RE: Design detection and minimum description length

Date: Tue Dec 03 2002 - 10:09:23 EST

  • Next message: Darryl Maddox: "Re: Re:"

    Iain wrote:

    [major cut] to Dembski's quote:
    > "The SETI researchers [in the film Contact] who inferred that an
    > extraterrestrial intelligence was communicating with them needed to
    > know about prime numbers before they could ascertain that an incoming
    > sequence of radio signals representing an ascending sequence of prime
    > numbers was in fact just that and therefore due to another
    > intelligence. A design inference is one intelligence inferring the
    > activity of another intelligence by the judicious exploitation of
    > background knowledge".
    > I really can't (sorry, Glenn), see any problem with this, and how one
    > can go from this to saying that the method has failed because the
    > researchers had to be told it was designed.

    I guess this gets back to the point I basically
    failed to express clearly.

    It would depend mainly on the intention so of the

    (1) If it is a coded message in the first place
    because of war, trade secrets or some other reason,
    there would be few ways to know if it was or was not
    an intercepted alien transmission.

    (2) If the party transmitting doesn't know (or
    doesn't care) if the signal is intercepted and
    has made no effort to hide it aside from various
    parity operations to insure integrity of the signal,
    then maybe you could detect a pattern, but maybe not.
    For example, if it is something akin to a
    broad-band transmission, then the multiplexing as
    well as the lack of relevant context could render
    the transmission essentially unitelligible.

    (3) If the aliens _want_ to be heard, and are making
    a lot of effort to be heard and understood, then unless
    their concept of "simple" is quite abstract from our
    own, they would probably chose something pretty
    mundane to be sure that it wasn't a fluke. Probably
    some boring and repetitive carrier with a periodic
    (regular) shift to some statement that contains
    information (possibly primes, square roots, etc.
    but not limited to that). Probably the best thing
    would be a set of instructions that could be used
    to construct an interpreter. Of course, it would
    have to be a cleverly designed interpreter because
    it would take a lot of time to transmit simple

    Although there are obvious exceptions, usually with
    a language, a person desires to be heard. So when
    one is confronted with a foreign language they don't
    know, they start by very primative sign language.
    It seems to me that some extraterrestrial who _wants_
    to be heard would consider that fact in a transmission.

    So, finally, whereas ultimate determination that the
    transmission is from an intelligent agent does require
    an obvious exchange between two parties, if any effort
    at all was made to insure that transmission was even
    remotely comprehendable to a third party, one should
    be able to detect design in the transmission.

    by Grace alone we proceed,

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