Designer as a Scientific Theory

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Ivar Ylvisaker

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Sep 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/4/98
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Many people see the world as designed and, therefore, argue there must
be a designer. Some of these people claim that this idea is a valid
scientific theory.

One problem with this idea is that it is not clear what sort of being
this designer must be. When most people think of a designer, they are
thinking of something sort of human. I suspect that many believers
secretly think of “The Designer” as a wise man who has magical powers.
But, if the world is designed, it is hard to identify plausible,
rational limits to the nature of its designer.

Another problem is that idea of a designer seems to be a scientific dead
end. What tests can one run, what observations can one make that will
clarify the nature of the designer concept? People talk of an
intelligent designer. How does one test that? How does one verify that
there is only one designer? Maybe there are many gods as the ancient
Greeks believed. What does the designer look like? A rock? Is it
important (to the designer) if the designer looks like a rock? Is there
a way to demonstrate that the designer is not some kind of rock?

Actually, the real goal of this note is to argue that scientific
concepts are defined by the tests that are used to investigate them.
The idea of an electron is defined by how it responds in scientific
tests. But there are no tests that can clarify the nature of the
designer. Put more bluntly, there is no way for scientists to analyze
God.

People make several specific arguments to explain why there must be a
designer:

-- There must be a designer because some characteristics of the world
are too improbable.

-- There must be a designer because the world is too complex not to
have been designed.

-- There must be a designer because DNA encodes information and only an
intelligent being can create information.

There may be a designer. But that does not mean that a designer is a
scientific theory. If one cannot test a theory, it is not scientific
theory.

wf...@enter.netxx

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Sep 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/4/98
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On 4 Sep 1998 22:23:52 -0400, Ivar Ylvisaker <ylvi...@erols.com>
wrote:

>
>Another problem is that idea of a designer seems to be a scientific dead
>end. What tests can one run, what observations can one make that will
>clarify the nature of the designer concept?

i was reading dembski's article on the 3 fold test to determine
whether something is/isnt designed today. i think design theorists
have a fatal flaw in the argument, and dembski's own example shows
why.

he discusses the case of a nick caputo who was the official charged
with rigging ballot positions to favor democrats. the question was
whether it was possible to determine, via the evidence, whether or not
the ballot position was due to some unknown mistaken randomization
process caputo used (law), or if it was luck (chance), or deliberate
(design).

unfortunately what dembski amazing enough fails to realize is that
when caputo was hauled before the court, they chose him because he had
the mechanism to do what he did...they didnt arrest cal ripkin because
cal ripkin doesnt have the mechanism to rig ballot positions

the fact that demski is one of the foremost spokespersons on
intelligent design and that he himself fails to realize that mechanism
is implicit in his argument w/o realizing ID fails this test makes me
wonder if ID theorists are just unwittingly wrong, or deliberately
wrong.

dembski aint stupid. he's got an M. Div from princeton, and a PhD in
math from the U of chicago; why design theorists think their ideas are
science, when obviously they're not leads one to think they leave
their objectivity at the door.


Wesley R. Elsberry

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Sep 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/5/98
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In article <35f0b152....@news3.enter.net>, <wf...@enter.netxx> wrote:
>On 4 Sep 1998 22:23:52 -0400, Ivar Ylvisaker <ylvi...@erols.com>
>wrote:

IY>Another problem is that idea of a designer seems to be a
IY>scientific dead end. What tests can one run, what
IY>observations can one make that will clarify the nature of
IY>the designer concept?

RJP>i was reading dembski's article on the 3 fold test to
RJP>determine whether something is/isnt designed today. i
RJP>think design theorists have a fatal flaw in the argument,
RJP>and dembski's own example shows why.

There's more than one flaw, IMO. See
http://x9.dejanews.com/getdoc.xp?AN=383732124

RJP>he discusses the case of a nick caputo who was the
RJP>official charged with rigging ballot positions to favor
RJP>democrats. the question was whether it was possible to
RJP>determine, via the evidence, whether or not the ballot
RJP>position was due to some unknown mistaken randomization
RJP>process caputo used (law), or if it was luck (chance), or
RJP>deliberate (design).

The order and the dichotomizing choice at the end are
problems. I proposed an alternate and preferable filter in my
post cited above.

RJP>unfortunately what dembski amazing enough fails to realize
RJP>is that when caputo was hauled before the court, they
RJP>chose him because he had the mechanism to do what he
RJP>did...they didnt arrest cal ripkin because cal ripkin
RJP>doesnt have the mechanism to rig ballot positions

Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
do things in the ways that our experience with radio
communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
own communications.

RJP>the fact that demski is one of the foremost spokespersons
RJP>on intelligent design and that he himself fails to realize
RJP>that mechanism is implicit in his argument w/o realizing
RJP>ID fails this test makes me wonder if ID theorists are
RJP>just unwittingly wrong, or deliberately wrong.

From my encounter at the NTSE conference last year, I saw no
sign that Dembski is anything but sincere about his stance. I
happen to think he is sincerely wrong, but I myself have no
question concerning his sincerity. Dembski has a book due out
soon, and I excpect that he will have anticipated and given
arguments to counter the obvious criticisms, and at least some
of the not so obvious ones. The explanatory filter essay is
now a couple of years old, and it may be that Dembski has
addressed some of these critiques since then. We'll see
shortly, but I think the historical test of any explanatory
filter will need to be passed before we can take it seriously
as a contender for the role of oracle of design detection.

RJP>dembski aint stupid. he's got an M. Div from princeton,
RJP>and a PhD in math from the U of chicago; why design
RJP>theorists think their ideas are science, when obviously
RJP>they're not leads one to think they leave their
RJP>objectivity at the door.

ID is teleology within teleology. They advance teleology as
an explanation with the goal of putting the supernatural into
science firmly in mind.

--
Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
Visit the Online Zoologists page (http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/elsberry)
Email to this account is dumped to /dev/null, whose Spam appetite is capacious.
"But when life's scorned\And damage done\To avenge\This is the pact"-BOC


may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/5/98
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In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
"Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

snip

> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
> own communications.

What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we broke
it? What would be impossible about that? When thinking about hypothetical
designers, either a motive or a method (or both) is sufficient to make us
suspect design, with method being preferable, but I don't think they are both
necessary conditions. However, I do feel that a necessary condition for
suspecting design is that we have one or the other or both. In this case, the
motive would be "They're trying to tell us they're out there!", and we don't
need a method.

--vince

-----== Posted via Deja News, The Leader in Internet Discussion ==-----
http://www.dejanews.com/rg_mkgrp.xp Create Your Own Free Member Forum


Wesley R. Elsberry

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Sep 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/5/98
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In article <6sr1rg$naq$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, <may...@andrews.edu> wrote:
>In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

VM>snip

WRE>Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we
WRE>have prior experience of both what and how humans do
WRE>things. The SETI project will only find aliens if those
WRE>aliens happen to do things in the ways that our experience
WRE>with radio communication makes us recognize properties we
WRE>know from our own communications.

VM>What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of
VM>code, and we broke it? What would be impossible about that?
VM>When thinking about hypothetical designers, either a motive
VM>or a method (or both) is sufficient to make us suspect
VM>design, with method being preferable, but I don't think
VM>they are both necessary conditions. However, I do feel that
VM>a necessary condition for suspecting design is that we have
VM>one or the other or both. In this case, the motive would be
VM>"They're trying to tell us they're out there!", and we
VM>don't need a method.

If the SETI folks don't recognize signal vs. noise as we know
it from *our* communications, they won't be breaking any
codes.

--
Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
Visit the Online Zoologists page (http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/elsberry)
Email to this account is dumped to /dev/null, whose Spam appetite is capacious.

"These bombers hang dependent from the sky, like some heavy-metal fruit." - BOC


Bonz

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Sep 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/5/98
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On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:

>snip
>
>> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
>> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
>> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
>> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
>> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
>> own communications.
>
>What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we broke


>it? What would be impossible about that?

You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?

What is the difference between a language you don't know, and a
language you don't know in code? None.

> When thinking about hypothetical
>designers, either a motive or a method (or both) is sufficient to make us
>suspect design, with method being preferable, but I don't think they are both
>necessary conditions. However, I do feel that a necessary condition for
>suspecting design is that we have one or the other or both. In this case, the
>motive would be "They're trying to tell us they're out there!", and we don't
>need a method.
>


>--vince
>
>-----== Posted via Deja News, The Leader in Internet Discussion ==-----
>http://www.dejanews.com/rg_mkgrp.xp Create Your Own Free Member Forum
>

い Bonz

To reply by Email, please remove THE OBVIOUS


came...@my-dejanews.com

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Sep 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/5/98
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In article <35f0b152....@news3.enter.net>,
wf...@enter.netxx wrote:
> On 4 Sep 1998 22:23:52 -0400, Ivar Ylvisaker <ylvi...@erols.com>
> wrote:
>
> >
> >Another problem is that idea of a designer seems to be a scientific dead
> >end. What tests can one run, what observations can one make that will
> >clarify the nature of the designer concept?
>
> i was reading dembski's article on the 3 fold test to determine
> whether something is/isnt designed today. i think design theorists
> have a fatal flaw in the argument, and dembski's own example shows
> why.
>
> he discusses the case of a nick caputo who was the official charged
> with rigging ballot positions to favor democrats. the question was
> whether it was possible to determine, via the evidence, whether or not
> the ballot position was due to some unknown mistaken randomization
> process caputo used (law), or if it was luck (chance), or deliberate
> (design).
>
> unfortunately what dembski amazing enough fails to realize is that
> when caputo was hauled before the court, they chose him because he had
> the mechanism to do what he did...they didnt arrest cal ripkin because
> cal ripkin doesnt have the mechanism to rig ballot positions
>
> the fact that demski is one of the foremost spokespersons on
> intelligent design and that he himself fails to realize that mechanism
> is implicit in his argument w/o realizing ID fails this test makes me
> wonder if ID theorists are just unwittingly wrong, or deliberately
> wrong.
>
> dembski aint stupid. he's got an M. Div from princeton, and a PhD in
> math from the U of chicago; why design theorists think their ideas are
> science, when obviously they're not leads one to think they leave
> their objectivity at the door.
>
>

We can conceive of how to stuff a ballot box, because it is entirely within
the human and natural realm. We can't conceive of the design process for the
universe. Do all design arguments proceed in this way? If so, they are
hopeless.

Steve S.

wf...@enter.netxx

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Sep 5, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/5/98
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On 5 Sep 1998 02:33:38 -0400, "Wesley R. Elsberry"
<w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

>
>From my encounter at the NTSE conference last year, I saw no
>sign that Dembski is anything but sincere about his stance.

while i dont know dembski, im quite sure about his sincerity. and
that's what makes me suspicious of how far he's willing to go to
suspend the basic rules of logic to make his argument. einstein i
aint. yet he made such a basic error in his argument IMHO that even i
could see it...and this argument was, i supposed, discussed with a
number of his cohorts in the ID movement..

I


>
>RJP>dembski aint stupid. he's got an M. Div from princeton,
>RJP>and a PhD in math from the U of chicago; why design
>RJP>theorists think their ideas are science, when obviously
>RJP>they're not leads one to think they leave their
>RJP>objectivity at the door.
>
>ID is teleology within teleology. They advance teleology as
>an explanation with the goal of putting the supernatural into
>science firmly in mind.

yep i think thats right. i was reading an essay from the NCSE where it
was pointed out that many ID folks are moving into mainstream
positions in secular universities (usually in philosophy or social
science depts...few in bio depts) and we can expect to see ID become
common on US campuses..the effect is unknown.

behe also says he teaches a course at my grad alma mater, lehigh,
where he uses his book side by side with dawkins 'the blind
watchmaker'...of course his students are getting the word from the
horse's mouth, so to speak.

if ID succeeds, we can expect to see the decline, not only of biology,
but of other sciences in the US as politically correct ideas of
conservative xtianity make their way through the academy.


may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,

tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com wrote:
> On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>
> >In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
> > "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
> >
> >snip
> >
> >> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
> >> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
> >> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
> >> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
> >> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
> >> own communications.
> >
> >What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we broke
> >it? What would be impossible about that?
>
> You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
> another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
>
> What is the difference between a language you don't know, and a
> language you don't know in code? None.

Right; in both cases, it's possible to figure out what's being said. So we
could figure out what the aliens were saying without knowing anything about
them.

--vince

Robert Grumbine

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,

Bonz <tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com> wrote:
>On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>
>>In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
>> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
>>
>>snip
>>
>>> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
>>> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
>>> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
>>> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
>>> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
>>> own communications.
>>
>>What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we broke
>>it? What would be impossible about that?
>
>You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
>another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?

I don't think the issue Mr. Elsberry is trying to raise is the one
of language _per se_. The question as I take it is more one of:
We're liable only to recognize something as _being_ a message if it
follows certain forms. One example is noise detection. I believe the
SETI groups are looking for signals which are non-random (or at least
appear so). If you took a text in a natural language and coded that
alphabetically, then the result is fairly non-random. Certain codes
occur more often, and there are patterns to the relation between
consecutive codes.

But ... even an alphabetic text, after being run through a compression
routine, looks pretty random. (That's the purpose of a compression algorithm
after all. If there's still structure, then you can compress further by
a short description of the struture and removing it from the remainder of
the text.)

And worse. What if the language is not alphabetic? Even on earth, not
all languages are. The non-alphabetic languages as implemented on computers
are constrained to look vaguely alphabetic because it was the alphabetic
language users, on _this_ planet, who invented computers first. Things
could come out quite differently if it were the pictographic users, or
even more different modes we haven't thought of that were the inventors
of computers.


--
Robert Grumbine rm...@access.digex.net http://www.access.digex.net/~rmg3/
Sagredo (Galileo Galilei) "You present these recondite matters with too much
evidence and ease; this great facility makes them less appreciated than they
would be had they been presented in a more abstruse manner." Two New Sciences


Bonz

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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On 6 Sep 1998 04:11:31 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:

>In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,


> tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com wrote:
>> On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>>
>> >In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
>> > "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
>> >
>> >snip
>> >
>> >> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
>> >> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
>> >> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
>> >> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
>> >> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
>> >> own communications.
>> >
>> >What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we broke
>> >it? What would be impossible about that?
>>
>> You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
>> another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
>>

>> What is the difference between a language you don't know, and a
>> language you don't know in code? None.
>
>Right; in both cases, it's possible to figure out what's being said. So we
>could figure out what the aliens were saying without knowing anything about
>them.

Uh.. no. In neither case can you read the message. It is impossible.

Why to you think you can figure out what is being said? Ask someone
to write a paragraph in Chinese (assuming you do not know Chinese).
It can say anything at all.

Now sit yourself down with a pencil and paper and figure out what it
says. No other aids just the paragraph and your brain. No
dictionaries or other assistance.

How do you know which symbols are nouns, and which are verbs? Or is
it just a list of nouns, a shopping list?

Mike Painter

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
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may...@andrews.edu wrote in message <6stgei$sv0$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>...

>In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,
> tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com wrote:
>> On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>>
>> >In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
>> > "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
>> >
>> >snip
>> >
>> >> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
>> >> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
>> >> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
>> >> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
>> >> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
>> >> own communications.
>> >
>> >What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we
broke
>> >it? What would be impossible about that?
>>
>> You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
>> another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
>>
>> What is the difference between a language you don't know, and a
>> language you don't know in code? None.
>
>Right; in both cases, it's possible to figure out what's being said. So we
>could figure out what the aliens were saying without knowing anything about
>them.

There is a massive difference between an unknown language and a code, or
more correctly a cypher.
No one has ever demonstrated the ability to understand a "foreign" language
without some tools to translate it.
Codes based on known languages can also be unbreakable without a key.
Cyphers based on known languages have been broken.

Given that both parties speak the same language, know the general direction
of the other party and have a common reference point. How do you determine
left and right ? Hint. It why we have port and starboard.

Ivar Ylvisaker

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
to

Mike Painter wrote:

I see no reason to assume that the aliens would want to encrypt their
transmissions.

Even if they did and their language was unknown, I suspect that good
cryptologists (and linguist) could deduce a great deal. He could look for words
(i.e., repeated patterns). If the signal was a TV signal, a good engineer could
probably figure out what the transmission format was and view the images. One
might be able to guess at what kind of transmission was detected, e.g.,
something equivalent to our broadcast stations. If the aliens were deliberating
transmitting to contact other civilizations, they would probably include some
segments that were designed to be easy to interpret. Images would help here.

If the aliens had technology that was radically better (or different) than ours,
we probably would have trouble figuring out what was going on. If the
transmissions were encrypted and the algorithms were very good, it would
probably be a show stopper. On the other hand, if signals from an alien
civilization were detected, there would be a lot of interest in and money for
some very sophisticated decryption equipment.


Bonz

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
to
On 6 Sep 1998 14:49:21 -0400, Ivar Ylvisaker <ylvi...@erols.com>
wrote:

>
>

Who said anything about encryption? We do not know if they have eyes
or not. We don't know if they are bilaterally symetrical or radially
symetrical. Does an arrow ===> mean look at this? Or does it mean,
"The eye in my third left tentacle wants some arsenic rubbed in it".

>Even if they did and their language was unknown, I suspect that good
>cryptologists (and linguist) could deduce a great deal. He could look for words
>(i.e., repeated patterns). If the signal was a TV signal, a good engineer could
>probably figure out what the transmission format was and view the images.

How? How would you know when you got the right picture? You get a
pattern of purple and yellow scatterings. Is that static, or a poem?
You have no idea what conventions they use. How would you recogize a
picture or a line of text if you got it?


> One
>might be able to guess at what kind of transmission was detected, e.g.,
>something equivalent to our broadcast stations. If the aliens were deliberating
>transmitting to contact other civilizations, they would probably include some
>segments that were designed to be easy to interpret. Images would help here.

Even if it were DELIBERATELY designed to be easy to decode, it might
now help.


>
>If the aliens had technology that was radically better (or different) than ours,
>we probably would have trouble figuring out what was going on. If the
>transmissions were encrypted and the algorithms were very good, it would
>probably be a show stopper. On the other hand, if signals from an alien
>civilization were detected, there would be a lot of interest in and money for
>some very sophisticated decryption equipment.

Unless it were DELIBERATELY engineered to make it understandable, we
wouldn't have a clue. You can get millions of possible pictures from
any transmission. Which is the intended one?

Ivar Ylvisaker

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Sep 6, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/6/98
to
Bonz wrote:

> [snip the previous]

>Ivar Ylvisaker says:

> >
> > I see no reason to assume that the aliens would want to encrypt their
> >transmissions.
>
> Who said anything about encryption?

It wasn't me. It was other people in this thread.

> We do not know if they have eyes
> or not. We don't know if they are bilaterally symetrical or radially
> symetrical. Does an arrow ===> mean look at this? Or does it mean,
> "The eye in my third left tentacle wants some arsenic rubbed in it".
>
> >Even if they did and their language was unknown, I suspect that good
> >cryptologists (and linguist) could deduce a great deal. He could look for words
> >(i.e., repeated patterns). If the signal was a TV signal, a good engineer could
> >probably figure out what the transmission format was and view the images.
>
> How? How would you know when you got the right picture? You get a
> pattern of purple and yellow scatterings. Is that static, or a poem?
> You have no idea what conventions they use. How would you recogize a
> picture or a line of text if you got it?

We'd be doing pretty well if we got pictures from an alien civilization even if we
got the colors wrong.

>
>
> > One
> >might be able to guess at what kind of transmission was detected, e.g.,
> >something equivalent to our broadcast stations. If the aliens were deliberating
> >transmitting to contact other civilizations, they would probably include some
> >segments that were designed to be easy to interpret. Images would help here.
>
> Even if it were DELIBERATELY designed to be easy to decode, it might
> now help.
> >
> >If the aliens had technology that was radically better (or different) than ours,
> >we probably would have trouble figuring out what was going on. If the
> >transmissions were encrypted and the algorithms were very good, it would
> >probably be a show stopper. On the other hand, if signals from an alien
> >civilization were detected, there would be a lot of interest in and money for
> >some very sophisticated decryption equipment.
>
> Unless it were DELIBERATELY engineered to make it understandable, we
> wouldn't have a clue. You can get millions of possible pictures from
> any transmission. Which is the intended one?
>

You are overly pessimistic. We postulate huge quantities of data from an alien
world and you complain that you cannot find the help file.


Robert Gotschall

unread,
Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <6stgei$sv0$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, may...@andrews.edu says...

> In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,
> tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com wrote:
> > On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
> >
> > >In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
> > > "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
> > >
> > >snip
> > >
> > >> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
> > >> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
> > >> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
> > >> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
> > >> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
> > >> own communications.
> > >
> > >What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we broke
> > >it? What would be impossible about that?
> >
> > You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
> > another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
> >
> > What is the difference between a language you don't know, and a
> > language you don't know in code? None.
>
> Right; in both cases, it's possible to figure out what's being said. So we
> could figure out what the aliens were saying without knowing anything about
> them.
>
> --vince

Wrong, in some cases, known languages have not been deciphered. I
believe Linear A or B is such a language. Before the discovery of the
Rosetta stone, Egyptian hieroglyphics were undecipherable. Paleo-
American pictographs are still undecipherable, and every one is pretty
sure plain old people left them.

Without a key, I doubt we would recognize a truly alien language even as
a language.


--
rg

modify email as needed


may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <6su9qb$f...@access1.digex.net>,

rm...@access1.digex.net (Robert Grumbine) wrote:
> In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,
> Bonz <tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com> wrote:
> >On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
> >
> >>In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
> >> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
> >>
> >>snip
> >>
> >>> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
> >>> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
> >>> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
> >>> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
> >>> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
> >>> own communications.
> >>
> >>What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we
broke
> >>it? What would be impossible about that?
> >
> >You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
> >another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
>
> I don't think the issue Mr. Elsberry is trying to raise is the one
> of language _per se_. The question as I take it is more one of:
> We're liable only to recognize something as _being_ a message if it
> follows certain forms. One example is noise detection. I believe the
> SETI groups are looking for signals which are non-random (or at least
> appear so). If you took a text in a natural language and coded that
> alphabetically, then the result is fairly non-random. Certain codes
> occur more often, and there are patterns to the relation between
> consecutive codes.
>
> But ... even an alphabetic text, after being run through a compression
> routine, looks pretty random. (That's the purpose of a compression algorithm
> after all. If there's still structure, then you can compress further by
> a short description of the struture and removing it from the remainder of
> the text.)

Well, then maybe we shouldn't run it through a compression routine. Why would
we want to remove all the structure?

> And worse. What if the language is not alphabetic? Even on earth, not
> all languages are. The non-alphabetic languages as implemented on computers
> are constrained to look vaguely alphabetic because it was the alphabetic
> language users, on _this_ planet, who invented computers first. Things
> could come out quite differently if it were the pictographic users, or
> even more different modes we haven't thought of that were the inventors
> of computers.

What if it *is* alphabetic, though? Then we have a chance to translate it,
don't we?

may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <35f2bc67...@news.blue.net>,
tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com wrote:
> On 6 Sep 1998 04:11:31 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>
> >In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,

> > tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com wrote:
> >> On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
> >>
> >> >In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
> >> > "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
> >> >
> >> >snip
> >> >
> >> >> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
> >> >> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
> >> >> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
> >> >> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
> >> >> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
> >> >> own communications.
> >> >
> >> >What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we
broke
> >> >it? What would be impossible about that?
> >>
> >> You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
> >> another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
> >>
> >> What is the difference between a language you don't know, and a
> >> language you don't know in code? None.
> >
> >Right; in both cases, it's possible to figure out what's being said. So we
> >could figure out what the aliens were saying without knowing anything about
> >them.
>
> Uh.. no. In neither case can you read the message. It is impossible.
>
> Why to you think you can figure out what is being said? Ask someone
> to write a paragraph in Chinese (assuming you do not know Chinese).
> It can say anything at all.
>
> Now sit yourself down with a pencil and paper and figure out what it
> says. No other aids just the paragraph and your brain. No
> dictionaries or other assistance.
>
> How do you know which symbols are nouns, and which are verbs? Or is
> it just a list of nouns, a shopping list?

You would have to be an expert in cryptography to do it, but I don't see why
it would be impossible.

Richard Harter

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
may...@andrews.edu wrote:

>In article <6su9qb$f...@access1.digex.net>,


> rm...@access1.digex.net (Robert Grumbine) wrote:
>> In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,

>> Bonz <tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com> wrote:
>> >On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>> >
>> >>In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
>> >> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
>> >>
>> >>snip
>> >>
>> >>> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
>> >>> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
>> >>> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
>> >>> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
>> >>> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
>> >>> own communications.
>> >>
>> >>What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we
>broke
>> >>it? What would be impossible about that?
>> >
>> >You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
>> >another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
>>

In a word, no. That word is NO. The difficulty is raw text is wildly
underdetermined. When we translate from a known language we know what
the words mean and what the structure marks are; more than that all
human languages use the same "universal grammar". None of these things
are available with an alien text.


Richard Harter, c...@tiac.net, The Concord Research Institute
URL = http://www.tiac.net/users/cri, phone = 1-978-369-3911
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
With friends like these who needs enemies.


Loren King

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
Robert Gotschall <hob...@nauseam.mailexcite.com> wrote:
> may...@andrews.edu says...
>> tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com wrote:

>>> What is the difference between a language you don't know, and a
>>> language you don't know in code? None.
>>
>> Right; in both cases, it's possible to figure out what's being said. So we
>> could figure out what the aliens were saying without knowing anything about
>> them.
>

> Wrong, in some cases, known languages have not been deciphered. ....


> Without a key, I doubt we would recognize a truly alien language even as
> a language.

True, although I'm guessing (don't want to speak for Vince here, but
this is my charitable take) that what was meant is this: if we were to
receive what we think might be a meaningful signal from another species
somewhere across the galaxy, although we'd know nothing about the
species in question, we'd probably make an assumption that they meant
the message to be as easy as possible to make at least some sense of.
Thus, assuming something very plausible about the designers' intentions
(i.e. they built the signal wanting it to be deciphered, or at the very
least recognized by a different species) will lead us to specific sorts
of efforts at translation, i.e. looking for references to pulsars of
known frequency, or other galactic signposts.

If our assumption is correct, this effort should lead us to a few basic
understandings of who designed the signal in question, and where they
are. But again, this is based on the accuracy of the assumption that
the signals in question were designed by someone or something with the
intention of being understood, of being easy to decipher in lieu of
extensive shared experiences and understandings. And in lieu of these
understandings, the information sent will probably be very simple.

What occurs to me is that this sort of effort at communication across
vast divides in time, space, physiology, conventions and experiences
requires some common material referents at a very basic level before
even the most basic translations could take place. Members of both
species in the running example need something they can both point to and
say "this is X" or "we are here".


Loren

--------------------------------------
Loren King lk...@mit.edu
http://web.mit.edu/lking/www/home.html

may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <R2AI1.562$Ha3.1...@news.inreach.com>,

"Mike Painter" <mpai...@inreach.com> wrote:
>
> may...@andrews.edu wrote in message <6stgei$sv0$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>...
> >In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,
> > tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com wrote:
> >> On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
> >>
> >> >In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
> >> > "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
> >> >
> >> >snip
> >> >
> >> >> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
> >> >> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
> >> >> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
> >> >> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
> >> >> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
> >> >> own communications.
> >> >
> >> >What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we
> broke
> >> >it? What would be impossible about that?
> >>
> >> You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
> >> another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
> >>
> >> What is the difference between a language you don't know, and a
> >> language you don't know in code? None.
> >
> >Right; in both cases, it's possible to figure out what's being said. So we
> >could figure out what the aliens were saying without knowing anything about
> >them.
>
> There is a massive difference between an unknown language and a code, or
> more correctly a cypher.
> No one has ever demonstrated the ability to understand a "foreign" language
> without some tools to translate it.

That's true; some ancient dead languages are still untranslated, presumably
because we don't have the proper references, like a Rosetta Stone or
something. But how do we know that the aliens wouldn't have the proper
references? Couldn't they use universal "languages" like mathematics,
physics, or the universe and its history, as references?

How do the break codes based on known languages, by the way?

Wesley R. Elsberry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <6t0sr5$1au$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, <may...@andrews.edu> wrote:
>In article <6su9qb$f...@access1.digex.net>,
> rm...@access1.digex.net (Robert Grumbine) wrote:
>> In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,
>> Bonz <tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com> wrote:
>> >On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>> >>In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
>> >> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

VM>snip

WRE>Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we
WRE>have prior experience of both what and how humans do
WRE>things. The SETI project will only find aliens if those
WRE>aliens happen to do things in the ways that our
WRE>experience with radio communication makes us recognize
WRE>properties we know from our own communications.

VM>What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of
VM>code, and we broke it? What would be impossible about
VM>that?

If ETI broadcast in ways that we recognize, then we can
worry about deciphering. The critical issue is that we
recognize that something needs deciphering on the basis of
our prior experience with our own radio communications.
We do not and will not recognize ETI communications that do
not have those properties that we expect.

LN>You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or
LN>French to one another, just scrambled somehow? Are you
LN>serious?

RMG>I don't think the issue Mr. Elsberry is trying to raise
RMG>is the one of language _per se_. The question as I take
RMG>it is more one of: We're liable only to recognize
RMG>something as _being_ a message if it follows certain
RMG>forms. One example is noise detection. I believe the
RMG>SETI groups are looking for signals which are non-random
RMG>(or at least appear so). If you took a text in a natural
RMG>language and coded that alphabetically, then the result
RMG>is fairly non-random. Certain codes occur more often,
RMG>and there are patterns to the relation between
RMG>consecutive codes.

RMG> But ... even an alphabetic text, after being run through
RMG>a compression routine, looks pretty random. (That's the
RMG>purpose of a compression algorithm after all. If there's
RMG>still structure, then you can compress further by a short
RMG>description of the struture and removing it from the
RMG>remainder of the text.)

VM>Well, then maybe we shouldn't run it through a compression
VM>routine. Why would we want to remove all the structure?

Don't be dense. It isn't *us* that Bob is talking about using
compression. A compressed data stream will look much more
like random noise than an uncompressed stream. If aliens
communicate exclusively via compressed streams, then SETI is
much more unlikely to recognize those properties of radio
communications that we know from our prior experience indicate
that information is contained therein.

Suppose that we live in a paranoid universe. Every sapient
species except us figures out the consequences of radio
transmissions in the clear *before* actually implementing
broadcasts. There are potential negative consequences to
advertising one's location and existence of resources. (See
any of the military's anti-radar systems for an eye-opening
example.) Thus, communications via radio transmissions are
made to look so far as possible as random noise, or better
yet, random noise from natural radio sources. The only
recourse for SETI under those conditions is to treat all radio
noise sources as if signals were contained, and expend
computational resources to attempt to extract the signal from
each. After that, one has the problem of attempting to
decipher whatever comes out. That's not recognition, though,
it's exhaustive search.

RMG> And worse. What if the language is not alphabetic?
RMG>Even on earth, not all languages are. The non-alphabetic
RMG>languages as implemented on computers are constrained to
RMG>look vaguely alphabetic because it was the alphabetic
RMG>language users, on _this_ planet, who invented computers
RMG>first. Things could come out quite differently if it
RMG>were the pictographic users, or even more different modes
RMG>we haven't thought of that were the inventors of
RMG>computers.

VM>What if it *is* alphabetic, though? Then we have a chance
VM>to translate it, don't we?

It is a necessary condition that one recognizes that a message
exists before one can start to worry about whether one can
understand it. My point is that we will only recognize the
message as existing if it has the properties that we know from
*our own* radio communications. We do not recognize messages
from the basis of complete ignorance of their properties for
SETI. Radio broadcast information that does not conform to
our prior experience or expectations will *not* be noticed,
much less deciphered, by SETI.

Let's say I have a library that specializes in random number
tables. It's a small library, with only a few billion volumes
of random number tables. It is rumored that there may exist
one or more volumes in the library that actually have messages
encoded in the numbers rather than being random. How do you
go about determining if the rumor is true or false? After
you've completed your determination, what confidence do you
have in the conclusion in each case?

As an aside, much work was being done on automated recognition
of hand-written ZIP codes on envelopes a few years back. Dr.
Kamangar of UT Arlington told me then that the big problem in
such a task is not in deciphering the ZIP code. The crucial
problem is recognizing which piece of an image of an envelope
*contains* the ZIP code so that that can be passed off to the
ZIP recognition routines.

Let's try to invert the SETI process. Postulate that sentient
aliens exist out there. Under what circumstances will they
recognize *our* existence?

--
Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
Visit the Online Zoologists page (http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/elsberry)
Email to this account is dumped to /dev/null, whose Spam appetite is capacious.

"one would think that you were afraid to be alone" - archy


Thomas Scharle

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <6t11bk$6qs$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, may...@andrews.edu writes:
[...snip...]

|> How do the break codes based on known languages, by the way?

One interesting case is the decipherment of Linear B, by Michael
Ventris. It turned out to be a version of Greek, written in a
"syllabary" (that is, each symbol represents a syllable), not an
alphabet. Nobody *knew* that it was Greek, that was an inspired
guess by Ventris. And the sound values of the signs were unknown.
And there was no "Rosetta Stone" of a bilingual text to help. The
process is described in:

Chadwick, John, 1920-
The decipherment of linear B
Canto ed.
Cambridge <England> ; New York : Cambridge University Press,
1990.

There were additional complexities involved, and I think that
it's safe to say that there were many doubters when Ventris produced
his results. It was thought that there was so much "flexibility" in
his decipherment that he could read about anything he wanted into a
text.

The method, in this case, was based on known patterns in Greek.
There are, for example, a limited number of final sounds in a Greek
word. It's not much different *in kind* from solving one of those
cryptograms in the newspaper. Not different in kind, but the
degree of difficulty was incredibly greater.

But every case requires a different method.

Perhaps the most perplexing outstanding problem is the decipherment
of the script of the Indus Valley Civilization, which has three major
blocks to resolution: the texts are extremely short, nobody knows
anything about what language they are written in, and the writing
system is unknown.

One completely different case is understanding the significance of
paleolithic art.

--
Tom Scharle scha...@nd.edu "standard disclaimer"


may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <6t0udq$8...@news-central.tiac.net>,

c...@tiac.net (Richard Harter) wrote:
> may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>
> >In article <6su9qb$f...@access1.digex.net>,
> > rm...@access1.digex.net (Robert Grumbine) wrote:
> >> In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,
> >> Bonz <tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com> wrote:
> >> >On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
> >> >
> >> >>In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
> >> >> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
> >> >>
> >> >>snip
> >> >>
> >> >>> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
> >> >>> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
> >> >>> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
> >> >>> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
> >> >>> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
> >> >>> own communications.
> >> >>
> >> >>What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we
> >broke
> >> >>it? What would be impossible about that?
> >> >
> >> >You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
> >> >another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
> >>
> >> I don't think the issue Mr. Elsberry is trying to raise is the one
> >> of language _per se_. The question as I take it is more one of:
> >> We're liable only to recognize something as _being_ a message if it
> >> follows certain forms. One example is noise detection. I believe the
> >> SETI groups are looking for signals which are non-random (or at least
> >> appear so). If you took a text in a natural language and coded that
> >> alphabetically, then the result is fairly non-random. Certain codes
> >> occur more often, and there are patterns to the relation between
> >> consecutive codes.
> >>
> >> But ... even an alphabetic text, after being run through a compression
> >> routine, looks pretty random. (That's the purpose of a compression
algorithm
> >> after all. If there's still structure, then you can compress further by
> >> a short description of the struture and removing it from the remainder of
> >> the text.)
>
> >Well, then maybe we shouldn't run it through a compression routine. Why would

> >we want to remove all the structure?
>
> >> And worse. What if the language is not alphabetic? Even on earth, not
> >> all languages are. The non-alphabetic languages as implemented on
computers
> >> are constrained to look vaguely alphabetic because it was the alphabetic
> >> language users, on _this_ planet, who invented computers first. Things
> >> could come out quite differently if it were the pictographic users, or
> >> even more different modes we haven't thought of that were the inventors
> >> of computers.
>
> >What if it *is* alphabetic, though? Then we have a chance to translate it,
> >don't we?
>

> In a word, no. That word is NO. The difficulty is raw text is wildly
> underdetermined. When we translate from a known language we know what
> the words mean and what the structure marks are; more than that all
> human languages use the same "universal grammar". None of these things
> are available with an alien text.

But why couldn't we figure out what the word mean, and what the structure
marks are? As someone else mentioned, this might be easier than with
uncertain undecipherable ancient languages, if the aliens were trying their
damndest to send a message that other life-forms could understand.

Wesley R. Elsberry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
to
In article <35F429AA...@erols.com>,
Ivar Ylvisaker <ylvi...@erols.com> wrote:
>Wesley R. Elsberry wrote:
>>In article <35f0b152....@news3.enter.net><wf...@enter.netxx>
>>wrote:

IY>[with much snipping]

Me too.

[...]

IY>I don't think that Dembski will accept Wesley's version of
IY>a filter that detects intelligent designers. Wesley's
IY>filter stage 3 passes only those phenomena that we know are
IY>caused by intelligent designers. I assume that Wesley is
IY>referring to man and, maybe animals as designers but not to
IY>unknown supernatural beings. Dembski wants to go further.

Yes, Dembski *wants* to go further. Unfortunately, we do not
have in hand the justification to do so. Is it contained in
Dembski's forthcoming book? Somehow, I doubt it, but I do
look forward to seeing Dr. Dembski try.

As noted before, we can test the reliability that Dembski
claims for his inference via matching phenomena with a
knowledge set that does not have a causal design/physical-law
relationship in place and then applying the inferential method
with that knowledge set. I argue that Dembski's inferential
method does make false positive identifications under this
test, which is counter to Dembski's claims. Michael Behe
recently invoked the pattern of flowers seen in a neighbor's
yard as opposed to the sprinkling of dandelions seen in his as
evidence of intelligent design on the part of his neighbor.
Rebecca Flietstra responded with the example of circular
sproutings of mushrooms, or "fairy rings", since the
postulated cause in folklore was the dancing of fairies in
those places. A circle is about as specified a geometric
arrangement as you can get. In the absence of knowledge of
how a spreading fungus puts its sporulating bodies at the
periphery, I think Dembski's filter clearly comes down on the
side of the fairies, and that is but one of many examples of
application that result in false positive identifications of
a designer/design relationship.

What I have proposed concerning testing of Dembski's filter is
familiar to any software engineer as "regression testing". I
find it notable that thus far Dembski and others who express
support for the ID inference have conspicuously avoided
applying Dembski's Explanatory Filter in this way. If it were
a reliable detector, it would be a fine point for
argumentation to be able to say that past false attributions
of design could have been avoided by application of Dembski's
EF. However, as one can see by examination, the outcome does
not support that, and that is why I think that we don't see
such testing of Dembski's EF. (Although I anticipate that
this point will be the focus of much special pleading in the
future, with many fine distinctions made concerning specified
complexity. Consider it a prediction.) On the other hand, I
welcome such testing for my EF, which would not have posited
fairies in the fairy rings.

IY>Also, I don't think that Dembski is too concerned with the
IY>need for the mechanism that RJP writes about. The
IY>capabilities of supernatural, intelligent designers might
IY>seem almost miraculous to us.

Ivan can poo-poo Bob's idea all he wants, but I find it worthy
of consideration, and I suspect that others will find it so as
well. Part of how we recognize human design is through
knowledge of the mechanisms by which designs are implemented.
To claim that this information is unnecessary to identify
novel designer/design relationships requires justification,
and beyond that even if it can be shown to be unnecessary for
detection, it still has a bearing on the confidence with which
we can hold a determination of intelligent design.

--
Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
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may...@andrews.edu

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In article <1998090717...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,

Which properties are those?

> LN>You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or
> LN>French to one another, just scrambled somehow? Are you
> LN>serious?
>
> RMG>I don't think the issue Mr. Elsberry is trying to raise
> RMG>is the one of language _per se_. The question as I take
> RMG>it is more one of: We're liable only to recognize
> RMG>something as _being_ a message if it follows certain
> RMG>forms. One example is noise detection. I believe the
> RMG>SETI groups are looking for signals which are non-random
> RMG>(or at least appear so). If you took a text in a natural
> RMG>language and coded that alphabetically, then the result
> RMG>is fairly non-random. Certain codes occur more often,
> RMG>and there are patterns to the relation between
> RMG>consecutive codes.
>
> RMG> But ... even an alphabetic text, after being run through
> RMG>a compression routine, looks pretty random. (That's the
> RMG>purpose of a compression algorithm after all. If there's
> RMG>still structure, then you can compress further by a short
> RMG>description of the struture and removing it from the
> RMG>remainder of the text.)
>
> VM>Well, then maybe we shouldn't run it through a compression
> VM>routine. Why would we want to remove all the structure?
>
> Don't be dense.

I can't help it; I was born this way.

> It isn't *us* that Bob is talking about using
> compression.

Yeah, okay.

> A compressed data stream will look much more
> like random noise than an uncompressed stream. If aliens
> communicate exclusively via compressed streams, then SETI is
> much more unlikely to recognize those properties of radio
> communications that we know from our prior experience indicate
> that information is contained therein.

So, are they hoping that uncompressed streams are being used?

> Suppose that we live in a paranoid universe. Every sapient
> species except us figures out the consequences of radio
> transmissions in the clear *before* actually implementing
> broadcasts. There are potential negative consequences to
> advertising one's location and existence of resources. (See
> any of the military's anti-radar systems for an eye-opening
> example.) Thus, communications via radio transmissions are
> made to look so far as possible as random noise, or better
> yet, random noise from natural radio sources. The only
> recourse for SETI under those conditions is to treat all radio
> noise sources as if signals were contained, and expend
> computational resources to attempt to extract the signal from
> each. After that, one has the problem of attempting to
> decipher whatever comes out. That's not recognition, though,
> it's exhaustive search.

Does the "extraction of the signal" involve knowledge about the methods of the
aliens?

> RMG> And worse. What if the language is not alphabetic?
> RMG>Even on earth, not all languages are. The non-alphabetic
> RMG>languages as implemented on computers are constrained to
> RMG>look vaguely alphabetic because it was the alphabetic
> RMG>language users, on _this_ planet, who invented computers
> RMG>first. Things could come out quite differently if it
> RMG>were the pictographic users, or even more different modes
> RMG>we haven't thought of that were the inventors of
> RMG>computers.
>
> VM>What if it *is* alphabetic, though? Then we have a chance
> VM>to translate it, don't we?
>
> It is a necessary condition that one recognizes that a message
> exists before one can start to worry about whether one can
> understand it. My point is that we will only recognize the
> message as existing if it has the properties that we know from
> *our own* radio communications. We do not recognize messages
> from the basis of complete ignorance of their properties for
> SETI. Radio broadcast information that does not conform to
> our prior experience or expectations will *not* be noticed,
> much less deciphered, by SETI.
>
> Let's say I have a library that specializes in random number
> tables.

Must be an interesting library.

> It's a small library, with only a few billion volumes
> of random number tables. It is rumored that there may exist
> one or more volumes in the library that actually have messages
> encoded in the numbers rather than being random. How do you
> go about determining if the rumor is true or false? After
> you've completed your determination, what confidence do you
> have in the conclusion in each case?

Okay, let's make the analogy a bit more relevant; what if a rumor started that
some of the volumes contained sequences which were deliberately nonrandom,
i.e., they were created with the intent of not seeming random. Now, that
wouldn't be so difficult to detect, would it? What if the aliens were
broadcasting the digits of pi, or ratio of the mass of the proton to the
electron in binary numbers?

> As an aside, much work was being done on automated recognition
> of hand-written ZIP codes on envelopes a few years back. Dr.
> Kamangar of UT Arlington told me then that the big problem in
> such a task is not in deciphering the ZIP code. The crucial
> problem is recognizing which piece of an image of an envelope
> *contains* the ZIP code so that that can be passed off to the
> ZIP recognition routines.

I don't think that's really relevant.

> Let's try to invert the SETI process. Postulate that sentient
> aliens exist out there. Under what circumstances will they
> recognize *our* existence?

Ivan has been suggesting that TV signals could be broadcast.

Steve Sondericker

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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I may regret this, but here goes; I say that a design theory is
impossible in principle. Any comments?


Wesley R. Elsberry

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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In article <29757-35...@newsd-102.iap.bryant.webtv.net>,
Steve Sondericker <came...@webtv.net> wrote:

SS>I may regret this, but here goes; I say that a design
SS>theory is impossible in principle. Any comments?

What are the theoretical reasons for concluding so? Something
analogous to the theoretical reasons for concluding that
perpetual motion machines are not a feature of our universe
would be nice.

--
Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
Visit the Online Zoologists page (http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/elsberry)
Email to this account is dumped to /dev/null, whose Spam appetite is capacious.

"I am becalmed\Lost to nothing\Warm weather\& a holocaust" - BOC


Bonz

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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On 7 Sep 1998 11:28:38 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:

>> On 6 Sep 1998 04:11:31 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>>
>> >In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,


>> > tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com wrote:
>> >> On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>> >>
>> >> >In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
>> >> > "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
>> >> >

>> >> >snip
>> >> >
>> >> >> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
>> >> >> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
>> >> >> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
>> >> >> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
>> >> >> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
>> >> >> own communications.
>> >> >
>> >> >What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we
>broke


>> >> >it? What would be impossible about that?
>> >>
>> >> You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or French to one
>> >> another, just scrambled somehow? Are you serious?
>> >>
>> >> What is the difference between a language you don't know, and a
>> >> language you don't know in code? None.
>> >
>> >Right; in both cases, it's possible to figure out what's being said. So we
>> >could figure out what the aliens were saying without knowing anything about
>> >them.
>>

>> Uh.. no. In neither case can you read the message. It is impossible.
>>
>> Why to you think you can figure out what is being said? Ask someone
>> to write a paragraph in Chinese (assuming you do not know Chinese).
>> It can say anything at all.
>>
>> Now sit yourself down with a pencil and paper and figure out what it
>> says. No other aids just the paragraph and your brain. No
>> dictionaries or other assistance.
>>
>> How do you know which symbols are nouns, and which are verbs? Or is
>> it just a list of nouns, a shopping list?
>
>You would have to be an expert in cryptography to do it, but I don't see why
>it would be impossible.

Then you haven't seen very clearly, not thought very deeply. It is
impossible.

There is a difference between a code and a cypher. A cypher is like
rot-13, where you move all the letters 13 spaces.

Lbh pna riraghnyyl svther guvf bhg ol pbhagvat yrggre serdhrapvrf va
Ratyvfu, ybbxvat sbe fubeg jbeqf, pbafgehpgvbaf yvxr -vat gung bpphe
serdhragyl, rgp.

A code is different. Take a book, make certain that I have an
identical copy. If you want to say 'horse', you send me 12-34-5
(Page 12, line 34, word 12). Unless you know what book we are using,
you can't read it. You need SOMEWHERE to start.

With a cyper, getting part of the message helps a lot. If you know
what E is, you check three letter sequences for 'THE". Unless you
have the right book, knowing what 'HORSE' is just means you know how
to say HORSE. :)

An alien language is the ultimate code. You have NOTHING to go by.
Nothing at all.

Here is something in a code I just invented:

aosdfjJ-msa-o90PemdNgt0sal 2hws9KSdha83w

Does this mean:

1) Geshundheit
2) I love artichokes in butter sauce.
3)The heroin will arrive at midnight in Istanbul.
4) The Board met at 9 PM and, a quorum being present, the following
matters were decided.

How would you tell?

may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 7, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/7/98
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In article <1998090721...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,

"Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

>
> As noted before, we can test the reliability that Dembski
> claims for his inference via matching phenomena with a
> knowledge set that does not have a causal design/physical-law
> relationship in place and then applying the inferential method
> with that knowledge set. I argue that Dembski's inferential
> method does make false positive identifications under this
> test, which is counter to Dembski's claims.

The filter doesn't have to perfect to be useful; so what if it makes a few
false positive IDs? It still could be useful in leading one to suspect
design, even if it doesn't prove it. The filter only works when we have at
least one of the following: evidence of the designers, knowledge of their
motives, or knowledge of their methods. But we don't need all of those
things.

Wesley R. Elsberry

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
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In article <6t1p93$93d$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, <may...@andrews.edu> wrote:
>In article <1998090717...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
>> In article <6t0sr5$1au$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, <may...@andrews.edu> wrote:
>> >In article <6su9qb$f...@access1.digex.net>,
>> > rm...@access1.digex.net (Robert Grumbine) wrote:
>> >> In article <35f160ed...@news.blue.net>,
>> >> Bonz <tea...@bbtel.SPAMLESS.com> wrote:
>> >> >On 5 Sep 1998 05:50:19 -0400, may...@andrews.edu wrote:
>> >> >>In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,
>> >> >> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

VM>snip

WRE>Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we
WRE>have prior experience of both what and how humans do
WRE>things. The SETI project will only find aliens if those
WRE>aliens happen to do things in the ways that our
WRE>experience with radio communication makes us recognize
WRE>properties we know from our own communications.

VM>What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of
VM>code, and we broke it? What would be impossible about
VM>that?

WRE>If ETI broadcast in ways that we recognize, then we can
WRE>worry about deciphering. The critical issue is that we
WRE>recognize that something needs deciphering on the basis of
WRE>our prior experience with our own radio communications.
WRE>We do not and will not recognize ETI communications that
WRE>do not have those properties that we expect.

VM>Which properties are those?

As Dr. Grumbine mentions below, that the radio stream be
distinguishable in content from noise.

LN>You mean, what if aliens really bradcast in English or
LN>French to one another, just scrambled somehow? Are you
LN>serious?

RMG>I don't think the issue Mr. Elsberry is trying to raise
RMG>is the one of language _per se_. The question as I take
RMG>it is more one of: We're liable only to recognize
RMG>something as _being_ a message if it follows certain
RMG>forms. One example is noise detection. I believe the
RMG>SETI groups are looking for signals which are non-random
RMG>(or at least appear so). If you took a text in a natural
RMG>language and coded that alphabetically, then the result
RMG>is fairly non-random. Certain codes occur more often,
RMG>and there are patterns to the relation between
RMG>consecutive codes.

RMG> But ... even an alphabetic text, after being run through
RMG>a compression routine, looks pretty random. (That's the
RMG>purpose of a compression algorithm after all. If there's
RMG>still structure, then you can compress further by a short
RMG>description of the struture and removing it from the
RMG>remainder of the text.)

VM>Well, then maybe we shouldn't run it through a compression
VM>routine. Why would we want to remove all the structure?

WRE> Don't be dense.

VM>I can't help it; I was born this way.

WRE> It isn't *us* that Bob is talking about using
WRE>compression.

VM>Yeah, okay.

WRE>A compressed data stream will look much more like random
WRE>noise than an uncompressed stream. If aliens communicate
WRE>exclusively via compressed streams, then SETI is much more
WRE>unlikely to recognize those properties of radio
WRE>communications that we know from our prior experience
WRE>indicate that information is contained therein.

VM>So, are they hoping that uncompressed streams are being used?

Yes. *If* an ETI *wants* to be detected and understood, we
*hope* and *assume* that they will broadcast in the clear, and
in such a way that we, from our prior experience, can recognize
signal from background noise.

WRE>Suppose that we live in a paranoid universe. Every
WRE>sapient species except us figures out the consequences of
WRE>radio transmissions in the clear *before* actually
WRE>implementing broadcasts. There are potential negative
WRE>consequences to advertising one's location and existence
WRE>of resources. (See any of the military's anti-radar
WRE>systems for an eye-opening example.) Thus, communications
WRE>via radio transmissions are made to look so far as
WRE>possible as random noise, or better yet, random noise from
WRE>natural radio sources. The only recourse for SETI under
WRE>those conditions is to treat all radio noise sources as if
WRE>signals were contained, and expend computational resources
WRE>to attempt to extract the signal from each. After that,
WRE>one has the problem of attempting to decipher whatever
WRE>comes out. That's not recognition, though, it's
WRE>exhaustive search.

VM>Does the "extraction of the signal" involve knowledge about
VM>the methods of the aliens?

Various filtering techniques can be applied in the absence of
knowledge. The problem is that you *always* get *something*
as a result, even if there isn't really anything there. If
you don't know what you are looking for, and analyzing
everything in trying to find it, you will be spending vast
quantities of resources and not getting much of anywhere.
Again, what is happening in that case is not *recognition*
but rather exhaustive search.

RMG> And worse. What if the language is not alphabetic?
RMG>Even on earth, not all languages are. The non-alphabetic
RMG>languages as implemented on computers are constrained to
RMG>look vaguely alphabetic because it was the alphabetic
RMG>language users, on _this_ planet, who invented computers
RMG>first. Things could come out quite differently if it
RMG>were the pictographic users, or even more different modes
RMG>we haven't thought of that were the inventors of
RMG>computers.

VM>What if it *is* alphabetic, though? Then we have a chance
VM>to translate it, don't we?

WRE>It is a necessary condition that one recognizes that a
WRE>message exists before one can start to worry about whether
WRE>one can understand it. My point is that we will only
WRE>recognize the message as existing if it has the properties
WRE>that we know from *our own* radio communications. We do
WRE>not recognize messages from the basis of complete
WRE>ignorance of their properties for SETI. Radio broadcast
WRE>information that does not conform to our prior experience
WRE>or expectations will *not* be noticed, much less
WRE>deciphered, by SETI.

WRE>Let's say I have a library that specializes in random
WRE>number tables.

VM>Must be an interesting library.

It's certainly quiet.

WRE>It's a small library, with only a few billion volumes of
WRE>random number tables. It is rumored that there may exist
WRE>one or more volumes in the library that actually have
WRE>messages encoded in the numbers rather than being random.
WRE>How do you go about determining if the rumor is true or
WRE>false? After you've completed your determination, what
WRE>confidence do you have in the conclusion in each case?

VM>Okay, let's make the analogy a bit more relevant; what if a
VM>rumor started that some of the volumes contained sequences
VM>which were deliberately nonrandom, i.e., they were created
VM>with the intent of not seeming random. Now, that wouldn't
VM>be so difficult to detect, would it? What if the aliens
VM>were broadcasting the digits of pi, or ratio of the mass of
VM>the proton to the electron in binary numbers?

It wouldn't be that difficult to detect, *but* the detection
would be based on what we know from our prior experience of
the properties of random number tables as opposed to books
with non-random information contained therein.

I don't think Vince's further speculation is more relevant.
Certainly, SETI's aims would be served well by postulating
cooperative ETI, but that isn't the situation that we are
faced with. In the absence of information, we have to take
the data as it is, not as we wish it could be. ETI may or may
not exist. If ETI exists, there is no way that we can know
that such ETI cares to be detected, unless and until we find,
via *our* recognition routines, something that says to us,
"Here is a communication, now let's see whether we can
understand what it says." These are two separate activities,
and I am pretty much limiting myself to addressing the first
part, what is assumed for detection to happen.

WRE>As an aside, much work was being done on automated
WRE>recognition of hand-written ZIP codes on envelopes a few
WRE>years back. Dr. Kamangar of UT Arlington told me then
WRE>that the big problem in such a task is not in deciphering
WRE>the ZIP code. The crucial problem is recognizing which
WRE>piece of an image of an envelope *contains* the ZIP code
WRE>so that that can be passed off to the ZIP recognition
WRE>routines.

VM>I don't think that's really relevant.

I still like it, but YMMV. I'm saying that *detection* is
not a simple process even for certain well-defined tasks.
SETI is not a well-constrained task.

WRE>Let's try to invert the SETI process. Postulate that
WRE>sentient aliens exist out there. Under what circumstances
WRE>will they recognize *our* existence?

VM>Ivan has been suggesting that TV signals could be broadcast.

Ivar (not Ivan, as he notes in another message to me) is
suggesting that the TV signals we have *already* broadcast may
be decipherable by an ETI. However, there is a set of
assumptions which lies behind that statement. Would Vince
care to take a stab at enumerating them?

--
Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
Visit the Online Zoologists page (http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/elsberry)
Email to this account is dumped to /dev/null, whose Spam appetite is capacious.

"In hellish glare and inference, the other one's a duplicate" - BOC


Wesley R. Elsberry

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
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In article <6t25lo$r71$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, <may...@andrews.edu> wrote:
>In article <1998090721...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,

> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

[...]

WRE>As noted before, we can test the reliability that Dembski
WRE>claims for his inference via matching phenomena with a
WRE>knowledge set that does not have a causal
WRE>design/physical-law relationship in place and then
WRE>applying the inferential method with that knowledge set.
WRE>I argue that Dembski's inferential method does make false
WRE>positive identifications under this test, which is counter
WRE>to Dembski's claims.

VM>The filter doesn't have to perfect to be useful; so what if
VM>it makes a few false positive IDs? It still could be useful
VM>in leading one to suspect design, even if it doesn't prove
VM>it.

Then it is a heuristic, not an inference method, and has no
more apparent validity than simply saying, "That Paley dude
had something going." *Suspecting design* isn't something
that the ID folks have any difficulty with. It is a different
matter to put such suspicions on a rigorous basis, which is
what Dembski has set out to do. Dembski is well aware of
this, I'm sure, which is why he would claim that his
Explanatory Filter was not subject to false positive
identifications. I admire Dembski for having the guts to make
the attempt, but I happen to disagree with the conclusions
based upon what I have seen so far. Maybe the upcoming book
will change things.

VM>The filter only works when we have at least one of the
VM>following: evidence of the designers, knowledge of their
VM>motives, or knowledge of their methods. But we don't need
VM>all of those things.

Dembski attempts to infer design solely on the basis of the
resulting phenomenon. If one can tolerate false positives,
then this will work just dandy. However, history is
chock-a-block with examples of design being falsely inferred
on the basis of phenomena, with subsequent delays in coming to
a comprehension of the real cause lying behind the phenomena.
For people like myself, the Dembski Explanatory Filter simply
looks like a technical update of the "God of the Gaps" style
of argument. It is possible that I've overlooked something,
so I won't say that the task is impossible, but it is my
opinion that what Dembski has been doing so far is to try to
construct an oracle out of an algorithm.

For the purposes of scientific inquiry, Vince, does it make
more sense to attribute a phenomenon as due to intelligent
design as per Dembski's Explanatory Filter, or as due to
unknown causes as in my explanatory filter, when known natural
processes, random processes, and known intelligent design
processes are eliminated?

--
Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
Visit the Online Zoologists page (http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/elsberry)
Email to this account is dumped to /dev/null, whose Spam appetite is capacious.

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Robert Gotschall

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
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In article <6t11bk$6qs$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, may...@andrews.edu says...

> That's true; some ancient dead languages are still untranslated, presumably
> because we don't have the proper references, like a Rosetta Stone or
> something. But how do we know that the aliens wouldn't have the proper
> references? Couldn't they use universal "languages" like mathematics,
> physics, or the universe and its history, as references?
>
> How do the break codes based on known languages, by the way?
>
> --vince
>
They could, but we may not actually be the center of the universe you
know. What if they don't recognize us as sentient. We rarely acknowledge
people of other races as equals. The word _barbarian_ is a Greek word
that simply meant anyone who couldn't speak, anyone who couldn't speak
Greek that is.

Lots of different ways. One basic way is to try and do the reverse of
whoever scrambled it in the first place. This can involve digitizing the
text then adding the numbers with a non linear number stream. Pi would
work but is a trifle obvious.

I could tell you more but then I'd have to kill you.:}
--
rg
Water Stop # 17
Modify email as needed


Robert Gotschall

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
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In article <29757-35...@newsd-102.iap.bryant.webtv.net>,
came...@webtv.net says...
> I may regret this, but here goes; I say that a design theory is

> impossible in principle. Any comments?
>
>
I would say that design theory appears to require that we know something
is designed in the first place. Design theory seems to have a circular
definition and thus useless.

Robert Gotschall

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
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In article <6t0vtn$6...@senator-bedfellow.MIT.EDU>, lk...@mit.edu says...


I don't mean to say that communication of this sort is impossible. Sagan
and Co. put a lot of work into the Pioneer satellite I think it was, to
do just that. They gave it their best shot, but they did make certain
assumptions about whatever might receive the message. If that thing
drops into a hypothetical water world inhabited by intelligent dolphin
like creatures who communicate by sonar, we're out of luck.

To assume that we're going to have any idea what aliens are saying seems
a trifle egotistical. Communications is usually pretty difficult. When
I'm out bushwhacking and I see pictographs of big horned sheep, I figure
maybe I got a noun, but what're the squiggly lines running down the rock
from them? These things were made by modern humans probably less then a
thousand years BP. I may have met some of their offspring, but the local
Paiute claim to know nothing about them.

Now the people making the pictographs could have been really bored that
day, but I'll bet they had something definite in mind to spend that
much time on the project. They knew what they were doing, but we may
never know.

Thomas Scharle

unread,
Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
to
In article <35F429AA...@erols.com>, Ivar Ylvisaker <ylvi...@erols.com> writes:
[...snip...]
|> <P><A HREF="http://www.discovery.org//crsc/crscviews/idesign2.html">http://www.discovery.org//crsc/crscviews/idesign2.html</A>
|>
|> <P>This version states more plainly Dembski's aim.&nbsp; Here is the abstract:
[...snip...]
|> investigation. In my paper I shall (1) show how information can be reliably
|> detected and measured, and (2) formulate a conservation law that governs
|> the origin and flow of information. My broad conclusion is that information
[...snip...]

What is it that *has* information? When we measure information,
are we measuring a property of a physical object?

It seems that Dembski says no.

"Thus we define the measure of information in an event of
probability p as -log2p"

Information thus seems to be a property of events, not of things.

Later he says, "there is no more information in two copies of
Shakespeare's Hamlet than in a single copy". Shouldn't that be
"information in the event of printing copies"? At any rate, whatever
information is a measure of, this indicates that it is not a property
of the physical objects, copies of Hamlet.

I don't know that Dembski gets any clearer about where the
property of information resides.

Let's take one of his concrete examples, the probability of
being dealt a royal flush. The probability is approximately
.000002, according to Dembski.

To begin with, let us note that the royal flush may be
instantiated in several different physical objects ... it may be
the usual "Bicycle" deck of paste-boards, or it may be images on
a computer screen. So this is confirmation of the information not
being a property of a physical object.

Furthermore, the probability is dependent, critically, on
exterior factors ... what are the *other* cards in the deck?, am I
a card sharp?, are there wild cards? is this draw poker? and even:
are we playing poker?

And then, there's this: "the measure of information assigned to
Alice and Bob jointly being dealt royal flushes equals the measure
of information assigned to Alice ... plus the measure of information
assigned to Bob." How is this different from copies of Hamlet? Is
it because copies of Hamlet are physical objects, while being dealt
royal flushes are events?

Steve Sondericker

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Sep 8, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/8/98
to
Wesley Elsberry:

Something like what you say. Any design recognition test will
necessarily cast the "design" in a formulation that humans can
understand. But what we're talking about is the design of an entire
universe; the who, what, when, where, and why are indiscernible, so how
can we even talk about such a thing sensibly? Any signal we receive
will be in cognitive terms that we are capable of receiving, but if the
universe is indeed designed then the whole damn thing is the signal we
are seeking. We can't receive the signal, so how can we talk about it?
Look, I'm winging it here, does any of this make sense?


may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
In article <1998090805...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,

"Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

snip

> For the purposes of scientific inquiry, Vince, does it make
> more sense to attribute a phenomenon as due to intelligent
> design as per Dembski's Explanatory Filter, or as due to
> unknown causes as in my explanatory filter, when known natural
> processes, random processes, and known intelligent design
> processes are eliminated?

You were right that Dembski's filter is rather like God-of-the-gaps-ism,
although it could be revised to fix this problem (i.e., make sure the
phenomenon has been extremely well-studied). Dembski repeatedly overlooks the
fact that there is abundant evidence for human beings, though; if there were
no evidence for us, "we" would be far less likely to invoke design in the
instances he cites; so I think your filter is preferable. But I don't think
design can be eliminated as "meaningless," either; it's just very vague.

may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
In article <1998090804...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,

"Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

snip

> VM>Okay, let's make the analogy a bit more relevant; what if a
> VM>rumor started that some of the volumes contained sequences
> VM>which were deliberately nonrandom, i.e., they were created
> VM>with the intent of not seeming random. Now, that wouldn't
> VM>be so difficult to detect, would it? What if the aliens
> VM>were broadcasting the digits of pi, or ratio of the mass of
> VM>the proton to the electron in binary numbers?
>
> It wouldn't be that difficult to detect, *but* the detection
> would be based on what we know from our prior experience of
> the properties of random number tables as opposed to books
> with non-random information contained therein.

So, our conclusions would be based soley on the structure of the "message"
(the tables), rather than knowledge of the designers.

> I don't think Vince's further speculation is more relevant.

Why is that?

> Certainly, SETI's aims would be served well by postulating
> cooperative ETI, but that isn't the situation that we are
> faced with.

I think that's the whole point of SETI.

> In the absence of information, we have to take
> the data as it is, not as we wish it could be. ETI may or may
> not exist. If ETI exists, there is no way that we can know
> that such ETI cares to be detected, unless and until we find,
> via *our* recognition routines, something that says to us,
> "Here is a communication, now let's see whether we can
> understand what it says." These are two separate activities,
> and I am pretty much limiting myself to addressing the first
> part, what is assumed for detection to happen.

I think they could communicate with us if they wanted, but the point is
really, "Could we detect them without knowing the details of the
civilization?" The answer is obviously yes.

> WRE>As an aside, much work was being done on automated
> WRE>recognition of hand-written ZIP codes on envelopes a few
> WRE>years back. Dr. Kamangar of UT Arlington told me then
> WRE>that the big problem in such a task is not in deciphering
> WRE>the ZIP code. The crucial problem is recognizing which
> WRE>piece of an image of an envelope *contains* the ZIP code
> WRE>so that that can be passed off to the ZIP recognition
> WRE>routines.
>
> VM>I don't think that's really relevant.
>
> I still like it, but YMMV. I'm saying that *detection* is
> not a simple process even for certain well-defined tasks.
> SETI is not a well-constrained task.

What difference does it make if those machines can't recognize stuff?

> WRE>Let's try to invert the SETI process. Postulate that
> WRE>sentient aliens exist out there. Under what circumstances
> WRE>will they recognize *our* existence?
>
> VM>Ivan has been suggesting that TV signals could be broadcast.
>
> Ivar (not Ivan, as he notes in another message to me) is
> suggesting that the TV signals we have *already* broadcast may
> be decipherable by an ETI.

Why couldn't it work in reverse?

> However, there is a set of
> assumptions which lies behind that statement. Would Vince
> care to take a stab at enumerating them?

Perhaps Wesley would care to take a stab at it, since Wesley is the one who
thinks they exist, and Wesley is the one who brought them up.

may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
In article <MPG.105e8628a...@news.lj.net>,

hob...@nauseam.mailexcite.com (Robert Gotschall) wrote:
> In article <29757-35...@newsd-102.iap.bryant.webtv.net>,
> came...@webtv.net says...
> > I may regret this, but here goes; I say that a design theory is
> > impossible in principle. Any comments?
> >
> >
> I would say that design theory appears to require that we know something
> is designed in the first place. Design theory seems to have a circular
> definition and thus useless.

No, design can be inferred if something resembles something that we know is
designed, or if it looks like the sort of thing that someone would design.

Matt Silberstein

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
In talk.origins I read this message from may...@andrews.edu:

>In article <1998090508...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,


> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:
>
>snip
>

>> Yep. We can recognize design as humans do it because we have
>> prior experience of both what and how humans do things. The
>> SETI project will only find aliens if those aliens happen to
>> do things in the ways that our experience with radio
>> communication makes us recognize properties we know from our
>> own communications.
>
>What if the aliens were broadcasting to us in some kind of code, and we broke
>it? What would be impossible about that?

The question is not whether we can detect some aliens. The question is
whether we can reliably distinguish aliens from not.

>When thinking about hypothetical
>designers, either a motive or a method (or both) is sufficient to make us
>suspect design, with method being preferable, but I don't think they are both
>necessary conditions.

Vince, what does "designed" mean? The best I have ever gotten from
anyone is that some being intended it that way. IOW, it presupposes
some intention on the part of the "actor".

> However, I do feel that a necessary condition for
>suspecting design is that we have one or the other or both. In this case, the
>motive would be "They're trying to tell us they're out there!", and we don't
>need a method.
>


Matt Silberstein
-----------------------------
"Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water!
And east is east, and west is west, and if you take cranberries and stew them
like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.
Now, uh.....Now you tell me what you know."

Julius Marx


Matt Silberstein

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
In talk.origins I read this message from Ivar Ylvisaker
<ylvi...@erols.com>:

[snip]
>
> I see no reason to assume that the aliens would want to encrypt their
>transmissions.
>
Any transmission from an alien is inherently in some code.

>Even if they did and their language was unknown, I suspect that good
>cryptologists (and linguist) could deduce a great deal. He could look for words
>(i.e., repeated patterns). If the signal was a TV signal, a good engineer could
>probably figure out what the transmission format was and view the images.

If they transmitted it the same way we do. If, for example, they do a
compression, then no, none of this will be possible.

> One
>might be able to guess at what kind of transmission was detected, e.g.,
>something equivalent to our broadcast stations. If the aliens were deliberating
>transmitting to contact other civilizations, they would probably include some
>segments that were designed to be easy to interpret. Images would help here.
>
Yes, if they were deliberately doing this we would have a much better
chance. But that is a quite different question from our ability to
automatically detect the designed nature of the transmission.

>If the aliens had technology that was radically better (or different) than ours,
>we probably would have trouble figuring out what was going on. If the
>transmissions were encrypted and the algorithms were very good, it would
>probably be a show stopper. On the other hand, if signals from an alien
>civilization were detected, there would be a lot of interest in and money for
>some very sophisticated decryption equipment.

Compression algorithms are, essentially, encryption algorithms.

Matt Silberstein

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
In talk.origins I read this message from lk...@mit.edu (Loren King):

[snip]


>
>True, although I'm guessing (don't want to speak for Vince here, but
>this is my charitable take) that what was meant is this: if we were to
>receive what we think might be a meaningful signal from another species
>somewhere across the galaxy, although we'd know nothing about the
>species in question, we'd probably make an assumption that they meant
>the message to be as easy as possible to make at least some sense of.
>Thus, assuming something very plausible about the designers' intentions
>(i.e. they built the signal wanting it to be deciphered, or at the very
>least recognized by a different species) will lead us to specific sorts
>of efforts at translation, i.e. looking for references to pulsars of
>known frequency, or other galactic signposts.
>

If this were his argument he would be contradicting himself. The claim
was that we could say things about design without discussing the
intent of the designer.

[snip]

Matt Silberstein

unread,
Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
In talk.origins I read this message from came...@webtv.net (Steve
Sondericker):

>I may regret this, but here goes; I say that a design theory is
>impossible in principle. Any comments?

It is undefined. Certainly we can and do use design in science, we
just know much about the proposed designer. A design theory with
unconstrained unevidenced designers is not science.

Matt Silberstein

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Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
In talk.origins I read this message from may...@andrews.edu:

[snip]


>
>What difference does it make if those machines can't recognize stuff?
>

This may contain a crucial issue. I do not see any reason to believe
that humans have some non-computerizable method of detecting signals
from noise and message from non-message. We have an astounding amount
of biological/cultural experience and tools for finding messages and
signals from other people. But there is no reason to assume these are
universal aspects that these unknown entities will have.

[snip]

Matt Silberstein

unread,
Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
In talk.origins I read this message from may...@andrews.edu:

>In article <MPG.105e8628a...@news.lj.net>,

>> > I may regret this, but here goes; I say that a design theory is
>> > impossible in principle. Any comments?
>> >
>> >

>> I would say that design theory appears to require that we know something
>> is designed in the first place. Design theory seems to have a circular
>> definition and thus useless.
>
>No, design can be inferred if something resembles something that we know is
>designed, or if it looks like the sort of thing that someone would design.
>

IOW, we could detect sufficiently human like designers. IOW, if we
assume some qualities to the designer (like human abilities and
intentions) then we might be able to use design theory, unless, of
course, we are wrong about the designer.

Steve Sondericker

unread,
Sep 9, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/9/98
to
Ivar Ylvisaker:

Jesus making an appearance at a conference is, needless to say, an
extremely unlikely occurence. So in the absence of this sort of
evidence (which in itself would be disputable) what kind of evidence or
argument can be summoned?
I say that finding an indisputable signal of design would prove
only that we have found an instance of design. It may have been
designed by God, humans, a colony of ants, or Q (Star Trek reference).
The Big Question is whether the universe was designed. Since the signal
would be the whole universe, how could anybody tell?


Wesley R. Elsberry

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Sep 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/10/98
to
In article <6t5lpc$ncg$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, <may...@andrews.edu> wrote:
>In article <1998090804...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,

> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

VM>snip

VM>Okay, let's make the analogy a bit more relevant; what if a


VM>rumor started that some of the volumes contained sequences
VM>which were deliberately nonrandom, i.e., they were created
VM>with the intent of not seeming random. Now, that wouldn't
VM>be so difficult to detect, would it? What if the aliens
VM>were broadcasting the digits of pi, or ratio of the mass of
VM>the proton to the electron in binary numbers?

WRE>It wouldn't be that difficult to detect, *but* the
WRE>detection would be based on what we know from our prior
WRE>experience of the properties of random number tables as
WRE>opposed to books with non-random information contained
WRE>therein.

VM>So, our conclusions would be based soley on the structure
VM>of the "message" (the tables), rather than knowledge of the
VM>designers.

We also have the method of radio communication in addition to
the signal content. My point is that what we detect is
something that we already know about from prior experience.
If we and an ETI designer share the same techniques, we can
recognize them.

WRE>I don't think Vince's further speculation is more relevant.

VM>Why is that?

For the reasons I gave below. Vince's speculation is premised
upon cooperative ETI, which is an assumption of facts not in
evidence. With SETI, we do not know for certain that ETI
exists, nor if it does exist, whether it would be cooperative
in sending a communication that may or may not be "easily"
deciphered.

WRE>Certainly, SETI's aims would be served well by postulating
WRE>cooperative ETI, but that isn't the situation that we are
WRE>faced with.

VM>I think that's the whole point of SETI.

Vince *knows* both that ETI exists *and* is cooperative? SETI
is not premised upon "cooperative" ETI. SETI will work fine
for ETI that broadcasts in ignorance of what those
transmissions may mean to other ETI, just as we have been
doing for the past decades. SETI will work fine for arrogant
ETI who couldn't care less who eavesdrops. And perhaps SETI
would work well to find the Vogon announcement of the new
hyperspatial bypass that will necessitate Earth's destruction.
The point here is that cooperation is not a *necessary*
component of detection.

WRE> In the absence of information, we have to take the data
WRE>as it is, not as we wish it could be. ETI may or may not
WRE>exist. If ETI exists, there is no way that we can know
WRE>that such ETI cares to be detected, unless and until we
WRE>find, via *our* recognition routines, something that says
WRE>to us, "Here is a communication, now let's see whether we
WRE>can understand what it says." These are two separate
WRE>activities, and I am pretty much limiting myself to
WRE>addressing the first part, what is assumed for detection
WRE>to happen.

VM>I think they could communicate with us if they wanted, but
VM>the point is really, "Could we detect them without knowing
VM>the details of the civilization?" The answer is obviously
VM>yes.

But that *is not* the question that was the topic here, which
is, "Can we discover completely novel designer/design
relationships reliably using the Dembski Explanatory Filter?"
The answer to that appears to be, "No." Dembski advanced the
SETI project as an example establishing his EF, but under
scrutiny we find that what gets recognized are patterns of
radio communication that we already know about from our own
experience.

WRE>As an aside, much work was being done on automated
WRE>recognition of hand-written ZIP codes on envelopes a few
WRE>years back. Dr. Kamangar of UT Arlington told me then
WRE>that the big problem in such a task is not in deciphering
WRE>the ZIP code. The crucial problem is recognizing which
WRE>piece of an image of an envelope *contains* the ZIP code
WRE>so that that can be passed off to the ZIP recognition
WRE>routines.

VM>I don't think that's really relevant.

WRE>I still like it, but YMMV. I'm saying that *detection* is
WRE>not a simple process even for certain well-defined tasks.
WRE>SETI is not a well-constrained task.

VM>What difference does it make if those machines can't
VM>recognize stuff?

Because we utilize algorithms for detection of interesting
radio communications as well.

WRE>Let's try to invert the SETI process. Postulate that
WRE>sentient aliens exist out there. Under what circumstances
WRE>will they recognize *our* existence?

VM>Ivan has been suggesting that TV signals could be broadcast.

WRE>Ivar (not Ivan, as he notes in another message to me) is
WRE>suggesting that the TV signals we have *already* broadcast
WRE>may be decipherable by an ETI.

VM>Why couldn't it work in reverse?

I didn't say it could not. What, though, are the
circumstances in which ETI recognition of human communication
via broadcast TV could happen?

WRE>However, there is a set of assumptions which lies behind
WRE>that statement. Would Vince care to take a stab at
WRE>enumerating them?

VM>Perhaps Wesley would care to take a stab at it, since Wesley
VM>is the one who thinks they exist, and Wesley is the one who
VM>brought them up.

If Vince feels that there are no circumstances under which
ETI could interpret TV broadcasts from us, I won't trouble to
dissuade him. This seems at variance with his prior stances,
though.

--
Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
Visit the Online Zoologists page (http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/elsberry)
Email to this account is dumped to /dev/null, whose Spam appetite is capacious.

"Desolate landscape\Storybook bliss" - BOC


may...@andrews.edu

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Sep 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/10/98
to
In article <3601c597...@nntp.ix.netcom.com>,

mat...@ix.netcom.com (Matt Silberstein) wrote:
> In talk.origins I read this message from may...@andrews.edu:
>
> [snip]
> >
> >What difference does it make if those machines can't recognize stuff?
> >
> This may contain a crucial issue. I do not see any reason to believe
> that humans have some non-computerizable method of detecting signals
> from noise and message from non-message. We have an astounding amount
> of biological/cultural experience and tools for finding messages and
> signals from other people. But there is no reason to assume these are
> universal aspects that these unknown entities will have.

Except that it might be true, in which case we get to talk with aliens.

may...@andrews.edu

unread,
Sep 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/10/98
to
In article <3603c6a6...@nntp.ix.netcom.com>,
mat...@ix.netcom.com (Matt Silberstein) wrote:
> In talk.origins I read this message from came...@webtv.net (Steve
> Sondericker):

>
> >I may regret this, but here goes; I say that a design theory is
> >impossible in principle. Any comments?
>
> It is undefined. Certainly we can and do use design in science, we
> just know much about the proposed designer. A design theory with
> unconstrained unevidenced designers is not science.

If the designers are constrained but unevidenced, or unconstrained but
evidenced, it is science, though. In some cases the only evidence for the
designers may be the thing which we're trying to explain.

Wesley R. Elsberry

unread,
Sep 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/10/98
to
In article <6t5l3u$mps$1...@nnrp1.dejanews.com>, <may...@andrews.edu> wrote:
>In article <1998090805...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com>,

> "Wesley R. Elsberry" <w...@cx33978-a.dt1.sdca.home.com> wrote:

VM>snip

WRE>For the purposes of scientific inquiry, Vince, does it
WRE>make more sense to attribute a phenomenon as due to
WRE>intelligent design as per Dembski's Explanatory Filter, or
WRE>as due to unknown causes as in my explanatory filter, when
WRE>known natural processes, random processes, and known
WRE>intelligent design processes are eliminated?

VM>You were right that Dembski's filter is rather like
VM>God-of-the-gaps-ism, although it could be revised to fix
VM>this problem (i.e., make sure the phenomenon has been
VM>extremely well-studied).

The extent of study does not affect the problem of the false
dichotomy in the final choice of Dembski's EF, it just reduces
how often that false dichotomy is encountered. I don't think
that changes the God-of-the-gaps character; in fact, I'd say
that's an up-front shrinkage in the size of the gaps that God
gets to inhabit under Dembski's EF.

VM>Dembski repeatedly overlooks the
VM>fact that there is abundant evidence for human beings,
VM>though; if there were no evidence for us, "we" would be far
VM>less likely to invoke design in the instances he cites; so
VM>I think your filter is preferable. But I don't think design
VM>can be eliminated as "meaningless," either; it's just very
VM>vague.

I don't think I've used the word "meaningless" in this
discussion. My point is really fairly narrow, and concerns
the claim that Dembski's Explanatory Filter is a generic
Intelligent Design detector that permits no false positives.
I don't see how that claim can be maintained.

--
Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
Visit the Online Zoologists page (http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/elsberry)
Email to this account is dumped to /dev/null, whose Spam appetite is capacious.

"Two doors locked and windows barred\One door's left to take you in" - BOC


Matt Silberstein

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Sep 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/10/98
to
In talk.origins I read this message from may...@andrews.edu:

>In article <3601c597...@nntp.ix.netcom.com>,


> mat...@ix.netcom.com (Matt Silberstein) wrote:
>> In talk.origins I read this message from may...@andrews.edu:
>>
>> [snip]
>> >
>> >What difference does it make if those machines can't recognize stuff?
>> >
>> This may contain a crucial issue. I do not see any reason to believe
>> that humans have some non-computerizable method of detecting signals
>> from noise and message from non-message. We have an astounding amount
>> of biological/cultural experience and tools for finding messages and
>> signals from other people. But there is no reason to assume these are
>> universal aspects that these unknown entities will have.
>
>Except that it might be true, in which case we get to talk with aliens.
>

We *might* be able to recognize and even translate the message anyway.
Our ability does not depend on the intellectual vitalism you suggest.
I am certainly willing to make a significant effort trying to look for
the messages. But that is a quite different question from whether
there is some magical ability to do this.

Matt Silberstein

unread,
Sep 10, 1998, 3:00:00 AM9/10/98
to
In talk.origins I read this message from may...@andrews.edu:

>In article <3603c6a6...@nntp.ix.netcom.com>,


> mat...@ix.netcom.com (Matt Silberstein) wrote:
>> In talk.origins I read this message from came...@webtv.net (Steve
>> Sondericker):
>>
>> >I may regret this, but here goes; I say that a design theory is
>> >impossible in principle. Any comments?
>>
>> It is undefined. Certainly we can and do use design in science, we
>> just know much about the proposed designer. A design theory with
>> unconstrained unevidenced designers is not science.
>
>If the designers are constrained but unevidenced, or unconstrained but
>evidenced, it is science, though. In some cases the only evidence for the
>designers may be the thing which we're trying to explain.
>

No, until they are constrained by evidence that we have, it is not
science. You are presenting Peter's idea, that he can propose some
naturalistic alien, about whom we have not a single piece of evidence,
and somehow be doing science.

The constraints can't be arbitrary, they must come from the evidence.
I can certainly propose an alien that lives at least 1,000,000 years.
I can propose an alien that can understand all human languages but
French. Those are constraints, but not ones that comes from evidence.