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National Geographic News: “Fossils Could Be Found by Next Mars Rover, Study Hints” It’s no secret that fossils play a prominent role in the debate over the history of life on Earth. But will we soon be arguing over the meaning of Martian fossils?
A study led by J. Alexis Palmero Rodriguez of the Planetary Science Institute has drawn attention to a region in northern Mars as an ideal spot for finding Martian fossils. Near a place known as Gemini Scopuli, the location is thought to have had sustained subsurface water and groundwater, believed to be ideal for both evolution and fossil preservation.
The location is thought to have had sustained subsurface water and groundwater.
Many scientists think subsurface water would have provided the best environment for Martian life to have evolved, because the life-forms would have been shielded from malignant ultraviolet rays. That poses a riddle for researchers, however, as Mars landers and rovers lack the equipment to dig very far beneath the surface. Scientists therefore are hunting for an area where subsurface water could have risen to the surface, bringing life with it, they say, then leaving fossils as it slowly retreated.
Near Gemini Scopuli, geologic evidence points to the exact scenario the team was hoping for (minus any signs of life). Sediments suggest the area was once covered in water, and geological features indicate a slow, steady process of groundwater seeping up through cracks in the crust to form long-lasting lakes and oceans. According to Rodriguez, such a stable liquid environment, especially if accompanied by a surface layer of ice, would have helped organisms survive the barrage of ultraviolet rays.
“We know that evolution and successful adaptations of life-forms to new environments are more likely to occur when there are geologically long periods of time available, [s]o gradual and long-lived groundwater emergence would have increased the chances of successful adaptations to the surface and near-surface environments,” Rodriguez explained.
University of Arizona planetary scientist Victor Baker, who was not involved in the research, adds,
“Whatever is an indication of previous activities of living organisms can be a fossil. It doesn't have to be bones. It can be traces. It could be evidence of chemistry that one can tie back to a biological process.
“To expect that Mars would have achieved something like the Cambrian explosion would really be stretching it, [b]ut to expect that Mars might have [microorganisms] similar to what was characteristic life for most of Earth’s very early history is not too great of a stretch.”
What’s primarily driving the search for alien life today is not scientific evidence.
So fossils on Mars isn’t a stretch of the imagination?* Baker’s credulity exemplifies the confidence evolution-believing astrobiologists have that life exists on other worlds, despite the lack of evidence. The media seems to be helping the view, however, in its regular and often zealous coverage of such news; the generally reputable Telegraph recently published an article under the headline “Nasa Uncovers New ‘Life on Mars' Evidence after Rover Got Stuck in the Mud.” But the story’s text reveals that—as usual—the “evidence” is only of watery conditions on Mars that could have been more hospitable to life than conditions today. (Related news linked to Martian life is more soberly reported by ScienceDaily.)
The Bible doesn’t explicitly teach that God did not create life elsewhere in the physical universe, although multiple passages imply that intelligent life—in particular, life created in God’s image—is unique to Earth. It’s important to keep in mind not only what the Bible implies about alien life, but also that what’s primarily driving the search for alien life today is not scientific evidence, but rather faith in the power of evolution.
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