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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptical Inquirer > Nov/Dec 2018 > Those Supposed Aliens Might Be Worms

Those Supposed Aliens Might Be Worms

Many believe life on alien planets would likely include intelligent humanoids, and much of science fiction uses this idea. Based on what we know of evolution on Earth, there is really no basis for this belief; however, one supportable prediction for alien lifeform would be worms.

“There is nothing in natural selection that allows you to predict any particular pattern that it might generate.” —Henry Gee

“Life is not oriented towards increasing complexity, nor is it fated to become ever more complex.” —Alexandre Meinesz

When most people hear the word aliens, as in life from other worlds, they immediately picture something that is strongly humanoid—upright, two legs, two arms, a trunk, one head, two eyes, etc. This limited line of imagination is almost totally due to science fiction writers and filmmakers. There is absolutely no scientific reason to assume that the humanoid form is a probable outcome for evolution on another planet, and highly intelligent humanoids are even less probable. Though it has obviously come about here on Earth, it certainly didn’t have to happen— it was just one of countless millions of possibilities that chanced to materialize from Earth’s evolutionary process.

In another article (Zeigler 2008), I argued from a biological perspective that intelligent humanoids were but one of many unlikely possibilities. In that article I also ventured some predictions of what we might expect to find in terms of life on another planet. These were mostly very general predictions such as photosynthetic organisms, predators, parasites, and so on. I did not then attempt any prediction of what those forms might have looked like, though my major argument was that to expect anything like a humanoid form would be a long shot at best.

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