October 19, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

SETI Is Built on the Myth of Evolutionary Progress

Does intelligent design evolve from slime?
That is just one of the absurdities in the SETI movement.


The persistence of SETI after decades of failure can be understood through the mindset of a Victorian myth: the myth of progress.

In Darwin’s day, progress was in the air. The Industrial Revolution along with the rapid rise of scientific discoveries by creationists like Michael Faraday and James Joule seemed to support visions of endless progress toward human perfection and flourishing. Evolutionism (which preceded Charles Darwin) supported this myth by positing endless advancement of creatures from simple to complex. All that was lacking was a mechanism. Darwin fulfilled that need with his Stuff Happens Law, natural selection: a pseudo-law that, like loaded dice, guaranteed progress by chance. Taking this law for granted allows SETI people to shloop their way up Mt. Improbable.

Today’s SETI enthusiasts are heirs and keepers of this grand Myth of Progress (MOP), even after the 20th century witnessed major disappointments like mass death and societal evil on unprecedented scales. Leaping over those little anomalies, evolutionists speculate that if life progressed on earth, it must be progressing on every habitable world. SETI takes the MOP beyond experience to envision super-creatures or machines who would seem like gods to us.

Seti: why extraterrestrial intelligence is more likely to be artificial than biological (Martin Rees in The Conversation). The former Astronomer Royal of Britain exchanges the wet MOP for a dry MOP. He believes evolution will take intelligent beings from biology to machinery, programmed with artificial intelligence.

This creates a conundrum: does intelligent design evolve by natural selection?

Suppose there are other planets where life began and that it followed something like a Darwinian evolution (which needen’t [sic] be the case).* Even then, it’s highly unlikely that the progression of intelligence and technology would happen at exactly the same pace as on Earth. If it lagged significantly behind, then that planet would plainly reveal no evidence of extraterrestrial life to our radio telescopes. But around a star older than the Sun, life could have had a head start of a billion years or more.

Human technological civilisation only dates back millennia (at most) – and it may be only one or two more centuries before humans, made up of organic materials such as carbon, are overtaken or transcended by inorganic intelligence, such as AI [artificial intelligence]. Computer processing power is already increasing exponentially, meaning AI in the future may be able to use vastly more data than it does today. It seems to follow that it could then get exponentially smarter, surpassing human general intelligence.

*That little parenthetical remark that Darwinian evolution “needn’t be the case” should not be taken to mean that Martin allows for creation. He is simply allowing for possible future manifestations of the Stuff Happens Law different than Charley’s.

The MOP is evident here; Wet MOP (biological evolution) evolves into Dry MOP (machine intelligence), which represents progress, because machines don’t die. Give life a head start of a billion years or more, he says, and it will inevitably progress upward. Is that necessarily so? Even within a naturalistic worldview, two other options are possible: extinction and stasis (i.e., slime for all time). Rees MOPs the ground of discussion with his worldview assumptions that progress is the way of nature. He should know that this is contrary to one of the best-attested laws in science, the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Watch for more manifestations of the MOP, held together with ample perhapsimaybecouldness terms:

AI may even be able to evolve, creating better and better versions of itself on a faster-than-Darwinian timescale for billions of years. Organic human-level intelligence would then be just a brief interlude in our “human history” before the machines take over. So if alien intelligence had evolved similarly, we’d be most unlikely to “catch” it in the brief sliver of time when it was still embodied in biological form. If we were to detect extraterrestrial life, it would be far more likely to be electronic than flesh and blood – and it may not even reside on planets.

It might even be like gods. Would humans be able to distinguish it from angels— or (gasp) devils?

We may even want to rethink the term “alien civilisations”. A “civilisation” connotes a society of individuals. In contrast, extraterrestrials might be a single integrated intelligence.

Readers can follow Martin going totally off his rocker in the rest of his article, supposing and imagining things that could never be known. His speculations are the functional equivalents of ghost stories, sanctified by the reputation of science, making young eyes pop with visions of imaginary intelligences under the bed. Why, we might even be the machines that prior intelligences created! How weird is that? It COULD be happening. How could you prove it is not happening? Our whole human experience, in fact, could just be a simulation!

Ultimately, physical reality could encompass complexities that neither our intellect nor our senses can grasp. Some electronic “brains” may simply have a quite different perception of reality. Nor can we predict or understand their motives.That’s why we can’t assess whether the current radio silence that Seti are [sic] experiencing signifies the absence of advanced alien civilisations, or simply their preference.

Suppose experimental scientists used this reasoning for failed experiments. ”The aliens made it fail. They have a different perception of reality. They ran the simulation to trick my peer reviewers.’  Falsification would be impossible. Retractions would be impossible.

Rees thinks SETI advocates need to reinterpret the Drake equation, because “the lifetime of an organic civilisation may be millennia at most, while its electronic diaspora could continue for billions of years. If we include this in the equation, it seems there may be more civilisations out there than we thought, but that the majority of them would be artificial.”

Was Our Universe Created in a Laboratory? (Avi Loeb in Scientific American). Like Rees, Harvard astronomer Abraham Loeb is sufficiently ensconced in academic circles (but without the royal jazz), allowing him to speculate freely. He leaps over Rees to imagine something far beyond intelligences (wet or dry) within our universe. He thinks the evolved gods might have created other universes. What did they use to do that? Nothing. Stuff Happens, you know.

Now there are a variety of conjectures in the scientific literature for our cosmic origins, including the ideas that our universe emerged from a vacuum fluctuation, or that it is cyclic with repeated periods of contraction and expansion, or that it was selected by the anthropic principle out of the string theory landscape of the multiverse—where, as the MIT cosmologist Alan Guth says “everything that can happen will happen … an infinite number of times,” or that it emerged out of the collapse of matter in the interior of a black hole.

A less explored possibility is that our universe was created in the laboratory of an advanced technological civilization. Since our universe has a flat geometry with a zero net energy, an advanced civilization could have developed a technology that created a baby universe out of nothing through quantum tunneling.

Well, it COULD happen. What’s the advantage of thinking this way? “This possible origin story unifies the religious notion of a creator with the secular notion of quantum gravity.” Creationists need not perk up. His little-c creator has no congruence with the “religious notion” of a transcendent, eternal Creator as in monotheistic religions. His creator(s) evolved from slime in their own universes by Darwinian means.

Loeb’s Wet MOP assumption guarantees that his space-alien Frankensteins progressed upward to an intelligence great enough to give birth to baby universes: “It’s a-LIVE!” they exclaim as they watch our baby universe evolve cells that evolve human brains. It takes billions of years, but they’re machines, right? They don’t die. They can wait for natural selection to work its ascent up the MOP. They can even drive the Stuff Happens Law to guarantee the MOP.

If so, our universe was not selected for us to exist in it—as suggested by conventional  anthropic reasoning—but rather, it was selected such that it would give rise to civilizations which are much more advanced than we are. Those “smarter kids on our cosmic block”— which are capable of developing the technology needed to produce baby universes—are the drivers of the cosmic Darwinian selection process, whereas we cannot enable, as of yet, the rebirth of the cosmic conditions that led to our existence. One way to put it is that our civilization is still cosmologically sterile since we cannot reproduce the world that made us.

This is Loeb’s “cosmic perspective” for his speculative escapades. Some might wish to erase the “s” in cosmic.

Don’t you see Satan’s lie still at work? “You shall be as gods,” the great Liar told our first parents. What if Satan uses SETI to convince secular scientists that he is that super-intelligence that drove natural selection to help us emerge, and now he wants to help us up the next step. But that’s so 2001.

Those not willing to look at a Bible reference should still be able to see that all this speculation is necessarily futile and wrong, because it is self-refuting. If our intelligence is a product of a blind, irrational, mindless natural process, we could not even know that it is a product of a blind, irrational, mindless natural process. Indeed, all propositions implode into a black hole of irrationality. Science is dead; debate is dead; Rees and Loeb end up babbling like apes, signifying nothing. Even worse, they would have no way of knowing that SETI is telling the truth, because there is no standard of morality. The aliens are our friends, they could pretend. They want to serve man. It says so on the cookbook cover.

There is some benefit to this SETI babbling. Intelligent design (ID) advocates can celebrate that secular scientists have successfully put forward in the media some intelligent design theories: advanced aliens who used foresight and planning to design life forms or universes. This makes them testable, and demonstrates that the secular media have no reason to censor ID since two notable astronomers are doing it. The question now becomes, which ID theory makes the most sense in light of evidence? Which theory requires the least number of auxiliary hypotheses for support? The God of Genesis, eternal, uncaused, all-powerful, all-wise, truthful and good, looks like the favored contender in any such contest. To that one can add eyewitness evidence in abundance from His communications to us in writing, in Person, and in our consciences.

We already know the answer. Some just want to suppress it because of endemic sophoxymoronia.





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