By Nathan Falde
Are we alone in the universe? This is a question most people have pondered at one time or another.
Since the distances between us and the nearest habitable planets can only be measured in light years, direct proof of alien life will remain incredibly difficult to come by. The SETI project has been searching for radio signals beamed out into space by aliens, but so far this quest has proved fruitless. If we one day develop warp drive, or if other intelligent life forms discover it, perhaps a visitation will take place that settles the question once and for all.
But then again, perhaps aliens already have visited here in the past. Or maybe they’re visiting right now and have been doing so all along. But for reasons we cannot fathom, they’re either unable or unwilling to contact us openly. If that is the case, they may have left coded information behind somewhere announcing their presence, waiting for us to become advanced enough to find it and correctly interpret its meaning.
If extraterrestrials have left behind some hidden but decipherable proof of their existence, to test our intelligence and level of scientific advancement, they might have left it inside the cells of our body – in our DNA, the ultimate building block of life on Earth.
Some researchers believe data revealing the truth about our origins and about our connection to alien life can in fact be found by searching within. They posit that human beings were created as biological mirror images of our progenitors, a superior extraterrestrial civilization that paved the way for our existence millions of years ago.
This is a provocative thesis, to be sure. If true, it would give a whole new meaning to the Biblical phrase “for you were made in my image.” Under this scenario, the voice of God might actually have been the voice of a scientific genius from another planet.
We might expect the discussion of such a concept to be confined to the fringes of the alternative science milieu, or to be incorporated into the plotline of a science fiction show or movie. But surprisingly, the idea is being taken seriously in at least one bastion of mainstream astronomical science.
A Biological SETI
In 2013, two scientists affiliated with the Fesenkov Astrophysical Institute in Kazakhstan published an article in the journal Icarus suggesting that the search for extraterrestrial life should be expanded to include a survey of human DNA.
Physicist Vladimir Sherbak and astrobiologist Maxim Makukov are convinced we’ve been genetically engineered by beings from another star system. These founders may have done so directly while visiting here hundreds of millions of years ago. Or, they may have sent an information-packed signal into space that reached Earth and somehow triggered alterations in our DNA. Or, they may have seeded our planet from space with alien genetic material that evolved elsewhere (presumably on their planet of origin).
The latter thesis is known as panspermia, and it has attracted the support of some influential scientists, including by Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the DNA molecule. Makukov and shCherbak believe this is the most likely alternative, and that our creators intentionally chose Earth as a landing site for their genetic payload.
“Once fixed, the code [in our DNA] might stay unchanged over cosmological timescales,” the two scientists from Kazakhstan wrote in Icarus. “Therefore it represents an exceptionally reliable storage for an intelligent signature.”
Makukov and shCherbak say human DNA looks as though it has been created with mathematical precision. “Simple arrangements of the code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of symbolic language. Furthermore, it includes the use of decimal notation and logical transformations that are accurate and systematic.”
In support of their imaginative theory, Makukov and shCherbak have spotted a specific repeating numerical pattern in the human genetic code. By looking closely at the various mathematical ratios, fractions and constants that show up in calculations and measurements of human DNA, they’ve uncovered multiple instances where the number ‘37’ seems to play a prominent role . In their Icarus research paper, the scientists listed nine instances where the number ‘37’ could be derived by performing calculations somehow related to DNA’s chemical structure, and they calculated the odds of that happening by random at 10 trillion to one against.
“It was clear right away that the code has a non-random structure,” Makukov told an interviewer. “The patterns that we describe are not simply non-random. They have some features that, at least from our point of view, were very hard to ascribe to natural processes.”
Expressed in the metric system, the normal body temperature of a human being is 37 degrees Celsius . And according to the latest estimates, there are approximately 37 trillion cells in the human body . So even outside its inclusion in our DNA, the number ‘37’ does help define who we are in some fundamental ways. This is just as we might expect, if that number were included in DNA as a sign.
Evolution or Panspermia? Why Not Both?
The two Kazakhstan scientists are not the first to note certain patterns or regularities in DNA that may be difficult to fit in a Darwinian evolutionary framework. Hardcore Darwinists refuse to accept this, and they have a tendency to reflexively dismiss skeptics as Intelligent Design advocates, conflating their objections with Creationist religious beliefs.
But these tactics have not stopped people with legitimate scientific credentials from asking hard questions about the conventional story of evolution, or from offering alternative ideas to explain the origin and development of life on Earth. Creationists aren’t the only ones expressing doubts about the ability of Darwinism or neo-Darwinism to explain every aspect of our development as a species.
In fact, there is nothing in the Makukov and shCherbak hypothesis that is incompatible with the principles of evolution, not even the Darwinian version. Even if this planet was somehow helped along on the path to producing intelligent life, evolutionary factors may still have been active contributors to the production of the final result. The creation of life on Earth may have involved both natural processes and outside intervention, the latter helping to shape the course of evolution without replacing it.
One thing is for sure, and that is that we really know very little for certain about the origin of life on this planet. There are many mysteries and contradictions in our evolutionary history that are yet to be unraveled.
Top image: Did alien’s code our DNA? Credit: Oleksandr / Adobe Stock
By Nathan Falde
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