The emergence of life, whichever mechanisms stand behind it, is apparently a rare event. But the nature of life is such that, once started, it tends to colonize all available habitats, adapting even to harsh environments like boiling hydrothermal vents, permafrost, and miles deep under the surface. This overarching tendency of life to expand is the very prerequisite for biological evolution, making it possible for complex features facilitating further propagation to emerge. The most powerful of such features is intelligence. Without it, the expansion of life is essentially limited to a single planet. With it, life might propagate throughout the Galaxy or even entire Universe.
There are two possible modes of life’s cosmic expansion at this stage: intelligent beings might colonize other planetary systems themselves or they might seed them with microorganisms launched in automated probes. The first mode, though it propagates life and intelligence simultaneously, is rather slow and demanding. The second one (intentional seeding, also known as directed panspermia) is nothing but an introduction of species taken on a cosmic scale. It propagates as yet unintelligent life but is technically much simpler and thus more efficient, allowing seeding planetary systems in the surrounding galactic neighborhood within less than a million years – a tiny fraction compared to the time span of biological evolution on Earth. Starting local evolution, some of those seeds (perhaps many, as suggested by evolutionary convergence) will eventually arrive at intelligent stage and continue the cycle of cosmic expansion.
The efficiency of seeding compared to inefficiency of abiogenesis leads to the conclusion that, at the current age of the Galaxy, it is more probable for an intelligent being to find itself on a planet which was seeded intentionally rather than on a planet where local abiogenesis took place, and the Earth is not an exception from that. This is not to say, of course, that the view that life originated locally is flawed. But sticking to this view exclusively and dismissing the possibility that terrestrial life might in fact not be the first independent generation in the Galaxy is probably nothing but a manifestation of geo-anthropo-centrism (inappropriately armed with Occam’s razor). Particularly so in view of the two facts that count more in favor of seeding rather than of local abiogenesis: universality of the genetic code and presence of microbial life on Earth already shortly after its formation (the first fact speaks equally well in favor of non-directed panspermia; but the second one is probably more indicative of intentional seeding, as it is somewhat surprising that local abiogenesis or non-directed panspermia could occur right at the time when the Solar System had just formed).
In fact, the hypothesis that Earth was seeded intentionally with life by a preceding galactic civilization is far from new. It was first touched upon in the middle of the 20th century by John Haldane (one of the founders of the evolutionary synthesis), and considered later by other luminaries such as Carl Sagan (a prominent astronomer and science popularizer) and, in great detail, by Francis Crick (the Nobel laureate who discovered the DNA structure), and Leslie Orgel (a biochemist and a key researcher in the origin of life).
This more or less reasonable hypothesis could remain just a conjecture, as there is no conceivable way to test it. At least, on the face of it. However, it does have a possible testable aspect which was pointed out back in 1979 by György Marx, a Hungarian astrophysicist and cosmologist. The point is that though directed panspermia propagates as yet unintelligent life, it might also propagate an intelligent message along with the seeds to inform the future intelligent descendants of the fact that their planet was seeded by a preceding civilization. There is no better place for such a message than the genetic code of the very seeds. First, it guarantees that the message will be found, sooner or later, after intelligent beings evolve and achieve scientifically advanced stage. Second, the message will be protected there from casual modifications by extremely strong purifying selection acting on the genetic code through its direct biological function of translating genes into proteins.
Certainly, if directed panspermia is correct, that does not mean that there must be a message in the genetic code. But if there is a message in the code, then directed panspermia must be correct. In this way, directed panspermia interconnects the problem of the origin of life on Earth with the problem of searching for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and so, if confirmed, naturally resolves the Fermi paradox. But unlike conventional radio SETI, in this case you know exactly where to search. We have tried to perform the search and, at least as we see it, the result leaves no option but to confirm the hypothesis of directed panspermia. This result is published in the journal Icarus.
This is, in brief, what this site is about.
For those who intend to go into more details, here is our recommended order of reading:
- To eliminate possible misconceptions and confusions right off, please, refer to FAQ.
- The historical account of the hypothesis. Ideally, at this stage you should also read the book “Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature” by Francis Crick.
- Read the paper “Space ethics to test directed panspermia” (submitted for publication). This paper sets the stage for the whole idea and examines data that potentially could contradict the possibility of a message in the universal genetic code.
- Read the paper “The ‘Wow! signal’ of the terrestrial genetic code”, which presents the description of the informational artifact in the genetic code and arguments on its artificiality, as well as its algebraic and statistical analysis (the authors’ free version is available at arXiv.org).
- Then you might watch the interactive supplement to the paper online (or download zipped SWF-file to watch it offline).
- Read the chronological summary of the research, which contains some additional materials and elucidates certain points in more detail than in the paper.
- If at this stage you are still unconvinced of the validity of our conclusions, please, refer to How to disprove our conclusions.
- Find out the value of the signal in the Rio Scale.
- You might also read expert opinions.