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I can't provide 100% certainty that human life on Earth is the result of intelligent design. But I can get to around 99.99% certainty.

By intelligent design, I mean Earth is seeded with DNA provided by human-like inhabitants of another planet.

I'm borrowing my argument from others. None of this is original, and I've written about it before. What's new is that we're getting close to being able to seed another planet with our own DNA. And there's talk of doing just that because there's a non-zero chance that humans of the Earth variety won't survive unless we seed other planets.

I imagine we'd launch one big rocket into space that would leave the atmosphere and divide into thousands of small rockets that can make tiny adjustments to their direction but otherwise use the inertia of the mother rocket as propulsion. These tiny rockets can scan planets on the fly for earthlike properties and navigate toward ones that look promising, ending in a parachute landing.

If we decide to seed other planets with our DNA, which seems inevitable, it's likely we'd send thousands of seed rockets, not one. Sending one rocket would be a bad bet.

And since scientists are already talking of doing something like that now, and apparently we will have the ability to do so, it stands to reason that our genetic spawn on those planets will someday evolve to have the same impulses and capabilities. Then they will send out their own DNA seed ships.

So the odds are that planet-seeding will happen not once but thousands if not millions of times as one seeded planet begets thousands of others and so on.

We have no reason to believe we're the original humans. Sure, we evolved from lower creatures, but that might have been exactly how the seeding works. You start with the lower forms of creatures and let them evolve until humans have plenty to eat when they come along later. That's how I'd play it.

Or maybe the dinosaurs were seeded by some alien species whereas mammals came from human-like aliens. There are lots of possibilities.

What seems least likely is that we're the first humans on the first planet with an original idea about seeding other planets. It's far, far, more likely we're somewhere in the middle of the trend. We might be one of thousands or one of millions of planets seeded.

You might be tempted to quibble with the timing of things. But perhaps evolution on the newer planets is sped up by the designers. The original humans might have taken a billion years of evolution to arrive. By the hundredth iteration of humans seeding humans, perhaps the process has been compressed to a million years. That seems within the realm of possible.

So I say there's a 99.99% chance we are the result of past seeding by earlier humans. If you still believe we're the first, perhaps that is a case of feeling special more than a case of rational thought.

What's wrong with this line of reasoning?

[Update:

1. The seeders couldn't guarantee creating humans just like us. But we know, for example that eyes evolved in at least two separate lines of evolution on earth. I'll bet intelligence is also likely to increase over time in at least one species. And once intelligent, that creature would need less speed and strength and even hair covering. So I think evolution might create weak, hairless, intelligent creatures with eyes as often as not. Add some symmetry and limbs and you're close enough. 

I allow the possibility that the race seeding us looked more a customer in a Star Wars bar scene than like Brad Pitt. Close enough. 

2. I'm surprised how many people think we won't ever have the technology to launch rockets that can sniff out the remote signature of habitable planets. Not in a thousand years? Really?

3. As to whether we would be motivated to seed other planets, all you need is one billionaire who wants to give the universe a facial. You think that guy won't exist in the next thousand years?]


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Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the most thoughtful graduation present

 



 
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Jun 11, 2014
Smithsonian magazine ran an article about 30 years ago on this subject. A big problem with the current evolutionary theories out there is the fact that amino acids cannot form where free oxygen is present.
And free oxygen has always been present in the Earth’s atmosphere. More today than in the past, but always some has been around.

So serious scientists have presented the possibility that, whether on purpose or not, Earth might have seeded.
 
 
Jun 11, 2014
Smithsonian magazine ran an article about 30 years ago on this subject. A big problem with the current evolutionary theories out there is the fact that amino acids cannot form where free oxygen is present.
And free oxygen has always been present in the Earth’s atmosphere. More today than in the past, but always some has been around.

So serious scientists have presented the possibility that, whether on purpose or not, Earth might have seeded.
 
 
Jun 9, 2014
Two things:

1. This exact scenario is laid out in Kurt Vonnegut's short story "The Big Space !$%*!$%*!$%* This might be the first time I've seen a !$%*!$%* site use "facial" in it's !$%*! meaning.
 
 
Jun 5, 2014
There's an implicit assumption here: even though we know the speed of light is a limit to how fast we might ever be able to travel (actually quite a lot less, in practical terms) we are conditioned to believe that there's no practical limit to what sufficiently advanced technology might be able to achieve -- including the ability to identify habitable planets and point vehicles at them.

Oddly, the most recent xkcd cartoon suffers the same assumption.

Why don't we believe that while life may exist elsewhere and may even have risen to greater technological levels than us, the conditions of the universe are such that they CAN'T come and show themselves to us -- even if they could find us?

Can I also remind you that space is mostly empty -- or at least, mostly empty of directly observable objects? If you fling something at random into space, chances are that it won't bump into anything else during any period of time you might measure even in terms of stars' lifetimes?

On the "seeding" thing: the best theory we have is sufficient to the understanding we need to the issue of how we got here. From first principles. Without external involvement.

The fact that so many people struggle with this -- mostly from imperfect understandings of the information -- doesn't say anything helpful about the quality of the theory.
 
 
Jun 4, 2014
The biggest problem I always have with these types of discussions is why we humans seem convinced that we're the end result of evolution. Sure we might be NOW, but maybe those intelligent designers look nothing like us, and we're only halfway along the evolutionary path to what they *really* look like.
 
 
Jun 4, 2014
Yes we have been designed and DNA has been sent here. What else would the overlords eat when they get here? Grass? Lettuce? Carrots? Sheep? Pigs? Cows? Shez.
 
 
Jun 4, 2014
INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER.

The Last Question ~ Isaac Asimov
 
 
Jun 4, 2014
INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER.

The Last Question ~ Isaac Asimov
 
 
Jun 3, 2014
Off-topic but related: Scott, have you ever run across the Doomsday Argument? There's a reasonably good description on Wikipedia if you're not familiar with it, and I'd be fascinated to hear your take on it. It seems to me to be just the sort of philosophical puzzle that might appeal to you. (I have come up with an answer that I find satisfactory - which can be found on my blog if anyone is interested - but I'm sure your interpretation would be, at a minimum, much better written.)
 
 
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Jun 3, 2014
This sort of directed panspermia is a very interesting concept and seems quite possible to me, only tiny particles need be accelerated, and not to anything approaching the speed of light, they don't necessarily even need to include what we're thinking of as DNA, just machines or the data to get things started down that path. Further, imagine the end result to be intelligence, or at least complicated life, take out the idea that it needs to be anything much like us.
 
 
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Jun 3, 2014
For me the real question is - will our species figure out how not to destroy itself long enough for science to advance to the point where we can figure out how to "seed" DNA. There are so many advances still needed before DNA could be transferred successfully on another planet.

Do you really think our society will survive? Look at the areas where humans have lived the longest - the most crowded, resource poor, violent places and unless something remarkable changes that is our future.

Perhaps "billionaires" of the future will be the ones with the resources to push science forward simply to seed the universe while the rest of the human species destroys itself - is this how we started? Interesting idea. A universe of DNA spreading about, destroying planets that are "civilized".

So - our entire human existence is nothing but a planetary cold in the grand scheme - DNA blasted from another planets "sneeze" that eventually we will pass along to the future in a sneeze of our own.... kinda humbling...
 
 
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Jun 3, 2014
Scott: "1. The seeders couldn't guarantee creating humans just like us. "

True, but they also wouldn't seed with protozoan life forms and cross their fingers. They'd start with something similar to themselves.

(In the hope of being able to have sex with it one day...)
 
 
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Jun 3, 2014
The most interesting thing about humans isn't whether we were intelligently designed but why we have an insatiable need to take over where evolution left. It seems to me that we as a species are attempting to evolve ourselves through both destruction (war, famine, man-made diseases, etc) and creation (bio- engineering, AI, nano-bots etc). It doesn't look peculiar until you look at all humans as one organism and then it seems like we're much like the bacteria that seeded the planet. Which makes me wonder if the universe itself isn't an intelligent being and we're just acting on it's whim imagining that we have consciousness separate from the universe. In that case I'd have to agree with intelligent design though not necessarily and active interest.
 
 
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Jun 3, 2014
I think one of the aspects of Intelligent Design is the very formation of DNA from base chemicals if the conditions persist. I think that's the very nature of the universe.... If certain conditions are met, certain things can happen. It's the chaotic nature of how/when things happen within the strict structure of the laws of physics/biology/chemistry/nature.

The "seeding" if you will, has a plethora of parameters, but if they're met, well, then, you have a planet of super hot, !$%*! babes. At least that's what I deduce about Earth after spending a few hours on the Internet.
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
Seems a little explicit to say a billionaire wants to give the universe a facial. (no, a makeover is not a more fitting interpretation. this is about shooting seed all over the place)
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
Arguing over space seeding is not necessary- whether it happened or not, at some point in the history of our 14-billion-year-old universe, intelligent life (us, or others like us) arose from nothing. Was it them or us? Who cares? It's idle speculation at best unless they show up with a scrapbook of the history of the universe.

I don't need to feel special, I just don't need to replace an already-complicated explanation with a yet-further-complicated explanation. Goes against Occam's Razor.
 
 
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Jun 2, 2014
I think if we humans attempt to seed other planets, we sure as hell will attempt to monitor our progress. Which is probably what our ancestors would do too then.

They would probably want to avoid us discovering that we're being monitored by them, because we wouldn't like that, and they wouldn't want us to become hostile.
But since they're also prone to screw ups just as we are, someone on our planet would have stumbled upon clues of their thousands of years of monitoring activities.
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
Hmm... "Intelligent Design" means that we "evolved" in exactly the sequence that science suggests that we evolved, but that "an intelligence" made all the minute evolutionary choices, rather than it being a consequence of survival and non-survival. So right off the bat, you're claim that "I can't provide 100% certainty that human life on Earth is the result of intelligent design. But I can get to around 99.99% certainty. " is wildly unrelated to the real meaning of the words you're trying to use.

As far as earth being seeded with with life from other sources -- something which IS NOT INTELLIGENT DESIGN AT ALL -- I'll defer to others who have pointed out that it's somewhat meaningless, since life still had to start somewhere, and putting the responsibility for original life on someone else in a different time and different place is just a way of avoiding a question, rather than answering it -- sorta the opposite of what you think you're doing. Obviously it's a possibility, but it seems weird that someone would do that billions of years ago, and have so little interest in following-up on planets they seeded that they wouldn't some day use our planet or even provide us any information about their grand plans. And why, as it apppears, would they start from scratch at microscopic life forms? Why not start us out with plants and animals? Surely they could seed us with flora and fauna that would shave a few billion years off our evolutionary path.
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
I can't even get started on the biological issues associated with this. Focus on that, not the technological ones. But first and foremost, consider the economical.

Can you really envision a world where the incredible amount of economic capital this would require is going to be expended on something so abstract? The only way this happens is if you have a race of aliens living in a benevolent community that doesn't compete within themselves, something that I'd argue is incompatible with the requirements to create this technology in the first place.

Consider the woeful state of science funding in the world today. You think NASA is heading towards something like this? Nope. The only chance someone gets this kind of technology is going to be as a private enterprise, and they're going to focus on their own survival and that of their progeny. Using their entire net worth to send DNA to other planets would be an insane waste of resources.

Opportunity cost Scott. Push comes to shove, I think it's more likely that life developed independently on earth than it is for intelligent societies to get more altruistic as they age.
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
[ I'm surprised how many people think we won't ever have the technology to launch rockets that can sniff out the remote signature of habitable planets. Not in a thousand years? Really? ]

It's not just the technology, Scott. It is the immutable laws of physics, and vastness of space. The problem isn't a lack of imagination, it is that we now know enough to say why this is, if not impossible, at least very very very unlikely.

The time required to travel from here to even the nearest start would be prohibitively long. Even if you imagine technological advances that would allow us to increase the speed of our rockets by 100 times what they are now, they would still take ~500 years to get to the nearest star system (Alpha Centauri, about four light years away). And there's no guarantee, of course, that there is a habitable planet in the NEAREST system. There are only ~50 star systems within 15 light years of Earth; the odds of one of them having a habitable planet are staggeringly small. You're likely talking thousands of years to find one, even (again) with technology that is 100 times more advanced than we currently possess.

Power for that long is going to be a problem. Cosmic radiation is another. Heck, just plain old entropy will probably doom the idea. Building a system that can be entirely self-sustaining for thousands of years, in the face of known and unknown dangers, would be on the order of lottery-winning probability, maybe less. Success could not be achieved by simple improvements to our existing technology; it would require a radical, unforeseen advancement, something on the order of FTL travel. I'm not holding my breath for that one.

The only ray of light I would allow is the potential of the multiverse. Quantum field theory has pretty much ruled out the possibility of discovering some new, heretofore unseen form of energy in THIS universe, but I will admit I don't know what it has to say for others. What would the rules be if there was a method to interact with parallel universes?
 
 
 
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