Cassini at Saturn

Astrobiology’s Fantasy Universe

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Posted on March 7, 2017 in Astronomy, Cell Biology, Darwin and Evolution, Dating Methods, Dumb Ideas, Genetics, Intelligent Design, Origin of Life, Philosophy of Science, Physics, SETI, Solar System

The media glosses over difficulties in its blind quest to look for the ’emergence’ of life on other planets.

If evolution skeptics had ten minutes on mainstream media to present scientific objections to origin-of-life scenarios, they would blow astrobiology out of the water. But evolutionary materialists are clever. They found a way to label anything other than their belief as ‘anti-science.’ As a result, reporters have free rein to present fact-free, fantastical stories like the following without any fear of critical analysis.

Looking for life in all the right places, with the right tool (Science Daily). Researchers publishing for the American Chemical Society have developed a tool for detecting amino acids with 10,000 times more sensitivity than before. That’s nice; it could be useful for organic chemists. But it means about as much to astrobiology as detecting iron atoms in rock means to explaining bridges and skyscrapers. Amino acids are quite common and have no significance unless arranged into long, precisely-sequenced, polypeptides that can fold into functional proteins. Not only is that hopelessly improbable (see the film Origin and our online book), but amino acids tend to fall apart in water (not join up) according to well-known laws of chemistry. They’re also useless unless one-handed, another huge improbability. That’s the science. None of those crucial facts are mentioned by the reporter. Extrapolating recklessly, he tempts imagination, saying, “this type of technology is under consideration for future missions to ocean worlds like Europa and also Enceladus,” adding,”The researchers say these are the best techniques yet to find signs of life on other worlds.”

One sign the press is living in a fantasy universe is the high perhapsimaybecouldness index. Another clue is reliance on the Poof Spoof fallacy. Watch for them:

Biochemical ‘fossil’ shows how life may have emerged without phosphate (Science Daily). Major premise: life as we know it depends on phosphate; it is “an essential building block of genetic and metabolic machinery in cells.” Minor premise: It has “poor accessibility on earth.” Conclusion: Maybe the first life didn’t need it.

In a study published on March 9 in the journal Cell, researchers used systems biology approaches to tackle this long-standing conundrum, providing compelling, data-driven evidence that primitive life forms may not have relied on phosphate at all. Instead, a few simple, abundant molecules could have supported the emergence of a sulfur-based, phosphate-free metabolism, which expanded to form a rich network of biochemical reactions capable of supporting the synthesis of a broad category of key biomolecules.

“The significance of this work is that future efforts to understand life’s origin should take into account the concrete possibility that phosphate-based processes, which are essential today, may not have been around when the first life-like processes started emerging,” says senior study author Daniel Segrè (@dsegre) of Boston University. “An early phosphate-independent metabolism capable of producing several key building blocks of living systems is in principle viable.”

Is it really possible to have “compelling, data-driven evidence” for something that may or could have happened? Usually those adjectives describe what did happen. Do these scientists show any actual phosphate-free organisms? No, of course not. The “scenario” was all done with models. Do they explain how phosphate-free life evolved to depend on phosphate later? No, of course not. It’s nearly inconceivable to imagine life without ATP, DNA, RNA, which all require phosphate, to say nothing of the elaborate molecular machines that build and maintain them. Their model is pure fantasy, trying to imagine the “landscape of possible historical paths of metabolism” that have no observational basis. The article uses the word “emerged” or “emergence” seven times (the Poof Spoof).

Synchronized chaotic targeting and acceleration of surface chemistry in prebiotic hydrothermal microenvironments (PNAS). Without controversy, it’s hard to get into the National Academy of Sciences. It’s hard to publish a paper in their journal PNAS. But no amount of knowledge can overcome faulty premises. For the same reasons as above, no amount of handwaving and Jargonwocky by these four materialists at Texas A&M University can overcome the heavy use of “emergence” and perhapsimaybecouldness they use in the paper. It ends up only “suggesting a new avenue to explain prebiotic emergence of macromolecules from dilute organic precursors—a key unanswered question in the origin of life on Earth and elsewhere.” For a taste of what they are up against, see the Santa Fe Institute‘s article “Life’s lower limits.” It explores the minimal energy requirements for living cells in the real world.

The Future of Prebiotic Chemistry (ACS Central Science). This press release begins in an embarrassing way. “Here is a puzzle: in what area of organic synthesis research are synthetic organic chemists a minority? According to Albert Eschenmoser, it is in the field of prebiotic chemistry: the study of the reactions and molecules that led to the emergence of life on earth.” Maybe they know better what they are up against in astrobiology’s fantasy universe, and feel it more productive to work in the real world. “It may be that the challenge of finding funding for such an esoteric problem comes easier to established scientists in a world increasingly focused on practical applications.” The article goes on to praise the work of Matthew Powner and John Sutherland, without mentioning that Suzan Mazur essentially demolished their ‘RNA World’ scenario in The Origin of Life Circus (2014), using extensive quotes from leading origin-of-life (OOL) researchers she personally interviewed. Sutherland isn’t even working with RNA any more, but on a mythical molecule he calls ‘pre-proto-RNA’ that he is still searching for.

Saturn's moon Enceladus with "Tiger Stripes" fissures where geysers erupt

Saturn’s moon Enceladus with “Tiger Stripes” fissures where geysers erupt

The search for extraterrestrial life in the water worlds close to home (The Conversation). A Cassini photo of Enceladus begins this speculative article by Martin and McMinn. It’s a complete distraction. “The discovery of seven exoplanets around a star 40 light years from our Sun has raised the possibility that they could harbour life,” they say. “Why? Because the astronomers who made the discovery believe some of the planets may have liquid water. And on Earth, wherever there is liquid water, there is life.” Thus they launch their Poof Spoof on the basis of hydrobioscopy. Their wonderland of confabulation reads like a religious text, with genuflections to Gaia and the energy god, full of positive vibes except for one moment of sobriety after admitting the only known life is here on our planet: “But ironically, we do not know when, where or how life originated on Earth.” Time out for a logic lesson. The existence of extremophiles in hot springs and at deep sea vents says nothing about how life might have emerged on other planets. If anything, it points to extreme examples of complexity required to survive in such conditions.

Their mention of “seven exoplanets” refers to Nature‘s paper last week about an unusual red dwarf named Trappist-1 with seven roughly Earth-size planets in its habitable zone. The planets were only detected indirectly; there is no knowledge of their surfaces or whether they have atmospheres or water. As for life, that would be highly unlikely, given that red dwarfs are prone to deadly superflares, and planets around them tend to be tidally locked. Regardless of those inconvenient truths, the announcement set off a flurry of breathless headlines by reporters:

  • NASA telescope reveals largest batch of Earth-size, habitable-zone planets around single star (Science Daily).
  • Welcome to TRAPPIST-1 (Astrobiology Magazine)
  • Earth’s Seven Sisters (Nature News)
  • Seven Alien ‘Earths’ Found Orbiting Nearby Star (National Geographic)
  • Searching for Life on 7 Nearby Alien Worlds: How Scientists Will Do It (Mike Wall on

A rare breath of realism came from Chilean astronomer Joshua Tan on In his article, “Excited Reports of ‘Habitable Planets’ Need to Come Back Down to Earth,” he pointed out that determining habitability is not so easy; he regrets that reporters were “jumping the gun” on this announcement. “Someday, we may discover definitive proof that another Earth is out there,” he concludes. “But that day has not yet arrived – despite the excited headlines.” For even more realism, listing more reasons not to expect life out there, see the coverage on Evolution News and Science Today, and Creation Ministries International.

Could Dark Streaks in Venus’ Clouds Be Microbial Life? (Astrobiology Magazine). NASA’s evidence-free Astrobiology Institute teases readers with the “could” word. Almost anything could happen. Anyone familiar with Venus must surely realize it is one of the last places to expect to find life. If OOL researchers can’t even explain it on the Eden of Earth, why even try with the hellish hothouse of Venus with its sulfuric acid clouds? This can only mean one thing: it’s funding season at NASA. “The question of life on Venus, of all places, is intriguing enough that a team of U.S. and Russian scientists working on a proposal for a new mission to the second planet — named Venera-D — are considering including the search for life in its mission goals.” What would Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions, dragged through media mud about alleged interactions with Russia, think about this?

It quickly gets repetitive pointing out the same problems in such articles (hydrobioscopy, perhapsimaybecouldness, Poof Spoof), so we’ll spare readers the redundancy by just listing other examples of fantasyland worlds where complex things just ’emerge’ to show that the science rot in Astrobiology is pervasive.

Scientific dreams can become reality. There are historical examples of that; Jules Verne dreamed of space travel, and Ada Lovelace dreamed of programmable computers. The dreams that came true, however, were built on solid principles of physics (Isaac Newton‘s laws of motion and gravity, for Jules Verne) and the mathematics and logic of Charles Babbage‘s early calculating machines (for Ada Lovelace). When dreams run absolutely contrary to all that is known about chemistry, physics and math, the dreamer has few hopes of escaping the fantasyland of his or her own imagination.

You can order copies of Origin from Illustra Media in quantity in convenient quicksleeve format. Consider keeping a handful and handing them out as video tracts. They can have a powerful influence on people, a healthy jolt of realism for those living in the Fantasy Universe.

Those with good background in chemistry might enjoy reading Mazur’s Origin of Life Circus. She interviews all the top researchers in the field. Though never quite coming to outright rejection of OOL as pseudoscience, she garners numerous quotes that are unique and priceless. All the researchers essentially falsify each other’s scenarios, and admit that they are absolutely clueless. You would never know that from reading the popular press.



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