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The Nightstar Zoo • View topic - Hypothetical SF question (unrelated to Schlock Mercenary)

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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 11:56 am 
I've been trying to work this out for a long time, and I'm afraid I don't have the background to speculate properly. After reading the evolution thread, I thought I might be able to get some feedback here.

I apologize to Howard if this is an intrusion on his forum. Please feel free to delete if so... but I can't resist trying to tap into the brainpower here.

Howard knows that last year I wrote a novel that I've been trying to get published (actually, at present, trying to write decent query letter and chapter synopsis, which is harder than writing the story itself). He also knows that if I do get published I'm dedicating the book to Kaff Tagon... because, you know, duh.

But anyway. A minor issue in the book, something I included mostly because I thought it was an amusing, minor joke, has been stealing more and more of my attention in the vein of how would this actually work?

SO here it is:

Picture a very generic science fiction concept: hundreds of thousands of years ago a hyperintelligent race seeded the galaxy. They took species that were developing on four planets (one of them earth) and scattered them about, terraforming planets so they would support life, and genetically altering some samples of the races, some in minor ways and some in ridiculously major ways, to create new breeds that were better adapted to the planets they were "building."

One of the results of this is that, hundreds of thousands of years later, knowledge of geology and biology are hopelessly screwed up.

The Terrans are pretty much OK -- they had been developing their theories based on how they observed their planet, a naturally evolving world, change over time. But on the majority of planets in the galaxy, this didn't happen. The races were placed, pretty much fully formed, on a world that was created to support them. There are not layers upon layers of fossils that connect the dots between the sentient races and less evolved creatures, because there wasn't enough time for that to happen. There isn't a lot of planetary evidence of gradual climate changes and development, either, and changes that occurred were much faster than if they happened on their own.

These other races (some of which aren't actually other races, but transplanted humans) aren't stupid by any means -- but their point of reference is completely skewed. If all your major scientific advances that led to space flight occurred on an artificially created planet, why would you believe they were artifically created? You'd come up with theories to explain how it could all occur naturally, and those theories would be *wrong*.

But then you invent space flight and meet other species, some who are biologically identical to you, and some who aren't, and some who are similiar but not identical. And they all have pretty much the same experience you do! So your theories on development of life on other worlds, while not identical, are going in the same direction. Eventually you have the biological and geological theories that are the equivalent of orbit epicycles -- the theory is wrong but the math seems to work.

Then you meet the Terrans.

Those "earthies" are different -- they have this weird planet with all these layers and the remains of an alien civilization on Mars (one city -- one part of one city -- completely dead, no evidence of life). They seem to have these extinct species that are *similiar*, but not quite like, humans themselves. There seem to have been species that existed long before any other planet shows any record of life. The planet, in other words, violates all known laws of science.

The Terrans look around at all these other planets and say "hey -- you guys are living on engineered worlds! All you humans couldn't have evolved there, you must be descendents of some of our ancestors!"

The other human civilizations reply "your world is extremely strange. Obviously *you* guys were the ones who were engineered."

The Terrans are right, of course -- but most of the reasonable scientific community doesn't believe them in the slightest, because the evidence they point to can be found on only four inhabited worlds. Terran science champions the "Promethian Theory," which claims those four worlds are the origin worlds, which the "Promethians" used to seed everything else. Everyone else considers them scientific aberrations, and thinks the terrans are a just a bit arrogant. (Even some of the other origin races side with the transplant races, simply because it's too difficult to concieve of *how* so many planets in the galaxy could have been *engineered* rather than developed on their own.)

So all that out of the way... what would the transplanted civilizations ideas of biology and geology be *like?* I get as far as deciding that they would probably believe in some form of evolution, because they would be able to observe it on a small scale simply from observing species interact with their environment, but that there is a certain level of entrenchment that prevents them from accepting it on a bigger, long-term level. Other than that, I have no clue.

Thoughts?

Again, if this is an abuse of forum space, I apologize. You guys just seem to like to speculate is all...

Oh, and since there are no new ideas, this is probably already dealt with in a novel somewhere. Can anyone refer me to one?


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 4:29 pm 
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Read Terry Pratchett's book "The Darks side of the sun"
concept that you have is somewhat similar to that in the book


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 4:50 pm 
I definitely agree that we'd see creationism. I suspect it'd be further bolstered by meeting other spacefaring races with similar experiences, who are biologically similar... the conclusion being "Ah, $CREATOR must have done the same thing on other planets."

On the other hand... given enough time (you'd need at least ten thousand years, I think), they may notice the trends of evolution emerging. They may realize that evolution happens, start tracing backwards, and realize that the evolutionary record only goes so far. I doubt they'd be able to conclude from that that different organisms share a common evolutionary ancestor, though, since that would require observing a single species diverging into two clearly separate species, and even that requires a jump to conclude that all organisms evolved from the same ancestors.

Their notion of biology and medicine may be different, too... medicine, not by much, though. (In terms of medical research on non-sentients being extrapolated to conclusions about the sentient species, they may not think it's a valid conclusion, due to not having an explicit link between the two. On the other hand, I don't believe the lack of an explicit link prevented human doctors from doing that sort of thing pre-Darwin... the similarity of structure was enough. But I don't know much about the state of medical research prior to the acceptance of evolution (yes, I know it's still not fully accepted...))

Of course, having met similar species on other planets, then if they found some artifacts of the hyperintelligent precursors, then they may arrive at the conclusions of uplift and/or transplant.

(I've been reading Brin's Uplift saga and playing Star Control 2 recently. This is familiar ground for me...)


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 5:20 pm 
I remember reading an old science book -- from a time before we knew much about plate tectonics. There was a section about the creation of mountains and oceans on a forming earth, and the theory it described had something to do with the still molten earth cooling and contracting and solidifying at different speeds depending on what elements were concentrated in the specific part of whatever was cooling. The areas with elements that cooled faster and contracted faster eventually became our oceans... the ones that took longer became mountains.

This was from a time when scientists generally believed that the earth was basically a solid piece of rock with a molten core, instead of a bunch of rocky plates floating on a molten core. Or whatever it is these days.

Yeah, lots of variants of creationism will be there, but I suspect there would also be people trying to find scientific explanations for everything, and those explanations would be similiar to the ones I read in that old book... hypotheses that sound rational but that just aren't true.

I just can't stretch my head far enough to figure out what those explanations would be like.

Edit: and so far the only solid indication an alien civilization has been a partial ruin of a city on Mars. No other traces of the "Promethians" have been found so far.


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 5:27 pm 
I'd have to agree with Howard. And the best place you could look for a rough outline of how the other races would beleive, would be to look at pre-darwinian science of our own world.

That would be before we had any real evidence ourselves, and the alien races would have no evidence to discover.

Now, I'm assuming some sort of terraforming happened on the planet prior to seeding. That means you'd have about 5 or 6 thousands of years worth of geology and archeology showing a slow, steady change... then a huge change... then a slow, steady change. True, carbon dating won't be effective, but deeper is older would be.

I'd go with strong creationism, which of course also means strong religions and probably a tendancy to theocracy and/or very politically powerfull churches- It's not a coincidence that the Church opposed Darwin, and it's not a coincidence they declined in power afterwards. Cue interspecies religious war, intensified because the aliens they are fighting are (in some cases) very similiar looking- Can you beleive these guys, they claim to be God's Chosen, but are short and have gills! Cue arrival of earth on the scene... and cue earth claiming that no, god didn't create you, you evolved on our planet and were seeded from there. In effect, both denying the very existance of God and claiming to be god in the same statement.


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This all hinges on how much the planets were altered prior to colonization. Are we talking about early Homo sapiens being transplanted? Would they have enough sense of history and oral tradition/cave drawings to keep alive the memory of being "taken" by the gods and brought to a new land? (There's a Garden of Eden story for ya!)

If the planets weren't wiped clean and drastically altered, then the fossil record would show "normal" evolution up until a cataclysmic event (meteor impact, anyone?) drastically altered the global environment, at which point the humans appeared, then things proceeded apace.

So, while the "God Created Man" meme is certainly reinforced in this case, setting him apart from the beasts, evolution *may* be perceived as something that happens to the animals, but not man. It all depends on whether the aliens only brought humans to the new worlds, or also brought other creatures; how drastic the terraforming was; and the state of life (how far had the indigenous lifeforms evolved) of the planet pre-terraforming.

So, short answer: Not enough data to provide you with an opinion.


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 9:02 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 9:05 pm 
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I don't think things would be much different. Every mythology, including science<sup>*</sup>, has a creation myth. Something to answer the question of "where did we come from"?

Creationism on those worlds would hold sway for a long time. "Where's your evidence, Mr. Science Man?" But just as documented evidence would force their religious geocentrism to give way to scientific heliocentrism, eventual accumulation of data would give rise to scientific theories about the Genesis.

You could still discover genetics, and from them, genetic drift; Scientists would have to wonder why the fossil record doesn't exist, and eventually carbon dating would reveal the existence of a major planetwide geologic event, which changed the chemical makeup of the atmosphere, and after which life sprang forth highly developed.

Natural selection could still be observed, and while a proper theory of evolution might not develop, genetic drift would be observable. Eventually science would say, "Well, we can document genetic drift right back to the Event, but we don't have anything before that".

Lack of a theory of evolution doesn't prove creationism, either; it is probable that it would have little effect on religion on those worlds. You'd still have atheists and agnostics just like you do here.

A theory of "transplantation" would likely develop, but, having no real way to test it other than to start a SETI program, it would be treated much like any other religious tenet: until proven, it requires faith.

<sup>*</sup> Oh, relax. Put down your torches and slide rules. I'm not calling science a myth. A mythology is a system of traditions and beliefs we use to inform our worldview. Technically, science isn't even that: science is just the outward practice of the beliefs found in the mythology of rationalism. So no, I'm not saying science is a myth<sup>**</sup>.

<sup>**</sup> Because, as a system of practices founded in a mythology, it's actually a religion<sup>***</sup>.

<sup>***</sup> See, aren't you glad you waited? NOW go get your torches and slide rules.


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Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, grab es tief unten im Keller ein.
Später dann graben es andere aus, und nennen dein Haus das Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, leg auch ihre weißen Schädel hinein.
Mit Beton gießt du es aus, das Fundament vom Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, da ist noch Platz, da paßt noch wer rein.
Hier tobte sich der Teufel aus, unten im Keller im Knochenhaus.


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Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, grab es tief unten im Keller ein.
Später dann graben es andere aus, und nennen dein Haus das Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, leg auch ihre weißen Schädel hinein.
Mit Beton gießt du es aus, das Fundament vom Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, da ist noch Platz, da paßt noch wer rein.
Hier tobte sich der Teufel aus, unten im Keller im Knochenhaus.


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 9:34 pm 
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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 9:43 pm 
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Vorpal Bunny Slipper
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Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, grab es tief unten im Keller ein.
Später dann graben es andere aus, und nennen dein Haus das Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, leg auch ihre weißen Schädel hinein.
Mit Beton gießt du es aus, das Fundament vom Knochenhaus.
Scharr, scharr, verscharr das Gebein, da ist noch Platz, da paßt noch wer rein.
Hier tobte sich der Teufel aus, unten im Keller im Knochenhaus.


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PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2005 10:42 pm 


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PostPosted: Sat May 21, 2005 2:37 am 
I sort of fast forwarded the last third of posts, so this may have already been covered.

evolution works at coming up with survivers that are better adapted to their environment then their ancestors. this can happen in leaps of a sort (about 40,000 years for humans seems to be the record, it is how long it took the Indian/Pacific oceon islanders to turn into Australian Aboriginals and Maori (who are recogniseably different to polynesian and melonesian ancestors). But it does not always go at a sprint unless there are some real pressure cooker conditions. vastly changing the survival environment, and working with a population low enough that genetic mutations can accumulate rather then be eased and evened out, at the same time as one that is not so small that a calamity will completely result in extinction.
It is a really fine line....And possibly the only lottery that really matters.

But here is the thing that makes all of the above nearly irrelevant.

THAT IS NOT HOW LIFE ON AN ENGINEERED PLANET WOULD GO!

You tailor the world, you tailor (or tayler, if you want a whole species of cartoonists) the life-forms. It is much more of a perfect fit. There is a lot more inherent stability. Therefir visible evolution is retarded and slowed. On earth a million years is enough to make some serious changes to a species of lark. Great.
On one of these hypothetical worlds, the lark equivalent has been contentedly within genetic spitting distance of its earliest ancestors for ten million years and going strong. There are MECHANISMS in place that actually stop both the world and the life on it form devolving and becoming once more incompatible to each other. Not so much radiation form solar flares. Ice ages that if they occur at all, do not approach equatorial regions and totally change the landscape of survivng life forms.

It is a fishtank or museum exhibit type of existence. There is not a lot of time spent "on the edge"...excpet as brought about by the inhabitants ("I'v just invented the plutonium powered drinks blender! I will sell millions, everyone will want one!" and similar bright moments both social and political.)

You might want to investigate (on the topic of plutonium and such), what resources these races had and used in order to become space fairing races...because everything left for them to find appeared on some ancient manifest as a good idea, maybe....

Finally, and this is where we get back to beliefe systems and origin myths, You are making the assumption that in every single case the ancients just left them sitting awake and consious as newborns on a planet, new minted, naked, and with no education or notion of how to interact with their world. If this is not the case then there is a legacy of some sort of mentoring or education. Some time when the Gods Walked Among Us. There are teaching machines or rosetta stones or a big sign floating in the sky saying "THERE IS A TASTY YELLOW FISH WITH RED STRIPES IN THE SOUTHERN OCEAN, DO NOT EAT THE GREY GOOEY BITS INSIDE IT"

Basically there will be some reference point, true or manufactured that will be left in nearly every instance. You might also want to look into why the ancients were doing it and what they hoped to gain by the action.

Of course, the other question is what is the driving and inspiring factor for these races to become space fairers, and whether they notice the similarities (templates of the Engineers) on other worlds. (Your fjords are just like our fjords, and arranged in the same pattern. Hmmm.....)
This is where you get the wildly diverging creator myths worthy of a good jihad. Of course, they are far too civillised for that and the differences just sit as a mild background irritation....until they find terrans, who enjoy critiqueing the religeons of the other races and having a good giggle.
Now things get interesting.

My number one bit of advise on writing sci fi. NO RACE IS A MONOLITHIC CULTURE, unless you decide to make it one, in which case you have opened a new and tougher can of worms and need to write accordingly.


Sasha


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PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 7:20 am 
I think there is an over-emphasis in "creationism" vs "evolution".

I believe most of these species would believe they were the children of migrating gods (small g) and they'd be pretty much right.


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