It’s a familiar charge for anybody well versed in the ID literature: ID explanations ought to be rejected because they are “science stoppers.” (See, for example, Karl Giberson and Donald Yerxa, Species of Origins: America’s Search for a Creation Story (Rowman and Littlefield, 2002), 225-26.)
How’s that exactly? The idea is that once you invoke intelligence as an explanation, you undermine the grounds to understand the underlying mechanisms behind the phenomenon.
I’ve addressed this topic before. (See, for example, “Intelligent design: The ultimate science stopper?” and “In search of an arsonist: On testing for intelligent design.”) In this article I want to return to the topic by engaging the ongoing debate about a star (known as “Tabby’s Star”) some distance from earth which has demonstrated inexplicable shifts in luminosity. All known natural explanations have been exhausted, leading some astronomers to posit that the shifts in light could be created by a Dyson Sphere, the product of a highly advanced alien civilization.
In other words, non-human intelligence.
Perhaps someone should tell those astronomers that appeals to intelligence apparently aren’t allowed. Not least because the minute you appeal to intelligence to explain a phenomenon, you allegedly stop further inquiry.
Except that you don’t stop further inquiry. As Sarah Kaplan points out in her article “The weirdest star in the sky is acting up again,”
“the teeny, tiny incredibly unlikely possibility that something is out there means that astronomers can’t stop talking about Tabby’s Star. And, regardless of the source, the dimming is worth understanding.”
Intelligence gets scientists talking. It motivates them to understand the phenomenon. So you see, invoking intelligence doesn’t halt investigation. Rather, if anything, it spurs on investigation to understand better the nature of the intelligence and the phenomenon it produced.