September 29, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

SETI Uses Design Inference

Some astronomers are concerned that we may never detect aliens.  If alien civilizations “go digital” within a short time period, as humans have in a century since the invention of radio, the possibility of detecting their radio signals may be much smaller than earlier thought.  Zoe Macintosh wrote for Live Science, “Finding E.T. May Become Harder If Aliens Go Digital.”
    Now that our broadcasts have become more focused with digital technology, there’s less radio leakage from Earth.  Duncan Forgan at the University of Edinburgh, who is working on a paper for the International Journal of Astrobiology, factored into the Drake Equation an estimate of how long a civilization would leak its transmissions before becoming “radio quiet.”  He now puts the odds of detection at 1 in 10 million – a much more pessimistic number than Frank Drake, who only considered the lifetime of an advanced civilization, believed.
    Knowing what to look for is also crucial to SETI.  Here’s how Macintosh described the target:

Scientists continue to use radio waves to search for life because of the scarcity of natural sources of radio waves in the universe, and the fact that they are less easily lost by absorption than other forms of light.
    Even the smallest snippet from an alien broadcast could count as evidence of an extraterrestrial intelligence.
    “An artificial signal will have patterns in it that usually do not appear in nature, even if distorted,” Forgan said.

The rest of the article focused on other means of detection than radio.  But then, maybe aliens would want to use radio even with all its inefficiencies.  Forgan speculated about the alien mind: “On the other hand other civilizations may have a different outlook.  They may be desperate to make communication with other civilizations.”

Aren’t aliens natural?  Aren’t humans natural?  Are Macintosh and Forgan telling us that humans and their alien friends are unnatural?  What does “artificial” mean, if not a product of intelligent design?  Didn’t they effectively admit that, using a design inference, they could separate artificial signals from natural radio noise?  Yes, they did; and they said that “even the smallest snippet from an alien broadcast could count as evidence” for making that inference.  Conclusion: SETI researchers are advocates for intelligent design.  The only difference is, they have no evidence for their targets, whereas the leading I.D. thinkers on Earth have plenty, including their own genes, cells, bodies, and minds.  We invite the SETI community to admit the obvious basis of their reasoning, and to become supporters of the Intelligent Design movement.

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