Ten Years and No Life on Mars

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Ten years on, and no life on mars, comments an article in the New York Times, 8 August 2006. In August 1996 NASA scientists and President Bill Clinton announced to the world they had found evidence of life on Mars. Their evidence was highly magnified images of rows of tiny blobs that looked somewhat like strings of bacteria, and organic molecules found in a rock named ALH84001. Bill Clinton claimed: "Today, rock 84001 speaks to us across all those billions of years and millions of miles. It speaks of the possibility of life. If this discovery is confirmed, it will surely be one of the most stunning insights into our universe that science has ever uncovered."

The rock is a meteorite that scientists agree originated on Mars, but "skeptics have found non-biological explanations for every piece of evidence that was presented". The blobs were quickly rejected by biologists as being at least 100 times too small to contain all the proteins, nucleic acids and metabolic machinery needed for the most basic life. The organic molecules were identified as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that also exist in the environment where the rock was found in Antarctica, as well as in comets and meteorites that no-one has ever claimed contain life.

Another line of evidence that did not receive as much publicity, was the finding of carbonate and magnetite particles in the rock, similar to those produced by living organisms on earth. However, in 2001 a group of scientists were able to produce the same carbonate and magnetite grains by chemical processes. In spite of the failure of all the evidence in rock AHL84001, a flourishing science called "astrobiology" has grown up in the past ten years as scientists continue to look for signs of life outside of the earth.

Bill Clinton's 1996 statement

Editorial Comment: Did you notice the great publicity the popular media gave the latest evidence that this rock didn't contain life? The relentless, but fruitless, search for life in outer space is motivated by a belief that if life can be found on other planets that will prove that it must have evolved by chance on earth and everywhere. No-one has yet proved that life can evolve from non-life anywhere, let alone on earth. Finding living organisms, even in very strange places, merely proves they exist or have existed. It does not tell us how they got there. God could have put bacteria on Mars if he wanted to. However, Genesis tells us that the reason God made the heavenly bodies, was for "signs, and times and seasons" (Genesis 1:14), so it is unlikely they will be life supporting. (Ref. meteorites, planets, extra-terrestrial)

Evidence News 21 September 2006

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