Aliens Will 'Look Like Us,' Say Oxford Scientists

Monday, 06 November 2017 - 1:47PM
Alien Life
Monday, 06 November 2017 - 1:47PM
Aliens Will 'Look Like Us,' Say Oxford Scientists
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Image credit: Pixabay
Aliens might look even more surprising than we ever imagined—they could closely resemble life that's evolved on Earth, according to a group of Oxford scientists.

Alien lifeforms may not look at all familiar, but how such creatures arrive at their appearance could be a process known well on Earth: evolution.

According to four researchers working with the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology, using evolutionary theory allows us to predict an alien's appearance beyond the mechanical observations offered by way of physics, biology and chemistry—and instead take educated guesses due to the paths of complexity in extraterrestrial environments.

"Complexity," as the researchers explain, is a term applied loosely to the depth of functions, abilities and features found in living things. A human being is more complex than a virus, and a building full of people is more complex than one person.

The scientists believe that aliens would arise through natural selection on their worlds, just as earthlings of every sort do, which would result in a variety of complexities.

Earth creatures began down this road of complexity when some cellular life began a cooperation, with genes forming genomes; this collaboration led to the formation of multicellular organisms, and eventually into creatures with organs and limbs.

As this path continued, life on Earth increased in complexity as the cells in various beings share a goal of overcoming adversity to increase the chance of survival.

Similar transitions, the researchers surmise, are likely occurring elsewhere in space wherever life may have taken hold.

The rise of complexities is connected to natural selection, as Charles Darwin's work demonstrates. The offspring of Earthly life inherits features from its parents, but there is variation in each generation, which also may behave differently from previous generations. Combine heritable aspects with variation and behavior, and the outcome of prosperity is natural selection.

Successful variations and behaviors in a creature contribute to increasing populations, while environmental changes can lead to changing, successful traits. There's no way to know what otherworldly environments may hold, but with natural selection so successful in our global backyard, the authors say that "without a designer, the only way to get something with the apparent purpose of replicating itself (something like a cell or a virus), is through natural selection. Consequently, if we can notice it as life, then it will have undergone natural selection (or have been designed by something that itself underwent natural selection)."

The Oxford researchers expect that extraterrestrial life will have undergone natural selection, and study co-author Sam Levin adds that "We can say that there is a level of predictability to evolution that would cause them to look like us."

That means that complex beings out there got that way much like we did on Earth, but to really prove this, they add one final admission: "Now we just need to find them."
Alien Life
Aliens Will 'Look Like Us,' Say Oxford Scientists