The Discoveroids’ Magic Filter and Archaeology

One of the many strange and totally un-evidenced claims of the Discovery Institute is that they have some kind of filter which reveals the presence of design. We’ve written about it many times before — see The Discoveroids and Their Magic Filter, and most recently Aliens & the Discoveroids’ Design Filter.

The Discoveroids’ magic filter is the topic of a new post at their creationist blog: University of Alabama “Space Archaeologist” Seeks Evidence of Intelligent Design. It was written by Sarah Chaffee (whom we call “Savvy Sarah”). Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Sarah Parcak has been called a new Indiana Jones. Associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Parcak pioneered the use of satellite imagery to discover ruins, tombs, and more. Her field, “space archaeology,” sounds like an oxymoron, but the technique is downright effective.

The Smithsonian awarded her their 2016 American Ingenuity Award and reported that “she and her team have expanded the civilization’s [Egypt’s] known scope, spotting more than 3,000 ancient settlements, more than a dozen pyramids and over a thousand lost tombs, and uncovered the city grid of Tanis, of Raiders of the Lost Ark fame.”

How can the Discoveroids take advantage of her work? You’ll see soon enough. Savvy Sarah says:

She’s looking for one thing — design. [Hee hee!] Parcak begins with research. She looks at maps, ancient and modern, and of every kind, of the area. Then she examines satellite imagery, primarily from the military. “Any discovery in remote sensing rests on hundreds of hours of deep, deep study. Before looking at satellite imagery of a cemetery or a pyramid field, you have to already understand why something should be there,” Parcak told Smithsonian.

Here’s the Smithsonian article: Space Archaeologist Sarah Parcak Uses Satellites to Uncover Ancient Egyptian Ruins. Somehow, Parcak doesn’t mention that she’s using the Discoveroids’ filter. Nevertheless, Savvy Sarah tells us:

Parcak is looking for complex and specified information — and the approach is paying off.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Check out Wikipedia’s article on Specified complexity — “a concept proposed by William Dembski and used by him and others to promote the pseudoscientific arguments of intelligent design.” They say:

Specified complexity is what Dembski terms an “explanatory filter” which can recognize design by detecting “complex specified information” (CSI).

Whatever that means. Savvy Sarah goes on and on, claiming that what Parcak does is the same thing the Discoveroids are doing when they claim to detect the handiwork of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! But it’s not quite the same — Parcak locates verifiable ruins, while the Discoveroids never accomplish anything.

Here’s the end of the Discoveroid post:

Parcak has been named in Foreign Policy‘s list of “100 Leading Global Thinkers,” meaning that she’s onto something pretty big, riding a wave of the future: design research. I wonder where design detection applied to biological and cosmic origins will take us in the years to come.

Your Curmudgeon will take a wild guess and try to answer Savvy Sarah’s question. Hey, Sarah: Discoveroid style design “research” will take you nowhere, which is where you are now, and where you will always remain.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “The Discoveroids’ Magic Filter and Archaeology

  1. Let me guess, also. There will be no announcement in the archeological community that something is designed, without some specification of the process, among other details. (Even any incredible pseudoarchelogical claim will not be announced without some details, like they came from outer space.)

  2. “a wave of the future: design research”
    Parcak is looking for things designed by aliens.
    IDiots claim to look (they don’t really do their best) for things designed by a Grand Old Designer.

    The design filter is nothing but a variation of Paley’s False Watchmaker’s Analogy.

  3. Whether something is intentionally made is an issue in archaeology.

    When I was in graduate school one professor had a room full of rocks gathered from stream beds, talus slopes and other areas where natural forces chipped or otherwise modified them. These were studied and compared to similar rocks found in prehistoric sites. It is not always easy to tell the difference, but there were some specific characteristics that were found among the human-modified rocks.

    Sometimes context is an important characteristic. If you find a bunch of questionable stones in a cultural context, they are more likely real than if they are in a stream bed or talus slope.

    This is the way archaeologists approach the problem, but then, the Discovery Institute folks aren’t much interested in the science end of things anyway, are they?

  4. I bet Parcak can describe her process to a fine degree, and show the data she used to determine that something “designed” might be found in a particular area. Her process can, in theory if not already in practice, be duplicated by others. Her process does not find design everywhere, only where it might occur. It is possible to test the accuracy of her “design” detection method by physically visiting sites and determining whether or not her predicted ancient sites actually exist.

    None of the above have ever applied to the Discoveroid’s claimed design filter. The method is has never been described in detail, such that others can duplicate it. The method never concludes that something biological is not designed – it does not discriminate but always result in a finding of design. It is not possible to independently test a “design” hypothesis, so no such finding of design can ever be confirmed.

    I conclude that Ms. Chaffee’s assertion that Ms. Parcak is using a process in any way similar to the DI’s design filter is a “pants on fire” lie. 🙂

  5. Sorry, off topic, but the latest news from Trump’s anti-climate change talk:
    Donald Trump Just Replaced the White House Climate Website With…This

  6. “I wonder where design detection applied to biological and cosmic origins will take us in the years to come.”

    I’ll hazard a guess: the same place it’s taken us to over the last 20 years.

  7. Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

    The problem with her argument is that even if we grant her that the “space archeologist” is using a “design filter” the filters are operating completely opposite of each other.

    The “space archeologist” is looking for known hallmarks of human design with possible further hints or confirmation that it’s found in an area where humans would build, for example near old riverbeds or trade roads.

    The jesus/yahweh version of the “design filter” doesn’t look for known hallmarks or fingerprints of magic designers. It’s tries to eliminate everything else, throws up it’s hands, and say “can’t ‘splain that, must be design”. This of course is fallacious and is predicated on the falsehood that all natural mechanisms are known and already accounted for. The secondary approach is the argument from incredulity or “the argument from really really big numbers”.

    They couldn’t be more opposite in function, again, if we grant her framing of the scenario. And has been previously mentioned above, they’ve had a couple of decades to produce any such “wave of the future” and all the DI has to show for it is yet another failed “journal” and some political activity. It’s main characters like Dembski and Behe have all but given up having anything to do with this crap and it looks like Wells and Luskin have bailed. At best expect another book from Behe, Wells, or Meyer.

    Sarah is the DI’s new version of Baghdad Bob, her feet squeezed into Luskin’s tiny shoes.

  8. I’m shortly going out to look for some complex specified information (my car.) W/o the Discovery Institute’s filter I’d never be able to find it

  9. I used to give Savvy Sarah a pass for being young, probably homeschooled, marginally educated and foolish. Now, she’s just ridiculous. These two sentences convey the same “information.”

    Specified complexity is what Dembski terms an “explanatory filter” which can recognize design by detecting “complex specified information” (CSI).

    Savvy Sarah seems to have forgotten that Demski his own self abandoned the “explanatory filter” several years ago in a long post on his blog. He has since abandoned ID altogether. Dembski’s very own major professor pronounced Dembski’s math “nonsense.”

    Anyway, back to the quote:

    Indented framastats is what Dembski terms an “nixplanatory identifier” which can recognize design by detecting “derived ‘optimal histology” (D’OH).

    Speaking of historical moments, when I was a teen, in between rumbles with the Sharks, a neighbor who was an archaeologist would take a bunch of us out into the desert and drink beer until we passed out. No, oh wait, that didn’t happen. Oh, yeah, took us out into the desert to look for new Indian ruins. He would have some areas identified as possible sites for settlements that hadn’t been mapped. We would form a line and walk slowly over the area looking for pottery shards. Where there were pottery shards, there was complex specified information! (apparently). Once we started picking up shards we knew we were close to a settlement. Then we’d start looking at the ground for patterns of vegetation, or bare spots, and we were lucky a few times to find corners.

    Corners were where either a pattern in the ground met at a right angle, or we’d actually find stones or traces of adobe bricks. We’d start our dig at the corner cataloging all the stuff we found (if anything): animal bones, charred bits, more shards and occasionally a cache of larger shards which we could restore to the original pot.

    Hey, I was doing ID all along! Who knew?

  10. Of course the “design filter” never concludes that something is not designed. In the view of creationists, er, that is, supporters of intelligent design, everything is designed by You-Know-Who, He Who (for legal reasons) Must Not Be Named.