Aliens & the Discoveroids’ Design Filter

Like all creationists, the Discovery Institute dislikes the idea of life existing elsewhere — especially intelligent life. We’ve written a few times about their anti-alien views — see, e.g.: Intelligent Aliens Terrify the Discovery Institute. And like other creationists, the Discoveroids also deplore the effort and resources expended on SETI, the Search for extraterrestrial intelligence. We’ve written about that too — see Klinghoffer Opines on SETI.

Besides all that, Discoveroids claim that SETI researchers are using their “theory” of intelligent design — see Discoveroids: SETI and Intelligent Design. Today’s post at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog covers all of those topics. It’s titled To Rule Out False Positives in the Search for ET, Astrophysicist Advocates a Design Filter, and it has no author’s byline. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Paul Sutter, an astrophysicist at Ohio State, writes occasional articles for lay people. Recently he put out a challenge to his readers. He wants to keep them from falling for media hysteria about space aliens. His reasoning poses an indirect challenge to any kind of explanation positing a hidden designer.

This is interesting. Sutter says something the Discoveroids like, regarding “media hysteria about space aliens,” but his reasoning challenges “positing a hidden designer.” How can the Discoveroids approve of the former while escaping the latter? We shall see. They tell us:

In “Aliens are never the answer” on Live Science, he begins by talking about recent reports of unusually strong signals from a sun-like star.

This is Sutter’s article: Aliens Are Never the Answer, in which he says:

When a natural astrophysical explanation is weak or not very convincing, there’s often a temptation to wonder if aliens are behind it. After all, we can’t rule out aliens! Exactly. We can’t ever rule out aliens, because intelligent actors are capable of pretty much anything. We can’t rule them out, so it’s a scientifically useless position.

It’s a very, very, very big leap to go from “We don’t know what’s causing this signal,” to “Maybe aliens are causing this signal.”

True, but the alien causation hypothesis isn’t nearly as egregious as the creationists’ God of the gaps argument. When astronomers discover an unusual phenomenon, they search for the cause, and when it’s found — as with pulsars, one of Sutter’s examples — the alien hypothesis is promptly dropped. Creationists, however, never abandon their miraculous creator (or designer), and fanatically deny the theory of evolution.

Let’s get back to the Discoveroids. They say:

What he [Sutter] doesn’t like is the rush to attribute mysterious signals to the work of aliens. He recounts other incidents over the decades. The point he wants to make is that science demands better explanations. An appeal to aliens is useless, because it can explain anything.


Sutter mentions SETI a couple of times, but he doesn’t make clear whether he feels their quest is justified. He’s mainly concerned about the rush to judgment.

Fair enough. After that we’re told:

Sutter is onto something. He’s basically arguing that we need a design filter. And ID theory provides one. [Hee hee!] ID advocates agree that you don’t infer intelligence until there is sufficient reason to reject chance and natural law. When other astronomers jump to conclusions about space aliens, they haven’t done their homework. Proper use of the design filter would prevent invalid design inferences.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Intelligent design “theorists” have just what the astronomers need — see The Discoveroids and Their Magic Filter. The Discoveroids continue:

Intelligent actors are indeed “capable of pretty much anything.” That’s why we can be fooled by false negatives, claiming something isn’t designed when it really is (as in the modern art case and the hidden message case). But ID theory can protect us against false positives (calling something designed when there is a natural explanation) by using the design filter properly.

That’s very nice — except for one little problem. The Discoveroids don’t have a design filter. When they see something they already know is the product of design (like Mt. Rushmore), they say it’s designed. When they want something to be the product of design (like DNA), they declare that it is. When they don’t want design (as with alien signals) they say the signals are natural. In all those cases they start with their conclusion and then retrospectively claim that their filter told them so.

But your Curmudgeon is way ahead of them — see The Curmudgeon’s Design Detector.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “Aliens & the Discoveroids’ Design Filter

  1. Hans-Richard Grümm

    How come the design filter is never applied to the süpposed intelligent designer ? Could it be that it would say that the designer is himself designed ? Yes, it could!

  2. Has there ever been a rush to judgement about aliens among astronomers?
    More recently than the canals on Mars?

  3. Every time anyone says something that might just possibly be aliens, the media rush to publicize it. And it is interesting for a time and then quietly dropped. A rush indeed, but not to judgment.

  4. ID advocates agree that you don’t infer intelligence until there is sufficient reason to reject chance and natural law.

    Who said this, Dembski? I don’t recall this being one of the underlying pillars of their so-called filter crap.

  5. There is no design filter. Never was. Dembski imaginated the whole thing and tried to “prove” it with bafflegab mathematics that even his major professor disavowed as “nonsense and rubbish.”

    Dembski, himself, publicly gave up on the “design filter” a few years ago noting that it could not rule out false positives or even confirm true positives. In short, it was just made up nonsense that, apparently, was unable to detect fairies in the back garden.

  6. Wait, am I missing something?

    The DI’s writer (whoever that is) concedes: “Intelligent actors are indeed “capable of pretty much anything.”

    And there goes the whole ball game, If they’re capable of pretty much anything, then there can be no “filter”. They can do anything? Then anything goes. Nothing can be filtered out.

    That’s it. It’s all over. Th-th-th-th-that’s all folks. Time to shut yourself down, fold the tent and steal off into the night. The party’s over. It’s time to call it a day. You popped your pretty balloon and sent all the stars away…

    But that would require giving up your seat on the gravy train, which would in turn require, good heavens! – integrity. Not Pygmalion likely.

  7. The design filter as applied by scientists and non-scientists:

    Unusual radio signal detected:
    Astronomers – “Interesting new signal to investigate!”
    Non-scientists – “Aliens! Aliens!”

    Complicated cellular mechanism found:
    Biologists – “Interesting new process to investigate!”
    ID / Creationists – “God! God!”

  8. The Discoveroids don’t have a design filter.

    Exactly, they have no scientific methodology for a rigorous analysis of the designer nor do they even pretend to do so. They just feel it.

  9. in spite of the DI’s protestations that it is not an apologetics ministry, posts like this show that’s exactly what it is. They are still clinging to Paley, why? Not because of its merit, but solely because it keeps people in the fold.

  10. Meanwhile there are an increasing number of example where real scientists are using well accepted methods to show how design hypotheses can be tested. If the Discotute were serious about science, then should be testing their ideas. But no …