Star Wars & Life on Earth

Have you ever considered the possibility that we are here because of aliens? That’s a plausible theory, according to some scientists like Neil DeGrasse Tyson. But to be fair, Tyson hasn’t went as far as to credit extraterrestrial life with the invention of humanity. Yet.

The kind of other worldly origins that he promotes is less direct. Instead of highly evolved beings located in some nook and cranny of a distant planet playing biological ping-pong hurling life about the cosmos, Neil DeGrasse Tyson thinks life may have drifted from meteor crashes on Mars. “It may be that all life on earth was seeded from martian life,” Tyson said on a recent interview on Real Time with Bill Maher.

In another talk DeGrasse described the possible origins of life as a “plausible scenario which is called panspermia. The transference of life from one planet to the next.” Of course, Tyson also promoted this theory in The Immortals, the eleventh episode of his remake of the documentary Cosmos. Forget that on the first episode of the documentary Tyson told his audience to have a skeptical mind and only follow the evidence. Perhaps, he meant that you should only follow the evidence except when you don’t: like in his example of panspermia.

But could there actually be enough circumstantial evidence to justify Tyson’s confidence in the theory? Nadia Drake, writing for the National Geographic, gives a hopeful no. “Obviously, no one knows whether panspermia actually happens” she says, “For years, the idea failed to gain strong scientific traction. But recent pieces of circumstantial evidence suggest that in some environments, such as the inner solar system, versions of panspermia aren’t so farfetched.”

Drake quotes astronomer Caleb Scharf of Columbia University to illustrate the uncertain place that panspermia holds in scientific study, “I’d say that a plausible, but entirely unproven, mechanism exists for the transfer of viable organisms.” Entirely unproven: maybe that’s all the evidence Tyson needs to tell audiences around the world, with a glimmer in his eye and a ring of enthusiasm in his voice, that we owe our existence to Mars.

To be fair, other great minds have dispensed this theory with even more fervor than Tyson. Francis Crick, Nobel Prize winning scientist, co-discover of the structure of DNA, postulated a theory of panspermia that actually did involve alien intentionality. Instead of debris from Mars floating life to earth, Crick suggested that aliens purposely sent life to our young planet. If nothing else, this idea provides Hollywood with ample fodder for blockbusters. Check out the movies Knowing, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Prometheus, the prequel to the Aliens franchise, for a good science fiction visualization of directed panspermia.

To be entirely honest, the theory of life being placed here deliberately by a greater being seems pretty plausible to me. It sounds a lot like Genesis chapters one and two. But, unlike the unproven theory of panspermia, my worldview attributes life to an eternal, all powerful Creator, maker of the heavens and the earth, and not to some advanced species hiding somewhere in the cosmos.

Some might conclude that the mere fact that time and space, matter and energy, came into being at a point in the finite past would suggest that the source of the natural world would have to be eternal (outside of time), omnipresent (outside of space), immaterial (outside of matter), and all powerful (outside of energy). That sounds a lot like God to me.

An eternal, omnipresent, immaterial, and all powerful being, whom I call God, would seem to circumvent a pretty big impasse that Francis Crick’s aliens are incapable of avoiding: If the aliens are the ones who made life, who made them?