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Alien Hypothesis

Suppose humans someday master interplanetary travel and discover a world that once had a million species but now it is lifeless. And let's say a huge crater is evidence that a meteor wiped out life on the planet.

The planet's backstory is that a civilization of advanced aliens from another galaxy seeded the planet with life a billion years ago. The seeds came in the form of a genetic code that was engineered to survive the harsh conditions of the lifeless world and even alter the planet's atmosphere over time. The aliens considered this project a safety valve for the day their own planet would become uninhabitable. The aliens seeded as many planets as they could reach with their technology. They had a million years to seed other planets before their home world was destroyed by its sun, so they spread a lot of seeds. They hoped that some percentage of the seeded planets would produce life. Unlike humans, they planned ahead.

Some of the seeds were designed to become bacteria and plant life, to serve as food for later species, and to regulate the atmosphere with the necessary balance of gasses. Other seeds were enclosed in protective capsules and programmed to release when the environment became hospitable, however long that might take.

The aliens engineered the genetic code in their creatures to produce variations in future generations the same way a car company might build several car models on the same chassis, using the same raw materials. Much of the engineering know-how and design ideas were shared among models. For example, most of the creatures might have two eyes and one brain, similar to the way auto makers design most cars with two headlights and one engine. Some designs simply work better.

The human explorers on this planet have no way of knowing that the aliens designed a dozen basic models of creatures suited for different environments. Some were designed for living in water, and some were designed for flight. Others were designed for cold climates while some were suited for warm weather, or a mix of both. At the planet's peak, each of the million species descended from the dozen original models.

The human explorers discover some fossilized bones and start digging around for more. They soon realize that useful fossils are hard to find. Still, the persistent humans manage to find examples from all twelve model lines. And they find lots of variation within models. For example, according to fossil records a creature the humans name the Graxil existed as a small creature in early times, but a larger version of the Graxil walked the planet near the time of the meteor strike. There are other cosmetic differences between the original and the newer Graxil too, such as cranium shape and hoof size. But it's obvious to anyone that the older Graxil and the more modern version are somehow related.

Regular readers of this blog are way ahead of me by this point. You know I'll say that Earth might be one of the planets seeded by aliens. One would expect any sufficiently advanced aliens with foresight of their own planet's demise to make plans for the future. If humans survive long enough, we'll surely seed other planets too. It's the logical thing to do. And if it's true that the universe is so large that other life surely exists, the odds are that any planet with life is a seeded planet and not one of the few that evolved entirely by chance. I would think that for every planet that evolved naturally to include advanced civilizations, a thousand planets were started by alien seeds.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we humans like to force competing ideas into a binary model. We're just wired that way. In the evolution debate, our two options for explaining human existence are limited to God versus nature. All I'm suggesting is that a third option (aliens) should be in the mix.

The only logical way to take aliens out of the debate is if we know there is no life elsewhere, or we know it's impossible for an advanced species to seed other planets. None of that is knowable. The absence of evidence for aliens is not evidence of absence.

I realize that the alien hypothesis simply pushes back the question of how the original alien life forms came into being. But for any particular world with life, such as Earth, the alien seed hypothesis is a legitimate option. It fits all of the evidence and even helps to explain the hardest-to-fathom leaps in evolution.

We also can't rule out the possibility that our reality is entirely imagined, in which case nothing is evolving but thoughts. We might be nothing but a computer program created by a long dead civilization that wanted to maintain some sort of record of its existence in case aliens discover the computer floating in space. Perhaps our so-called lives are nothing but the program running through its history loop.

By my count there are three non-God explanations for the observations used to support evolution. We have the traditional evolution model, the alien seed model, and the computer simulation (imagined reality) model. Interestingly, the explanation that is almost universally favored among skeptics is the one that paints humans as the most special. According to evolution theory, we humans are so awesome that we essentially created ourselves from nothing but primordial goo, like wizards that refuse to die.

I will stipulate for the record that evolution is a fact, having met all of the tests of science. I say that because my experience is that this sort of topic gets pulled out of context. My only point here is that one should be suspicious when there are multiple explanations for something and we favor the one that makes us feel most special. We should also be suspicious when any debate gets polarized into two camps. That usually means other ideas won't be taken seriously. This is a good example. Although in this case it's probably a good idea to ignore anything I say.

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Jun 26, 2012
Here's my tow cents about the topic.

Nice post, but I think that, in the end, it doesn't really matter.

The beauty of evolution theory is that it doesn't need a creator of any kind. Even if we evolved from seeds that aliens planted, evolution theory is still the best explanation of how these aliens came into being. At present, there is no evidence that we're seeded, but if it ever came up (like in Ridley Scott's Prometheus) it would just modify the theory a tiny bit.

Until' the moment the evidence of aliens' seed comes up, we might just as well go without involving aliens, don't we?
Jun 25, 2012
To be honest, I don't care how life started. If only I could meet a different sentient being...
That is the only reason I wish humans could live for hundreds of years. I'd like to see us travel amongst the stars and wave at the little green men. :D
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 20, 2012
I can see the movie trailer now...
"In a world where confusion and disgust reign, a large alien probe appears in the sky and shoots its life starting seed all over the face of the earth. Shortages of raincoats exist because of paranoid straight males. Religious authorities are not amused when the word GOD is seen in the patterns of the alien probe."
Jun 20, 2012
[Like creationism, your version of Intelligent Design isn't testable or nullable...]

It can be tested with sufficient technology - for example if we search space for left-over seed packets, or can analyze life on other planets looking for design similarities. Like proton decay we can't ever rule it out completely, but that doesn't mean we don't search for proton decay.
Jun 20, 2012
[[A hypothesis that can't be tested should be ignored.]

...says the guy who accepts a scientific theory that rests upon hypotheses that haven't (or even can't) be tested.]

What scientific theory do you think I accept? Evolution as a process can certainly be tested and has been.
Jun 20, 2012
Wow. Thanks for replying in my post personally, Scott. I think that's a first for me. Unfortunately, I think you accidentally replied to someone else in my post, as I can't understand how your reply relates to my comment...
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 20, 2012

I go with your nr. 3:
- We are the byproduct of some other process, an accident with no real purpose

Not very spectacular, but it fits the "what is most likely" test.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 20, 2012
[Occam's Razor is !$%*!$%*! In practice, the simplest explanation is the one you already decided is true. -- Scott]
No scientists worth their salt say that some explanation or other is the "true" one. But often journalists twist scientists' statements that way, which may explain your point of view.

Even for politically charged topics like global warming, the question is never "Is it true?" but "Is the evidence good enough to justify this ot that action?".
Jun 19, 2012
[I've never seen another shirt like the one I am wearing right now. Is it reasonable to assume the manufacturer only made one because I have no evidence to the contrary? - Scott]

No, but it should nudge you in that direction.

Say you reach into a bag of M&M's and pull out a brown M&M. Is that evidence that the bag contains no red ones? What if you repeat 100 times and get a brown every time? Obviously the answer changes from "probably not" to "almost certainly" somewhere between 1 and 100, but at no time is the answer either a definite yes or no. The proper quantitative treatment requires stuff like the estimation of prior probabilities which can get quite complicated. Google up 'Bayesian Statistics' if you're interested.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 19, 2012
[A hypothesis that can't be tested should be ignored.]

...says the guy who accepts a scientific theory that rests upon hypotheses that haven't (or even can't) be tested.

Jun 19, 2012
The people who followed Columbus to the new world seemed to fall into approximately three categories: Those who wanted to rape the Americas of silver and gold, the settlers who wanted to emigrate, and the priests who wanted to convert the natives to Catholicism.

On a galactic scale, we are not seeing alien settlers, probably because DNA has a relatively short shelf life. And unless they're being real sneaky, we're not aware of alien miners stripping precious metals from our solar system.

However, information is cheap to broadcast across the galaxy and there are probably more effective ways of sending info than we've even dreamed of. Who's to say that the planets mentioned in Scientology and Mormonism aren't based on true planets that actually exist? Why wouldn't alien priests 50 light years away try to save some souls? Couldn't they be just as nutty as us?

Jun 19, 2012
What if it's much easier to seed other planets than we realize? What if you can shoot scalpel-like nano-lasers at far-off interplanetary gas clouds to create Earth-like DNA, then use another laser to push the finished product in a certain direction?

Say that many other civilizations have done this at some point. They may or may not have expected these life seeds to terraform other worlds, but they definitely expected them to evolve. Therefore, there's the expectation that their progeny will be "fit" and will survive. Taking this expectation a step further, why not include a genetic capability to kill off any existing life they find, sort of like giving smallpox-infected blankets to the Indians?

So then eons later, what you'd have in any given galaxy is an all-out life seed war. Entire planets could be shedding spores, while evolving sophisticated immune systems to guard against enemy alien life seeds, arriving either accidentally or by intelligent means.

Maybe billions of years ago the Earth was populated by happy, shiny silicon people, but then a carbon-based alien life seed managed to penetrate the planetary immune system and establish itself like a weed, going on to wipe out the native silicons. The oxygen-rich atmosphere we enjoy today may be an engineered immune system against a counterattack.

On the other hand, maybe the war is going on slowly in front of our eyes, decendents of seeds from an Animal planet battling seeds from a Plant planet.

Jun 19, 2012
I agree completely with the statement "evolution is a fact, having met all of the tests of science". However Scott also said this: "I realize that the alien hypothesis simply pushes back the question of how the original alien life forms came into being."

A lot of "evolution and big bang, therefore atheism" folks ignore the fact that as much as you can explain how one thing led to another thing by its own devices, you cannot explain where the FIRST thing came from with science. You either have to leave it as unexplained or put in something that functions outside of science and natural laws.
Jun 19, 2012
A hypothesis that can't be tested should be ignored. The computer simulation probably can't be tested, and the alien seeding theory can't be tested until we have interplanetary probes (to see more examples).

The alien seeding would have to have been done before 3.5 billion years ago, which makes it less likely that there were alien civilizations to do it (there were far fewer heavy elements back then to make planets).

Alien seeding done to a planet with existing life would probably be eaten pretty quickly, though maybe some of the weird bacteria we have are survivors of earlier attempts at seeding.

If your theory is true, then maybe we periodically get seeding attempts being made, and they could be detected.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 19, 2012

Re: your response to my earlier post.

How droll.

You are incorrect, sir. Perhaps your understanding of Occam's Razor (and philosophy in general) is as lacking as the paragraph in question.


[I wonder why there aren't more rich philosophers. -- Scott]
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 19, 2012
Thank you, Scott.
I've been having a rather dull day and I needed one of these again just to remind me I shouldn't take people as seriously as they take themselves (or myself either!)
Jun 19, 2012
We humans have no reason to feel special because of evolution. Biologist E.O. Wilson said: "If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos." I believe that we'll eventually recognize that the existence of life is unavoidable outcome of the fundamental physical and chemical laws of the universe in which we live. That we're here to contemplate that fact is a case of observer bias.
Jun 19, 2012
I still see God as the most likely creator. Evolution fits into God's creation like software into a computer. Everytime I hear scientists speak about life and evolution they do it in the context of a computer programmer or an engineer.
If that's the angle from which we speak then it seems to me that our creator has to stand outside of space and time to be a viable answer.
When I look at the universe, whether inward through a microscope or outward through a telescope, I see beauty, symetry and logic. It all seems designed for further investigation. If so then maybe whoever was doing the creating started from the outside and use a preconceived blueprint.
Jun 19, 2012
I think I read a science fiction novel once, where it turns out 'God' is actually just a group of time-traveling humans tasked with ensuring that humanity turns out in such a way that we develiop into time-travelers by performing 'miracles' that shape history.
Jun 19, 2012
As humans we have a natural tendency to try and figure out what things mean. We are driven to believe that there must be some purpose to existence and life in general, and our own brief existence specifically.

So here are the most popular theories:
- We are created by some God/Alien intelligence for a mysterious purpose beyond our current comprehension
- We are a force of Nature driven by the Universe with existence as an end to itself
- We are the byproduct of some other process, an accident with no real purpose
- We are the supreme intelligence of the Universe, creating ourselves with our minds out of the nothingness of space, and the reason all other things exist.

You can understand why the majority of us prefer the 1st option in some form. The middle two are just depressing, and the fourth sounds really dumb.
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