Sunday, August 28, 2005

Doh. I hate it when that happens:

When I wrote about ID logically pointing in the direction of super-advanced natural alien visitors as the "designers" as much as if not more so than the God of the Bible, I thought I was making an original point. Compare what I wrote with Michael Shermer's nearly identical thoughts on the Huffington Post (scroll down to the second half of his post).

Of course I wrote my post before Shermer. But then again, Shermer was just reiterating a point he had argued in 2002.

One more analogy may help make the point. In my January, 2002, Scientific American column, entitled "Shermer's Last Law," I modified Arthur C. Clarke's famous "Third Law" ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic") thusly: Any sufficiently advanced Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence is indistinguishable from God. God is typically described by Western religions as omniscient and omnipotent. Since we fall far from the mark on these traits, how could we possibly distinguish a God who has them absolutely, from an ETI who, relative to us, has them in copious amounts? Thus, we would be unable to distinguish between absolute and relative omniscience and omnipotence. And if God is only relatively more knowing and powerful than us, then by definition God would be an ETI!

Therefore, when Intelligent Design Theorists use science to go in search of their God, what they will find (if they find anything) is an alien being capable of engineering DNA, cells, complex organisms, planets, stars, galaxies, and even universes. If we can engineer genes, clone mammals, and manipulate stem cells with science and technologies developed in only the last half century, think of what an ETI could do with, say, 10,000 years of such science and technology. For an ETI a million years more advanced than us, engineering the creation of planets and stars will be doable. And if universes are created out of collapsing black holes, which some cosmologists think is highly likely, it is not inconceivable that a sufficiently advanced ETI could create universes at will.

Since IDers say they make no claim on who or what the intelligent designer might be, I contend that if they continue to try to reconcile their religion with science the end result can only be the discovery of an extra-terrestrial intelligence and the naturalization of their deity.

What probably happened was I saw Shermer on TV a number of years ago, on CSPAN or something along those lines. I listened to his point and pondered it and then forgot about it. Then, years later, pondering ID, a clever theory comes to me, thinking it to be original, when in reality it had been sitting in my subconscious all these years.

Or I could have "independently" come to these conclusions on my own. It's amazing sometimes how like-minded folks can "think along the same track" or along similar tracks and get from point A to point B, using more of less the same argument, coincidentally.

And as Will Wilkinson points out, Shermer's idea is really just "an updated version of Philo's objections in Hume's Dialogues."

I think this also relates to the IP debates that Sandefur and Kuznicki have had. I know as a musician and a tune-writer, coming up with original material can be very hard. You search your mind for original ideas, you come up with something thinking it all your own, and then, alas, realize that what you thought was yours came from somewhere else (subconscious and inadvertent "rip off"). This is something that songwriters do all the time. George Harrison got sued for it (his "My Sweet Lord" subconsciously ripped off "He's So Fine").

I've learned that if this occurs, it's best to realize exactly where your idea comes from, and then, if you want to hold onto your creation, tweak the idea to make it enough "your own" and distinguishable from where it came. Someone famous, I think it was Stravinsky said, "good artists borrow, great artists steal." And what he meant by that was, if you "borrow" something, it doesn't belong to you; you have to eventually give it back. But if you "steal," you make it your own. The great artists are talented enough that they can take an idea from someone else and make it seem as though it were original to them.

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