Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is SETI Science?

This question came to mind when reading a reference made in passing by Michael Egnor at Evolution News & Views, a Discovery Institute blog. Almost two years ago, Scott Carson, of An Examined Life, and I had a go-around (ends here) about whether intelligent design (ID) constitutes science (note I do not refer to the movement called Intelligent Design).

I admit to having taken an apparently weasel-way out by using Thomas Kuhn's framework for normal science and noting the derivative nature of ID allows us to ignore the broader question of what science is, i.e., because the primary work of ID is attempting to classify instances of evolutionary anomalies with respect to the neo-Darwinist mechanism for evolution it falls under the umbrella of the paradigm of neo-Darwinism, which everyone agrees is science.

Can the same be said for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence? The Center for SETI Research would have us believe it is, as would most of mainstream science, including the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. It seems, however, to have the same kind of falsifiability problems and, arguably, similar utility shortcomings as ID. It is clearly a scientific endeavor, but is it science? I am just not going to buy that SETI is science because scientists say that is what scientists do.

Of course, I'm not really looking to start another debate here about what science is. I'm just wondering about SETI...

[submitted by e-mail]

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