A recent article by user sunblock, titled: “God is a Comet”raised a very interesting idea for me, one I would like to share in order to gain consensus on. In his article, sunblock explains the panspermia hypothesis first mentioned by Anaxagoras, a Greek philosopher in the 5th century BC, defined as follows: the hypothesis that life exists throughout the Universe, distributed by meteoroids, asteroids and planetoids1. Sunblock then likened space to the ocean of the Universe, with very resilient bacteria being flung everywhere via their interplanetary shuttles, bombarding various ‘goldilocks’ habitats and seeding life on Earth as a result.
Bacteria landing up in our oceans (which incidentally, is also believed to have been brought to Earth via asteroids, comets etc.) had an evolutionary trigger that allowed bacteria to spring to life and blossom, diversifying even further as time progressed. That trigger was the root of my question, namely: could the evolutionary mutations of simple celled organisms into multicellular organisms occur to allow for a life form to evolve and act as an eventual host to bacteria? I.e. Are we just here because bacteria needs a place to stay? Bacteria on your body outnumber Human cells ten-to-one, accounting for one or two percent of body mass2. The very air around you could be host to nearly one thousand and eight hundred differing types of bacteria at this very moment3. It is literally everywhere; in your gut, on your newly washed hands, your pets, the ground, the air, the sea and absolutely everywhere else you can think of.
I jumped onto Google and did some research and lo and behold, a new study published in October 2012 named,“Did bacteria spark evolution of multicellular life?” by a Robert Sanders highlighted a very similar idea4. The study’s senior author, Nicole King from UC, Berkley explains that the closest living relative of animals, known as chaonos (short for choanoflagellates) – also an early member of the ocean’s plankton community – evolved not long before the origins of animals. I don’t want to go too deep into the study as you can read it for yourself, but what was most intriguing is the following statement made by King; “I would be surprised if bacteria did not influence animal origins, since most animals rely on signals from bacteria for some part of their biology.” It appears – from her initial tests – that certain bacteria triggered the chaonos to form colonies (grouping up as a reaction to an increase of bacteria) and in effect concluding that; “colonies of unicellular organisms may have led the way to more permanent multicellular conglomerations, and eventually organisms comprised of different cell types specialized for specific functions.”
So then, bacteria could potentially be the trigger for multicellular life and in a very random and simple manner, explain our supposed 'purpose' as nothing more than a retirement plan for bacteria to reside on and multiply – much like we do on this planet. After some Q&A on a Science-based Facebook group, another interesting question reared its head; could Earth be seeding life into the stellar winds of the Cosmos at this very moment? It was suggested by sunblock that it is indeed possible when asteroids rip through our atmosphere burning up the projectile and flinging the bacteria off into space, unharmed by the heat, lack of oxygen or radiation flares experienced there. It is certainly a dream of many to travel to neighboring planets or galaxies, but our atmospheres bacteria might already be beating us to it! As a side note, might it be feasible to find a way to test if our planet is seeding bacteria to the Cosmos and in so doing provide evidence for the hypothesis of panspermia?
The hypothesis of panspermia leaves me reeling, as I do not enjoy the idea that life originated elsewhere and made its way to Earth on the back of a rock, simply because I feel it removes us further from obtaining an answer as to the origins of life and duly moving it to a location we might never have the pleasure of observing. Now however, I understand that it is foolish to think of life as the pinnacle or even divinely intended product of the Universe. It appears to be that we are just a temporary consequence for more bacteria to evolve – hardly the ‘end game’ of creation that Humans supposedly represent – continuing its journey beyond our planet by blowing its newly formed seeds into the waiting void beyond. If panspermia proves true, life (multicellular organisms) evolved once the seeds of space (bacteria) reached the liquid oceans of Earthlike planets. Due to the effects of bacteria on single celled organisms, we have resulted, acting as host and breeding ground for our potential evolutionary creator. Our planet then, is one of countless islands in the vastness of the Cosmos, with just the right soil, water and sunlight to allow those seeds to evolve into a consciousness that marvels at the very beauty of it all.
If you’ve ever doubted it, let me just tell you something: Science is fucking awesome.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein
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