Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

But if we don’t find life on either Mars or Europa…


Does that mean anything? The reason we ask is,

Mars’ south pole ice sheets/NASA

From Lisa Grossman at Science News:

A Mars orbiter has detected a wide lake of liquid water hidden below the planet’s southern ice sheets. There have been much-debated hints of tiny, ephemeral amounts of water on Mars before. But if confirmed, this lake marks the first discovery of a long-lasting cache of the liquid.

“This is potentially a really big deal,” says planetary scientist Briony Horgan of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. “It’s another type of habitat in which life could be living on Mars today.”More.



New comprehensive mapping of the radiation pummeling Jupiter’s icy moon Europa reveals where scientists should look — and how deep they’ll have to go — when searching for signs of habitability and biosignatures.

Since NASA’s Galileo mission yielded strong evidence of a global ocean underneath Europa’s icy shell in the 1990s, scientists have considered that moon one of the most promising places in our solar system to look for ingredients to support life. There’s even evidence that the salty water sloshing around the moon’s interior makes its way to the surface.

The problem is that blasts of radiation from Jupiter would kill surface life and alter surface biosignatures. However, the radiation zones appear to be oval-shaped region connected at the narrow ends that cover half the moon.

So how deep the researchers need to dig to find life? According to recent research,

The answer varies, from 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) in the highest-radiation zones – down to less than 0.4 inches (1 centimeter) deep in regions of Europa at middle- and high-latitudes, toward the moon’s poles. More.

So if we don’t find life in the most favorable locations, are we justified in drawing the conclusion that life is just not very common in the galaxy and that we are special? As opposed to They Must Be Out There Somewhere, experienced as an act of faith? What makes that act of faith “science”?

Artist’s conception of radiation from Jupiter on Europa/NASA, JPL-Caltech

See also: If we are alone in the universe, shouldn’t that make us feel more special?
Instead of meaningless? How exactly did we get from “alone” to “meaningless” via eloquence from tenured pundits? Where do we buy return tickets?

SETI reacts to the new study that says not to wait up for extraterrestrials


Researchers: We have dissolved the Fermi Paradox!

Men have conversed with angels and demons, as well as (occasionally) God. There is nobody on either side of the materialist / theist divide that considers any of them to be terrestrial. Ergo, extra-terrestrial. "there is no new thing under the sun" ScuzzaMan
While our planet may be alone, we certainly are not. If life existed nowhere else, we have millions of species here. Of that, humanity is very special. bb
If we are alone in the universe, shouldn’t that make us feel more special? Instead of meaningless? How exactly did we get from “alone” to “meaningless” via eloquence from tenured pundits?
Interesting. I think alone meant special in the theistic view where all the splendor of the universe was a gift for human beings. This view is supported by fine-tuning arguments which show that life on earth is the very special result of rare, precise factors. It would say that "this doesn't and won't happen again anywhere" - thus Special. In the atheistic view, however, alone meant meaningless. Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot". The idea is that we are insignificant in a massive space that "cares nothing for us" - to quote Ken Miller. Atheism uses our aloneness to support its necessary conclusion that we are meaningless. By a rare chance, we exist. Otherwise, without that rare chance, there would be just space rocks. Silver Asiatic
I'm as interested in the search for extraterrestrial life as anyone, I believe. If such life is ever found, then it would be the most sensational discovery in human history, certainly. I suspect it will never happen though. I don't understand the intense focus on the question of "are we special?" however. I mean regardless of whether there is intelligent life all over the universe or not, we likely are each unique as individuals and as a species, IMHO. I'm more interested in what's out there than in feeling "special". daveS
It depends what you mean by life. Materialist theories of solar system development inherently involve episodic upheavals and collisions quite capable of distributing minor amounts of microbial detritus around the solar system. The null hypothesis of life distribution is still that anything less than canal-building little green men that we find anywhere else in the solar system came from Earth, and thus such finds have nothing to tell us about the origin of life itself here on Earth. But the materialist's determined belief in a grossly oversimplified mechanistic view of life forces them to the position that once the "basic building blocks" of life exist in a locale **THEREFORE** life itself must eventually arise in such a place. Thus their mania for finding water, microbes, "organic compounds", and etc. I always find it amusingly ironic that these are the same people who call themselves skeptics. But of course the skeptic simply notes that: it ain't necessarily so. ScuzzaMan
Mars Life Would Spit Out the Water - October 2, 2015 Excerpt: What if the water is so bad, Martians would spit it out? Nadia Drake at National Geographic is a tad more realistic: "You might think that the first human explorers on Mars will park next to a salty stream and use it to manufacture fresh drinking water. Maybe they could even find life in damp Martian nooks and crannies, areas where the dusty red planet can still fuel microbes. Reality is much more subtle. Finding evidence for flowing water is not the same as finding life.,,," "[Chris] McKay notes that the type of salts near the Martian streaks, called perchlorates, form different watery mixtures than the salts we’re most used to on Earth. In fact, it’s possible the perchlorate streaks could behave similarly to Antarctica’s Don Juan Pond, which is the saltiest liquid water body on Earth—and totally dead. “Such a brine is not suitable for life and is of no interest biologically,” McKay says. “Nothing can live in the brine of Don Juan Pond.” http://crev.info/2015/10/mars-life-would-spit-out-the-water/ Early Mars Water Was Salty, Toxic Stew – 2008 Excerpt: But data from the rover Opportunity is already suggesting that water on early Mars billions of years ago may have been fit for pickling—not supporting—life. That’s because the water was thick with salt and other minerals, making it far too briny for life as we know it, according to a new study. Nicholas Tosca of Harvard University and colleagues studied mineral clues from the surface of Mars sent back by the rover and used computers to turn back the clock. “Our sense has been that while Mars is a lousy environment for supporting life today, long ago it might have more closely resembled Earth,” said Andrew Knoll, a study co-author also from Harvard. But instead the team found that the soil’s mineral content would have made that liquid a salty, toxic stew. “No matter how far back we peer into Mars’s history, we may never see a point at which the planet really looked like Earth,” Knoll said. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/05/080529-mars-salty.html
Of related note, salt is ‘very effective at dismembering membranes and preventing RNA units (monomers) from forming polymers any longer than two links (dimers)’
“…even at concentrations seven times weaker than in today’s oceans. The ingredients of sea salt are very effective at dismembering membranes and preventing RNA units (monomers) from forming polymers any longer than two links (dimers).” Creation Evolution News – Sept. 2002

Leave a Reply