Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Do ageless bacteria beneath Earth’s surface give life to panspermia theories?

arroba Email

Surely, no one expected to find life forms down there that are simply very, very inactive and live for millennia, but if they can:

The world’s oldest living individuals may not be gnarled bristlecone pines or shimmering aspen clones, but tiny microbes locked in rock miles beneath the surface whose goal is to not to grow or reproduce, but simply to cheat death.

A growing number of papers published in the last decade indicate that bacteria living – many of them in a hydrated, active state — in sediments, in rocks, and in pockets and fissures buried deep underground are old beyond belief.

For instance, in the early 2000s, scientists revealed that the rate at which microbes in aquifers and sediments were breathing was vastly slower than that of microbes at the surface. The biomass turnover rates – the time in which it takes to replace the molecules in a cell – were measured on the order of hundreds to thousands of years…

Panspermia hypotheses that life seeded the universe by hitchhiking inside asteroids have always seemed very tin-foil hat to me. But these findings, together with the recent realization that life may have appeared on Earth almost as soon as it was possible, force me to at least reconsider. Although space is vast, life is insistent. Jennifer Frazer, “Inside Earth, Microbes Approach Immortality” at Scientific American

Well, maybe not all possible lifeforms would simply disintegrate under interstellar space conditions.

Some of us think panspermia gets a bad rap; that is, it is classed with “They’re OUT There!” theories about intelligent aliens. It is really a much more straightforward question whether life forms could survive extreme conditions and, in general, we are finding life in more extreme conditions all the time.

See also: Skeptic: Panspermia (Life Came From Elsewhere Than Earth) Is “Pseudoscience”

That panspermia paper at Progress in Biophysics & Molecular Biology generated some heat: Links and analysis

Panspermia (maybe life came from outer space) is back, in Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology


What we know and don’t know about the origin of life (a generous supply of implausible theories)

Follow UD News at Twitter!


Leave a Reply