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One Last Word on Alfred Russel Wallace, Intelligent Design — and Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Michael Shermer

Concluding his contributions to our debate on Alfred Russel Wallace and intelligent design (“Hyper-evolutionism, Scientism, and the Mythical Wallace of Michael Shermer“), Michael Flannery objects to my use of the term “Intelligent Design creationist” and offers in its stead Stephen Meyer’s definition of ID as the theory that “holds that there are telltale features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by an intelligent cause — that is, by the conscious choice of a rational agent — rather than an undirected process.” Flannery then punctuates the point by adding: “And that’s it — no less and certainly no more.”
Certainly no more? Okay. Could ID be a super-advanced engineer capable of creating new universes out of collapsing black holes from other universes? Could this designing force be nothing more than a force of nature that creates complex things out of simple things by adding energy into a system that triggers emergence by nothing more than an uncaring and inanimate force? Do you believe that this conscious rational agent could be an extra-terrestrial intelligence from one of the gazillion planets in our galaxy who long long ago planted the seed of life here on Earth? Because such scenarios as these would be the most you can possibly conclude from your statement, no less and certainly no more. No jealous god Yahweh. No Virgin Mary. No Jesus. None of the virtues and vices of the conscious rational agent you and nearly all of your Intelligent Design colleagues believe in as the creator of the universe, the Father Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, etc. etc.
I am willing to be shown evidence that such a creative force as defined by Stephen Meyer exists in our galaxy or cosmos, because if we ever do encounter an extraterrestrial intelligence it will not be even remotely at our current cultural and technological level, but likely millions of years ahead of us. Given what we have accomplished in a mere few centuries or even decades (from the Wright Brothers to the moon in 66 years, from the discovery of DNA to genetic engineering in even less time), any ETI we might encounter would easily be able to engineer life, planets, stars, and possibly even universes. What would we call such an intelligence? If we know the technology behind the intelligence we call it an ET. If we don’t, we call it God. Any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence would be indistinguishable from God.