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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 18, 2012
>>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.

That is a very strange reading of the theory.
Jun 18, 2012
Sorry - that should have read Panspermia!
Jun 18, 2012
Isn't this just the wonderfully named theory of Pansmermia?
Jun 18, 2012
Isn't this just the wonderfully named theory of Pansmermia?
Jun 18, 2012
So . . . you're saying that God is an alien?


You claim humanity was designed by aliens?

I can see the headlines now.

But seriously folks,

How many years are we from seeding other planets? It'd only take 4 billion or so years to have a mammalian environment if we seed simple organisms. If they had a jumpstart, maybe only a billion or so before complex life formed. Cheat a little, and maybe you could live there comfortably after only 500 million years.

If humanity doesn't start now, we're going to destroy ourselves long before our new house is ready.
Jun 18, 2012
Also, before someone cries "occam's razor," the unimaginable most certainly does exist. It takes a remarkable amount of hubris for any species to suspect that it can observe all relevant objects in the universe. Scott's general point is a good one - we dont' know what we don't know, and speculation about one proposal being the right one blocks alternative interpretations. The binary of God / solo evolution is surely a false one.
Jun 18, 2012
Given how long it took life to evolve on this planet, doesn't it make it unlikely that some other species "evolved" (or by some evolution like process which somehow produced them) and then learned space flight, and then seeded earth? I mean, looking at cause and effect, its rather unusual for life to come from inorganic matter.

One more alternative you left out - and that always seems to get left out - what if the observable universe is not the whole universe? We can only observe what sends us things - stars send us light for instance. So perhaps there are weird things and processes following laws of nature we cannot even fathom, beyond our own solar system, which doesn't send us stuff from which to infer their existence. These unimaginables might explain life in some way.
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