Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone's beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.


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?


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?]


Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of the most thoughtful graduation present


Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +15
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Jun 1, 2014
If you're willing to accept that life came about without being seeded in one "original" location, then why can't you believe that it came about in many places independently? The laws of physics and chemistry are the same everywhere, and it's starting to look like there are a very large number of planets in the universe which could allow the chemical basis of life as we know it. And there are probably many more places hospitable to life if we don't limit ourselves to life based on something akin to DNA.
Jun 1, 2014
Well, let's use a terrestrial example for comparison: how easily would it be to find a basketball floating in the Pacific Ocean?

The area of the Pacific Ocean is ~64M square miles, or about 1.8 quadrillion square feet. (I'm taking a basketball to be about a foot across.) Let's assume our sensors can detect the ball from about 100 feet away (equivalent to 800,000 miles, which seems reasonable for planet detection); that means that, at any time, a sensor can be scanning ~30k square feet of the ocean. To make this analogy work, the sensors will have to be very small; a housefly on a basketball would be the equivalent of a 150-mile-long spaceship next to the earth. Let's say a grain of fine sand, 0.01 inches across; still almost seven miles long if the basketball was scaled up to Earth, but close enough.

So we send out thousands of our flying sand grains. If we have 10,000 of them, we can be scanning 300M square feet of the ocean at any given time, or about 0.000017% of it. A good estimate for rocket speeds is 25,000 mph, but that's our current technology; let's make it 10x that. The equivalent for our grain of sand would be about 30 feet/hr, so about three hours to move to a totally unexplored section of the ocean (100 feet detection range, remember).

OK, if I'm not totally lost, that means it will take about 2000 years to scan the entire ocean; meaning (on average) 1000 years to find the basketball. Of course, it will be moving, which will complicate things enormously, but let's ignore that and use 1000 years as our baseline.

The reason I went through this analogy is that finding a basketball floating in the ocean is something most people can conceive of. We can argue over the numbers, but the process is understandable. The question is, how does this compare to scanning the galaxy for habitable planets? Remember that the Pacific is about 1.8 quadrillion times the size of a basketball? Well, it turns out, the Milky Way slightly larger than that, compared to Earth. 1.8 quadrillion is 1.8 X 10^15; a cross-section of the Milky Way, measured in Earth-units, would be 5.4 X 10^27, or about THREE TRILLION times as big as the Pacific compared to the basketball. And that's actually underestimating, because the Milky Way, of course, is three-dimensional.

So, our 1000 year baseline is now three quadrillion years, or about 200 times the lifetime of the universe so far (13B years). And that's the complete existence of the universe; intelligent life is obviously going to be much, much more recent, even if it started way before Earth. I'd say that was probable only in the last 100 million years, meaning our search is going to take 30,000 times the amount of time intelligent life has existed at all.

Of course, again, we can argue all the numbers. We can add more sensors; they can detect from farther away; the search could be directed by the existence of stars; etc etc etc. But I was pretty generous with the numbers (i.e. 10x the travel speed for the sensors over our current technology), and the numbers are SO far off, that, to put it mildly, your scenario doesn't seem very likely at all.
Jun 1, 2014
Of course there were multiple seedings. How else do you explain that special uniqueness of the French?
Jun 1, 2014
Well, there's nothing wrong with that line of reasoning, with the exception that it can only be taken on faith. There's no way to prove it, so it's as good as any other guess as to how life began on Earth.

The real problem with your theory is that it answers nothing. Somehow, somewhere, the first life had to be created somehow, by some method other than seeding. That primary life then had to somehow develop the capability and intelligence to start to seed other worlds.

So while your theory is certainly possible, there's really no point to it. Thanks for sharing, though.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 1, 2014
I wonder if the pyramids were ships that seeded earth, and then had stone built around them.
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 1, 2014
The likelihood that humans would be regarded as weeds seems unavoidable, have you met us?

I'd bet that there's an intergalactic version of Raid to prevent us from spreading, or there should be.
Jun 1, 2014
One flaw is that it's an argument by statistics. There's no physical proof you can look at, currently.

One way to disprove your hypothesis, in the same style as you attempt to prove it, is to say that it's even more likely that we're living in a computer simulation of a universe - so no seeding has taken place at all. The simulation might have started running only a hundred million years ago, or yesterday.

[Damn you! Yes, the computer simulation is far more likely. I hate it when this happens. -- Scott]
Jun 1, 2014
There are a lot of unknowns that have to be answered before you can properly evaluate a question like this. For instance, how common is life? You mentioned finding earth like planets, it could be that all the earth like planets we find will already have life of some sort on them which occurred naturally. We just do not have any data to know.

What constitutes an earth like planet? The vast majority of stars have variable radiation output that would not be suitable for sustaining our form of life. Some have suggested that the radiation levels that exist in the center of the Milky Way, where most stars in the galaxy are, would be hostile to our form of life. Consider also the formation of the planet earth, it seems to be denser than it should for its orbit, the most common explanation is a mars sized planet and earth collided, expelling much of the lighter material into space, some of it forming the moon. The relative density vs size and distance from the sun allowed things like a thick atmosphere and large liquid oceans. The problem is that we have not been able to observe other solar systems in enough detail to know how common this is. It could be very common, it could be you are lucky to get one per galaxy.

And the elephant in the room, is the current state of origin of life research. There are interesting things going on in this field, some of which might produce some interesting technology. However, it’s still in its infancy and not well understood. Even if earth was not the origin and the ‘seeders’ were themselves seeded, presumably there would have to have been an abiogenesis event at some point.

It could be that earth was seeded by unknown persons, but given what data we have at this point in time I do know if you can assign probability to it.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 1, 2014
Nothing is wrong with the theory, and you are certainly not the first to propose it; even reputable scientists have suggested similar things. However, to my mind, this theory illustrates one of the concerns I have with people who put cosmology on par with, say, physics. Yes cosmologists are scientists, but to contend that future events necessarily can tell us definitively how past events occurred seems rather pretentious.
Jun 1, 2014
Ahh, a Battlestar Galactica traditionalist.

Of course, this whole 'seeding other worlds' idea begs the question of just what we would hope to get out of it to justify the investment in thousands of rockets. At the moment, the incentives seem to be 'just for kicks.'

[Same reason we have children: ego. -- Scott]
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 1, 2014
This is the "panspermia" hypothesis, and I wouldn't say it's controversial at all. We just don't know, and there's a distinct lack of evidence for it. If we did find evidence for it, I think it would be a bit underwhelming and wouldn't change much about our lives.

As for the idea that we might seed other planets with our DNA ... if there's a Galactic Police Department, they might look at that as littering. Is there anything about our DNA that justifies infecting other planets with it?

[That's why I don't have biological offspring. I couldn't think of any reason my DNA was special. -- Scott]
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog