And here again is our host, Professor Wilbur Newton.
(applause)Just before Lunch, we considered the FUTURE of humanity. Now I want to look in the opposite direction!
The history of life on Earth might be VERY different from what we have always assumed! What if we happen to be a tiny cog in a huge machine in the Universe?
We scientists are pretty confident that the stars of the Universe began around 13 billion years ago, that our Milky Way Galaxy has existed for at least 8 billion years, that the Sun is around 5 billion years old and that the Earth is around 4.7 billion years old.
We have long speculated regarding HOW life could ever have begun on Earth, apparently at least 3 billion years ago as blue-green algae. Current opinions are all based on variations of Darwin's evolution, usually combined with a variety of assumptions and even speculations, which often have very little actual scientific basis.
Consider a different possibility, which might be a lot more logical. Consider that some planet in our Milky Way Galaxy had progressed long ago, maybe 6 billion years ago, to a point similar to our current Earth technologies. Say that some forward-thinking being on that planet realized the massive value of SEEDING millions or billions of other possible planets in our Galaxy. Say that rather than thinking of sending advanced life forms, as we had discussed in the discussion just before lunch, complex beings which may not easily survive or prosper, the ancient being decided to extract DNA from blue-green algae, to make the billions or trillions of encapsulated packets of DNA we just discussed before Lunch?
The situation is much simpler in many ways. The encapsulating packets could be Engineered to be biodegradable in an oxygen or a carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere. The blue-green algae DNA might then land in ocean water, or on moist land, where the statistical odds of blue-green algae life coming about on that planet might be very high!
Not that anyone would have intentionally targeted the Earth with such a packet of blue-green algae DNA, but maybe 3 billion years ago, one or more such capsules of algae DNA might have plopped somewhere in one of our Earth oceans. The interesting part of this premise is that there might have also arisen very similar blue-green algae life on a thousand or a million OTHER planets which happen to be in our Galaxy. ALL these biospheres might have been sent out by a single forward-thinking group, billions of years earlier! The transit time from the source planet would vary, so they would not all have begun or developed on the same Thursday, but within some millions of years, there might have been quite an assortment of planets which all had enormous growths of very similar blue-green algae, all over our Galaxy.
If our traditional ideas regarding Evolution are valid, that might have initiated most or all of the more advanced life forms which followed ON EACH OF THOSE PLANETS!
Extending this logic (speculation), we note that blue-green algae reproduce by asexual methods, where unless there are mutations (such as by cosmic rays) the daughter cells beings are exactly identical to the parent. No significant evolution was then possible. We are suggesting that maybe around two billion years ago, a different DNA packet might have arrived in Earth's environment, one that involved more complex eukaryotic cells. We are also suggesting that maybe around 600 million years ago, yet different such DNA packets might have arrived, ones that involved conjugation (sexual propagating) creatures. Paleobiologists call that time the Cambrian Explosion, as immense numbers of sexually propagating living plants and creatures relatively suddenly took over much of the Earth. Scientists do not yet have any good idea just how such an enormous chance might have occurred. I am suggesting that even a single DNA packet that arrived from 'somewhere else' could have initiated such an 'Explosion'.
However, there is another realistic possibility! If we can reasonably assume that MOST advanced civilizations will eventually realize that their planet's societies will probably not endure long, we think it realistic that there might be millions of advanced societies which have each been sending out interstellar rockets which sprayed out DNA packets, fairly randomly throughout our Galaxy, in the interest of preserving an ancient legacy of their planet's achievements.
Now consider that so many millions of planets may have sprayed out such DNA capsules over the past several billion years, that the Earth may realistically have received a wide variety of types of DNA capsules. What if one or more planets had sprayed out the DNA for MAMMAL forms of life? And what if such a DNA packet had arrived in the Earth's atmosphere around 65 million years ago? If these entirely new forms of life happened to have successful patterns, might the carnivores have attacked and killed off the last remaining dinosaurs? Where Earth's biosphere might rather suddenly have thousands of various mammals prospering around the globe?
I find such a possibility to be a lot more logically credible than for some deep thinker to dream up that some giant meteorite collided with the Gulf of Mexico (sorry, George) which allegedly caused such worldwide environmental disruptions to suddenly kill off all the dinosaurs, which then enabled a non-competitive environment for the mammals which quickly showed themselves to be amazingly prosperous. In fact, the alleged 'evidence' for that 'asteroid' idea is nearly entirely due to a thin layer of Iridium found in many areas by Geologists. No one seems to see any importance in the fact that Iridium is one of the most dense materials which exist (specific gravity of 22.6). Could that extreme density have had anything to do with deposits of Iridium appearing all over the Earth about then?
Extending this reasoning even further, what if some other society had sprayed out DNA of what we might call proto-humans, where such a capsule might have arrived in the Earth's atmosphere just a million years ago, possibly in southern Africa?
You probably have noticed some significant differences between these different arrivals of DNA packets in the Earth's atmosphere. The most primitive of them, the blue-green algae DNA, may not have needed any external assistance to prosper as algae. The Mammals and the Proto-Human packets probably needed much more sophisticated processing, which then also would have to have been Engineered to be self-generating.
The only example we yet know about is the reason you are now on our Island. Whoever sent out the single DNA packet which we have processed must have known that there were no spontaneously-self-generating natural methods for the communication to have advanced. We believe that they INTENTIONALLY made the artifact much larger, pea-sized AND they made the artifact UNIQUE where some intelligent life form on the target planet might recognize that uniqueness. We do not see how they could have been certain that a bright color would have endured for millions or billions of years, or various other ways they might have tried to label their artifacts. So we feel that they had INTENTIONALLY made sure that their artifact was so perfectly spherical that it might get the attention of an observant and intelligent native. Given that we do not have any direct evidence from the beings and do not have any evidence from the capsule regarding where it came from, we feel that this explanation is the best we have yet found. One of the reasons we invited each of you to our island is that we hope you might arrive at better insights regarding subjects such as this.
I think it might be appropriate for me to entertain questions any of you might have regarding either 'ancient history' or 'extreme future', although I still request that you hold off on any questions about our being guests themselves until you have had at least one visit with one of them.
Question: Should we collectively be examining all the obscure artifacts now sitting in back rooms of Museums, similar to what you did when you found your unusually spherical object?
Question: If you might be correct in thinking that millions of earlier advanced societies had each sprayed out their own DNA capsules to try to create a Legacy for their existence in the Galaxy, does this suggest that we might start to try to do the equivalent of 'net fishing' near the Earth to see if we might capture such a capsule? If we found even one such capsule, that would seem to provide solid proof of your logic regarding millions of discrete sources of DNA from around our Galaxy.
Question: If such an effort resulted in a significant number of different sources of DNA, might we also find non DNA capsules or some sort of DNA-based capsule which might contain data contents? Like what we tried to do with the two Voyager spacecraft, where we included a metal plate with artwork and data, for the future recipient of our Voyager spacecraft to try to learn something about Earth and humanity?
Editor's note for the book: Much later in the story, in Chapter 23, we discover such a data source in some other Museum backroom, where we then think we may have information about the society that had sent out the DNA for our Beings about a billion years ago, and the story then still has some of the Beings alive and we are able to communicate with them about whether we had information about their progenitors.
I suspect you may have many things to discuss with each other about some of these matters that I have presented to you, even if it includes opinions that I am spouting hogwash! THAT is how science advances, isn't it?
[Assorted conversations occur between guests, where we learn more about the background and personality of many of them during the afternoon.]UFO - DNA - Chapter 1 - Introduction, the Invitation
(Remaining 17 Chapters, altogether about 25 Chapters)