Seth Shostak, at the SETI Institute, has an interesting online article criticizing ID here. His main charge is that ID has no business looking to SETI for support. Why? Because whereas ID looks for complexity in biology to detect design, SETI in fact looks for very simple signals to detect design, namely, radio signals with narrow bandwidth transmissions (not long, complex sequences of prime numbers as in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact).
But in fact, my criterion for design detection applies to the very signals that Shostak’s SETI Institute is looking for. Yes, as narrow bandwidth transmissions, the signals are simple to describe. But they are difficult for purely material processes to reproduce by chance. So we have simplicity of description combined with complexity in the sense of improbability of the outcome. That’s specified complexity and that’s my criterion for detecting design. It’s the same reason we detect design in the 1Ãƒâ€”4Ãƒâ€”9 monolith in 2001, A Space Odyssey. The structure is easily described; yet it is hard for natural processes to produce such rectangular solids by purely undirected material forces.
Moreover, as a good friend and colleague has pointed out to me, Drake and Sagan weren’t thinking merely in terms of narrowband transmissions in 1974 when they sent a message in the direction of the globular cluster M13. See the graphic at the top of the following page: http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/8505/SETI.htm. This example also illustrates how a designer can communicate details about oneself.
I was on Shostak’s radio program a few years back debating Massimo Pigliucci. Perhaps he should have me back. I’ll recommend that he expand SETI to include SEXCI (the search for extra-cosmic intelligence).