Life on Mars?


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In this section:  Chance or Design?   The Scientific Method Life in a Test Tube? The Eye Irreducible Complexity Anything Can Happen? Evolution or Selection? Real Examples of Evolution "Do You Feel Lucky?" (Abio)Genesis 1:1 Life from Comets? Life on Mars? Richard Dawkins A Brief History of Slime...

Infallible logic or biased interpretations?


ALH84001 meteorite: From Mars?

In August 1996, NASA announced the discovery of a meteorite which may have come from Mars, which may hold evidence of something suggesting the possibility of microscopic primitive life.

That's a bit long for a headline, so the media announced the discovery as:

LIFE ON MARS

Was this a reasonable conclusion?  Decide for yourself after considering the support, extracted from NASA's web page.

What NASA said:

Questions to ask:

Meteorite ALH84001 is one of twelve meteorites which are thought to be from Mars.  All twelve are igneous rocks crystallized in a way which suggests they formed in a planetary-sized body. All twelve also show evidence of shock heating, presumably as a result of the impact which ejected them into space.  So we really don't even know if the meteorite came from Mars to begin with or how it got here?
About 3.6 billion years ago, the bacteria became fossilized in the fractures. Gas bubbles trapped in one meteorite, EETA79001, have a composition which matches the current martian atmosphere, compelling evidence that this meteorite and by association the others, including ALH84001, came from Mars. So we’re told that evolution on Earth required a radically different atmosphere from what we see today, but expected to believe in evolution on Mars based on an atmosphere that hasn’t changed a bit in 3.6 billion years. Why?  And it wasn't even from the same meteorite?
Most meteorites formed early in the history of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago. Eleven of the twelve martian meteorites have ages less than 1.3 billion years, ALH84001 at 4.5 billion years old being the only exception. So this "fossil life" is in the one meteorite that is as old as the solar system, long before life existed?  And the other ones were used to conduct the atmospheric tests?
One (other evidence) is the discovery of abundant polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These are commonly found on dust grains and certain types of meteorites in outer space, presumably formed by non-biological chemical reactions. However, when micro-organisms die they break down into PAHs as well. The mixture of PAHs found on ALH84001 is very different from that found on dust grains and other meteorites, suggesting the possibility of a biological origin." So we’re just looking at chemicals commonly found on meteorites and are willing to proclaim this as life because the mixture is different? Could there be other factors involved?
Finally, electron microscopy has revealed the presence of tiny "ovoids" which may actually be fossil remnants of tiny bacteria. If so, they are 100 times smaller than any bacteria microfossils found on Earth, except for some supposed "nanofossils" recently discovered in very young terrestrial rocks, a finding currently not generally accepted as fossil organisms. So, if this same "evidence" were found on earth it would not be accepted as a fossil organism, but we're supposed to believe that is evidence of a fossil when it’s found on a rock that is supposed to be from Mars. Why?

It's easy to see why one might think that the ovoid on the meteorite resembles bacteria from the earth:

Mars fossil bacteria

Mars "fossil"

Earth bacteria

Earth bacteria

Until you show the pictures to scale:

Mars fossil bacteria to scale

Mars "fossil"

Earth fossil bacteria to scale

Earth's smallest bacteria showing its width to scale,
but only 20% of its length

'I think it is very unlikely they have remnants of biological activity.'

William Schopf of UCLA, a leading expert on microfossils


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In this section
 Chance or Design?   The Scientific Method Life in a Test Tube? The Eye Irreducible Complexity Anything Can Happen? Evolution or Selection? Real Examples of Evolution "Do You Feel Lucky?" (Abio)Genesis 1:1 Life from Comets? Life on Mars? Richard Dawkins A Brief History of Slime...

 


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