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This Ufology related article has been awarded BRONZE status for quality. It's getting there, but could be better with improvement. See RationalWiki:Article rating for more information.

Editorial notes
  • could use some more references/footnotes
== Infinite regression ==

I removed (except not at all, since genetic engineering is a much more parsimonious explanation) because it leads to the infinite regression of who designed the designer and ultimately - goddidit. --Edgerunner76Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 13:45, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

Not at all, though. The designers could have arisen spontaneously, or be self-existent. There are many branches in the regression prior to "goddidit." Ungtss 14:14, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
At best, that sounds like nothing more than an even wilder speculation than aliensdidit is in the first place. At worst, it sounds like you jumped straight to goddidit. --Edgerunner76Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 14:21, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
How so? Why is it reasonable to think the universe (in all its complexity) is self-existent, but not to think there might be a self-existent form of life in the universe? Ungtss 14:27, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Well, the universe is here. I/We are in it. It's all around me/us. I/we can see/hear/touch/taste (to one extent or another) it. Where is this self-existent lifeform? --Edgerunner76Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 14:35, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
That's conflating two questions, I think -- the existence of the lifeform, and whether or not it's self-existent. If we assume the existence of the life-form (which we're doing in the aliensdidit scenario), then the only remaining question is whether he can be self-existent, or must be evolved or madebygod. I don't see any reason it couldn't be self-existent, since we're already assuming all sorts of other highly complex stuff is. Again, this isn't to prove that this hypothetical being exists. Only to show that there's no infinite regression to goddidit ... Ungtss 15:14, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Ungtss, I'm curious what you mean by "self-existent"? Do your mean a creature that by its very definition must exist? ħumanUser talk:Human 23:02, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Good question ... And close. What I mean is a being that was not created, but "just is." Same as the atheist vision of a universe that "just is," uncreated, unevolved -- "just is" like an atom "just is," except alive. Ungtss 23:20, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
So it "spontaneously arose"? ħumanUser talk:Human 23:34, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
could be. Or could have always been. Like the incredible complexity of the universe and its laws in the atheist vision. Or something else, I don't know. The only point of significance to me is that it or they could be very very different from us, such that there's no infinite regress. I'm not particularly interested in that question because I lack the tools. But I don't think the absence of an adequate answer to that question precludes the possibility that somebody built us. Ungtss 23:53, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

Hmmm. By the way, "my" aliensdidit wild ass guess, based on what appears to be common descent from very simple life forms, is that Earth was "bug bombed" 3.5 billion years ago. A bug bomb is a small capsule containing very rudimentary seeds of life that can survive in a given pre-life environment. The element of design is in (besides the rocketry, etc.) coming up with self-replicators that can function in a simple, and probably quite harsh, environment. Oh, and figuring out where to "seed" them. Let's say some critters developed ftl transport, but only fairly simple molecules could survive it. So they can't go across the universe themselves (yet at least), but they could try to locate likely planets to transport simple chunks of RNA-like material to. Perhaps even thousands of differing versions of simple chemicals, and let them "fight it out". In hopes of someday visiting the places they seeded, this might even be stage one of their asking "could complex life arise from these simple molecules in such-and-such an environment?" - especially if they weren't really far away. As far as "somebody built us", that is a very complex explanation because they'd have to build, what, all the other species on the planet? Or did they observe this planet, replete with DNA-based life, and then build the first humans from scratch using a similar blueprint and drop them off here? ħumanUser talk:Human 00:11, 15 May 2009 (UTC)

Interesting hypothesis! I like to try and tie in as much ancient history as I can ... and the universality of historical records documenting encounters between humans and the creators in every culture lead me to believe 1) that the 'gods' of history and the creators are most likely the same entities, such that 2) they lived here for a while among us, and interbred with us. This is premised, of course, on my taking those ancient histories to be at least somewhat credible -- which somebody else might reasonably choose not to do. As to whether they built all the species on the planet, not necessarily all, but prototypes. For instance, you build a population of "felines" with a high degree of heterozygosity in the population. Then, over time, evolution causes subpopulations to speciate within different ecological niches. Thus natural selection weeded out the "non-tiger" genes in the feline populations in the jungle, and the "non-lion genes" in the feline populations on the sahel. The trunk of the tree of life is very wide, and the branches become thinner and thinner. That, to me, is most consistent with the evidence we have so far. The fossil record is replete with species that are more complex, larger, and more dynamic than the species of today. Dinosaurs reduced to alligators. Mammoths reduced to elephants. Etc. Ungtss 00:54, 15 May 2009 (UTC)
Lemurs "elevated" to humans... ħumanUser talk:Human 01:50, 15 May 2009 (UTC)
Back to hetero-homo-zygosity, are we? I think this is where we came in... Anyway, the way I tend to look at this is to put my self in the place of the alien. For starts, oxygen is a highly reactive element/gas, and why would I waste my time "seeding life" on a planet that had already developed oxygen-fixing life? The entire animal kingdom is dependent on oxygen, and much of the plant kingdom is dependent on various animal activities. The fossil record is also replete with species that are bigger/sillier/more "complex"/smarter/dumber/faster/slower than their ancestors. ħumanUser talk:Human 01:55, 15 May 2009 (UTC)
My hypothesis is 1) lemurs did not elevate to humans -- the two species are biologically unrelated, and 2) the Earth was terraformed with both plants and animals by the creators. This is based on my impression that common descent is a ludicrously improbability, and that the purposeful creation of an integrated ecosystem is a much more reasonable interpretation of the evidence. Ungtss 05:02, 15 May 2009 (UTC)
You think that is less ludicrously improbably than something as simple as common descent? Also, "the purposeful creation of an integrated ecosystem" happens how? What do the animals breathe while the plants get going? What do the plants grow in while the soil develops? Your hypothesis has alligators descending from dinosaurs, but not modern mammals descending from their "lemur-like" ancestors? ħumanUser talk:Human 06:11, 15 May 2009 (UTC)
I do -- because it explains observed evolution without the need for the unobserved claims of the theory. Consider dogs. Allow all the domesticated breeds to breed freely for a few generations, and you end up with a relatively homogenous population ... But that population is highly heterozygous. It is then possible to use selection for certain traits to create breeds. I think life was originally created in that homogenous, heterozygous form and then speciated by selection ... Because that's what we observe in biology, not an unlimited seamless universal tree of life. Ungtss 14:20, 15 May 2009 (UTC)
Do you feel like explaining that in terms of creatures that reproduce asexually? ħumanUser talk:Human 19:03, 15 May 2009 (UTC)
the very concept and definition of species is controversial among Asexual organisms, but generally speaking, I think the strongest explanation lies in epigenetics. Many asexual organisms contain highly sophisticated sequences that remain unexpressed until a single point mutation causes them to be expressed. In other words they appear to be preloaded with variations that are easily accessible when needed. How did this complex unused unexpressed sequences get there? I think someone put them there in case they became needed. The classic example here is the lenski e coli experiment. The code was already there. It just needed to be switched on. Ungtss 21:08, 15 May 2009 (UTC)
"Many"? If it's an explanation, is has to cover "all". So anyway, God the alien designers built in a switchable "ability to digest nylon" just in case we invented it? Or is there a similarly "switched off" gene in some plant or animal that would allow said critter to make nylon? I guess we ought to look for that... ħumanUser talk:Human 01:04, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
The Lenski experiment showed metabolism of citrate. That's a very useful capability to keep in your back pocket. That's why epigenetics is so remarkable -- it shows that variation is not random. Variation is highly targetted in areas where it is useful -- for instance, producing new enzymes to chow on new food sources. We're just beginning to figure out what those epigenetic mechanism are, but one thing is clear -- the answer's not nearly as simple as pure random mutation. Something is telling these organisms how to vary in order to survive, and I find that spectacular. Ungtss 17:37, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
"Something is telling these organisms how to vary in order to survive..." I find that to be one heck of an assertion. ħumanUser talk:Human 21:34, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

Guys, maybe stop for a moment and decide if this should be moved to/continued on a debate page? ThiehCP≠Child Porn? 01:12, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

It's ok here, it's vaguely on-topic, and it's not clogging up a major talk page like the bar or wigocp. ħumanUser talk:Human 02:29, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
remember in the Lenski experiment E Coli HAS the ability to use citrates as a food supply, but not in presence of oxygen. That seems to be a shorter step to cross than to develop the ability to use citrate from scratch. Is there any evidence that non-expressed genes are really stashed there and not simply evolutionery remnants ? (if thats the right way to say it) Seems remarkably stupid of a designer to leave out resistance to various diseases if it was storing other stuff away. Hamster 21:56, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
I don't know if we have the ability to distinguish between genes that are "stashed" and genes that are "remnants," really. But I do know that epigenetics and the apparent ability of organisms to undergo targetted rearrangements in the genome put evolution by "random mutation" to bed for me ... Ungtss 00:58, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
That's funny, you just convinced me of how it can create complex structures all at once. Say there is a string of DNA, that is not expressed due to cellular mechanisms in most generations, but every hundredth or thousandth or so, in a few examples, it is turned on. Meantime, it undergoes mutations (and they aren't random, you creationist troll, they follow the laws of physics and chemistry). SO every once in a while, this chunk of DNA gets expressed. Most times, the creature dies from it, or at best wastes energy expressing the phenotype it generates. Once in a while, the suppressed code is very useful - a multi-step advancement to a protein (or organ, etc.) that aids survival. Heck, by this mechanism the delightful human eye could pop out all at once in a blind species! ħumanUser talk:Human 03:42, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
Your "creationist troll" comment leaves me with the impression I'm in Bizarro-CP. Why do you insist on sinking to the level of your opponents? The phenomenon you're describing is quite common, actually. Not in the context of human eyes popping out in blind species, but again, the e coli experiment is classic. Interestingly, we humans have a gene to allow us to produce our own vitamin C, but it's been turned off / disabled [1]. What possible advantage would that have, which would allow this variant to spread throughout the entire population? Yet there the gene is, in your and me, disabled. Genetic entropy. Ungtss 13:29, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
If the turning off of the Vit C gene occurred during a time when C was plentiful in the species diet, it might have saved energy - also, something else might have been turned on or off at the same time, conferring an advantage, while the loss of C-synthesis didn't matter. Now, of course, as we have spread out all over the globe, C-synthesis would be a nice thing to have "turned back on". Wouldn't it be nice if we could figure out how to do it? ħumanUser talk:Human 19:31, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
Totally -- and don't see why we wouldn't turn it on again, in principle anyway. As to whether there's an energy loss for the vitamin C gene, that would be an interesting study -- we could evaluate it on apes, since they have the gene intact -- simply break the gene in a subpopulation and compare how the two fare. Is there a survival advantage to not having the gene if you have adequate Vitamin C? My guess is no -- or at least not significant enough to cause the gene to be broken in the entire species. Seems to me much more likely that a designer dismantled it. So much of how we're built seems intended to force us to operate by cultivating our environment with our minds ... seems like we've been deliberately stripped of all our "survive in the wild" characteristics, and had them replaced with "survive by your wits" characteristics. This is commonly explained in terms of atrophy of the unneeded, but I think that's silly. Fur is helpful, whether you're in community or not. So is a body that gives birth relatively painlessly and with minimal risk. It appears to me we've had those advantages taken away, perhaps deliberately, to force us to organize and develop our environment in order to survive. Ungtss 00:37, 18 May 2009 (UTC)

How could you tell ?[edit]

If an alien stopped off, saw a dead planet, then dumped his yogurt with digestive bacteria culture out the door before leaving. Evolution occurs. Then same alien coming back the other way stops off again , sees some cute Hamster like creatures , pulls a pair into his lab , and zaps a few things to give them better survival traits, dumps them out the door and leaves. Evolution happens. What evidence would exist to prove that scenario ? Hamster 21:56, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

Ignoring your question, I like your primary scenario - life being "seeded" unintentionally, due to trash being left on planets by travellers... ħumanUser talk:Human 22:18, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
A lot of the "evidence" I've seen to date has been of the sort concerning lost watches or silliness like this (which some folks 'round here seem to feel is valid. On the other hand, perhaps this is a documentary. --Kels 23:31, 16 May 2009 (UTC)
you need to be clear on what sort of evidence one would expect. Inexplicable watches and histories referencing corporeal creators seem like a solid start to me ... Especially when you put it next to the evidence for spontaneous abiogenisis ... Which comes down to ... Nothing. Ungtss 02:25, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
So, what evidence would we expect? U, your InDerwear [fixed typos in hilarious joke/offensive insult] has been showing for days, although you do fight a clean fight. What evidence would we expect based on your current thinking about the origins of life and how said life developed to today's version? ħumanUser talk:Human 02:50, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
Good question ... I'd expect a) no demonstrated mechanism for spontaneous abiogenesis, b) histories from all over the world reflecting interaction between humans and their creators, c) big gaps between major taxa, d) targetted variation, e) genetic entropy, lots of violations of the pattern of "nested hierarchies." -- i.e. what evolutionists call "convergent evolution," but which an IDiot like me would call "reused design components." Ungtss 03:24, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
(a) Has been done. (b) Histories or myths? (c) As in using different chemical means for expressing how they make proteins, say? (d) Predict what that means... (e) Huh? What on earth are "nested heirarchies"? Convergent evolution is seen all over the place - marsupials that occupy similar niches as placentals elsewhere, birds and mammals acting as insects do in fertilizing plants (and using the plants' nutrients) - do you really think a hummingbird and a moth are "reusing design components"? ħumanUser talk:Human 03:47, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
a) When, by whom, and published where? b) Both, of course, depending on the sophistication of the author, c) no, as in "There are reptiles in the record, and mammals in the record, but no genuine links between the two." And this of course requires careful examination of the article, because in my experience a lot of scientists make some remarkably unscientific claims in this area ... perhaps to make a name and/or secure funding, d) targetted variation means that organisms possess some mechanism to vary in areas where it is useful, and not vary where it is not useful. e) here and here are some short summaries. Basic story is, in a design scenario, you would expect a lot of reused design components across diverse taxa. Marsupials are the perfect example. Those organisms aren't just filling the same niche as their placental counterparts, they're dead ringers for their counterparts. ID predicts you'll see plug and play traits all over the place, rather than a neat, orderly system of nested hierarchies. And the platypus is a shining example of these "plug and play" traits. Fully developed, distinct traits unique to widely separated taxa, and virtually indistinguishable from the other taxa. One interesting experiment I'd like to do if I had a genetic sequencer would be to see if dogs and cats or dogs and tasmanian wolves are more "closely related" according to the standard genetic similarity tests. Ungtss 13:14, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

It is more reasonable to assume that 'as sentient life evolved once in the universe it will evolve elsewhere' than 'it will evolve only once.'

As we humans have conceived the idea of exploring space in fact and in fiction it can be assumed that at least some other sentient entities will probably do so (practical aspects permitting) - 'because the rest of the universe is there/our sun is likely to explode/we have used all available resources/where can we variously send David Attenborough, Brian Cox, Michael Portillo (with Bradshaw) and Jeremy Clarkson equivalents next?' and other reasons.

When the researchers of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy/the Millionaires' equivalent and Gap Year Galaxy Unlimited go on their travels they will find more diversity than they will expect - but also much practical convergence (how structurally practical is 'a hand' with more than 7-8 fingers?).

The 'influence by yoghurt-pot equivalent or sneezes' (and on some planets an assortment of brands from around the galaxy) on existing life theory is slightly more likely than the Johnny Appleseed version; and the providing or appropriating of ideas is more likely than 'space missionaries converting the locals' (and as on Earth the locals may well allow themselves to 'be converted' for the sake of whatever freebies are provided). (talk) 17:45, 11 March 2015 (UTC)


I thought Crick was into panspermia, the idea that life originated somewhere else in the universe/solar system and some how got to Earth (e.g. by hitching a ride on a pice of space debris, surviving the trip, and then spreading on Earth). Now that said, if he believed in directed panspermia (the idea that aliens seeded the planet with microbes) than I'd agree with him being here, but from what I understand, panspermia is as good an idea as any for abiogenesis on Earth. Jsonitsac 03:08, 7 June 2009 (UTC)

That adds all sorts of new levels onto the old "we are all immigrants" slogan. --Kels 03:16, 7 June 2009 (UTC)
Crick wrote a paper entitled Directed Panspermia.[2] which argued it was possible, and advocated further research into the possibility. He also wrote a book about it in 1981, entitled Life itself: its origin and nature. But of course he must have been an ignorant crank to believe such a ludicrous idea. After all, he only discovered the structure of DNA ... Ungtss 09:48, 7 June 2009 (UTC)

"(or things they are too stupid to understand, which is most things)" -- why the revert?[edit]

Because it's not really very funny. Calling everyone stupid all the time in really blunt, unwitty and unclever ways is like Ken playing the fat card. "You're a stupid head" worked in third grade. We can do better than that. P-FosterCan't we talk about this, baby?Moderator 03:05, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

Better? - π Moderator 03:08, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
...did you mean "it" in place of "is"? ThunderkatzHo! 03:12, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
Called it. Even though his edit happened before my comment. ThunderkatzHo! 03:16, 9 July 2011 (UTC)
(EC)Yes, I have since fixed that. This why no one should mention the Conservative Gentleman by name, otherwise you invoke this spirit and curse the page with typos that require minor edits to fix. - π Moderator 03:16, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

Better, yes.--P-FosterCan't we talk about this, baby?Moderator 03:19, 9 July 2011 (UTC)

Reversion to Goddidit?[edit]

At some point in the history of the universe there must have been 'first planets' and 'first life' starting at virus-likes and then at some point 'first sentient entities' followed by 'first space going entitities.' So who or what created them 'according to this thesis'?

Having travelling aliens 'accidentally starting off life/moving stranded creatures into their preferred environments/creating the equivalent of a seed or DNA bank/providing the obvious fact someone is looking for' is something else. (talk) 17:30, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

It would be quite a find to discover evidence of alien visitations of the sort you mention (after all, it's pretty much the unifying factor of Star Trek biology), but in the real universe, for lack of better evidence we'd have to assume processes analogous to what created us on Earth. Now finding actual evidence of a visitation... I think a lot of people would love to find that, but we've found no unambiguous evidence, and virtually everything claimed as evidence (eg the Coso sparkplug) turns out to be either provably mundane or simply likely enough to be so that we can't assume that it's evidence of alien visitation. I mean, it's slightly more provable than divine intervention (because we have absolutely no idea how to construct a theory of God), but that isn't necessarily saying much. EVDebs (talk) 19:50, 22 August 2013 (UTC)

There are two points - there has to be a stage when 'life of some form' emerges (probably on various planets at roughly the same time in the history of the universe) - who-or-what starts them off according to this thesis? (There are probably a number of routes from 'bare planet in the Goldilocks zone' to 'primordial soup' to 'life even if not as we know it Jim' - and the numbers of planets at the stage of 'amoebas and slime moulds'/'decorative plants, plankton and land-based creepy-crawlies'/pets, fancy fruits and eat-yous/'sentients deciding not to bother discussing the offside rule'/space going entities probably decreases fairly rapidly.

The second aspect is 'aliens visiting Earth/other planets' and causing changes deliberately or accidentally: and just because there has been no confirmed visit does not mean that it did not happen. (Quite a lot of events are not recorded - when did cars cease having'attached car bumpers'?). If 'the proverbial little green men' come to a planet and move 'a colony of tadpoles' from a pool drying out to one that is longer lasting (and so that genetic line leads to sentience, rather than another pool's worth - the 'stepped on butterfly SF story') nobody would ever know. The Prime Directive would end up with various exceptions - disaster relief, "it is that hair touching this wire which causes the problem" etc. (talk) 14:46, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

This reminds me a bit of "What was before the Big Bang?" and similar questions. We just don't have the answer for that now, and probably won't for quite a long time. The best thing is not to wildly speculate about it. Osaka Sun (talk) 15:07, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
Ok, but are you talking about these points just for stimulating conversation or do you have plans for the article? If you do have suggestions, be specific about how they should be worded. Nullahnung (talk) 15:06, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
Our IP editor writes as though the existence of non-terrestrial life in the universe is known and that we can draw inferences from that assumed fact. While the existence of non-terrestrial life may be quite probable it has not been demonstrated. It is dangerous to assume something like this and then speculate about it as if it were fact.--Weirdstuff (talk) 16:08, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
I think speculation is alright, it is highly probable after all, but we shouldn't be putting speculations in the article (leastways to avoid looking like hypocrites). But I'm not saying that the IP even had plans for the article. Still waiting for clarification on that. Nullahnung (talk) 16:14, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
I'd go so far as to say the possibility of extraterrestrial life approaches 1:1 based on what we know about exoplanet frequency. However, the case remains that we a) have no way of directly observing any and b) have no proof that any other life that exists in the universe right now is intelligent and able to communicate with us. It's a bit like Russell's Teapot turned on its head -- we may know for a fact that there is a teapot in orbit, but that doesn't mean we can say anything about it that means anything. EVDebs (talk) 17:23, 23 August 2013 (UTC)
Indeed. But the IP starts off with "there must have been" first life then first sentient entities which is all for the good; there must have been if only on the planet Earth. But then - according to the IP - there equally must have been "first space going entities". Then we get to aliens visiting earth and the prime directive. It's just SF fantasy. Of course SF fantasy might always turn out to be correct - but so might the flying spaghetti monster.--Weirdstuff (talk) 18:39, 23 August 2013 (UTC)

(reset) Most people will have no problem with the theory. 'The universe is very big and there are many stars and localities which resemble each other. Life evolved once on one planet and sentience has evolved. For much of life-on-earth's history there was single celled life, then a period of increasing complexity, and sentients have only been in existence for a fairly short while. Therefore it can be assumed that life exists elsewhere in the universe, and it will be mostly at the simpler levels, with some planets having sentients and a proportion of those having the equivalents of Wikipedia, Rationalwiki, Aliensdidit, objects in orbit/on planets, Voyager and relatives, and a bubble of radio/TV waves spreading outwards.' (Such bubbles may even be crossing paths as we speak.)

Space travel in the conventional sense (being able to travel between different systems in a reasonable fraction of the space-going-species' lifetime - whether one way or gadding about around the galaxy) is presently the stuff of science fiction. It can be assumed that 'if it is feasible some entity will manage it' (for the usual reasons of 'Because it's there' or 'To prevent the other lot getting there first') - but until it actually happens and somebody's prize-winning marrow gets wrecked, or the equivalent of 'Fred Bloggs was here (with 'the usual images' added) is found it will remain pure speculation.

Aliens may have done it - but who 'started off' the aliens? (talk) 14:58, 27 August 2013 (UTC)

The point at which 'reasonably likely' ends and science fiction begins is the generic heliopause and 'objects carrying messages hopefully to be read by finder.' (Some solar systems will be more suited for planet hopping than others: and there is no logical reason why we should be anywhere near the first to leave homeplanet.) (talk) 14:31, 30 August 2013 (UTC)

Voyager has crossed the science fact/science fiction boundary. (talk) 14:08, 13 September 2013 (UTC)