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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 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?
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
Bleeped word was c i r c u m s t a n c e s.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2014
Evolution does not have a direction, purpose, or goal. It is random changes to a set of replicating instructions that accumulate. It's that simple and that profound. If the instructions do not replicate they do not go on and disappear. If there are !$%*!$%*!$%*! in the environment that allow some instructions to replicate more often than others in the same environment then those instructions come to dominate in that environment. More complicated instruction sets (i.e. those with more retained changes) can become more likely over time because more time has passed allowing them to accumulate. However, more complex does not equate to more intelligent, as evidenced by the water flea with 31,000 genes, 25% more than humans.

All this to say that there is no way to predict what path a set of instructions (i.e. dna) is going to take over millions of years in a variable environment, so sending seed packets out in the hopes of developing intelligences similar to your own is not possible and a pointless exercise.
That and, as others have pointed out, that your statistics appear to have an element of randomness to them not based on any real data.
 
 
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Jun 2, 2014
I don't know that it is all that unlikely that we are the first. I can't remember if it was Asimov or Clarke who pointed out that our moon is extremely large compared to the planet it rotates around. Because of this size, we have outsize tides, which created tidal pools, which were a huge evolutionary accellerant (granted, accelerating the migration from ocean to land for life, not accellerating the change from reptile to mammal). Still, given the size of the universe, I doubt we are truly first, but we might be first in our spiral arm of the galaxy, and depending on how expensive a seeding project someone is willing to fund, being "first in my group of 10,000 stars" may be as good as being first in the universe in terms of seeding.
Also, another proof that if we have a creator then that person was dumb (from an engineering standpoint), the backbone. Show me an engineer who would start with a car when designing a motercycle, and would retain the 4 wheel chassis and just turn it sideways? If you notice, all load bearing bones in most species (exception being humans) are long, single or paired bones with single joints (think about legs), while the spine is designed as a connector, but not for load bearing. If you are religious, then every time you get a backache, curse the stupidity of your designer.
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
ccscoachadams: [ This always perplexes me about materialists--it's a short term solution (only matter exists) that avoids a much larger question (where did the matter come from, then?). It is, by any reasonable definition, a tenet of faith. ]

I'm not sure what you mean by "a tenet of faith", but it is only perplexing if you feel like it must "come" from somewhere.

May I assume that by your reference to faith, and since you are perplexed by "materialists", that you believe that there is Being who brought all of this into existence? Because that doesn't solve the problem either, just moves it back one more step to: OK, where did that Being come from, then? If the Being can always just have "been there", then why not the universe itself?
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
befuddled123: yes, I realized the detection range was too short after posting. But even if you make it 10,000x that, you're STILL at 300B years to find the Earth. (My calculations at the very end were off, by the way; it wasn't 200 times the life of the universe, it was 200,000. I dropped a set of zeros in there.)

I did mention the potential for using stars to guide the search. Suppose we optimize everything so well that we get the time needed to find Earth down to an almost conceivable time frame, say, 100,000 years. That would be a 30,000,000,000x improvement over my estimate, which you must concede would be pretty good. But even at only 100,000 years, it seems impossible. For once thing, how would such a sensor power itself? It's not just floating in space, remember. It has to activity change direction and chart courses (we're assuming an efficient, directed search now), not to mention constantly scanning for planets. That's a long, long time for something presumably made out of electronics to be powered and operational. It's hard to conceive of an electronic system that could go even 100 years without a fault, never mind 100,000.

But I think there's an even bigger problem than the technical ones. If it takes 100,000 years for an alien probe to find and seed Earth, why would they bother? What would be the point? Any civilization advanced enough to launch such an assault on the vast reaches of space would probably not be able to do so due to internal pressure. Suppose the US government announced that they were going to spend billions (or trillions, more likely) of dollars developing a set of probes which would not pay any tangible benefit for 20 times longer than the ENTIRE RECORDED HISTORY of the human race (about 5000 years at this point). What would happen?
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
[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?]

We have had the technology to send craft out of our solar system since the 70's. It was called voyager. We could probably do something that could find habitable planets but the two largest restraints right now are cost, we couldn't even afford a relatively cheap space shuttle to get people into orbit as a nation, and time as with current technology, it'd be thousands of years or more before any probes get to another solar system.

IIRC the outer bounds of the solar system (one of them, there are several definitions) and it took Voyager I over 36 years to travel the 13 billion miles (roughly 17 light hours away from the sun as of 12/2012). 1 light year is about 6 trillion miles. So if you can do 1 billion miles every 3 years, it'd take 18,000 years to go one light year. So even for the nearest stars, we are talking about a 100,000 year journey. Man's only been civilized 6,000 years or so.

I personally believe travelling to other stars within a few years might be possible if the right form of energy exists. We don't know about that energy yet. TBH, we are still basically running on steam in some fashion for a lot of our power.
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
This conversation brings to mind something that has perplexed me for some time now. Geneticists claim that over 95% of our DNA is what is commonly referred to as "Junk DNA". They claim that they can not find any current usefulness for the 95%. What is going on there? There is speculation that much of it is perhaps leftover from a time long ago when it was necessary and useful but is no longer. Another theory is that the designers built into the system upgrades that could be activated at some future point as the species evolved. We know that cosmic rays can alter DNA, so perhaps that process was built into the system as a means to remotely activate upgrades or alterations from a distance at predetermined intervals.

One speculative theory that I found to be fascinating talks about earth as a cosmic experiment under quarantine to avoid any outside interference or contamination, bringing together genetic material from all over the universe creating a kind of cosmic library. In sort of a, "lets just see what happens when we try this", The variety of life on this planet is astounding, maybe it is that way everywhere in the universe, or maybe we are special and unique beyond our comprehension.
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
Here's one more issue that occurs to me. If life is driven to seed other planets due to "ego" as Scott claims, then why wouldn't they leave us a message? Surely a civilization advanced enough to seed other worlds would also be able to craft some kind of lasting message, and would want us to know they existed and something about them.

[Perhaps they would encode the DNA with a strong propensity to believe in a creator and to seek more information about it. When we are sufficiently enlightened to handle the truth, it will be revealed. Or not. -- Scott]
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2014
There is convincing evidence against intelligent design. Giraffes have similar nerves connecting their vocal cords to the brain like other mammalians and fish. It's routed around some blood vessel (I don't remember which), and while their vocal chords and brains are very close, that blood vessel is in their body, therefore the nerves goes down and up in their neck.

An intelligent designer would have rerouted that nerve.
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
The question of "how did life start?", referring to the simplest single celled organisms that evolved into everything else, is a very old one. Fell to earth in a rocket? Sure, why not. But that rocket had to come from somewhere, and those aliens had to evolve from their own single cell beginnings. Where did those come from? Sooner or later it had to happen on its own without a rocket from space. So, this line of thinking solves nothing, because:

1) What created that first life? Just a confluence of self-propagating chemical reactions that got started due to the law of averages? God? Both?

2) If it could happen once on some far-away planet, it could happen again on Earth, no rocket required.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2014
I would expect, then, that somewhere in our DNA is some sort of encoded return address so we can one day phone home.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2014
This doesn't help. Sure we still don't understand how life began on Earth. So it may seem like the hypothesis that the first life was alien solves that problem... but it doesn't really because it just means we still don't understand how the life formed on the alien planet. In the begining there was no life... if it could start on an alien world... then why not here?
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
I think this should be the questions for a modern religion. Rather than asking 'What is God like?', we ought to be asking ourselves "If we are to be gods, what kind of gods will we be?"

I think our answer to this question might be important if we ever do meet an advanced extraterrestrial civilization like in 'The Day the Earth Stood Still"
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2014
I've always liked this idea, although I think its unlikely that humans as we exist today were the intentional outcome of this kind of plan. Evolution is a crapshoot. So, you might put your dna into the pre-existing life on a planet or even bring some minor lifeform with your dna embedded to that planet but once its here, the chaos of life will direct its evolution.

So, it seems unlikely that anything more complex than bilateral symmetry is reflected from its origin. Now if I were going to vote on this chance to push our existence across the universe - I would want the outcome to look like me or as close to like me as a the typical intelligent Movie/TV Alien, which is mostly human looking but with interesting features and colors.

I wonder if spewing DNA into a likely planet would do that.
 
 
Jun 2, 2014
This ignores the most crucial assumption: even if we assume we're the zillionth iteration of Operation Spermfall, we're still left with the question of how Round One started. This always perplexes me about materialists--it's a short term solution (only matter exists) that avoids a much larger question (where did the matter come from, then?). It is, by any reasonable definition, a tenet of faith.
 
 
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2014
Right, we are so advanced, that we can seed the universe, but cannot make blog software so it recognizes an apostrophe. ’
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2014
For many of us humans now, life on Earth on the whole is pretty good. But historically life was awful for us. The world really just wants to kill us and every other living thing while constantly spitting more copies of everything. Which is how things came to be as they are.

A really intelligent designer would have designed us better and would have seeded houses would grow organically.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 2, 2014
Slightly off topic, but an interesting take on the the evolution of intelligence:
http://www.ted.com/talks/suzana_herculano_houzel_what_is_so_special_about_the_human_brain

Basically we are as intelligent as we are because our forebears learnt to cook and provide the calories needed for our brains to be as dense with neurons as they are.
 
 
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Jun 2, 2014
I wanted to look at some of the numbers involved but got a bit lost in the awesome data so instead of posting any theories, here are some cool sites with some big scary numbers.

http://www.atlasoftheuniverse.com/12lys.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_planets
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_potential_habitable_exoplanets

highlight: Number of stars within 5000 light years = 600 million
 
 
 
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