Philosophy of Religion An Anthology SIXTH EDITION page 587
A detailed explanation and justification of the complexity-specification criterion is technical and can be found in The Design Inference. Nevertheless, the basic idea is straightforward and easily illustrated. Consider how the radio astronomers in the movie Contact detected an extraterrestrial intelligence. This movie, based on a novel by Carl Sagan, was an enjoyable piece of propaganda for the SETI research program—the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. To make the movie interesting, the SETI researchers in Contact actually did find an extraterrestrial intelligence (the nonfictional SETI program has yet to be so lucky). How, then, did the SETI researchers in Contact convince themselves that they had found an extraterrestrial intelligence? To increase their chances of finding an extraterrestrial intelligence, SETI researchers monitor millions of radio signals from outer space. Many natural objects in space produce radio waves (e.g., pulsars). Looking for signs of design among all these naturally produced radio signals is like looking for a needle in a haystack. To sift through the haystack, SETI researchers run the signals they monitor through computers programmed with pattern-matchers. So long as a signal doesn’t match one of the preset patterns, it will pass through the pattern-matching sieve (and that even if it has an intelligent source). If, on the other hand, it does match one of these patterns, then, depending on the pattern matched, the SETI researchers may have cause for celebration. The SETI researchers in Contact did find a signal worthy of celebration, namely the following:
The SETI researchers in Contact received this signal as a sequence of 1,126 beats and pauses, where 1s correspond to beats and 0s to pauses.