from June 19, 2003 9:00-10:00 PM Eastern
© by International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design
Our guest speaker today is panspermia theorist, Brig Klyce. Brig is
the writer and creator of the internet's most comprehensive website
on panspermia. Brig has actively studied
evolution, the origin of life, and panspermia since 1980. In 1995
this activity became his full-time occupation. Today he conducts,
promotes and publicizes research pertaining to the strong version
of panspermia, which he would like to rename 'Cosmic Ancestry'. He
has given many lectures and radio interviews, and presented papers
on Cosmic Ancestry at colleges, universities and science conferences
from NASA's Ames Research Center in California, to Amsterdam, The
I'm now going to turn the chat over to Brig. Feel free to start sending
Hi everyone. Cosmic ancestry is a version of panspermia, the theory
that life is spread from place to place in the universe when viable
cells are delivered by vehicles such as comets. Evidence for this
theory is accumulating -- organics in interstellar dust and on meteorites,
very hardy extremophiles, and apparently immortal spore-forming bacteria.
(More about panspermia) -- One of the best reasons to like panspermia
is the inadequacy of theories explaining life's origin from ordinary
Hi Brig. Does panspermia imply that conditions for the origin of life
are better in other places in the universe?
(More) Cosmic ancestry finds a similar inadequacy in the darwinistic
account of evolutionary _progress_ (not adaptation or microevolution).
A logical extension of panspermia is to suppose that the genetic
programs for such advances also come from space on the same vehicles.(end)
(reply to Micah's) No. It is true that there are some 10^20 more opportunities
-- planets -- for life to originate on if we open the posibilities
of space. Also, life could originate on comets or in more diffuse
bodies like interstellar clouds. But none of these places is better
Do you address the question of origin of the interstellar life-forming
Phil, no. In the version of panspermia that I advocate, the origin
of life from nonliving chemicals is impossible. A cell is irreducably
complex, I guess.
Hello Brig, it appears to me that viruses evolved from cells, here
on earth. Genetic material escpaes from cells from
time to time to form what we call viruses. Evidence of this is the
extreme specificity of the virus to host relationship. What are your
I'm not entirely sure that viruses are merely genetic material that
has escaped. They have their own basic genes (gag, pol, and env are
the 3 necessary ones I think). But their specificity fits neatly
with the requirements of cosmic ancestry (CA). This specificity would
reduce chaos as new programs arrive.
after life is in existence, do you believe random mutation and natural
selection plays any role in its furether development>
Absolutely, bertvan. Even if random mutation cannot compose new programs,
it can help optimise them for specific species, environments, etc.
The idea that life reached earth from outer space only moves the mystery
one step further away. It solves nothing. Some things could take
place from random motion of atoms. But some could not happen without
intelligent aid from outside. Using the old illustration of a 747
resulting from a tornado passing thru a junk yard, there is nothing
in the tornado that could tighten screws or nuts and bolts.
If we knew for sure that life had to originate somewhere, I would agree
with you, Bill. The evidence that life had to originate on Earth
used to be thought very secure. Now we know that life didn't have
to originate here. In cosmic ancestry, is didn't have to originate
ever, but always existed. I realize that we are in the habit of seeking
the origin of everything. But without better scientific evidence,
I think we can doubt that life ever originated. If so, we would have
to amend the big bang theory, but it is often amended anyway!
Do you view Cosmic Ancestry as one of many views under the Intelligent
Design umbrella, and do you think that there is evidence that might
be sought to distinguish between a theistic explanation for life
and a panspermic explanation?
Fred asks 2 questions. First, no, cosmic ancestry is a third thing,
different from both Darwinism and ID. Both of them think life must
have originated -- CA doesn't. This leads to the second question.
I do not think that any scientific evidence can be used to prove
that a miracle ever occurred in the past, if that's what you mean
by a theistic explanation. On the other hand, there are some questions
that science cannot answer, no matter what. For example, why is there
anything instead of nothing? Science would do well to acknowledge
that there are scientifically unanswerable questions. CA holds that
the origin of highly evolved life is one of those questions.
Does the3 work of James Shapiro and natural genetic engineering hold
any implications for panspermia?
Not sure if I know James Shapiro's natural genetic engineering. Is
it like using viruses to install genetic modifications? If so, it
demonstrates a principle about how evolution could work, according
So if evolutionary processes can evolve specific organisms, is it possible
that we are an "evolutionary backwater", and there are
more highly evolved organisms out there that may someday float to
earth? Or is the converse true, are we the most highly evolved, and
therefore seeding the rest of the universe?
There is no way for us to know whether even more highly evolved forms
exist. Unless perhaps we could find the genes for them in a genome
sequencing project. Even then we wouldn't know what the genes would
do unless we somehow activated them. I haven't thought this through.
I think we could logically assume that the capability to become cosmic
ancestors must exist, so if we couldn't accomplish some part of that
project ourselves, something must be missing.
Brig, does your version of panspermia reject the strict reductive methodology
of 20th century biology in favor of an organism based biology (in
the same spirit as McClintock, Shapiro, etc.) In other words, do
you think that trying to explain the organism by reference to just
chemistry and physics leaves something out?
I do not reject strict reductive methodology, but it leaves something
out, of course. First, from chaos theory and complexity theory, we
know that complex phenomena and behaviors, that could not be anticipated
from simply knowing the rules, often emerge. Consider "Gliders" in
Conway's "Game of Life". It also leaves something out in
the same sense as chemistry and optics leave out a great deal about
How does CA explain the origin of humans?
Here's a related question....
Why do you take bacteria only into consideration? How do you correlate
to Human Evolution ?
If real time experiments do not give evidence of sustainably inventive
evolution (and they don't) then it is reasonable to doubt that it
is possible. If so, humans and all life forms do not originate, they
_develop_. The genetic programs for them are already present, and
are expressed when conditions and prior development permit. If the
planet were all water, maybe the individuals in a civilization would
not be called (by us anyway) humans....
Micah's "something eles" might ber volition/intelligence.
Do you entertaint he possibility of volition/intellience being a real
force of nature?
Bacteria are the life-form that forms spores that are apparently immortal.
They could survive billion-year inter-galactic trips, if necessary.
Other forms of life haven't shown this capability. But bacteria (and
viruses, which could - not survive but - persist through such voyages)
could contain all the genes for everything else.
I think volition/intelligence are properties of highly evolved life,
such as ourselves. And we are a real force _in_ nature. Now our influence
is mostly limited to this planet, but it could become greater.
humans and all life forms DO NOT ORIGINATE, they _develop_ The genetic
programs for them are already present." So you wrote. If this
solves the question of life on earth, then there is still another question
even more important. Who or What wrote the genetic programs?
I do not think we have evidence of a time when the programs did not
exist. So who wrote them? contains an assumption that I do not make
-- that they had to originate.
Since I'm late joining, I'm not sure if this was covered. But if directed
panspermia is proposed, do you see this as a one time event or an
on-going event? If on-going, how would we recognize it?
Directetd panspermia was proposed by Crick and Orgel in 1973 because
they thought that radiation in space would sterilize aything. That
was wrong. (Comets can shield life from UV and cosmic rays.) But
ordinary, undirected panspermia would be ongoing.
you don't see the genome as something dynamic and constantly changing
let me point out that bertvan's quesiton is in reference to "the
genetic programs for them are already present."
Yes! the genome is totally dynamic and changing. But without new genetic
programs from somewhere, these internal dynamics reach an evolutionary
limit. They are housekeeping, error-correcting, grammar and syntax
checking (perhaps) processes, but not inventive ones.
Do you think that photosynthesis was the result of something akin to
Shapiro's natural genetic engineering?
The genetic programs are already present" somewhere within the
biosphere and available for ultimate use by the appropriate species,
is what I think I meant earlier.
NelsonAlonzo: photosynthesis has been carefully studied recently, and
the conclusion is that it arrived by horizontal gene transfer. I
mentioned this in What'sNEW on my website recently, and the references
let me just point out htat Shapiro's natural genetic engineering thesis
states that organisms have the capacity to reorganize their own genomes
to deal with their environments.
Well, that wraps up our chat for the evening.
Thanks to everyone who showed up.
And thanks especially to Brig Klyce for the stimulating discussion!
Brig thanks for the chat! Keep up the site!!!
Thanks every one
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