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Panspermia (Greek: pan "all" and spermia "seed") is the hypothesis that life, or the "seeds" of life, is all around the universe and was transported to Earth, either as life or seeding life. Often the hypothesis is that either rich organic material or extremely basic microbes, from dust clouds or other planets, made their way to Earth via meteors, survived the entry and thrived on Earth. Sometimes the hypothesis refers to the idea that extraterrestrials did this deliberately, this is similar to exogenesis.
As a hypothesis that life may have started outside of Earth, panspermia contradicts Earth-based abiogenesis (although the seeding organic matter did need to come from somewhere, i.e. from extraterrestrial abiogenesis), but is not in conflict with the theory of evolution which says nothing about the origin of life. Notwithstanding this, some members of the intelligent design community have attempted to use the hypothesis to claim that some scientists, such as Francis Crick, support ID. Given that ID is (apparently) an attempt to provide an alternative to the theory of evolution, these claims may be disingenuous.
Directed panspermia is the hypothesis that life on Earth may have been deliberately started by some other alien life and that alien life may have interfered with (i.e., directed) its course throughout history. Francis Crick, one of the discovers of the structure of DNA, is often linked to this idea.
- Internet Encyclopedia of Science - Directed Panspermia
- Crick, F. H. C., and Orgel, L. E. "Directed Panspermia," Icarus, 19, 341 (1973).