Due to Hollywood films and science fiction novels, most of us believe that aliens would come in the form of monster-like beings very different to humans. However, new research suggests we could have more in common with extra-terrestrials than we think.
For the first time, researches have used evolutionary theory to support alien predictions and better understand their behavior. The new study indicates that aliens may potentially be shaped by the same processes and mechanisms that shaped humans, like natural selection.
The new study, which was published in the International Journal of Astrobiology, supports the argument that foreign life forms would undergo natural selection, and would evolve over time. Sam Levin, a researcher in Oxford’s Department of Zoology and one of the authors of the paper, explained in a statement:
“A fundamental task for astrobiologists [those who study life in the cosmos] is thinking about what extra-terrestrial life might be like.
“But making predictions about aliens is hard. We only have one example of life — life on Earth — to extrapolate from. Past approaches in the field of astrobiology have been largely mechanistic, taking what we see on Earth, and what we know about chemistry, geology, and physics, to make predictions about aliens.
“By predicting that aliens have undergone major transitions — which is how complexity has arisen in species on Earth — we can say that there is a level of predictability to evolution that would cause them to look like us.
“In our paper, we offer an alternative approach, which is to use evolutionary theory to make predictions that are independent of Earth’s details.
“This is a useful approach, because theoretical predictions will apply to aliens that are silicon-based, do not have DNA, and breathe nitrogen, for example.”
Evolution of aliens
Using this approach, the team addressed extra-terrestrial evolution, and how complexity will arise in space. The paper makes detailed predictions about the biological makeup of aliens, and also offers insight as to what they may look like. Levin added:
“We still can’t say whether aliens will walk on two legs or have big green eyes. But we believe evolutionary theory offers a unique additional tool for trying to understand what aliens will be like, and we have shown some examples of the kinds of strong predictions we can make with it.
“By predicting that aliens undergone major transitions — which is how complexity has arisen in species on Earth — we can say that there is a level of predictability to evolution that would cause them to look like us.
“Like humans, we predict that they are made up of a hierarchy of entities, which all cooperate to produce an alien. At each level of the organism, there will be mechanisms in place to eliminate conflict, maintain cooperation, and keep the organism functioning. We can even offer some examples of what these mechanisms will be.
“There are potentially hundreds of thousands of habitable planets in our galaxy alone. We can’t say whether or not we’re alone on Earth, but we have taken a small step forward in answering if we’re not alone, what our neighbors are like.”