Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
The winds of change are sweeping through the corridors of biological science. With many more scientists now willing to concede that living things could not have originated without an intelligent agency and did not evolve in a naturalistic sense, some are beginning to revisit an ancient idea; that the seeds of life came here from the stars. We know this today as panspermia.
Panspermia is not a new idea. It appears to have been dreamt up in almost every culture, from ancient civilisations through to the modern era. Like evolution, panspermia is of an entirely pagan origination. The Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaxagoras of Clazomenae (500−428 BC) was one of the earliest documented thinkers who entertained the notion that the ‘seeds’ (in Greek, spermata) of life travel throughout the cosmos. It took on a more scientific formulation with the thoughts of the Swedish physical chemist, Svante Arrhenius, in the early years of the 20th century and was re−visited in more recent times by a collaboration between the British cosmologist, Sir Fred Hoyle, and the Indian mathematician, Chandra Wickramasinghe, who curiously elaborated on his ideas to include “the possibility of high intelligence in the Universe and of many increasing levels of intelligence converging toward a God as an ideal limit.”
Perhaps the boldest efforts to bring scientific credibility to directed panspermia was made by prebiotic chemist, Leslie Orgel and the English physicist, Sir Francis Crick, in an interesting paper appearing in 1973. According to origin of life researcher, Robert Shapiro, Crick became interested in directed panspermia as a tongue in cheek response to the sheer implausibility of life emerging naturally on Earth. Since then however, the possibility of finding a naturalistic origin for life has become much more remote.
As Drs Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana clearly explain in their excellent book, Origins of Life; Evolutionary and Biblical Models Face Off, outside of living organisms and their decay products, scientists find no ribose, lysine, arginine, or tryptophan —molecules critical for assembling proteins, RNA, and DNA—either on Earth or anywhere else in the Universe. What is more, no conceivable naturalistic scenario is able to generate the large, stable ensembles of homochiral (D)ribose and homochiral (L)amino acids that all naturalistic origin-of-life models require, affirming why no such natural sources have ever been found. Many of life’s critical building block molecules cannot last outside of organismal space and their decay products for more than just a few days, hours, or minutes (for example, RNA rapidly degrades as any biochemist will tell you). Furthermore, early Earth’s abundance of uranium and thorium (by their radiometric decay) would have split enough of Earth’s surface water into hydrogen and oxygen to shut down the chemical pathways to a naturalistic origin of life. As world renowned synthetic organic chemist, James Tour, of Rice University, USA, has poignantly stated:
Life should not exist. This much we know from chemistry. In contrast to the ubiquity of life on earth, the lifelessness of other planets makes far better chemical sense.
The fossil record does not reveal any credible sense of evolutionary progression. Thanks to the first rate sleuthing by Dr. Stephen Meyer, a geophysicist and philosopher of biology (PhD Cambridge University) demonstrated in his best selling book: Darwin’s Doubt, The Explosive Origin of Animal Life, the exceptional speed with which animal body plans emerged with no antecedents, casts severe doubt on any NeoDarwinian scenario being implicated in their emergence. Nor is there any compelling reasons to believe in an evolutionary tree of life, as the work of Dr. Paul Nelson of the Discovery Institute, Seattle, USA, has so clearly shown in this interesting presentation.
In the field of paleoanthropology, the public have been subjected to evolutionary propaganda ad nauseam, and yet despite it all, there is no solid evidence that modern humans evolved from lesser creatures. In recent years, some in the field have changed tactic by attacking human exceptionalism, making dubious claims that creatures such as Neanderthals and Homo Erectus displayed symbolic behaviour, but many of these claims have now been debunked by careful re−analysis of the available data and often by fellow scientists within their own fields.
Great scientific revisions like these scare naturalistic scientists half to death; life cannot emerge naturally, nor has it evolved in a Darwinian sense. Unwilling to accept that a deity was responsible for the origin and diversification of life over 4 billion years, they are now showing signs of ducking these issues and as a consequence, are re entertaining the only possible alternative: directed panspermia by a more highly evolved intelligence (ETI) which emerged elsewhere in the Universe.
But how credible is this scenario? Well, the first question that must be answered is where did that extraterrestrial intelligence come from? Well, it could not have arisen naturalistically for the reasons cited earlier. And the chances of finding a truly habitable planet with all the characteristics Earth possesses even in a cosmos with 10 billion trillion planets is unimaginably remote; just one chance in 10172. Could living things survive in deep space, perhaps by being protected inside a case of ice or refractory mineral? Over relatively short distances and small timescales, it is conceivable for life to hitch a ride to another planet. Take the case of Mars and the Earth. Over the aeons, both the Earth and Mars have been pummelled by meteoric debris arising from other locations within the solar system. We have identified Mars rocks on Earth and Mars also will have been peppered with terrestrial material. In this way it is scientifically possible that primitive life derived from the Earth might have taken hold on Mars and might even have survived to this day deep underground. But that’s not what directed panspermia is really about though (the ‘pan’ part of panspermia implies a truly universal mechanism) and it would be scientifically naive to jump to the conclusion that any such life had originated on that body.
The chances of life surviving over longer timescales in outer space is also pessimistically low. Free living microbes would be destroyed by deadly X Ray, UV and gamma radiation permeating both planetary and interstellar space. In 2001, Gerda Horneck et al revealed the results of an experiment conducted on board the Russian FOTON satellite, which showed that the highly radiation resistant Bacillus subtilis were all wiped out in just 15 days! Spores of microbial cells hiding inside a dust grain from one solar system to another will likely be propelled by radiation pressure. The irony is that in order for such a dust grain to be propelled by radiation pressure it would require a source of very high irradiance, and since these sources will feature broadband radiation, e.g. X rays and other highly damagaing electromagnetic radiation, it would destroy any such spores in a relatively short time.
What are the chances of a rock derived from another planetary system being delivered to the Earth? An interesting question, no doubt, but it has been calculated. Jay Melosh, a planetary scientist based at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Arizona showed in 2001 that the expected frequency would be of the order of 10^−16 per year. Simply put, there is one chance in a million of just one interstellar rock being captured by the Earth over the entire history of the solar system!
The notion that an advanced spacefaring ETI seeded life on Earth is gaining momentum in recent days. Conceding that the genetic information simply couldn’t have been derived from any known Darwinian mechanism to create new biological diversity, serious scientists are now entertaining directed panspermia by advanced ETI. But in order to do that they would have to surmount a number of problems. In the first instance, they would have to transport the relevent biological material over interstellar distances. That would mean avoiding all sorts of hazards including novae, supernovae, sterilising radiation from giant stars and flares from dwarf stars, not to mention avoiding radiation from galactic spiral arms and the galactic bulge. But there is also the problem of speed. There are very good physical reasons that the maximum velocity such spacefaring ETIs could move through space at is just a few per cent of the speed of light in order to mitigate against the catastrophic effects of a collision with space debris. Even the impact of a dust−sized grain with a spacecraft travelling at that speed would likely end in disaster. And because these speed limits greatly increase travel time, all of the above problems become multiplicative.
Believing Impossible Things
We live in an age of mass deception; there is so much misinformation out there that almost anything goes. It’s difficult to see the woods from the trees, but if you conduct your research diligently and thoroughly you will arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As a conservative Christian, I am guided by the light and truth of the Bible. The secular world wants you to belief that you came from primordial slime and that you somehow evolved through various blob stages and then into a primitive animal, and from there into a higher animal form and so on and so forth. Life has no purpose and no ultimate meaning. Humans are just rational animals, distinguished only in degree from other animals. Morals are relative. The cosmos is teeming over with lifeforms and one species has no greater intrinsic value than any other. Evolution is its driving force.
The Bible, on the other hand, teaches us that God created all life on Earth as an expression of His glory. It teaches us that “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), as the best available modern science continues to affirm. The origin of human exceptionalism is grounded in the first book of Moses, called Genesis, where it declares that God made Mankind in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). God created humanity from the dirt of the ground of the Earth but says nothing about the stuff from the stars. Intriguingly, the Bible gives very scant attention to the heavens. And lo, when we look to the stars, we do not see that grand evolutionary procession of endless beings, with endless forms. The cosmos is silent, hostile to life where ever we look.
The Bible warns us about deceptions of all kinds but it also instructs us to “test everything” and to “hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). It encourages us to seek the truth for the same will set you free (John 8:32). Given the grand scientific deception that evolutionary ideology cultivates, just how free are you?
Which world view paints paints a more accurate description of reality: the one promulgated by methodological naturalism or that which is presented in the Biblical narratives? I would suggest to you that it is the latter that presents the truth. And as the days go by, and as we learn more and more about this wondrous Universe in which we find ourselves, that truth grows ever stronger. That’s why I urge others not to abandon the faith held by our forebears. The Bible has much to say on these issues. Indeed, it anticipated them:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.
1 Timothy 4:1-2
So don’t be deceived. Forget panspermia in all its delusional flavours. Embrace the truth gladly and don’t be sidetracked by every story that tickles your ears. For that is the worthless faith of a Biblical ‘fool’.
Further theological discussions on ETI and extraterrestrial Life by Dr. John Barnett:
Ross, H. & Rana, F., Origins of Life; Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off, RTB Press, 2014.
Updates on the various chapters from this book available here.
Ross, H. Improbable Planet, How Earth Became Humanity’s Home, Baker Books, 2017.
Some resources challenging the false doctrine of theistic evolution (especially recommended for Roman Catholics, Anglicans etc):
Moreland, J.P., Grudem, W., Shaw, C, & Meyer, S.. (eds.), Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, Crossway Books, 2017.
Chaberek, M.(Fr.),Catholicism and Evolution, Angelico Press, 2015.
Chaberek, M.( Fr.) Aquinas and Evolution, The Chartwell Press, 2017.
Allfree, M., & Davies, M, The Deception of Theistic Evolution, lulu.com, 2017.
Neil English is a keen stargazer and loves debunking deceptions. His latest book; Tales from the Golden Age will look at the life and work of hundreds of amateur and professional astronomers across four centuries of history. Available in late 2018.