How Far Can Astrobiologists Create A Story?

Looking for life on other planets is highly political, often times stories are hyped up to justify grant money for their research. Take this story on physorg which is one of the most bizarre studies that I have read which goes way beyond the realm of science…

“Computer models suggest Io formed in a region around Jupiter where water ice was plentiful. Io’s heat, combined with the resulting possibility of liquid water, could have made life plausible.”

This is by far a poor candidate for supposed life, firstly of of all, the surface has it’s extremes, part of it is sulfur dioxide snowfields at -130°F while other parts is a scalding hot lava lake at 1649°C. On top of that, it’s exposed to Jupiter’s deadly radiation! While scientists have rejected the idea of life on Io, astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch at Washington State University speculates from a computer model that there could be life there in the distant past.

Here we go, water=life equation is used so it’s assumed life had evolved even though there is absolutely no plausible observation nor explanation from research or nature that demonstrates on how life supposedly evolved from dead chemicals. The presence of water doesn’t prove anything on how life could emerge from it!  So how can they justify looking for life elsewhere when they have no clue on how it began on earth?

Astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch suggests we spend money on a mission to look for life on Io.  Here we go trying to justify grant money for a mission that is not based on science rather based on a far-fetched story telling from a computer model. Many bodies have water and ice. Some of which is found deep below the surface. The sun is another example which has protons and electrons that are supposed building blocks for life, do we start  looking underneath the sun’s surface for life with a probe because it was once cooler in the distant past?

Can scientists create an ever growing realm of complex speculation that continues endlessly and mindlessly while spending billions of dollars in the process? Now planetary and moon exploration is certainly a fascinating science, one of which we continue to learn from the real-time data but it certainly should not be used for an evolutionary story.


8 thoughts on “How Far Can Astrobiologists Create A Story?

  1. Does a story have distance ??

    Anyway, there are some open questions to answer:

    (1) Blog readership numbers ?

    (2) Your qualifications to discuss any scientific subject, in response to the challenge to Olorin.

    (3) A substantive review of Signature in the Cell, promised for August 2009.

    (4) outstanding question from Upson Downes on mitochondrial Eve

    (5) the answers to Olorin’s quiz:
    A) …
    B) …
    C) …
    D) …
    E) …
    F) …

  2. Michael’s argument:

    1. Life on Europa seems unlikey.
    2. I think Life on Europa is impossible.
    3. Therefore it is impossible.
    4. Let’s stop all research in Astrobiology because I’m right.

  3. “I know the chances of life on Io are low …” Schulze-Makuch said.

    That might still give you guys a very good reason to donate some money to the cause. Or you could volunteer for a personal tax increase as a way to contribute. And along with that, you can try to convince me to do the same, ok?

  4. @creaqtionby design: “That might still give you guys a very good reason to donate some money to the cause. Or you could volunteer for a personal tax increase as a way to contribute.”

    Why would you think we have not already done these things? If you think religion is important, that might give you a reason to donate money to your church, or to volunteer your personal time to it. Same deal.

    @creationbydesign: “And along with that, you can try to convince me to do the same, ok?”

    Fat chance.


    Michael constantly sneers at what he calls “storytelling” in science. In fact, it’s one of the stock phrases that he often substitutes for actual thought: “(8) “As you can see, xxx is not that strong at all as a hypothesis or a theory. It’s story telling.” [Fill in xxx = hidden dimensions, convergent evolution, hot chicken soup, etc.]”[1]

    Because the nascent field of complex-system analysis involves not only new explanations but new types of scientific explanation, S. Y. Auyang delves into the philosophy of science in order to connect the new approaches with previous types of explanations. On page 332, she writes:

    Some commentators distort Gould and Lewontin’s point[2] completely by bundling historical narratives and just-so stories into “story-telling.” The natures of narratives and just-so stories are diametrically opposite. In historical narratives, theory is always subordinate to evidence. In just-so stories, it is the other way around.

    Historical narratives can invoke theoretical models, but the models are usually regional and their applicability unclear. The burden of the narrative is to weigh competing models and show that one is ore appropriate in view of the evidence.

    The purpose of narrative is to arrange the data so as to judge alternative explanations. For example, narratives of data on genetic diffusion over a number of populations may[3] enable biologists to determine the relative magnitude of the effects of natural selection and genetic drift.

    Note the difference from the just-so stories of creationism, all of which attempt to shoehorn the data always into a single a-priori explanatory framework.


    [1] From the list at Olorin comment of Mar.22, 2010 to Michael’s post of the same date.

    [2] S.J Gould, “Sociobiology and the Theory of Natural Selection,” in Barlow & Silverberg, eds., Sociobiology: Beyond Nature/Nurture? (Westview Press 1980).

    [3] But have not yet done so, because the data lack the required resolution. That is, the narrative remains useful, because the choice among the theories cannot yet be made with confidence.

  5. Orolin,

    Speaking of story telling, . . .
    When Creationists (like Michael) accuse scientists of indulging in “story telling” or “just-so” stories, they do so without looking at themselves in the mirror. Creationists indulge in “just-so” stories all the time.

    A notable example is how they try to explain the earth’s geology and mountain forming from Noah’s Flood (which I personally think is explainable as a local event rather than universal). Also another example is their ad-hoc explanation for speciation that all animals speciated from their ancestors from after the flood. They say “God put the genetic capabilities in their genes so they could adapt, BUT NOT evolve any further.” — If these do not qualify as “just-so” stories, then nothing does.

  6. Krissmith777, speciation after the Flood may not be a good example. If we could persuade the creationists to someday actually define what they mean by “created kind,” then they could use conventional genetic methods to determine whether species within the same kind arose within their preferred framework, and species from different kinds arose before that time.

    Of course, they will never do this. Because they will find that, while some species arose within their aliquot span of time, almost all of them are millions and millions and millions and millions of years older than their beginning of time.

    Heh. Heh heh. Heh heh heh.

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