.

    This is so different from the idea of descent with modification.

  18. The first results published in a journal are of course preliminary. The scientific community has to gnaw on it a while. That’s what’s great about the scientific method.
    It should be noted that the stars known as pulsars, which emit bright light to a period you can set your atomic clock by, were originally thought to possibly be signs of alien life. Once mechanisms for the pulsing became understood no intelligence was needed.

  19. @Troy: Interesting side note to the pulsar story — when the first pulsar was discovered in November 1967 by Jocelyn Bell, it was nicknamed LGM-1 — for “Little Green Men”.

  20. You can hear him winking as he types

  21. The Wikipedia article references LMG-1, and also:
    CTA-102 (quasar) – initially postulated by Nikolai Kardashev to be a potential signal from an extraterrestrial civilization
    These two are “the two great false alarms in the history of SETI.”
    Whatever this turns out to be, will it be noted as the third?

  22. TomS mentions: “the two great false alarms in the history of SETI.”

    I wonder if the Discoveroids regard those as failures of intelligent design theory.

  23. I note that this latest discovery KIC [###] has acquired the name LMG-2.

  24. … and “Where’s The Flux” for an acronym which I will not reproduce here.

    https://sites.psu.edu/astrowright/2015/10/15/kic-8462852wheres-the-flux/

  25. Surprise, surprise, like their prehistoric brethren, the ID cult automatically assigns any scientific unknown to the realm of the gods. Good to see them advancing their science into the latest thinking of the Dark Ages.

  26. An additional speculation which may account for the phenomenon has been mentioned in the Wikipedia article. One which seems (and I am not a scientist) quite possible: That there be an unseen young companion star with a protoplanetary disk. A protoplanetary disk is consistent with a young star (it has been ruled out for the star which we see, because the spectrum is not that of a young star), and such a disk can contain quite a bit of obscuring matter over a large space with gaps.

  27. I have to add this reference that I got from Wikipedia. It has some observations from SETI researchers which seems to me to reflect a different attitude to “complex information” to that suggested by “Intelligent Design”.

    First, the web address:

    http://www.cnet.com/news/the-full-story-behind-the-alien-megastructures-scientists-may-have-found-but-probably-didnt/
    “The story behind ‘alien megastructures’ scientists may have found (but probably didn’t)”
    by Eric Mack
    CNET magazime October 17, 2015

    Then this one interesting bit from the article (there are others)

    Wright calls aliens a “hypothesis of last resort,” because it’s essentially impossible to falsify.