No News Like Old News

on December 5, 2009

The Times: “Evidence of Life on Mars Lurks Beneath Surface of Meteorite, Nasa Experts ClaimIs there life on Mars? Some of this week’s biggest “news” is also this week’s oldest news.

A quarter of a century ago, a team of scientists discovered a meteorite in the Allan Hills of Antarctica that was given the name ALH 84001. Its origin was identified as Mars, the story being that an asteroid had hit Mars, breaking off the fragment and hurtling it into space some 16 million years ago. Eventually the fragment was captured by Earth’s gravity and landed in Antarctica 13,000 years ago, the story goes.

Investigators discovered microscopic structures resembling life on the rock.

A little more than a decade after it was discovered, investigators discovered microscopic structures resembling life on the rock. Due to the meteorite’s alleged Martian origin, the team claimed it was evidence of not simply life on Mars, but that life on Earth began with just such an interplanetary journey. The claim was met with skepticism from all sides, however; scientists pointed out that the microscopic structures were not necessarily biological.

But the discovering scientists didn’t give up. David Mackay of NASA’s Johnson Space Center was part of the team that first examined ALH 84001. He still claims the meteorite is “very strong evidence of life on Mars,” and that claim is now buttressed by a new analysis of the rock conducted via electron microscope.

The new research took a closer look (literally) at magnetite crystals on the surface layers of ALH 84001, which “have the form of simple bacteria,” the Times reports. Could the crystals be the remains of carbon-based bacteria? The research indicates that “about 25 per cent of the crystal structures were chemically consistent with being formed from bacteria.” Apparently that evidence was strong enough to warrant this statement from Times journalist Hannah Devlin: “[The research] showed that microscopic worm-like structures found in a Martian meteorite that hit the Earth 13,000 years ago are almost certainly fossilised bacteria” (our emphasis). Really?

Although nothing scriptural absolutely rules out the idea that God could have created microbial forms on Mars, we are quite skeptical of the “alien” interpretation of ALH 84001. Our skepticism is both because the Bible clearly implies a lack of alien life (or, at the very least, intelligent alien life) and because the research into ALH 84001 appear to be biased by evolutionary hopes. Consider these points:

  • The “life from Mars” hypothesis is built upon a chain of speculation. First is the speculation that ALH 84001 is indeed from Mars. Second is the speculation that the structures are indeed the remains of bacteria. Third is the speculation that if the structures are evidence of life, that life originated on Mars, not Earth. While each is justified in some way, the justifications are likewise speculative and unprovable.
  • Obviously, the fact that we have yet to find life on Mars itself casts more doubt on ALH 84001 as evidence. Does it not seem suspicious that, despite billions of dollars spent searching, our only evidence of life on Mars would actually be from Earth?
  • Even if it were proven beyond doubt that ALH 84001 truly proves life existed on Mars, such proof would not account for an evolutionary origin of life; the question of how complex life formed anywhere in the universe by natural processes remains a riddle for evolutionists.
  • The Times story implies that 75 percent of the microbial structures were not chemically consistent with being formed from bacteria, which shows that such structures can form in the absence of life. Given the odds (compared to only 25 percent that could have formed from bacteria), why the media hype?
  • The Times reports that scientists also possess two similar meteorites (i.e., said to be from Mars, and said to show the same signs of microbial life), one from Egypt and the other also from Antarctica. If it’s a stretch to imagine one meteorite carrying life from Mars to Earth, how much less likely is it that such is a regular occurrence? Of course, astrobiologists may beg the question by claiming the multiple meteorites show it’s a “common process.” But we would say the meteorites show, for example, contamination of meteorites by microbes living in Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Another report this week on a Martian lake concludes with a section titled “Life’s Chances on Mars.” It reminds us that for years, evolutionary scientists have tried almost everything to find evidence of life on Mars, with little success. That, in turn, suggests a systematic bias that makes us even more skeptical of every new “life on Mars” hype.

Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us.

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.