Discovery Institute and SETI — Yet Again

This is an old story. The Discoveroids often claim that their “theory” of intelligent is widely used by other sciences (see Discoveroids: Everyone Uses Our Theory), and SETI — the Search for extraterrestrial intelligence — is one of their favorites. See Discoveroids: More on SETI & Intelligent Design, where we said:

They’re trying to have it both ways. If we find no aliens, they win, because we’re the unique creation of the designer. But if we do find aliens, it’s because we used their intelligent design “science” in the search.

Their latest attempt is For SETI Researchers, Here Is a Guide for Handling Fallacious Objections. It was written by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

A recent story making the rounds, “Space anomaly gets extraterrestrial intelligence experts’ attention,” claims that the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project has found “a strange star” that “could mean alien life.”

We wrote about that here: Klinghoffer: More Evidence for Intelligent Design. Let’s see what Casey can do with it:

Comparisons between SETI’s methodology and the theory of intelligent design (ID) have been made since ID’s earliest days. Both SETI and ID seek to detect the signs of intelligence in the world around us. SETI focuses on looking for evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations far away in the universe. ID looks for signs of intelligent agency in the origin of living organisms and the universe itself.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, they’re both the same. Let’s read on:

SETI and ID share something else: they both try to be very conservative and cautious, invoking intelligent causation only when it is clearly warranted by the evidence.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Then why do the Discoveroids insist that their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — is responsible for the universe, life, and our “perfectly coded” genome? Casey continues:

ID proponents only conclude in favor of design when it’s clear that known material causes cannot explain the observed phenomena and when the data is best explained by intelligence.

Oh, okay. Here’s more:

So far, SETI hasn’t found a case that is clearly explained by some extraterrestrial civilization. This recent find of a star with flickering light is nowhere near enough evidence to conclude that aliens are the best explanation … . But suppose SETI were to one day discover strong evidence of some extraterrestrial civilization — enough to warrant a design inference. They might expect to face some of the same fallacious objections that ID faces. They might like some friendly tips on handling them. Here’s a little guide for SETI folks if that day ever comes:

What follows is really funny. Building on the strange notion that SETI is using the same “theory” of intelligent design that the Discoveroids use in their brilliant research, Casey assumes that SETI researchers will run into the same objections that the Discoveroids do. So they’re offering some advice, based on their extensive experience. Pay careful attention:

Who Made the Aliens? As soon as you claim you’ve detected aliens, skeptics will say “How can you claim there are aliens when you haven’t explained who made the aliens?”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! People are always asking the Discoveroids: “If your magic designer made the universe, then who made the designer?” The question, which is relevant in a theological context like the Discoveroids’ enterprise, would never be asked if intelligent aliens were discovered. We’ll skip Casey’s confused and rambling advice to SETI researchers about handling that one. This is his next anticipated objection to the discovery of aliens:

Where’s Your “Alien-O’Meter”? Some critics might reply “You need some kind of an ‘alien-o-meter’ to show that these aliens really exist before you can claim that you’ve detected evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization. After all, how do we know that aliens were behind the evidence you’ve discovered if we don’t know the aliens exist?”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! People are always asking the Discoveroids: “How can you detect design in things like DNA unless you have some kind of design detector?” But in the case of aliens, we’d see them (or their signals), so again, no one would raise such an objection. We’ll skip Casey’s advice to SETI researchers about handling that, and move along to the next objection he thinks SETI investigators might encounter:

Aliens of the Gaps A last objection the SETI researcher will face goes like this: You’re never allowed to conclude that aliens are responsible for anything because someday we might find a fully material, physical explanation other than ETs for the evidence you claim demonstrates an extraterrestrial civilization. As materialist explanations advance, your “alien” theory will just retreat into the gaps of our knowledge.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! People are always telling the Discoveroids — correctly — that their imaginary designer is just a God of the gaps. But again, that’s a theological objection applicable to the Discoveroids, and no one would even think to raise it if aliens were discovered.

What’s going on here? Does Casey really think SETI uses intelligent design “theory,” and its findings — if there were any — would be subject to the same objections rational people properly hurl at the Discoveroids? Maybe he does think that. Anyway, then he says:

Now I personally don’t object to SETI researchers doing their thing, but I’m highly skeptical that they’re ever going to find an extraterrestrial civilization. But my reason for writing this isn’t to rant against SETI. It’s just to point out the irony.

What irony? Casey explains:

People make a lot of fallacious objections against intelligent causation. We in the ID movement get this all the time. It sounds like, “Who designed the designer?” or “Where’s your theo-meter?” or “This is just God of the gaps.” If SETI claimed to find some extraterrestrial intelligent civilization, most likely the analagous [sic] objections would never come up, at least not with much force. Why is that?

Jeepers, why? Here’s Casey’s reasoning:

Most materialists would see extraterrestrial life as proof that a naturalistic origin of life is possible, and that perhaps life is therefore common in our universe. After all, what drives many materialists to look for evidence of extraterrestrial life is a misguided assumption that if aliens exist, it would somehow validates their worldview.

Aaaargh!! But as bad as that was, something far more goofy is coming. Here it is, and it’s the final paragraph of Casey’s amazing post:

But they are mistaken about what SETI means. If we found evidence of an alien civilization, that wouldn’t be evidence that life evolves naturally. It would just be evidence for an extraterrestrial civilization. That’s it. How it arose would be an entirely different question. And all indications we have so far show that life could not arise naturally, whether on earth or anywhere else. For all we know, finding evidence of extraterrestrial life could end up being yet another piece of evidence pointing to intelligent design.

Your Curmudgeon is speechless. That might be the most bizarre Discoveroid post ever.

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

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

23 responses to “Discovery Institute and SETI — Yet Again

  1. Oh, by the almighty gibberation: Is Casey accidentally getting things back to front or was he just made that way?

    The reason the SETI folk are looking for evidence of any evidence of something “intelligently designed” is precisely because it’d stand out as an anomaly against the backdrop of the rest of the universe.

    Time and time again you’ve produced examples where, hey, it’s just possible that Casey’s sin might be merely stupidity or ignorance, but here, I’d say, there’s no other explanation except the obvious.

  2. Both SETI and ID seek to detect the signs of intelligence in the world around us.

    Well, not quite. It’s already been firmly established that there is no intelligence associated with the Dishonesty Institute, and this article clearly lends support to that finding. Also, the DI does absolutely nothing in regards to seeking to detect intelligence, or anything for that matter, in their home-grown green screen lab.

    For all we know, finding evidence of extraterrestrial life could end up being yet another piece of evidence pointing to intelligent design.

    It could really mean as that the discoveroids continue to have their heads up there asses and the noxious vapors are leading to dementia. But I’m sure Casey can find an appropriate bible passage, or was it that compact Moses booklet, to support his claims. What is amazing is that Casey continues to be paid for his drivel.

  3. “ID proponents only conclude in favor of design when it’s clear that known material causes cannot explain…”

    Yeah, well here’s the thing, Casey, for pretty much all of human history pretty much nothing that happened around us could be explained by “known material causes”, since we didn’t know Sweet Fanny Adams about material causes. While I have to admire your boundless optimism about the current state of human wisdom, I have to say I think your assessment that “if we don’t know it yet, it must be God” is a bit premature. Based on past experience. Just sayin’.

  4. Anyone notice the red porch light at the Discoveroids’ front door?

  5. May I point out that even if it were true that there were something which no known material cause could explain, that does not provide an explanation for it. Moreover, it does not even provide support for the claim that there is a better explanation than any natural explanation (that claim does not itself describe what that better explanation might be).
    BTW:
    Does anyone know how a non-natural agency can play a role in an explanation for a natural phenomenon? Would that even be consistent with being non-natural?

  6. Dear Casey is to be thanked here for a brilliant (if unintended) exposition of the fundamental fallacy of ID, which can be traced back at least as far as Paley and probably even further than that. And in a nutshell, that fallacy is offering ‘evidence’ for Design as if it were also evidence for an unstated (because assumed it is entailed) but in fact altogether different ”Argument from Manufacture”. And ironically, a Theory of Intelligent Manufacture could arguably be developed that would indeed be empirically testable by science. To explain:

    When we encounter Paley’s wayward watch on the heath, it isn’t actually “design” that we initially detect in the artefact, it’s testable hallmarks of “manufacture”, and by an “intelligent agent” such as ourselves. And we are only able to recognise and test for such hallmarks because of our prior and extensive knowledge of manufactured objects by ‘intelligent agents.’ Where that prior knowledge is lacking, the hallmarks are unrecognisable—as in the case of uncontacted tribes of aboriginal inhabitants of the Amazon basin, who, when first seeing aircraft flying overhead, believed them to be large birds.

    And it is by detecting hallmarks of a manufacturing process that we were able to identify Stonehenge or Antikythera mechanism as the products of ‘intelligent agents’ even before we knew what was the ‘end purpose’ of these artefacts. Or indeed, whether or not we are ever able to detect any ‘end purpose’ or ‘design intent’ in a manufactured artefact at all. Which is why we can readily distinguish a Jackson Pollock painting from the drop-cloth from his studio floor without any regard to arguments around the painting’s aesthetic value,‘purpose’, or ‘design.’

    IOW: Detecting ‘manufacture by an intelligent agent’ is wholly independent (and prior to) any attempt to detect ‘design by an intelligent agent.’ But the ID-iots keep trying to pull the bait & switch tactic of claiming ‘design’ is independently detectable, and once detected, then ‘manufacture by an intelligent agent’ must thereby be assumed without any evidence offered for this wrongly-entailed premise.

    And the whole house of cards rapidly collapses when one attempts to come up with an empirical test for ‘design’ independent of a test for ‘manufacture’, e.g.

    [1] Design is detectable by identifying fitness of an object for an end-purpose? But this is teleological sophistry at its worst, like arguing that a mountain is clearly intelligently designed to be larger at its base than at its summit, otherwise it would topple over.

    [2] Design is detectable by some mysterious elixir like ‘information’ or ‘specified complexity’? This is just vitalism in a new guise, as unmeasurable and elusive as ever. And level of complexity (specified or not) could never be a test of intelligent manufacture: presumably, Picasso scribbling on his napkin would slip through Dembski’s ‘explanatory filter.’
    On the other hand, it isn’t too difficult to start framing tests to distinguish products of nature from objects produced by ‘intelligent manufacture’, e.g., assembly of inert components, &c. &c.

    And of course, SETI is as good example as any as application, not of Intelligent Design Theory, but of Intelligent Manufacture Theory. It seeks radio signals which do not appear to arise from known natural causes, without regard to any design intent behind them (for such signals could possibly have no design intent—that is, unintended byproducts of inter-alien communication—or a design intent we could not detect—that is, we could not distinguish between an alien-generated signal that was intended to mean “Hello, Cosmos” from an alien-generated signal that was intended to mean “Don’t mess with us, any other life-forms that might be out there”.

  7. @Megalonyx:
    I suspect that the response to your observations about design would be met with: But that isn’t what we mean by “design”.
    Of course, they don’t tell anyone what they mean by “design”. That would be going into the “pathetic details”, the sort of thing that naturalistic explanations are known for. And they aren’t in the business of explaining things.

    But going back to the old days, when people were trying to come up with something which made sense.

    I have this speculation that we are dealing with days before the Industrial Revolution, when a gentleman would deal with an artisan who did all the work of providing a watch for the gentleman. And the gentleman, being a gentleman, not someone who would be concerned with being a tradesman, couldn’t care less about how these things came to be. It was the artisan who knew that he had to get the right raw materials, the right tools, plan out how he would spend his time, how things would work together, take account of what he could do with what he could obtain, draw up the plans, then actually make the thing, and then try to sell it at a profit.

    The gentleman may have been content with offering an explanation of “design”. Not that he had any idea of all the work that went into producing his fine watch.

  8. @ TomS Good points, all–but it’s interesting to take a fresh look at Paley’s original analogy (which, when all is said and done, is all that the Discoveroids actually have); in fact, it contains an implicit distinction between ‘design’ and ‘manufacture’ (or, in Paley’s term, “contrivance”) which the Discoveroids ignore (and for good reason, as it is fatal to their arguments). Here’s Paley’s original watchmaker analogy, but with bold added to highlight the ‘Argument from Manufacture’ that is implicit:

    In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there forever: nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there. … There must have existed, at some time, and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers, who formed [the watch] for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use. … Every indication of contrivance, every manifestation of design, which existed in the watch, exists in the works of nature; with the difference, on the side of nature, of being greater or more, and that in a degree which exceeds all computation.

    IOW: Where we detect ‘contrivance’, we may go on to detect ‘design’–though Paley doesn’t consider those cases where we can detect ‘contrivance’ but where there is no “purpose which we find it actually to answer” (e.g. an ancient cave-dweller’s painted outline of his own hand) or where the ‘purpose’ is not clear to us (as was initially the case with the Antikythera mechanism).

    The more I think on it, the more I think one could genuinely develop a ‘Theory of Intelligent Manufacture’ that would actually be servicable–but it would not advance the Discoveroids’ ID schtick one jot.

  9. Shouldn’t these Discoveroids fools be out there looking for their damn designer rather than fund raising? I mean that’s what scientists do, you know, look for things.

  10. @Megalonyx:
    The term “contrivance” is a perilous term for someone intending to involve an omnipotent agency. For (at least to me) “contrivance” suggests an agent who is dealing with the possibilities. One has to put this doohickey here, not because of its essential bearing on the function, but because otherwise the whatchamallit is apt to fail. In other words, because of the limits of nature. An agency which is beyond nature need not take account of such things.

    Paley mentions this problem, asking why, for example, God designs the eye taking account of the laws of nature, rather than just directly giving the power of sight. Why resort to contrivance, Paley asks. (Paley has a suggestion which I don’t find satisfying, but lets not go off on that tangent.)

    I think that “Intelligent Manufacture” is more obviously something which is grounded in nature.

  11. Megalonyx, you have had a lucid moment, and I congratulate you! Your “Theory of Intelligent Manufacture” makes sense, unlike the Discoveroids’ vacuous babbling about design. You might also consider what I wrote 3 years ago in Rethinking Paley’s Watchmaker Analogy, which I modestly called the Curmudgeon’s dictum: A design must be useful to the designer.

  12. As others have pointed out, Casey demonstrates in many ways how creationists don’t understand science. One that I’d like to emphasize is his rant about “aliens of the gaps”. If, to take Casey’s example, if “…someday we might find a fully material, physical explanation other than ETs for the evidence you claim demonstrates an extraterrestrial civilization“, real scientists would accept the data, and recognize that ETs were not responsible. And, although it seems unlikely, if IDers ever come up with some data that supports the view that some non-material thingy affects the material world, I’d be happy to look at it. The fact that Casey thinks there is some sky fairy doesn’t count as data! As Bert Younger said, the Discoveroids should spend their time (and money) looking for their designer, rather than just asserting there is one lurking somewhere.

  13. @abeastwood:
    The immediate problem that I have with a supernatural explanation for a natural phenomenon is not a lack of data, but the lack of substance, a lack of an explanation. It is not immediately evidence what sort of thing would be going on when something which has no interaction with natural laws acts in some way that has a result in the natural world. Does a supernatural agent act at a particular time and place, given that space-time is a natural phenomenon? Maybe so, but who comes out and plainly says that?

  14. Ah, I thought it would be another bore about DI and SETI, but this

    “SETI and ID share something else: they both try to be very conservative and cautious, invoking intelligent causation only when it is clearly warranted by the evidence.”
    is frigging brilliant, given the total lack of any standard but “this looks like design to me, hence a Grand Old Designer”.

    “when it’s clear that known material causes cannot explain the observed phenomena”
    Nice that the IDiots explicitely admit they worship a God of the Gaps.

    “and when the data is best explained by intelligence.”
    Just for completeness, because it’s an open door …… and how exactly beyond “goddiddid” does that explanation go?

    “The question …. would never be asked if intelligent aliens were discovered.”
    Actually it would in a different form: “How did the aliens evolve?” But of course the Gerbil wouldn’t like that too much ….

    “because someday we might find a fully material, physical explanation”
    Spoken like a True IDiot. Aliens are a fully material, physical explanation.

    Yeah, after that last paragraph I’m beginning to see why the Gerbil is your favourite creacrapper, dear SC.

  15. Mary L. Mand

    Okay, I’m convinced. Luskin doesn’t understand SETI.

  16. People make a lot of fallacious objections against intelligent causation. We in the ID movement get this all the time. It sounds like, “Who designed the designer?” or “Where’s your theo-meter?” or “This is just God of the gaps.” If SETI claimed to find some extraterrestrial intelligent civilization, most likely the analagous [sic] objections would never come up, at least not with much force.

    Bushwah. If SETI researchers ever claim to have found clear evidence of an alien civilization, they’d better be able to produce clear evidence, or their careers are doomed.

    By contrast, ID’ers can be proved wrong over and over and remain on the payroll of the Discovery Institute or some other quack outfit, because they don’t need evidence as the rest of the world understands that term; they’ve got the Bah-ble, and that’s all that counts.

  17. @Mary L Mand

    Luskin doesn’t understand SETI.

    He doesn’t understand much, to be honest.

  18. To Casey: While any SETI researcher could point to literately thousands of things that are not signals from an extraterrestrial civilization, I challenge you (and the DI) to list even ONE thing that you do not believe to be designed.

  19. @AR
    I challenge you (and the DI) to list even ONE thing that you do not believe to be designed.

    Volkwagen’s emissions faker. The Grand Old Designer would never have sunk so low as to do that one, so it must be naturalistic.

  20. Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

    SETI and ID share something else: they both try to be very conservative and cautious, invoking intelligent causation only when it is clearly warranted by the evidence.

    LOL, someone hasn’t been to UncommonDescent lately. Post after post, comment after comment, anything and everything is attributed to “a Designer” because scientists can’t explain X therefore Y. A fallacious god of the gaps reasoning even Casey uses in the opening of his article. To wit …

    ID proponents only conclude in favor of design when it’s clear that known material causes cannot explain the observed phenomena and when the data is best explained by intelligence.

    As I recall, humanity had this same problem with thunder and lightning, hence Thor and other assorted deities. The examples of this scenario are near countless.

    Who Made the Aliens? As soon as you claim you’ve detected aliens, skeptics will say “How can you claim there are aliens when you haven’t explained who made the aliens?”

    This question has never even crossed my mind. It’s no different than asking who made us ? As far as I know, it’s only supernaturalists who perpetually ask that question in the face of those who don’t believe their claims. Once an actual being is discovered and we can ask what it did, how it did it, and when it did it, then we will have something to actually talk about other than gaps in our knowledge.

    Where’s Your “Alien-O’Meter”?

    This is just plain stupid. It’s very equipment SETI is currently using and whatever else they think to develop that would allow them to make and confirm the discovery to begin with.

    After all, what drives many materialists to look for evidence of extraterrestrial life is a misguided assumption that if aliens exist, it would somehow validates their worldview.

    No Casey, it’s been pointed out that this would demolish the claims of your co-religionists like Ken Ham that insist there is no other life in the universe because otherwise The Designer would have bothered to mention it in his alleged user manual and we are the end-be-all of the universe. It’s all about us, right Casey ?

    The tard. It’s thick.

  21. Just fixing a small typo in realthog’s observation about the redoubtable Luskin:

    He doesn’t understand much, how to be honest.

  22. “For SETI Researchers, Here Is a Guide for Handling Fallacious Objections”………..Perhaps Casey meant “bodacious” assumptions,
    or perhaps “stupendacious” assumptions. Its hard to tell . We may never know. A new word is in order that exemplifies the ‘tuter attitudes about SETI. ……….”Furacious”. Hey Casey ! It rhymes..!