Yeah, more boring education stuff, then back to the discussions on money laundering - I promise.
Today is Mr. Big's guide to how supers came to be. Some of these are my own thoughts. Others are pulled from wackos like Wavelength, or from actual reputable scientists.
By the way, if you read people online talking about the origin of powers, and they start talking about "the meta-gene", ignore those guys immediately because they're full of shit. The actual modification that makes people have powers lives in the mitochondria, and it's passed from mother to child as the zygote begins the process of mitosis. There's no gene for this. If it was that easy, we'd have some sort of weird super-power cyberpunk world where Monsanto was engineering supers or something.
Beyond - the alien theory
The basic idea here is that superpowers came from aliens. There's obviously a million variations to this, but that's it. There's life elsewhere in the universe, and some of it came here and plugged the super-mutation into our bodies.
It's hard to find biologists who will admit to being on board with this theory. Dr. Chastity Williams in the United States put it like this: "You can accept the extraterrestrial hypothesis, which has zero direct evidence but great predictive power. You can suggest an origin through evolution, which violates every piece of evidence we do have. Or you can win the Nobel."
A popular variation is that supers are actually aliens, and that their powers are normal for their alien species. This usually falls apart the first time a power jammer or jacker takes your powers away from you. Proponents of this theory sometimes dodge that problem by claiming there's only one alien species, and that obviously the power drainers are of that species as well. However, self-proclaimed "alien supers" are on record as saying they're from about two dozen distinct alien species, so somebody is wrong.
With that out of the way - there's some fairly credible theories on how and why this would work. It would also neatly explain a lot of myth and legend, or so the folklore folks hope, so you see a lot of support for aliens-did-supers in the soft sciences. The most reasonable theories usually claim that power potential was seeded thousands or millions of years ago, and for some reason only now is it activating in large numbers.
Between - the non-biological evolution theory
This one says that there is some mechanism out there which is also subject to evolution and mutation, that somehow intersected human bodies and now acts as a symbiote of sorts with us. If you hear people talking about "mitochondrial visitors from between the dimensional boundaries" or "aberrant quantum biology", this is the theory they are talking about.
The holy trinity of this quantum-supers theory are Norman Ryan, Barbara Fall, and Tom Richard. You can find any or all of these three writing for alt-science blogs. There's a healthy amount of actual physics mixed in with some frank speculation, but at least it's entertaining.
There's some crossover with the aliens theory in the form of the Alpha-Omega people, who claim that human supers inherited... something.... from "quantum visitors", and that they are observing our progress from a pocket dimension. In practice this may as well be aliens. I first heard about these guys while reading stuff on Wavelength, in a story where Lee Harvey Oswald use magnetic control powers to kill Kennedy with a magic bullet, because Kennedy was actually a super-powered shapeshifter. Seriously, I have no idea.
Before - alternative evolutions and ancient supers
This is the most boring of the lot, so unfortunately it's probably true. Here's my best understanding of this idea: once upon a time, multi-cellular organisms did bond with single-celled organisms. The single-celled creatures were things similar to bacteria. Multi-celled organisms lived thousands of times as long per organism as the single-celled ones, so the latter got the benefits of evolution and mutation much more. Complex life simply snapped up this advanced evolution and co-opted it.
The cranks who inhabit the fringe of this theory have an interesting answer for "where are they", meaning what happened to the progenitors of all these super-bacteria who let us bend physics and tank explosions with our faces. Basically, they could burrow into the earth, live in the mantle, or float into space. Because they individually could survive in environments where humans have never been able to explore, it's logical that nobody would have found them. Alright, so far so good.
So in this version, humans might have had super powers since they were definably human, or maybe longer. But because we hate and fear the "other", we'd usually kill or reject such people - or at least not breed with them - as they expressed their abilities. These days, yeah, we get what's going on. But in the Middle Ages, or the Stone Age, forget it.
Anyway! Sorry for all the boring crap. We'll be back tomorrow with something good.