The engineers are supposed to have engineered...us, right? That is shown at the beginning of the movie, with the self sacrifice, somehow seeding the initial life on Earth. Panspermia.

But if that was the case, that would have been 4.6 billion years ago. So why did life on earth develop plants and fungi? Why so many wildly varying species. Why didn't they all look humanoid from the get go. Why did it take 4.6 billion years, to go all the way through invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, apes to finally get to the ultimate goal of resembling the engineers. 4.6 billion years is stupendously long time for a species to remain the same, physically, technologically, culturally and ideologically.

Perhaps the idea is that many branches of science such as biology, paleontology, paleobotany, geology, etc, were thrown out by this new discovery, and life on earth is much much younger than the evidence suggests.

Alternatively, they came just a few million years ago and their DNA just mixed with apes, who already happen to look similar to engineers (and have compatible biochemistry) by a totally remarkable example of convergent evolution.

I am perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief for any scenario for the sake of fiction, but it has to be clear and consistent. I just don't get the main premise of the movie. Were they planning to come back to earth to kill all humans, or all life? I suppose it is to be explained in the sequel.

Now, I understand this is just fiction, and that evolutionary/biological plausibility is not a high priority, but I want to ask this very simple question: did they seed ALL life on earth (which is suggested by the prologue), or just human divergence from apes?

The answers here also suggest they created all earth life.

  • 5
    Evolution? Men from apes? Are you sure the world isn't just some 6000 years old? ;)
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Aug 27, 2013 at 8:25
  • 2
    why couldn't they have just seeded ape-like life on earth? They could have come and consumed the space kool-aid at a time when there was already a diverse spread of life, just adding their own DNA to the mix to guide the development of bipeds... right? And the Alien who decided he was going to kill the humans who traversed space to meet them could have decided that because humans had come to their WMD factory.
    – Bon Gart
    Aug 27, 2013 at 9:09
  • @ChristianRau Hehe. Well there is a lot of clunky, unsubtle religious metaphors in the movie, so I am perfectly willing to accept that fantasy in the context of a movie if it is clear. But the main problem with that is that Prometheus (and maybe I'm wrong here) seems to be trying to sell itself as intelligent scifi, which it totally ain't.
    – DaleyPaley
    Aug 28, 2013 at 0:15
  • @BonGart Yeah, I think spawning apes is more viable than ALL terrestrial life. Unless they travelled back in time to 4.6 billion years ago to begin life here. Actually, that would make a lot more sense to me, while opening up a whole new can of problems.
    – DaleyPaley
    Aug 28, 2013 at 0:15
  • @DaleyPaley Yeah, was rather meant as a joke than a reasonable theory in the context of the movie (or any other context for that matter).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Aug 28, 2013 at 0:17

2 Answers 2


To be perfectly honest, this is a highly debated question (not just about the movie) and is open to several interpretations.

  • While we were shown that the engineers seeded life in the first scene of the movie, it might not even have been earth.
  • While the seed of life was created from engineer DNA, it can be interpreted that when the engineer broke down, it was into the very basic molecules that chain up life. At the base, there was simply DNA / amino acids, that kind of stuff. So evolution also produced several other species. While it took several thousand years before the DNA would emerge to form humans. See, they seeded life, and it grew. Take the analogy about growing a seed into a tree.
  • Even if we have been given life through their DNA, there are still some big differences in the bodies. This could have been due to other factors apart from DNA, such as planet gravity, the sun, plant life, atmosphere, etc. This could also be the reason that life needed to be engineered from the very basic so that it could evolve in that atmosphere. Their DNA would be evolved from whatever their planet and atmosphere led it to be.
  • You mention they came a few million years ago and their DNA mixed with apes. I strongly oppose this point. Because to mix DNA, it would require somehow introducing the DNA into the apes, and ensuring that it worked, etc. The first scene did not seem to suggest any such thing.
  • It has already been a scientific milestone, that we now approximately know when life was supposed to start on Earth. That age is given as 4.6 billion years (I'm not sure about the number, am quoting that from your question). The story was created as an explanation for real facts.

  • Read up on a few interviews he did about Prometheus.

  • Interview 1

  • Interview 2

  • Interview discussion

  • Interview 3

There are a lot more.

  • I am perfectly happy to suspend my disbelief for the sake of a movie and accept whatever version of events Prometheus is offering, whether it is panspermia, monkey-tweaking, or flat out creationsism, but I just don't know which one this movie is going for. Currently, I'm thinking they are trying to say engineers seeded ALL life on earth a relatively short time ago (a mixture of panspermia and creationism), so just ignore fossils and genetic evidence. That's fine, as long as I know.
    – DaleyPaley
    Aug 28, 2013 at 1:04
  • I don't think that is the answer. I think the movie meant to imply that panspermia was the answer to how life was born - it was seeded by the engineers. I guess the sequel should answer all this questions satisfactorily. Aug 28, 2013 at 4:46

The flyover scene at the beginning showed green areas as well as lots of rock and water meaning there was at least plant life on the planet before they seeded. Maybe they were adding roses to the garden. If it was a few million years ago, all they had to do was "engineer" a way to nudge us in the humanoid direction and see what happens...the soup was at the right point (potatoes boiled, meat cooked) to add some spice.

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