Since the dawn of humankind we have sought to explain our origins and answer the fundamental, basic question: where do we come from? In every far-flung culture across every corner of the globe one can find origin myths and legends, each as different as the culture it spawns from. In more recent times we have science and the theory of evolution, a more scientific effort to explain the same age-old question that has haunted us since the first flickers of self awareness sparked in our brains, but for some this has still not been enough, and there are some decidedly more fringe ideas still floating around out there. For at least one scientist, the answer to this question is that we did not come from Earth at all, but were rather dropped off or exiled here long ago. Welcome to the bizarre world of the Prison Planet.
The main thrust behind one of the most bonkers theories on the history of human beings on this planet is an American ecologist by the name of Dr. Ellis Silver. His main idea is that our origins on this planet are not what they seem, and that perhaps we are not the product of evolution on this world, but rather visitors that, for whatever reasons, ended up here relatively recently in the geographical timescale, perhaps hundreds of thousands or even as recently as tens of thousands of years ago, after which we bred with earlier species such as Neanderthals in order to become the hybrid creatures we are today. It sounds completely outlandish, the ravings of a tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, but Silver is no usual crackpot, but rather a respected scientist, and he has his evidence to try and back up this on-the-surface crazy notion.
Forgetting for the moment of how we might have wound up here in the first place, Silver is more than ready to present his arguments on why, as a species, we just don’t seem to belong here. The first and foremost reason for this is that we humans are unlike anything else on this planet in terms of intelligence and mental capacity. There is no other animal that even comes close to our ability to think, philosophize, create politics, artwork and poetry, or advance in technology so incredibly rapidly. This is the most obvious argument in his case, but it is certainly not the only one, and in his opinion human beings exhibit many characteristics and physiological features that prove we are not as acclimated or suitable for this planet as our original originators might have thought, and indeed he cites a long list of differences between us and pretty much every other lifeform on this planet, which he says mark us as hilariously ill-equipped to deal with this environment and world.
According to Silver, these anomalous differences can be seen as early as the beginning of our lives. Human women have enormous complications and pain during childbirth, which he claims are not seen any where else in the animal kingdom, with births among animals natural and smooth, whereas human beings need much support and can even die in childbirth, something which still happens occasionally even to this day. Of course, this is due to the largeness of the head of human babies, but why, Silver argues, should this be if it is a normal process of evolution? After being born after an unusually short gestation period we than undergo an extremely comparatively long process of slow development, with human babies completely and utterly helpless for years after birth, which Silver argues is far from the norm in the animal kingdom. This might be raising some eyebrows already, but this is only the beginning.
Upon eventually maturing, humans display many anomalous traits not really shared by other creatures on this planet. Silver says that we are unnaturally prone to chronic illnesses and conditions such as hay fever, allergies, and others, which doesn’t seem to make sense. He also brings up our unusual weakness to the sun, saying that we are one of the only creatures that suffers from sunburn to the extent that we do, despite the fact that we "evolved" to have no body hair, and that we are additionally one of the only creatures that needs to squint the eyes when the sunlight is bright. The range of frequencies that we can audibly hear is also woefully low compared to most animals, as is our range of smell, which is argued as all being the result of being in tune on a biological level with another entirely different environment. Human beings also tend to have chronic back problems, which he says is a result of the differing gravity between our home world and Earth, and he continues with the notion that our bodies actually seem to be more in tune with a 25-hour day rather than 24, and that many of us have sleeping disorders and a general sense of anxiety because of this. Furthermore, we tend to dislike raw and uncooked foods as a rule, unlike other animals, have evolved with little body hair, are upright rather than with a lower center of gravity, unlike other animals, and he even points out our large amount of extra “junk DNA” as being evidence that we are, in fact, aliens. In his opinion we are just too different in too many ways from every other animal on the planet. Generally it is of Silver's opinion that our bodies are just not suitable for this environment if we have actually evolved here over millions of years, and he has said of this:
My thesis proposes that mankind did not evolve from that particular strain of life (native earth organisms), but evolved elsewhere and was transported to Earth between 60,000 and 200,000 years ago. Mankind is supposedly the most highly developed species on the planet, yet is surprisingly unsuited and ill-equipped for Earth's environment: harmed by sunlight, a strong dislike for naturally occurring foods, ridiculously high rates of chronic disease, and more. This suggests (to me at least) that mankind may have evolved on a different planet, and we may have been brought here as a highly developed species. The Earth approximately meets our needs as a species, but perhaps not as strongly as whoever brought us here initially thought.
However, if any of this at all is really true, then why would we have ended up here in the first place? Well, according to Silver one possibility is that Earth might be a planet for stowing away prisoners who were unable to integrate into their normal society. Our ancestors might have been exiled here, after which they were forgotten about and interbred with native species, to form what we are now, albeit with certain quirks indicative of our extraterrestrial origins. After all, humans have had had far away penal colonies before, so who is to say aliens don't as well? Indeed, Silver calls it all “The Prison Planet Theory,” and he says of why we are here, “One reason for this, discussed in the book, is that the Earth might be a prison planet – since we seem to be a naturally violent species – and we’re here until we learn to behave ourselves.”
He has even suggested that at one time there may very well have been some sort of overseers, and that these became the gods in the minds of our ancestors. Indeed, the UFOs that many people see today could be our real ancestors keeping an eye on our progress. Other ideas are that an asteroid destroyed our home planet long ago and we fled here, over the centuries forgetting our true origins, or that we are even refuges from the dying planet Mars. We also might have been planted here for some sort of a long-running experiment, essentially making us intergalactic guinea pigs. One could speculate on an on. Whatever the ultimate reason is, the end result is we did not come from here.
While there have certainly been ideas and theories that life on Earth might have actually begun with bacteria or other biological material arriving her on a meteor, Silver is one of the first to seriously suggest that we in fact came here more or less fully formed, with perhaps some hybridization along the way. Silver has written an entire book on the subject, entitled Humans are not from Earth: a scientific evaluation of the evidence, and it is controversial to say the least. What are we to think of these ideas that human beings did not originate from what we have long thought to be our native home world? Of course there has been a lot of criticism aimed at the theory and it all remains highly speculative, but it is nevertheless another intriguing example of our kind trying to delve into our history and extract some meaning from where we came from, who we are, and where we are headed.