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