Is life from space a viable scientific hypothesis?

Walter Bradley Center Director Robert J. Marks conducted a podcast series with Swedish mathematician Ola Hössjer and Colombian biostatistician Daniel Díaz as part of a recent article co-authored on the Tuning of the Universe for life in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. In the first part of this episode, podcast 153, “Why is there fine tuning everywhere?” they examine an explanation offered for this fact in recent decades: panspermia (life was sown throughout the universe) by advanced alien beings. Eminent atheist scientists gave the theory the necessary impetus. What is the scientific support for this?


This game starts at 01:53 min. (The theory part of the simulation starts at 4:59 min). A partial transcript, exhibition notes, and additional resources follow.

Robert J. Marks: Everyone agrees, scientists, biologists and chemists. Corn Why is the universe finely tuned? Today we welcome two guests who are experts in fine-tuning. Dr Ola Hössjer is Professor of Mathematical Statistics at Stockholm University in Sweden. Our second guest is Dr Daniel Diaz. He is an Assistant Research Professor in Biostatistics at the University of Miami.

Robert J. Marks: I think I did a good exhaustive research of the theories for fine tuning. And the first one, Daniel, that I want you to talk about is Panspermia. We are refined because of Panspermia.

Daniel Diaz: Panspermia is the idea that life was sown on earth from space. Then there is a particularization of this idea which is called directed panspermia. It was, if I am not mistaken, proposed by Francis Crick, the discoverer of the structure of the DNA molecule in order to explain how life began here on earth. It was the idea that it had been sown on earth by an alien civilization.

Robert J. Marks: It’s really strange. What is the difference between directed panspermia and regular panspermia? I think one was done on purpose. The other was accidental. Is it correct?

Daniel Diaz: Yes. Basically there was an alien agent in directed panspermia bringing life here on earth. On the other hand, it might just be accidental that life was sown on earth, as it came, for example, from an asteroid. And the little one-celled life form started to develop until we got to that point.

To note: The discoverer of the double helix Francis Crick (1916-2004) was an atheist who recognized that the irreducible complexity of life required an explanation that went beyond the successful random movements of molecules. In 1973, with the origin of life researcher Leslie Orgel (1927-2007), he proposed directed panspermia:

“It now seems unlikely that extraterrestrial living organisms could have reached Earth either as spores carried along by radiation pressure from another star, or as living organisms embedded in a meteorite. As an alternative to these 19th century mechanisms, we considered directed panspermia, the theory that organisms were deliberately transmitted to earth by intelligent beings on another planet. We conclude that it is possible that life reached earth this way, but there is currently insufficient scientific evidence to say anything about the likelihood. We draw attention to the types of evidence that could shed additional light on the subject. “- ScienceDirect

They initially proposed the idea “at a conference on communication with extraterrestrial intelligence, organized by Carl Sagan and held at the Byuraka Observatory in Soviet Armenia in 1971. This theory which they described as a” very unorthodox proposition ”and“ bold speculation ”was presented as a plausible scientific hypothesis. Two years after the conference, they published an article in Icare on 1973. ” American scientist (2013) The science writer David Darling notes one of his main arguments: “The universality of [genetic] the code follows naturally from an “infectious” theory of the origin of life. Life on Earth would represent a clone derived from a single set of organisms. Crick later wrote a book on directed panspermia called Life itself (1982)

Robert J. Marks: Another person who loved and believed in panspermia was Fred Hoyle. Hoyle definitely believed in a refined universe.

Isn’t the idea of ​​panspermia just a kick in the box down the road? It’s just sort of shifting the issue from where we came from, “Where did this amazing civilization come from?” The life of the planet here on earth.

Daniel Diaz: Recently there was a debate, a conversation between Sabine Hossenfelder, a very famous physicist with a well-known channel on YouTube, and Luke Barnes, who has done extensive research on fine tuning.

They coincide as to why fine-tuning is actually not a scientific question. So Luke Barnes said science ends up saying there is fine tuning. Of course, different worldviews will produce different explanations for this fine-tuning that we observe in nature.

Here is a video debate between Sabine Hossenfelder and Luke Barnes. (2021). Also available as a podcast.

Robert J. Marks: Interesting. Panspermia, once again, throws the box down the road. It leads us to wonder about the origin of this master people who came here and sowed life on earth. It’s just weird.

To note: Astronomer Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) was, like Francis Crick, an atheist – well, most of the time. His doubts about atheism stemmed from the complexity of life versus the known effects of simply random movements. He and Chandra Wickramasinghe (1939–) seem to have made the theory questionable in science: “Fred Hoyle’s involvement in panspermia, the recasting of an old idea in a modern scientific setting marks an important turning point in the fate of this theory. . Panspermia is discussed nowadays as a serious alternative to a purely earthly origin of life. – Panspermia according to Hoyle (2003)

“One of the reasons for the adoption of panspermia, it [Wickramasinghe] explains, is the “superastronomically improbable transition from non-life to life”. The idea that abiogenesis has occurred on the cosmically insignificant earth in a strangely short period of time strikes him as unlikely at best. – Cosmos (2018) The idea of directed panspermia is alive and well. An open access article from 2018 in Advances in biophysics and molecular biology by 33 scientists from various disciplines pleads in favor of panspermia: “Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic? Quoting Crick and Orgel and Hoyle, among others.

At this point, the evidence for panspermia has been classified as “plausible, but not convincing” because there is no plausible, purely natural explanation for life on Earth that would make panspermia unnecessary. This probably explains the interest of notorious atheists and quasi-atheists.

Here’s PBS on the subject:

Here are the previous parts of the fine-tuning for life discussion:

The first episode:

Ours is a finely tuned universe – and No Free Lunch -. Mathematician Ola Hössjer and biostatistician Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón explain to Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks why nature works so harmoniously. A “life-sustaining gap” makes all of this possible – but is it really an accident?

and

Fine tuning? How Bayesian Statistics Could Help Break a Deadlock Bayesian statistics are used, for example, in spam filtering technology, identifying probable spam by examining vast masses of previous messages. The frequentist approach evaluates the probability of future events, but the Bayesian approach evaluates the probability of events that have already occurred.

The second episode:

Life is so wonderfully regulated, it’s frightening A mathematician who uses statistical methods to model the fine-tuning of machines and molecular systems in cells reflects …
Each cell is like a city that cannot function without a complex web of services that must all work together to sustain life.

Can there be a general theory for fine tuning? If you make a bowl of alphabet soup and the letters come together and say hello, that’s specified. What are the odds? Ola Hössjer sees the beauty of mathematics in the fact that seemingly unrelated features of cosmology and biology can be modeled using similar concepts.

The first part of the third episode
Was the universe created for life forms to live in it? How would we know? We can start by looking at the fundamental constants that underlie the universe. The constants of the universe – gravitational constant, entropy, and cosmological constant – must be finely tuned for life to exist.

The second part of the third episode

Why did Stephen Hawking drop a theory at all? Daniel Díaz and Ola Hössjer continue their discussion on fine-tuning the universal constants of nature with Robert J. Marks. The probability, they calculate, that our universe’s fine-tuning is simply random is from 10 to negative sixty – a very small number.

You can also read: No Free Meals: Robert J. Marks: What the Big Bang Tells Us About Nothing. Bernoulli is right and Keynes is wrong. Bernoulli’s critics do not like the definition of “knowing nothing”. The concept of “knowing nothing” can be tricky.

Show Notes

  • 00:33 | Presentation by Dr Daniel Díaz and Dr Ola Hössjer
  • 01:53 | Panspermia
  • 04:59 | The Sims Theory
  • 10:40 am | Anthropic principle
  • 18:53 | Multiverse
  • 26:03 | The Creator’s Interpretation
  • 29:11 | Personal beliefs
  • 36:24 | Final words

Additional resources

Download the podcast transcript


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