Pigeon Code Illustrates Principles of Intelligent Design - Evolution News & Views

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Pigeon Code Illustrates Principles of Intelligent Design

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If you can read the following message, the British GCHQ could use your help:

AOAKN HVPKD FNFJW YIDDC RQXSR DJHFP GOVFN MIAPX PABUZ WYYNP CMPNW HJRZH NLXKG MEMKK ONOIB AKEEQ WAOTA RBQRH DJOFM TPZEH LKXGH RGGHT JRZCQ FNKTQ KLDTS FQIRW AOAKN 27 1525/6

The World War II-era code was found on the leg of a long-dead pigeon, as PhysOrg reports. A retired probation officer found it attached to the bird's skeleton while renovating his house. Intelligence officials at the GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) admit they are stumped. Without the codebook, they can't crack it.

A GCHQ spokesman said: "Although it is disappointing that we cannot yet read the message brought back by a brave carrier pigeon, it is a tribute to the skills of the wartime code-makers that, despite working under severe pressure, they devised a code that was indecipherable both then and now."
Why did they immediately infer an intelligently designed message and not gibberish? Even without the clue that it was found in a canister attached to a carrier pigeon's foot, intelligence experts would have ways to determine the answer. One clue is the spacing of the array into columns of five letters. Another could come from letter frequency analysis, to see if certain letters appear more frequently than expected by chance. And even without knowing about World War II code-making, a third clue would be knowing that our uniform experience with codes leads us to infer that such arrangements of symbols are typically the product of a mind.

Some 250,000 pigeons were used as military messengers during the war. That provides two more examples of intelligent design: the designed plan by humans to use pigeons as messengers, and the design of the bird itself. When you see multiple systems interacting for the function of heavier-than-air powered flight, you have good reason to infer the activity of intelligent causation, rather than an unguided natural cause like natural selection.

That argument, by the way, will be explored in detail in Illustra Media's next nature documentary due out in 2013. For a bit of a preview, see here.

Image credit: Wikipedia.