Extraterrestrial life Intelligent Design Naturalism

Who but C.S. Lewis to unmask the pretensions of SETI…

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Look, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been a wonderful thing. Like a favorite teddy bear. But finally, you have to ask,

How can METI / SETI advocates repudiate intelligent design while depending on the design inference for their work? The rationale goes like this: since intelligence “evolved” here on Earth, it must have “evolved” on many other habitable planets where life “evolved.” They think, therefore, that since their reasoning is evolution-based, it has no need for a Designer. Evolved things with intelligence can design things.

The Argument from Reason

This is where the argument from reason can unmask the pretentions of SETI with devastating clarity. Explicated from multiple points of view in John West’s book The Magician’s Twin, the argument from reason exposes the self-refuting nature of the materialist enterprise, because to think about materialism requires exercising an immaterial reality: logic.

We can let C. S. Lewis masterfully express the materialist’s dilemma in a few cogent thoughts.

“The Naturalists have been engaged in thinking about Nature. They have not attended to the fact that they were thinking. The moment one attends to this it is obvious that one’s own thinking cannot be merely a natural event, and that therefore something other than Nature exists. The Supernatural is not remote and abstruse: it is a matter of daily and hourly experience, as intimate as breathing.”

David Coppedge, “C. S. Lewis Unmasks the Pretensions of SETI” at Evolution News and Science Today (April 12, 2022)

True. Anyone who witnessed the naturalist government of Canada’s crackdown on anyone who opposed its rule during the COVID-19 Crazy can answer that right away:

Materialists do not care who they must destroy in order to preserve their rule. If you agree to rule by materialists, that is what you have agreed to.

14 Replies to “Who but C.S. Lewis to unmask the pretensions of SETI…

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    It’s not that complicated. SETI is just seeking a personal god. The aliens are going to be messiahs redeeming the Trump-infested earth.

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    A blessed Easter to the UD Community, all posters and commenters pro and con.

    And a suggestion for those hostile to Christianity, try practicing serious Christianity for awhile to see what it’s like. I’m pretty sure an adventure awaits you, if you do.

    Andrew

  3. 3
    JHolo says:

    A happy Easter to you as well, Andrew.

  4. 4
    Querius says:

    Years ago, I asked a colleague who participated in SETI data processing whether the data could reveal a clone of earth at our current technology level at the distances they were accessing. He didn’t know, but submitted my question and received a response from them. The answer was no.

    Of course we should look. As Asimov once noted, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny …”

    And something very strange indeed happened just under 2,000 years ago, an amazing shock wave of forensic, paleographic, archaeological, testimonial, theological, and societal evidence that exploded from Israel, spreading across the world, sending religious, political, scientific, philosophical, and cultural leaders scrambling to explain, discredit, accommodate, suppress, or take over.

    -Q

  5. 5
    dogdoc says:

    In my understanding, SETI looks for something in the universe that we are familiar with from our experience here on Earth; that is, “life as we know it”. That’s why they focus on finding planets with atmospheres, water, moderate temperatures, and so on. If they were just looking for signs of “intelligence” in the abstract, the way ID does, none of that would matter. (Yes the acronym SETI stands for just “search for extra-terrestrial intelligence”, but “search for extra terrestrial life as we know it” – SETLAWKI – is a bit unwieldy).

    I don’t understand why many ID proponents seem hostile to SETI. The discovery of ET life forms would be entirely consistent with ID: it could be there’s an advanced technological civilization that created elephants and octopuses and bananas in their laboratories and sent them to Earth in a rocket ship. That would be ID, right? Or maybe all of those things just somehow existed on another planet and came to Earth somehow and we’re the descendants of those organisms, which wouldn’t actually be ID but it would still answer the mystery of how got started on Earth.

    Anyway, with regard to the argument that C.S. Lewis makes, it’s a textbook example of assuming one’s conclusion: If you assume that mental abilities rely on supernatural mind-stuff, then you will conclude that thinking is evidence of supernatural mind-stuff. On the other hand if you believe that mental abilities rely on neural activity, then you won’t conclude that thinking is evidence of the supernatural. So that doesn’t really help.

  6. 6
    Querius says:

    Dogdoc @5,

    I don’t understand why many ID proponents seem hostile to SETI. The discovery of ET life forms would be entirely consistent with ID: it could be there’s an advanced technological civilization that created elephants and octopuses and bananas in their laboratories and sent them to Earth in a rocket ship. That would be ID, right?

    Of course it would be ID. But I didn’t know/think that many ID proponents are anti SETI. Why should they be? As far as I’m concerned, I’m not against SETI at all. I think there’s a lot of interesting stuff to be discovered, most of which should be unexpected.

    If you assume that mental abilities rely on supernatural mind-stuff, then you will conclude that thinking is evidence of supernatural mind-stuff.

    First of all, anything we don’t understand seems to be relegated to “supernatural” or denied existence by materialists. But why can’t what we call “supernatural” simply be a superset of reality?

    There’s even evidence that that we might be living in a holographic universe, perhaps an ancestor simulation. If that’s true, then our simulated universe is certainly not “natural.” And if our minds exist outside our simulated universe as portrayed in The Matrix, wouldn’t that mean that “true” reality is not in our universe?

    Here’s an informed viewpoint from a neurosurgeon–see what you think:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeLND9bnjxE

    -Q

  7. 7
    dogdoc says:

    Q,

    First of all, anything we don’t understand seems to be relegated to “supernatural” or denied existence by materialists. But why can’t what we call “supernatural” simply be a superset of reality?

    In practice, I think “supernatural” refers to phenomena that are not empirically observable, or are only controversially so. Spirits, ghosts, poltergeists, angels, devils, gods, and so forth are said to be supernatural beings, and clairvoyance, reincarnation, mediumship, and so on are called supernatural (or paranormal) phenomena.

    I think the label “materialist” is actually more problematic. Nobody believes in the sort of materialism of 120 years ago, which was “nothing but bits of solid matter bouncing around in the void”. It isn’t known what the ontological implications of modern physics are. We don’t know, conceptually (vs. mathematically) what matter is. So to refer to “materialism” or “physicalism” or “naturalism” as the idea that “nothing exists but matter” is unhelpful.

    There’s even evidence that that we might be living in a holographic universe, perhaps an ancestor simulation. If that’s true, then our simulated universe is certainly not “natural.” And if our minds exist outside our simulated universe as portrayed in The Matrix, wouldn’t that mean that “true” reality is not in our universe?

    It is my strong belief that not only don’t we know the nature of reality, but we almost certainly can’t know. No matter how hard my dog tried, he could never master basic algebra. Likewise there is no guarantee that our minds are capable of understanding the “true” nature of time, space, and consciousness.

    Here’s an informed viewpoint from a neurosurgeon–see what you think:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeLND9bnjxE

    Sorry but as usual, I believe Dr. Egnor should stick to surgery and stop pontificating about philosophy and physics. Dualism is unpopular for good reasons. Again, to even frame the issue as a debate between materialism and dualism is pointless, since neither matter nor mind are defined in a way we can evaluate against the evidence of our experience.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    DD,

    In practice, I think “supernatural” refers to phenomena that are not empirically observable, or are only controversially so. Spirits, ghosts, poltergeists, angels, devils, gods, and so forth are said to be supernatural beings, and clairvoyance, reincarnation, mediumship, and so on are called supernatural (or paranormal) phenomena.

    While, in a radically secularist age such gods of gaps dismissiveness is commonplace, it is fundamentally misdirected. First, the supernatural is the zone of what lies beyond our physical, mundane world. On that understanding, we readily see the building in of evolutionary materialistic scientism and its hyperskepticism towards what does not fit its presumptions. Of course, matter in the relevant sense includes the spacetime continuum, whatever quasi physical substructure may obtain, virtual particles and matter-energy duality etc, the attempt to run away from and ban or marginalise a perfectly good term fails. Evolutionary materialistic scientism, aka naturalism, it is and remains.

    Where, fellow travellers are in the same sinking ship.

    Yes, sinking, let us note J B S Haldane (a contributor to the neo-darwinian synthesis) on supernatural phenomenon No. 1, mind that rises above the non rationality of blindly mechanical and/or stochastic, computational substrates. And yes, you have made heavy weather on this before:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For

    if

    [p:] my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain

    [–> taking in DNA, epigenetics and matters of computer organisation, programming and dynamic-stochastic processes; notice, “my brain,” i.e. self referential]
    ______________________________

    [ THEN]

    [q:] I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true.

    [–> indeed, blindly mechanical computation is not in itself a rational process, the only rationality is the canned rationality of the programmer, where survival-filtered lucky noise is not a credible programmer, note the functionally specific, highly complex organised information rich code and algorithms in D/RNA, i.e. language and goal directed stepwise process . . . an observationally validated adequate source for such is _____ ?]

    [Corollary 1:] They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically.

    And hence

    [Corollary 2:] I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. [–> grand, self-referential delusion, utterly absurd self-falsifying incoherence]

    [Implied, Corollary 3: Reason and rationality collapse in a grand delusion, including of course general, philosophical, logical, ontological and moral knowledge; reductio ad absurdum, a FAILED, and FALSE, intellectually futile and bankrupt, ruinously absurd system of thought.]

    In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. Cf. here on (and esp here) on the self-refutation by self-falsifying self referential incoherence and on linked amorality.]

    So, the “supernatural” is already implicated in our very first datum of experience, conscious, self aware, self-moved, rational, responsible, morally governed, conscience guided mindedness. Or, echoing Plato in The Laws Bk X, the self-moved, rational soul. This answers to assertions such as:

    “to even frame the issue as a debate between materialism and dualism is pointless, since neither matter nor mind are defined in a way we can evaluate against the evidence of our experience”

    What is our very first, self-aware, self-moved experience, again? Do you hold it delusional, as do many materialists and fellow travellers? If so, it’s over, grand delusion shatters rational, responsible freedom. If not, then we already have the first supernatural phenomenon in hand, our own sense of our selves.

    Haldane is manifestly right.

    Second clue, logic of being in a radically contingent causal-temporal, thermodynamic domain [CTThD], implying a world that even through multiverse quasi-physical models, is finite in the past, so it had a beginning, mandating an adequate cause. Where also, utter non being has no causal powers so were that no-world, no-reality condition ever the case it would forever obtain. That a world manifestly now is, points to an underlying necessary being reality root, world zero, W0.

    The discussion we should be having as a civilisation is about W0. Not, on gaps, but on signs first as close as our own souls, but then as far reaching as the signs found in a fine tuned observed cosmos. As I commented to Q a little while ago in the understanding ID thread:

    assume, for argument, that there are as yet undiscovered super laws of the underlying quasi physical world, say, the quantum foam. That is, fluctuations are constrained to be in the close ballpark, in parameter space, of where our observed cosmos is, and thus have support for C-Chem, aqueous medium, cell based life written into them. All that would do is shift fine tuning up one level. The underlying point is, this is a scientific-mathematical exercise based on what we observe. We observe an array of so far well confirmed laws, never mind the current storm in a teacup over the standard model and a fifth force. We can see that Mathematics is the study of the logic of structure and quantity, i.e. a technical quantitative extension of logic of being, which invites possible world analysis. Vary the parameters in the configuration space, boom, we are at a locally sharply fine tuned operating point. It matters not, that other zones might be carpeted with Lewis’ flies, we have a patch with just the one fly and splat, it’s swatted by a bullet. The reasonable thing is to infer precise aiming, then go on to look for a marksman with a first class, tack driver of a rifle set up on a bench rest. The design inference is the first step, the second is a worldviews level forensics exercise.

    Going further, that we are morally governed in our rational, responsible lives requires that this sense of accountability before core laws of our morally governed nature is non-delusional, on pain of discredit of mind by grand delusion. W0 must be adequate to ground moral government, including bridging the is-ought gap that pivots on having and using rational, responsible freedom for good or ill. Where as Plantinga pointed out, freedom opens up the world of virtue; which, pivots on love, truthfulness and uprightness. So we need a personal entity, a necessary being, one with power to design and effect worlds, one with the inherent goodness and utter wisdom that bridges the is-ought gap.

    This bill of requisites points to a familiar figure, so we see that God is a serious candidate W0, necessary being reality root.

    However, a serious candidate necessary being has a peculiar characteristic, once we understand necessary being. For example, there can be no distinct possible world without two-ness, the number two; that is first bound up in distinct identity of any given world W, as opposed to some close neighbour W’. There is no distinct possible world where 2 does not exist, or begins to exist, or ceases or could cease from being. 2 is part of the fabric of any possible world. That is why necessary beings are necessary, they are part of what frames any possible world. Which obviously includes adequate capability to effect such a world in a reality root, W0.

    So now, once God is a serious candidate necessary being, we face the issue that such a serious candidate — Molyneaux’s flying spaghetti monster etc need not apply — is either impossible of being [as a square circle is or as a nine sided hexagon is]. or else is actual. For if possible, actual in at least one possible world, but framework to worlds being possible so actual in this and any other actually extant world.

    Accordingly, those who are dubious or dismissive toward or hyperskeptical about the reality of God as understood through logic of being and linked ethical theism — no, it is not merely “the judaeo-christian [g]od” — need to answer as to why they imply that such a Supreme Being is impossible of being: _______ .

    Something that stands on a rather sticky wicket, post Mackie’s grudging acknowledgement that the Plantinga defense does answer the logical form problem of evil.

    That is a slice of where our worldview level forensic investigation stands. Here is another, given the weekend just past.

    KF

  9. 9
    asauber says:

    “why many ID proponents seem hostile to SETI”

    You can count me as an ID proponent who is not hostile to SETI. I think it’s worthwhile for anybody to discover what’s Out There, in small and large domains.

    Andrew

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    AS, I agree, and I have not noted hostility to searching, though some of the foci seem odd, e.g. IIRC looking at low metallicity globular clusters. KF

  11. 11
    Querius says:

    Dogdoc @7,

    In practice, I think “supernatural” refers to phenomena that are not empirically observable, or are only controversially so.

    Yes, in practice. But other phenomena such as quantum mechanics certainly don’t follow the natural laws that we intuitively understand. The origin of the universe of necessity transcends natural since nature cannot be the cause of itself, including space-time and mass-energy.

    Supernatural as I’m using the term doesn’t mean magical, merely beyond nature.

    The source of human consciousness and apparent free will is intuitively real to us, but can be explained only in one of several possibilities:

    a. It’s not real, only an illusion. This is sort of circular. Where does our illusion come from?

    b. It’s intrinsic to all mass-energy. Thus, every bit of matter has a small amount of consciousness and emerges in enough quantity or in the right configuration. Such a property has never been detected among the others in the Standard Model.

    c. It’s external to our universe. This includes several possibilities including a holographic universe, ancestor simulation, or the presence of a spiritual reality.

    Thousands of convincing, well-documented Near Death Experiences (NDEs) that involve scientific analysis and verified details conclude that brain activity is dramatically heightened at death and the reported experiences are not hallucinations associated with oxygen deprivation.
    Here are a couple of examples . . .

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNjRWMStgSU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPXK2Ls-xzQ

    -Q

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    Q see 8 above, KF

  13. 13
    Fred Hickson says:

    Querius writes:

    Supernatural as I’m using the term doesn’t mean magical, merely beyond nature.

    Another way to say this is “real” vs “imaginary”. If a phenomenon can be detected in any way at all, however indirectly, then it is real. Otherwise it is imaginary. (Or illusory, if you prefer, when you say):

    The source of human consciousness and apparent free will is intuitively real to us, but can be explained only in one of several possibilities:

    a. It’s not real, only an illusion. This is sort of circular. Where does our illusion come from?

    One test for whether what we call human consciousness is real or illusory is to observe what happens when brain function is affected by drugs, damage or complete destruction. Consciousness appears to be unavoidably correlated with brain activity.

  14. 14
    Querius says:

    Kairosfocus @12,
    Yes, noted–perhaps complementary?

    Fred Hickson @13,
    To quote someone you can use the format (blockquote)the quoted text(/blockquote) with the same angle brackets you used to bold the text.

    Another way to say this is “real” vs “imaginary”. If a phenomenon can be detected in any way at all, however indirectly, then it is real. Otherwise it is imaginary.

    I’m not sure I’d go along with anthropocentric detection as a definition for reality, although it seems reasonable that Science should be bounded by what we can detect and is certainly limited by what we can understand. For example, we can theorize the existence of dark matter and dark energy to try to explain observed phenomena, but they just might turn out to be as imaginary as phlogiston or aether.

    One test for whether what we call human consciousness is real or illusory is to observe what happens when brain function is affected by drugs, damage or complete destruction. Consciousness appears to be unavoidably correlated with brain activity.

    It sounds reasonable, but I think there’s still a problem. Here’s an analogy. If the radio I’m listening to goes silent, how do I know whether it’s the radio that stopped functioning or the radio station?

    So, some people believe that the brain is “thinking meat,” others believe the brain is more of a “meat receiver” tuned to a spiritual reality. Or perhaps the brain is a bit of both.

    Finally, discoveries in quantum mechanics have challenged our experiential knowledge of “reality.” Here’s an example:

    Quantum tunneling, the decay of radioisotopes, and other quantum changes are “frozen” by observation. This was confirmed experimentally in 2015:
    https://phys.org/news/2015-10-zeno-effect-verifiedatoms-wont.html

    So what does this seem to imply regarding consciousness and our choice of what to observe?

    -Q

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