A NASA scientist claims to have found evidence of life in space in a recent paper in the Journal of Cosmology.
The paper is Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites: Implications to Life on Comets, Europa, and Enceladus by astrobiologist Dr. Richard Hoover of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL.
Hoover claims to have found fossils of bacteria inside meteorites of a very rare class. Hoover concludes that bacterial life could exist on comets or icy worlds like Europa or Enceladus.
Discovered in 1610 by Galileo, Europa is the sixth-innermost moon of Jupiter and the smallest of its four Galilean satellites. It’s slightly smaller than earth’s moon with an icy surface and an oxygen atmosphere.
The Galilean moons are the 4 largest of Jupiter’s 50 moons and 12 provisional moons. Jupiter’s Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system.
Enceladus was discovered by William Herschel in 1789. It is the sixth-largest and ninth-innermost moon of Saturn and has water and carbon. Saturn’s largest moon Titan is the second-largest moon in the solar system.
Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus are commonly speculated as possibilities for life beyond Earth because they both have water. However no definite evidence of life has ever been found on either.
Hoover’s new claim is highly unlikely. Thousands of meteorites have been rigorously examined for evidence of life over the last half-century with no success. As many have said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And extraordinary evidence for this claim is lacking. The conclusion rests on highly technical work with electron microscopes and chemical analysis with plenty of room for error and interpretation.
Senior research scientist Rocco Mancinelli from the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute expressed doubt about Hoover’s conclusions: “As a microbiologist who has looked at thousands of microbes through a microscope, and done some of my own electron microscopy, I see no convincing evidence that these particles are of biological origin.” (See Life in meteorites? Study stirs debate)
NASA has already officially distanced itself from support of Hoover’s claim (NASA Statement on Astrobiology Paper by Richard Hoover). Many microbiologists and astrobiologists say Hoover’s claims of extraterrestrial life are wrong.
Fifteen years ago in 1996 similar claims of extraterrestrial life were made about supposed bacteria fossils found inside a Mars meteorite. Worldwide hoopla accompanied the announcement, but it was eventually rejected. It’s no longer cited as an example of extraterrestrial life.
It will take some time for scientists to completely evaluate the claims and evidence, but I predict that this claim will fall by the wayside like all the other similar ones of the past.
Where Did Life Come From?
Senior astronomer Seth Shostak at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) speculated on Hoover’s work: “Maybe life was seeded on earth – it developed on comets for example, and just landed here when these things were hitting the very early Earth. It would suggest, well, life didn’t really begin on the Earth, it began as the solar system was forming.” (See Exclusive: NASA Scientist Claims Evidence of Alien Life on Meteorite)
Panspermia (lit. seeding everywhere) is the currently popular speculative belief that life originated in outer space and was seeded on Earth and other astral bodies by comets, asteroids, and meteorites. Proponents overlook that this does not explain the origin of life. It just moves the problem elsewhere in the universe.
The oft-repeated claim that life on earth was seeded from outer space is a worldview-generated belief, not a conclusion based on evidence. To date, there is absolutely no substantiation for it. There is no evidence for life originating in space, nor any evidence that life on earth was seeded from space. It’s simply a belief.
The other popular explanation for life is abiogenesis, the belief that life arose spontaneously from non-life. No evidence supports this belief either. It has never been observed to occur, and no explanation exists for how non-life could assemble the vast amount of information needed for life and properly organize it. How could rocks “write themselves DNA” to become living creatures? The information content in the DNA of a single cell exceeds that of the Library of Congress.
Even if life is unequivocally demonstrated to exist on a meteorite from space, this would neither prove abiogenesis nor panspermia. Nobody would have observed it arising from non-life, nor would we know its true origin.
If life is discovered elsewhere in the solar system, it’s possible that it originally came from earth, rather than life on earth having come from it.
How could this be? Genesis suggests a possibility: Noah’s Flood. Prior to the Flood there were huge subcrustal reservoirs of water (“the great deep,” Genesis 7:11). When the crust ruptured and “the fountains of the great deep burst open” with expulsive energy far surpassing that of volcanoes, bacteria-laden mud and water could have been propelled into space.
Thus it’s conceivable seeding could have been generated from Earth rather than vice-versa. Bacteria on meteorites could have originally come from Earth. It’s interesting that Hoover himself says the meteorite composition he studied is similar to earth.
Thus an earth-centered “reverse panspermia” may have elements of truth. Maybe life went out from earth into space, rather than coming to earth from space.
Unregenerate man jumps at any non-Biblical explanation for life that comes along. Bereft of a grounding in truth, he falls for anything, no matter how wild and unbelievable the explanation is.
We know from the history book of the universe how life originated on earth, and it did not come on meteorites or on comets from space. The Almighty created the universe and all life in six days about 6,000 years ago. And, according to the Genesis record, He created life directly on earth, not in space. There is no record that He created life anywhere else in the universe. Soli Deo Gloria.
©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3)
Tuesday March 15, 2011 A.D.
Read my March 2011 Bible-Science column
The Genesis Code.
Arise, bless the Lord your God forever and ever! O may Thy glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise! Thou alone art the Lord. Thou hast made the heavens, the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. Thou dost give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before Thee. (Nehemiah 9:5b,6)