The man who declared eight months ago that NASA had discovered evidence of life on Mars has now admitted, ‘It’s too early to come to a final conclusion about life on Mars. We’re still in the discovery process.’
Delivering a progress report at the twenty-eighth annual conference on Lunar and Planetary Science (19 March, 1997) Doug Blanchard, chief of solar system exploration at the Johnson Space Centre, Houston, spoke with significantly more reticence than when the ‘discovery’ was first announced.
Assessing the evidence
The alleged evidence of life on Mars was found in a 4.2 pound meteorite found in Antarctica. The meteorite is believed to have been ejected from the planet Mars during an ancient meteor impact. This belief is based on the analysis of gasses trapped in the rock. The ‘evidence’ of life consists of worm-like shapes, one hundredth the diameter of a human hair, found inside the meteorite and associated with mineral deposits of iron oxide and sulphur. The particular chemical compounds identified can be produced by living organisms, but can also arise by purely chemical processes.
One of the scientists who did the original research maintains his position. He says he ‘feels stronger now than we did at the time it was published’ that the shapes and mineral deposits had a biological origin. This is because he has concluded that the rock was formed at a temperature low enough to preserve living material. Other scientists disagree, claiming that the rock was much too hot to do so. He also argues that bacteria similar in size to the meteorite objects have been found on earth.
But this cuts both ways. That there are earth bacteria of a similar size may make the ‘evidence’ marginally more plausible. But it may also mean that the meteorite was contaminated with earth bacteria. According to scientists at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the pattern of organic compounds found in the meteorite (and in a second meteorite studied by British workers) is identical to that found in the surrounding ice. Ralph Harvey, of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, remarks, ‘I’m not sure we even know how to identify alien life’; that is, if we ever did stumble across life from another world we probably wouldn’t even recognize it. It is only the resemblance of the meteoric ‘evidence’ to earthly life-forms that permits an identification at all.
The debate will go on. Since last August’s announcement, NASA and the American National Science Foundation which funds research have received fifty-two applications from laboratories seeking to study pieces of the meteorite. No doubt a vast amount of money will be expended in the search for more information.
If this were normal science, the evidence so far would be considered far too flimsy to justify such expenditure. But this is not normal science. It is research with a hidden agenda, namely a desire to promote the concept of Godless evolution. The proponents of extra-terrestrial life believe that the evolutionary scenario would be greatly advanced by the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe. Of course, even if ‘alien’ life were found, it would not disprove creation. After all, God ‘made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 115:15), not just earth. In his sovereign wisdom he may have created life elsewhere in the cosmos. Nevertheless, if life evolved by chance, as evolution proposes, we would certainly expect to find life all over the universe. So as long as earth is unique in supporting life, an important prediction of evolutionary theory is unfulfilled. Just as some anthropologists continue their avid search for ‘missing links’ between ape and man, others who deny the reality of divine creation are desperate to discover extra-terrestrial life. They have not yet done so.