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Friday, February 22, 2008

III. The role of intelligent design in science

Intelligent design plays an important role in at least three areas of science, including intelligent design detection, reverse engineering, and applied design (e.g., human intelligence applied to experimental design). In this section, I shall limit the discussion to the role of intelligent design detection in science. Intelligent design detection can be defined as follows:
Intelligent design detection: the discipline of examining an effect and determining if it is an example of intelligent design.

An area of science where intelligent design detection is front and center is in the SETI Institute's ongoing search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. Radio and optical signals from deep space are monitored and analyzed to determine if the signal may have come from an extra terrestrial intelligence or not. Intelligent design detection is also important for archeology, where a distinction must be made between artifacts and effects due to natural processes. For example, ground penetrating radar can be used to search for ancient building sites and artifacts. The results must be continually analyzed to determine if what is being seen by radar is the result of mindless natural processes, or the product of intelligent design. Intelligent design detection is also central to forensic science, which concerns itself with whether the crime was carried out by an intelligent agent, in this case, human, or was due to natural causes. With advances in genetics and cell biology, and the discovery of molecular machines, molecular computers and functional sequence complexity encoded in the genomes of life, intelligent design detection has now become necessary in biology. Furthermore, the J.Craig Venter Institute's creation of a synthetic M. genitalium genome presents us with a genome that is known to have been built by intelligent design, and that contains five 'watermarks'.1 Strictly speaking, it is the 'watermarks' that are known to be a result of intelligent design. Some have asserted that intelligent design has no place in science, but of course intelligent design detection is firmly entrenched and essential to SETI, archeology, and forensic science. Those who insisted that ID has no place in biology will have to admit that now that synthetic genomes are being constructed, with 'watermarks', intelligent design detection is now an issue in biology as well. The job of science is to come up with a general, scientific approach to intelligent design detection. One possible approach that has the potential of being general enough to be applied to SETI, archeology, forensic science, and biology is suggested by the Intelligence Hypothesis: examine the functional information required to produce the effect and then to decide if it is more likely than not that intelligence was required to produce that degree of functional information.

Next: IV. Functional Information


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