Why everybody laughs at Wickramasinghe and should continue to do so

by Piter Kehoma Boll

More than six years ago, when this blog was just starting, I wrote an article about a poor old scientist, Donald I. Williamson, and his absurd ideas of hybridogenesis, i.e., the idea that new organisms could arrive by hybridizing very distantly related species, such as crossing a beetle with an earthworm. Williamson passed away two years ago and continued to defend his baseless hypothesis to the end.

Later on, I presented two other scientists with similarly ridiculous ideas: Retallack and his land Ediacara hypothesis, and Duesberg and his AIDS conspiracy theory. Now, I’m here to talk about an even more severe case of dellusion, and one that is as serious as Duesberg’s, because it is also followed by a bunch of crazy people.

The dellusion has a name, the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe “””””theory”””””, or H-W theory for short. His main follower currently is Wickramasinghe himself, more precisely Chandra Wickramasinghe, since the other guy, Fred Hoyle, is already decomposing and emitting Galactic Center infrared waves (you’ll understand it soon).

chandra-wickramasinghe

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe and cabillions of bacteria glowing behind him. Photo by Wikimedia user Davidnoy.*

Wickramasinghe is a Sri Lankan-born British mathematician, astronomer and astrobiologist who since the 1960 worked with the now galactic-center-like deceased astronomer Fred Hoyle. They seem to have found in each other someone to support their mental disorder, as they formulated the hypothesis that life came to Earth from space. No, wait… it’s not that simple. They stated that life COMES to Earth from space… all the time!

giphy

Excuse me?

We all have heard of panspermia, right? The idea that life perhaps did not originate on Earth, but arrived here from space. Well, that may be a plausible idea. Perhaps the first microorganisms that appeared on Earth indeed came from space, but we know for sure, based on molecular analyses, that all current life forms originated from a single ancestor that is thought, based on fossils AND molecular data, to have existed about 3.5 billion years ago. We are, therefore, all part of a big family.

The problem with Wickramasinghe and his puppies (which are more than I expected, I have to say) is that they claim that new organisms are arriving all the time in comets and asteroids. They consider that the “sudden” complexity of life on Earth as seen in the fossil record, such as, for example, the appearance of the first cyanobacteria or the Cambrian explosion, could not have happened by simple neo-Darwinian evolution. So the logical explanation for them is… ALIENS! Alien viruses arrive, infect cells, mix their genetic material with that of the host and, voilà, a new complex lifeform appears.

giphy1

During his career, Wickramasinghe made several statements that did not please the scientific community. He said, for example, that some pandemics, such as the 1918 flu pandemic and several other outbreaks of viral diseases are the result of cometary dust bringing the virus to Earth and scattering it throughout the planet. This view is, of course, dismissed by all serious researchers.

Recently, to my surprise, an apparently reputable journal, Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, published a paper authored by Wickramasinghe and his puppies that defends again this nonsense idea of continuous extraterrestrial delivery of life. They suggest that the entire Galaxy comprises a gigantic biosphere and that life is being transported from here to there and back for billions and billions of years. But perhaps the most astonishing claim, and the one that made so many people become aware of this comedy disguised as science, is that octopuses came from space as eggs.

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Yes, that’s exactly what the team proposed! They propose that the genetic and structural complexity of octopuses, squids and and cuttlefish, which is, according to them, hard to explain by “tradional neo-Darwinian evolution or even by massive horizontal gene transfer from viruses” is the result of these creatures having evolved somewhere else in the Galaxy and later coming to Earth in frozen eggs.

Another hilarious evidence they present about the existence of life across the whole Galaxy is by comparing the mid-infrared spectrum emitted by a source in the Galactic Center to the mid-infrared spectrum emitted by partially degraded bacteria. The patterns are very similar and this is, according to them, an evidence that the Galactic Center is crowded with bacteria. But what are the references that sustain these data? Guess what? It’s Wickramasinghe’s own previous works! Throughout the whole paper the only thing that the team can find to sustain their claims is their own previous work. No one else publishes on this subject because it does not make sense!

I think we can all agree that Wickramasinghe would fit better in a sensationalist and anti-scientific place such as the nonsense shows of History Channel than in a science lab.

If you want to laugh more or torture yourself with more bullshit, you can read the whole paper:

Steele EJ, Al-Mufti S, Augustyn KA, Chandrajith R, Coghlan JP, Coulson SG, Ghosh S, Gillman M, Gorczynski RM, Klyce B, Louis G, Mahanama K, Oliver KR, Padron J, Qu J, Schuster JA, Smith WE, Snyder DP, Steele JA, Stewart BJ, Temple R, Tokoro G, Tout CA, Unzicker A, Wainwright M, Wallis J, Wallis DH, Wallis MK, Wetherall J, Wickramasinghe DT, Wickramasinghe JT, Wickramasinghe NC, & Liu Y (2018). Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic? Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology 136: 3–23.

And you can also read more about the adventure that is Wickramasinghe’s dellusional life on Wikipedia:

Wikipedia. Chandra Wickramasinghe. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandra_Wickramasinghe >. Access on June 11, 2018.

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*Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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