From astronomer and physicist Milan Ćirković at Nautilus:
When H.G. Wells wrote about aliens, his wild imaginings were shaped by Darwin’s theory of evolution. In The War of the Worlds, giant Martian invaders with whip-like arms are threatened by extinction and so expand into a new ecological niche by colonizing other planets, notably Earth. In The Time Machine, a time traveler visiting the future stumbles upon two posthuman species. What led Wells to these majestic speculations, inspiring science-fiction buffs and also many scientists to this day? A firm belief in the universality of evolution by natural selection.
But does evolution operate the same on life everywhere? The success of Darwinian theory to explain life on Earth has lulled many of us into thinking that it must be. In fact evolution might have functioned by different mechanisms in Earth’s distant past as well as elsewhere in the galaxy. We could envision a planet dominated by Lamarckian inheritance of acquired traits, or a world where large mutations—and not the gradual variation of natural selection—are the main agents of change.
Say no more, Milan. Here in the wilds of North America, many of us are thinking that way already about life on Earth.
The trouble is that we don’t have a way to confirm if the mode of terrestrial evolution is generalizable to all life or is the result of mere happenstance. More.
It is unlikely that Darwinism is generalizable to all life. Milan, check your mail. Darwinism is in enough trouble here at home. But exploration of other planets will be great anyway.
See also: Epigenetics: What China’s government famine can teach us about inherited starvation effects The famine in question was the government-imposed Great Leap Forward, estimated to have killed up to 45 million people.
Darwinism: Replacement or extension?
Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!
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