USS Solstice NCC-72718 Wikia
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Attanasio Ewan Hodgkin first proposed his theory that over time similar planets with similar environments and similar populations tended to gravitate toward similar biological developments. Since most M-class planets are quite similar, the life that we find there is often analogous to life observed on other planets. Over the last two hundred years and thousands of planets surveyed, the theory has become law. A good example of parallel biological development is the discovery of a Feline Aggressive Large Predator (FLAP)

Comparisson of the FLAP and Earth Tiger.

that closely resembles large predatory cats such as the Tigers of Earth or Kryon. Hodgkin's Law has all also been generalized to include sociological development as well; most worlds that host civilizations have developed basic governmental structures that are relatively easily recognizable and understood. In an extreme example, the society of 892-IV is nearly identical to the Roman Empire of Earth.

Explanations

There are a few theories currently held as to the underlying mechanics of Hodgkin's Law. First is the evidence for a "seeder" race that sewed the seeds of life throughout the galaxy. Approximately five billion years ago the first sentient race developed in the Milky Way. During their history, they were the only active race for some two billion years. In their decline, they may have seeded the entire galaxy with DNA and the other building blocks of life. It is theorized that the most direct descendants of these ancient humanoids may include the Aldean Progenitors (that build the Custodian), the Founders of the Bajoran Wormhole, or the Protectors that have worked to save endangered civilizations throughout the galaxy.

Secondly, there is evidence to suggest that one billion years ago there were many warp-capable humanoids exploring the galaxy, although not as many as there is today. One race, known as the Slavers, developed a powerful telepathy and they were able to dominate all other races in a vast galactic empire. Eventually, there was a rebellion, and the ensuing war culminated in an apocalyptic attack from the Slavers. According to legend, the Slavers issued a galactic suicide command, which decimated all sentient life. After this life began from scratch, which is why most warp-capable races are relatively near each other in terms of technological development.

Third, there are many powerful entities in the universe, such as the Q continuum that may have, for reasons unknown, manipulated the development of life and cultures. For example recently discovered artifacts in a previously isolated system share features with mythological art and architecture from Earth's Ancient Egypt. This suggests that this system was also visited by the powerful alien being known as Kukulkan. None of these three explanations are mutually exclusive and indeed most Federation scientists ascribe to a combination of the three.

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