Indeed, the higher density of the early universe may shift the balance of odds during that brief 1M year window. However, whatever life that may have existed then has little applicability to the genesis of life on Earth roughly ten billion years later (after that early hot universe life had been frozen over, then autoclaved by massive supernovas long before our own sun was formed). So, panspermia as a model for the distribution of life through the present universe still faces the same difficulties with interstellar distance scale.
Since you're repeating yourself on your opinion that they're "almost identical" (and, I can't argue that that is your opinion...), I'll repeat myself on the key difference, and elaborate a bit more (so maybe we can go around in circles forever!).
Panspermia places its claims within the realm of science. The origin of life is pushed back to common physical processes of known chemistry, just occurring at a sufficiently low rate than the rate of life traveling between planets is comparable or larger than the rate of original life initiation on planets. This produces testable hypotheses: a few more generations of Mars rovers (and maybe some Europa/Io missions), and we'll have empirical data to answer questions like "was Earth-like life present during the past wet and potentially life-hospitable eras on Mars?".
ID places claims outside the realm of science: an entirely new "layer" of hyper-complex beings, which tend to be non-falsifiable. ID is often pushed to not only explain the very early initial origin of the simplest single-cellular lifeforms, but also to explain the range of later complex lifetimes for which there are already extensive scientific explanations. The historical development of ID's conceptual framework comes from a lot of extremely intellectually dishonest wankery by religious fundamentalists attempting to dress up crude Biblical literalism and anti-Evoltuion propaganda in "sciencey sounding" terms.
As a Christian, I happen to believe in a God who created the universe (and don't see this as incompatible with observable scientific materialist descriptions). However, I can certainly see a large difference between (speculative and perhaps implausible) scientific hypotheses like panspermia, and non-scientific (and dishonestly constructed) "intelligent design" theories.
I see someday a war of minds, maybe very near in the future. And interestingly enough, I think the farmers will win.
"The farmers" are already beholden to a massive corporate infrastructure. There is very little agriculture done by farmers with the skills and tools to not be deeply dependent on the fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, fossil fuel, and seed megacorporations' systems (which reap the profits while farmers bear the financial risk and poor workers do the brutal labor of farming). So, what "farmers" do you expect to win a war of minds against the peons enmeshed in the corporate infrastructure of high-tech? It's corporate infrastructure controlled by the same Wall Street goons on both sides of that "battle;" the only people losing are the 99% who have to work for a living (instead of owning the world from accident of birth).
Regardless of the specific suddenness, there's still the underlying notion of whether teenage brain development (towards a "questioning authority" independent critical thinking approach) is something taught, or something innate in brain development. The specific form that "teenage rebellion" takes is certainly a cultural artifact (i.e. is taught) --- teenagers will adopt a particular language, style of dress, musical taste, and mode of behavior by mimicking influences around them (ironically, often "rebelling" by slavish conformity to mass-produced corporate propaganda). However, human brain development, producing the raw faculties and innate yearning for more critical and conceptual approaches than "memorize and regurgitate," is going to happen whether you try teaching it or not. Delaying education addressed to such mental development until the first year of college will do nothing but create needlessly stunted minds, squandering the opportunity for beneficial enrichment of critical thinking faculties.
Just as there is a window of opportunity where young children can seemingly effortlessly learn multiple languages just from hearing them spoken, the teenage years of critical thinking development won't be postponed by forcing curriculum changes --- it's going to happen anyway, so you might as well take educational advantage of it (rather than leaving age-targeted TV advertisements to be the primary influence designed to engage teens' attention).
I can't use myself as a "typical" example, because I'm already quite a few standard deviations out on much else --- however, I can certainly say that there was a reasonably large population of high-school aged students perfectly capable of handling and thriving on critical-thinking-engaged work; the idea of holding this off until "first tear of college" is quite extreme. But, even earlier in schooling, there's often a clear difference between students who critically understand material (hence are able to flexibly generalize), versus the memorizing-algorithms-I-don't-understand approach (leaving students helpless when asked to solve any problem not exactly identical to an example repeatedly worked through). This shows that at least some younger students are fully capable of absorbing and applying non-rote-drilling instruction.
My core disagreement with the GGP, though, is the idea of a "critical thinking switch" that turns kids into rebellious teenagers if taught critical thinking. This is pure bunk --- kids turn into wacky rebellious teenagers for purely natural causes (just how brains develop during that period). You can either harness and guide this development to turn undirected craziness into productive critical thought (including ample room for criticism of authority), or you can try and beat it out of them (resulting either in dull idiots, or extreme backlash rebellion). But you won't stave off the developmental changes until college by locking teenagers into a drill-and-test prison.
If there is an important distinction, it's that panspermia pushes the problem back one level to "known science" --- it provides an "amplification" mechanism for rare events in plain old organic chemistry, based on ordinary physics principles; while "intelligent design" introduces a whole new layer of metaphysical complication entirely outside of scientific knowledge.
I'm not personally a proponent of panspermia theories, based on the "space is frickin' big" principle. Interplanetary transfer within the solar system is one thing --- we know chunks of rock can travel between planets (and, ultimately, this can be tested: if we don't find clear evidence for Earthlike life at some earlier stage in Mars' development, then interplanetary panspermia isn't happening much). Interstellar panspermia is correspondingly far, far less likely. Given that we have all the "raw ingredients" available here, it seems that requiring panspermia to fill in the gap between "pools of organic sludge brewing for a billion years" and "life happens" is premature.
Woah, kids don't become teenagers because you've taught them critical thinking. You're seriously confusing correlation and causation here. Kids hit the "teenager" stage of mental development whether you want it or not, as a natural part of the progression in brain development. The right time to teach critical thinking is whenever kids are ready for it (which will vary from child to child, sometimes by quite a lot).
For young children still in the "sponge up, memorize, and repeat information from the environment with no higher analysis" developmental phase, a repetitive, memorization of random facts and methods approach is appropriate. However, introducing the "higher thinking" approach as soon as kids are able to handle it is highly beneficial --- when you can understand and synthesize material, in addition to just remembering something you've seen before, you'll do far better at every subject. Stunting critical skills by beating rote conformity into teenagers (who have hit brain development stages incompatible with this) may produce quiet, well-behaved, and dull idiots, but that shouldn't be the goal of education. Rather, guiding the inevitable development of critical thinking through the wacky teenage years to take advantage of good information along with rebelling against bad is how to go about education.
Life gets along just fine with nothing colder than a 270K heat sink --- unless you don't think anything can live indoors or underground without a direct view of the cold sky. In fact, the majority of life does better when not in good contact with a 270K thermal bath (ice temperature). You need some heat sink, but life can get along just fine at, e.g., 310K (human body temperature) with a 300K (room temperature) environment as a heat sink.
Whether you could form "complex" and "interesting" structures depends on how many layers "deeper" physics goes than the current level of understanding. Consider how many molecules it takes to make a human brain: to form life, much less intelligent life, you need a vast number of simple units able to subtly interact for long periods (relative to their typical interaction timescale) before being ripped apart and reorganized. If string-theory-like structures are the "fundamental" constituents of the universe, then you wouldn't be able to form sufficiently big/complex structures to do much before getting scrambled in the churning subatomic plasma. You'd need far "finer" structures, way way beyond the Planck scale, to "withstand the heat" and form interesting structures that could "do something" before being torn back apart. Such things can't be a-priori ruled out (we don't understand how physics works even at the Planck scale), but neither is there any reason to suspect such of existing (rather than whatever happens around the Planck scale being the "fundamental" level sufficient to generate the universe).
The problem that panspermia theories are supposed to "solve" is the ease or difficulty of "bootstrapping" life --- how likely is it to get self-replicating, self-organizing complex systems out of simpler chemical precursors. In the case that this is "really really unlikely," then panspermia allows the earliest forms of life to occur only in a few rare cases, but then spread to populate more of the universe. On the other hand, this is unnecessary if the initial chances of life formation are reasonable (given a few billion years and a planet-sized cauldron of random chemical soup). So far, scientists in the lab have been able to generate a lot of life precursors (amino acids, etc.) under "early Earth" conditions, but not demonstrate the "leap" to self-replicating systems; however, this may not prove too much, since scientists haven't had a billion years and a planet-sized petri dish array to try everything out.
Evolution doesn't have an inevitable "upward" direction. Today's microbes are every bit as "evolved" as we are from Earth's first inhabitants. So far, humans are no more than an evolutionary blip --- perhaps one that briefly flourishes, then vanishes away with nary a trace. Given billions of more years, evolution may simply produce a differently-colored cockroach, rather than a transcendent race of super-beings.
The distinction between "in thought" and "in action" is rarely considered philosophically or judicially negligible. Including desired actions, along with what you actually do, is quite a significant distinction. Note that "mens rea," the supposed state of mind motivating a crime, can make a large difference in modern legal systems --- between, e.g., first degree murder or a judgment with far lighter penalties. The 10 Commandments explicitly forbid thought crimes on the same level as work put into action; I'd consider that a significant, non-redundant feature of the system (and one incompatible with important tenets of modern civil law institutions).
Right at the beginning, a statement both of the existence of God ("I am") and of God's status over the reader ("the LORD your God"). You can only weasel out of that as an atheist by outright ignoring an rejecting it --- it's flat out contradictory to atheistic tenets of (a) "God is not," and (b) "God is nothing to me." Note, this part of the text isn't even worded as a "commandment" (allowing possibility of rejection and violation), but is given as an incontrovertible fact of existence. If that's compatible with atheism --- that God is, and is your LORD --- then what is atheism?
Ford had competition: the Commies. For much of the 20th century, the potential success of communism --- that it could create a better life for the working masses than bare-knuckle capitalist exploitation --- provided a major policy influence on the capitalist elite. Along Ford's logic, the working masses needed to be kept happy with a rising standard of living to maintain support for a "benevolent oligarchy" against radical demands for social justice and equality. However, with the collapse of the USSR into another feudal oligarchy, it's easier to push the "there is no alternative" capitalist propaganda line while quality of life declines under later capitalism (less pressured to compete against alternate social forms). Now, you see the wholesale looting of the middle and working classes, as all the gains made over the past century are clawed back by the super-rich.
Not all boundaries are equal. Along some boundaries, the lowest hanging fruit is atop mile-high exploding radioactive brambles that take billion-dollar armored ladders to approach. There are plenty of interesting boundaries left to head for in nuclear physics (at least I hope so, as someone looking for a career in nuclear physics subfields) --- but they may not be along the edges near nuclear power or nuclear bombs. Those edges have already been trampled over and picked clean by the best minds over the past century. Six-year-olds can grasp the number line and integer groups, but proving the Riemann hypothesis is probably not a boundary they'll make much headway against.
The edges where low-hanging fruit is likely to be found are those that haven't had blindingly obvious commercial applications for half a century. If expanding marginal knowledge is what you're after, chasing the "big dollar" projects of civilization-scale power generation (or civilization-scale mass destruction) is probably not where to look; you'll want to head somewhere "useless" and "inapplicable" (except for the fun of doing science).