Isn't an ordered universe evidence of an underlying intelligence?

SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) is a reputable scientific project that has even been endorsed by organisations such as 'Skeptical Enquirer magazine’. They analyse radio signals from space in the hope of finding one which follows a pattern (the assumption being that if they can find one which does then there must be extraterrestrial life behind it) So far all the signals they’ve analysed have been effectively random however if they discover a signal that was not then most scientists would see this as evidence for intelligent life. If a radio signal which follows a pattern has intelligence behind it then why doesn’t the universe as a whole, that follows mathematical patterns and is ordered, have intelligence behind it?

Posted: February 6th 2008


I think your argument is a hard one to make.

I agree that the universe is a deterministic place – that science has been able to develop models that that can be used to describe how the universe behaves.

But that ability is the basis for a naturalistic view of the world, as opposed to a supernaturalistic view of the world, where a god or gods interfere with the universe in ways that that are not naturalistic.

That view is at odds with the majority of theists out there, and seems to only be in harmony with the deistic viewpoint – where god created the universe (ie the laws and rules that run it), and then it develops and unfolds based on those rules.

Atheists and deists have few real differences in opinion, though I personally think that it’s hard to speculate on what caused a universe to come into being, with what little we know. I’m not sure that it’s possible for humans to ever know what caused the universe to come into being.

So, anyway, unless you’re a deist, I don’t think your argument takes you where you want to.

Posted: February 10th 2008

See all questions answered by Eric_PK

SmartLX www

SETI are not simply looking for signals that are non-random. If they were, they’d be swamped with them.

Consider a pulsar, a collapsed star that was just small enough not to collapse all the way and become a black hole. It spins very fast, in some cases once every few seconds, and emits strong radiation from its poles. Some pulsars’ poles are tilted off-axis so that they point at Earth once every revolution, so we can detect the radiation as a regular pulse (hence the name “pulsar”). It’s like a cosmic metronome. This signal is not random in the least, but it’s not due to any kind of intelligence; it’s just because a heavy object is spinning in space with nothing to slow it down. Other phenomena create more complex non-random signals, but they have their own natural explanations.

A good example of what SETI researchers would regard as a sign of intelligence is in the movie Contact. The pulse received in that movie breaks up into sequences matching the prime numbers. As far as we know there’s no way for that to occur naturally. Some intelligence would have to understand mathematics to pick the prime numbers out of the set of integers.

Intelligence is not signified by regularity, or even by complexity; it is often signified by artificiality. Many people regard the eye as an example of intelligent design, but as you look at the eye of a foetus as it grows into a baby you can see how it is built up cell by cell. There are several theories as to how its structure developed gradually, with all parts forming in parallel and every change benefiting the eye’s owner.

If you look at a painting, however, you really do know there was a painter. Not because it’s beatiful or intricate, but because the paint has dyes from different plants which don’t grow anywhere near each other, the canvas is woven from bleached threads of plant matter or finely spun animal hair, the wood of the frame has been cut, straightened, smoothed and chemically treated, and it’s either been glued together with a substance not found in the original tree (or forest), or assembled using nails or staples die-cast from molten metal definitely not found in the original tree. Try managing all of that naturally.

That’s the difference. If you want to find intelligence, ignore regularity and ignore complexity. Look for artificiality.

Posted: February 10th 2008

See all questions answered by SmartLX

flagellant www

SETI and the search for intelligent life in The Universe are quite separate questions from the nature of The Universe.

The order that is found in The Universe – and remember that there is some disorder, too – is simply evidence of the nature of The Universe.

Posted: February 9th 2008

See all questions answered by flagellant


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