This is the second book in a row for which I’ve a had a sort of post-script, but in their book, Into The Cool, Schneider and Sagan mention the SETI argument for God, and I just wanted to talk about that for a moment.
SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) scans the skies listening for non-random patterns of electromagnetic emission. The discovery of such a “non-random pattern”—even a simple one— would send the world into a tizzy. Naturally, we would assume that a non-random signal stood a high chance of being a sign of intelligent life somewhere out there.
If we found even a simple pattern… like a signal that could be read as “Line,” “Two Lines,” “Triangle,” “Square,” “Pentagon,” et cetera, then we would figure, Wow! Someone obviously put this together!
How then, goes the argument, can we ignore all the non-random patterns permeating our globe? Exactly how complex and wonderful a signal, and how many of them for how long, do we actually need to be hit over the head with before we recognize them as signs of intelligent design?
You know, some people believe that Mankind exhibits signs of intelligent life— and yet even we have not yet constructed a single mouse-trap that is more amazing than the workings of a mouse. And far more complex than a series of simple geometric figures are the genomes of animals.
One of the best examples I’ve heard along this line of reasoning is this classic: imagine walking through the desert and finding, there in the sand, a exquisitely crafted gold watch. Wouldn’t you assume that someone had made that watch? Or would you assume that the sand just accidentally fashioned all those perfectly inter-fitting pieces and then put them together into beautiful working order?
Now imagine walking through the Universe, arguably a beautifully painted desert of its own type —and then suddenly, Wham!– you come across Earth’s biosphere—the greatest watch ever made. Does the place not positively reek of design?
Take it away, Shakes:
“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world!”