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The Detection of Intelligent Design

Simple Stuff Nature Cannot Do

Sean D. Pitman, MD
© May 2008
Not knowing how something
was created is not evidence of intelligent
design. This is a common and apparently
reasonable argument. I hear it all the
time from very smart people. It makes
sense - even to me. There is a problem
with it however. We do know how certain
types of phenomena could have been
designed with deliberate intent while we have no idea how they could have been designed
without deliberate intent. A rather simplistic idea - right? Yet, this simple concept is in fact
the basis for all mainstream sciences that search for intelligent design - to include
anthropology, forensics, and yes, even SETI science.
Take SETI scientists for
example. SETI scientists
are looking for a particular
type of radiosignal coming
from outer space. If they
find the type of signal they
are looking for, they will
actually announce that they
have found evidence of
non-human intelligent
activity in this
universe. How could they
possibly say this based
only on a radiosignal without having ever met their proposed designer? Hmmmmm? The
basis for their argument is very interesting - - and very simple. They are looking for a type
of radiosignal that they know humans could make but that is well beyond anything that any
known non-deliberate process of nature could make. The type of signal they are looking for
is actually quite simple - a signal with a narrow band
spectrum (see Link).
It is kind of like other simple objects that humans
could make but nature cannot make - like a highly
symmetrical polished granite cube measuring, say, 10 x
10 x 10 meters. Such a cube, even if found on an alien
planet by one of our rovers, would be highly suggestive
of deliberate intelligent design. Why is that? Because
we know how to make such a granite cube while at the same time we have no idea how any
non-directed non-deliberate force of nature could produce such a cube with the material of
granite this side of a practical eternity of time.
In short then, this is the basis of detecting intelligent design without having to actually
meet the designer. It is a rather simple concept actually and is used in many sciences all
the time. Of course, one could always be proven wrong after having proposed the
intelligent design hypothesis to explain a particular phenomenon. Some as yet unknown
nature phenomenon might be discovered after proposing the hypothesis of intelligent design
as an explanation which would falsify the ID prediction. This is always a possibility - - but
that is the nature of science. No scientific hypothesis, theory, or even law is 100% perfect.
All real scientific theories are open to potential falsification. If they aren't they aren't really
There are actually some famous examples of the falsification of the intelligent design
theories within various mainstream sciences. One striking example of this is the story of
Germaine Henri-Martin and her once popular theory regarding numerous "artifacts" she
found in Fontéchevade Cave in France. She thought she discovered the remains and
artifacts of the "First Frenchmen" - but many years later these apparent artifacts were
shown to be naturally produced and layered as natural flood deposits (see Link). SETI
scientists also had a little bit of a glitch with the discovery of the first pulsars. "Pulsars were
briefly tagged with the moniker LGM (Little Green Men) upon their discovery in 1967." (see
Of course, the fact that
many scientific
hypotheses, even those
having to do with the
detection of intelligent
activity both here on Earth
and coming from outer
space, have been falsified
has not stopped science or
the scientific search for
signs of intelligent activity
here on Earth and even coming from outer space - - as long as it has nothing to do with
explaining the origin of life or its diversity on this Earth (for some odd reason?).
So, it seems that one should in fact ask the question if the standard default to non-
deliberate natural production when it comes to explaining a particular phenomenon is
actually "scientific" since it is really not based on testability or potential falsification. It really
has very little useful a priori predictive value outside of actually seeing a non-deliberate
natural process doing the job - or at least coming close to doing the job. It is really more of
a philosophical position than a science in my opinion. Nature just replaces "God" as the all-
powerful creative agent is all - but upon what basis? Sure, the various non-deliberate
processes of nature can explain certain phenomena quite well; but all phenomena? - hardly.
There are many phenomenon where mindless natural processes can only go so far and no
farther. When it comes to the manipulation of certain materials or media, like granite rocks
or radio waves, these limitations are known to a very predictable degree of confidence -
which is quite useful when it comes to detecting design. When these known limitations of
Nature are surpassed to a more and more significant degree, the hypothesis of intelligent
design gains more and more predictive value and therefore viability.
Why then when some new phenomena is encountered, especially if it is a fairly simple
phenomenon well inside the known range of human-level creativity and production, is the
most logical default explanation some as yet unknown non-deliberate process of nature?
How does one know that is the most reasonable conclusion without any real evidence that
any non-deliberate force of nature can get remotely close to doing the job? How does one
know that a non-deliberate process is a more likely explanation than a deliberate process?
- especially if one knows how the phenomenon in question could be created deliberately
even with human-level intelligence?
Why not just follow where the evidence leads instead of making a priori philosophical
limitations to the paths which a scientist may or may not follow? - even if the various
potential paths may have very significant philosophical or even "religious" implications - God
forbid. Why not just let science be science?

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