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Life from Mars
In 1973, Crick proposed a theory of directed panspermia, suggesting that life on earth could have originated from DNA "seeds" projected into space by an extraterrestrial civilisation. This is in contrast with normal panspermia (undirected) where life merely has its origins in space (a very broad assertion, with a range of interesting ramifications), but no intelligent entities were behind it. Because of this, he has sometimes been cited by the intelligent design movement as an example of a secular and atheist proponent of intelligent design. However, Crick never asserted that directed panspermia was a fact, just an interesting possibility, and seems to have later discarded the idea.
Furthermore, the theory of directed panspermia relates to the origins of life — something about which evolution says absolutely nothing. Consequently, even if correct, it would not be incompatible with evolution and does not mandate an "intelligent design" for humans or other advanced organisms.
Being a well-famous biologist and one of the best-known proponents of panspermia, Crick is frequently quote-mined by creationists. In Life Itself, Its Origin and Nature, he stated:
An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that, in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle...
However, the ellipsis there marks the start of a less frequently quoted section (and often creationists citing this comment will leave out the ellipsis to try and punctuate it at "miracle"). Crick continues, lest he be accused of being a total idiot rather than a fairly competent scientist:
...so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions. The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth's surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.
In short, Crick acknowledges the difficulties in really figuring out the origin of life but doesn't suggest a literal miracle.
- The Francis Crick Papers: The Discovery of the Double Helix, 1951-1953
- John Appleby, Rationalism's dirty secret. New Humanist, 23 December 2010.
- Directed Panspermia
- Crick: Some past speculations of the origin of life. Where are they today