Astrobiology: Is it Relevant For Science?

Biologist and activist Jerry Coyne who has a blog which defends evolution once said, “In science’s pecking order, evolutionary biology lurks somewhere near the bottom, far closer to phrenology than to physics.” If that is true, then where does Astrobiology fit into this created pecking order? Back in 1996,  a Martian meteorite was discovered and there was massive hype that it contain alien life forms which were supposedly fossilized in it. But later these claims were debunked. So with all the hype about the meteorite, then President Clinton allocated funding for a supposed new science which is, Astrobiology, however, since fossilized alien life forms from Mars was falsified, wouldn’t you think this part of NASA research would no longer be needed? After all that was the reason why it was created in the first place!

Recently, the United States government has created objectives for Astrobiology and has asked the public to give their opinions on the direction they want Astrobiology to go. Here is what NASA outlines as a road map…

1) Understanding habitable environments 

2) Looking for life in our own solar system (NASA is currently doing this already with Mars). 

3) Understanding life in earth’s environment. 

4) Understanding how life began.

5) Understanding evolutionary mechanisms and environmental limits of life.

6) Predicting how life will shape up for the future.

7) Being able to detect signatures of life forms on other planets. 

Much of these objectives are conducted in other areas of evolutionary research or could be done in other areas of evolutionary research. After seventeen years and counting, there is no hard evidence for alien life forms. Scientists can’t send probes and spaceships which can land on the surface on other worlds outside our solar-system which is the best form of collecting data to draw conclusions with.

Since there is no hard evidence for alien life forms, and we are too far to really investigate, how do they even know what an alien life form would be? It’s like telling a four-year old child living in a remote area in Alaska to be able to come up with calculations for building the Sears tower in Chicago. But some scientists assume (using circular reasoning) that they know what supposed alien life is by studying life on earth…

In Science Daily

“The bacterium offers clues about some of the necessary preconditions for microbial life on both the Saturn moon Enceladus and Mars, where similar briny subzero conditions are thought to exist.”

“We believe that this bacterium lives in very thin veins of very salty water found within the frozen permafrost on Ellesmere Island,” explains Whyte. “The salt in the permafrost brine veins keeps the water from freezing at the ambient permafrost temperature (~-16ºC), creating a habitable but very harsh environment. It’s not the easiest place to survive but this organism is capable of remaining active (i.e. breathing) to at least -25ºC in permafrost.”

Bacteria is the most fit animal on planet earth and is known to survive in very extreme environments that no other animals could survive in which defies evolutionary logic on survival of the fittest. Is alien bacteria going to be the similar as earth’s or different? If aliens did exist, I would say, different. The discovery of this particular one-cell animal is exciting no question about it and it’s a great thing to learn about, but promising the public it’s revealing clues on life concerning other planets and moons, is not science but a lot of hype.

And also, the authors of the paper make another unscientific claim that these bacteria just like man are changing the weather pattern on earth…

“The researchers believe however, that such microbes may potentially play a harmful role in extremely cold environments such as the High Arctic by increasing carbon dioxide emissions from the melting permafrost, one of the results of global warming.”

So is astrobiology relevant for science? The answer is no! American taxpayer money is being wasted. It should be abolished and the funding shifted elsewhere that is more important in the peaking order like cancer research,  biomimetics where scientists learn and understand designs found in nature for example…

New search-and-rescue operations are being invented some of which are coming from ants! Fire ants that are able to construct narrow tunnels not much wider than their own bodies, the design of these unique tunnels allow the ants to catch themselves to prevent falling in vertical orientations is being studied for the purpose of imitating it for search-and-rescue operations! There is so much in nature that can improve human lives unlike astrobiology were Americans are paying scientists to speculate which is another reason why it’s not relevant for science!

Astrobiologists Have Yet To Discover Life’s Definition

Alien life is out there, some claim but how?  Astrobiologists are in the process of  trying to figure out what life is in the first place. What a major dilemma this is which has nothing to fall back on because it has no observable current examples of life emerging from nature, nor any life emerging in a lab but yet we find these scientists trying to find supposed alien life forms where some have declared we are not alone, however they really blowing smoke because they have no clue on what to look for.

In a current edition of  Astrobiology which is free for viewing, it focuses on this very problem. David Deamer from UC Santa Cruz, raises a question if it’s even possible to come up with a definition of life. Tirard, Morange and Lazcano put it this way…

“The many attempts made to reduce the nature of living systems to a single living compound imply that life can be so well defined that the exact point at which it started can be established with the sudden appearance of the first replicating molecule,” they said; “On the other hand, if the emergence of life is seen as the stepwise (but not necessarily slow) evolutionary transition between the non-living and the living, then it may be meaningless to draw a strict line between them…“We remain lamentably ignorant about major portions of the processes that preceded life.”

After more than 150 years of research, they are in the dark, but of course keep the faith, someday it will be revealed to them. It’s very evident from their writings, “In this view life would be the “evolutionary outcome of a process and not of a single, fortuitous event.” This contradicts what was said in a previous paragraph where they state, “there is a major distinction between purely physical-chemical evolution and natural selection, which is one of the hallmarks of biology.” The implication here is suggesting a system could reach a certain point where it able to replicate its information thus natural selection wouldn’t be required. Let’s start with some real science that actually makes sense, shall we? David Anderson writes

“The physical world that we live in – is actually mathematical. That is, it can, at many fundamental levels, be described by mathematics. At school most of us probably learnt Newton’s equations. Surely everyone has heard of the most famous and elegant statement of all, about the interchangeability of matter and energy, Einstein’s E = mc². In fact, the whole subject of physics can be thought of in this way: attempting to describe the physical world as a mathematical equation. Physicists all over the world are looking for the “holy grail” of physics: a single equation to describe reality.”

“Hence, whilst mathematics is an abstract pursuit, it is absolutely not an irrelevant abstract pursuit. Mathematics is the “language of physics” – the language of the world we live and move in. This is very interesting, because maths is something that depends on our minds. In the physical world, we can throw a ball into the air. Newton’s motion equations are entirely abstract; you can’t go anywhere in the world and find an his second law, locked up in a cage somewhere: they exist only in the mind of an intelligent being. Nevertheless, those equations elegantly describe what the ball does in the real world.”

For “the atheist mathematician, [he] has to go about his work doing who-knows-what, for reasons who-knows-why” which is a great analogy that sums up exactly whats going on in the world of trying to research evolution, in this case looking for a definition on the origin of life on earth in order to use it for trying to find other life forms on various planets which are extremely limited in observing.

Exploration of space is amazing, more should be done in this area! The Cassini mission is a prime example of collecting a host of great discoveries that have verified biblical creationism but guessing on whether or not there is life on other planets may be interesting for a science fiction movie but falls way short on relevance, the grant money could be used elsewhere.

Alien Biology

A mysterious announcement with a touch of hype was presented last month, NASA was calling for a news conference in December. Could it be? Did NASA actually discover life on other planets?  Speculation exploded all over the internet! As it turns out, it failed commentators speculations. What they discovered was evidence of a bacterial strain found on Earth that was capable of metabolizing arsenic and incorporating it into structural molecules of the cell.

GFAJ-1, was found at Mono Lake in California. When a shortage of phosphorus occurs, this particular bacterial strain is able to incorporate arsenic into its biological structures. This may seem strange or counter-intuitive but the key is in its concentration which can render it  non-toxic when it reaches a certain level. Arsenic has similar chemical properties as phosphorus does. This certainly does not constitutes evidence for alien life forms!

Moreover, researchers discovered GFAJ-1 suffered a fitness loss. There was a 38% drop in growth rate when fed on arsenic rather than phosphorus and also the bacteria that was fed arsenic appeared structurally weaker than those fed on phosphorus as demonstrated by the robust integrity of the phosphorus fed cells in comparison to the arsenic-fed cells when prepared for analysis. Not only isn’t this proof for alien life forms, this observation wouldn’t be good for expectations in the framework of evolution.

This was well-orchestrated publicity stunt by NASA in order to obtain attention for itself. Speaking of alien life forms, a video appeared where AP reporter Seth Borenstein states, “Evidence for E.T. is mounting daily, but not proven,”. The video begins by claiming, “Science is not about blind faith” which is true, good science is not about blind faith, but he’s talking about no examples to go by but claim they know what they are looking for.  Borenstien states, “Lately, a handful of new discoveries make it seem more likely that we are not alone – that there is life somewhere else in the universe”. Alien biology is all about man’s imagination rather than emperical science.

How good are scientists speculating about what’s out there in space? It’s one thing to talk the big talk, it’s another thing to back up that talk. The Cassini mission which has been utterly amazing with it’s observations has gathered more observational data of the geysers on Enceladus. This phenomena continues to erupt out the south pole. How good were scientists at predicting such an observation on Enceladus? Scientists believed based on it’s assumed age of billions of years old that Enceladus should be an inactive moon, frozen out long ago. The geysers were discovered last year show bright jets shooting gas and dust outward at supersonic speeds.  These particles create the E-ring we see around Saturn. Active geysers would have never been predicted by scientists because of  very old age assumptions.  The solar system as well as the universe is way younger and yes there is more activity yet to be discovered! Now scientists speculated on the level of complexity of these geysers contain, the new data shows them to be more complex than previous thought.

My point is this, scientists who are into alien biology are going by blind faith, they have trouble predicting what’s in our own solar system let along trying to predict what is further out there!