Cosmic evolution key to life forms

The Oconee Enterprise, November 3, 2016:
Dr. David Lewis

Scientists at the Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, Spain recently discovered that some proteins in a single-celled microorganism called an amoeba are strikingly similar to animal proteins, suggesting that the evolutionary path from microorganisms to animals is easier than most scientists think. Commenting on the study, an evolutionary biologist in the United States said it appears that “a lot of the machinery it takes to make an animal was already present in microorganisms millions of years before animals evolved.”.

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This discovery was exciting to me because I had predicted it in my book, Science for Sale. In a section titled “Cosmic Evolution of Life,” I explained that the framework for many of the evolutionary leaps life took on Earth may have existed in microorganisms embedded in comets and asteroids that peppered our planet during its early formation.

If true, this would mean that similar evolutionary paths occur on a cosmic scale, and likely began long before our solar system even existed. Hence, the complexity of life as we know it could reflect an evolutionary history that dates back as much as nearly 18 billion years. And, complex life forms very similar to those on Earth could exist elsewhere in the universe wherever conditions similar to those throughout our planet’s history have spanned billions of years.

If extraterrestrial microbes containing fragments of these complex life forms have steered evolution in the directions life took here, and on other planets, then all life forms throughout our universe may have a common origin. If so, then we are all genetically related alien life forms.

My view differs somewhat from that of Astrophysicist Eric Chaisson, who argues that optimal energy flows drive cosmic evolution of the physical structure of the universe and life. I began to develop my own concept of cosmic evolution in the mid-1990s while working as an EPA research microbiologist and collaborating with NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. It was the culmination of my boyhood dreams growing up in the 1960s, and could gain acceptance if extraterrestrial life is found to include complex organisms very similar to those on Earth.

The FAA and Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia accommodated experiments a friend and I conducted for a high school science project. In the June 1964 edition of Air Force Magazine, a reporter wrote: “Through the combined efforts of certain segments of two large and very busy federal agencies, two small boys, whose scientific knowledge was furthered, may some day make their own great contributions to the Space Age.” Those aspirations were thwarted when two other federal agencies, EPA and USDA, ended my research at EPA and the University of Georgia because some of my results undermined certain government policies.

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David Lewis, Ph.D.

Former U.S. EPA Research Microbiologist

David Lewis is an internationally recognized research microbiologist whose work on public health and environmental issues, as a senior-level Research Microbiologist in EPA’s Office of Research & Development and member of the Graduate Faculty of the University of Georgia, has been reported in numerous news articles and documentaries from TIME magazine and Reader’s Digest to National Geographic.

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