A more apt title for Dawkins’ tome, based on his essay describing it, would be The Dawkins Delusion.
More pap from it:
If, as Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel once playfully speculated, life on this planet was deliberately seeded by a payload of bacteria in the nose cone of a rocket, we still need an explanation for the intelligent aliens who dispatched the rocket.
Playfully? Let’s see about that.
‘Directed Panspermia’ suggests that life may be distributed by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Crick and Orgel argued that DNA encapsulated within small grains could be fired in all directions by such a civilization in order to spread life within the universe. Their abstract in the 1973 Icarus paper reads:
“It now seems unlikely that extraterrestrial living organisms could have reached the earth either as spores driven by the radiation pressure from another star or as living organisms imbedded in a meteorite. As an alternative to these nineteenth-century mechanisms, we have considered Directed Panspermia, the theory that organisms were deliberately transmitted to the earth by intelligent beings on another planet. We conclude that it is possible that life reached the earth in this way, but that the scientific evidence is inadequate at the present time to say anything about the probability. We draw attention to the kinds of evidence that might throw additional light on the topic.
Crick and Orgel further expanded on this idea in their 1981 book, ‘Life Itself.’. They believed there was little chance that microorganisms could be transported between planets and across interstellar distances by random accident. But a technological civilization could direct panspermia by stocking a spacecraft with a genetic starter kit. They suggested that a large sample of different microorganisms with minimal nutritional needs could survive the long journey between worlds.
Many scientists are critical of the Panspermia hypothesis, because it does not try to answer the question of how life first originated. Instead, it passes the responsibility on to another place and another time, offering at best a partial solution to the question.
Crick and Orgel suggested that Directed Panspermia might help resolve some mysteries about life’s biochemistry. For instance, it could be the reason why the biological systems of Earth are dependent on molybdenum, when the chemically similar metals chromium and nickel are far more abundant. They suggested that the seeds for life on Earth could have originated from a location far richer in molybdenum.
Other scientists have noted, however, that in seawater molybdenum is more abundant than either chromium or nickel.
Coming full circle to his groundbreaking discovery of DNA’s structure, Crick wondered, if life began in the great “primeval soup” suggested by the Miller/Urey experiment, why there wouldn’t be a multitude of genetic materials among the different life forms. Instead, all life on Earth shares the same basic DNA structure.
Crick and Orgel wrote in their book ‘Life Itself,’ “an honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”
This doesn’t sound very “playful” to me. Crick and Orgel were as serious as a heart attack. I wonder if Crick would have classified Richard Dawkins as “an honest man”? If I seem to be giving Orgel short shrift it’s probably because I’m personally acquainted with Francis Crick’s son Michael who I collaborated with on an online multiplayer computer game design in the recent past.