December 14, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Did Martians Win the War of the Worlds?

In the H.G. Wells version, the Martian invaders with their tripod machines and death rays, wreaking havoc on Earth, were defeated by Earth bacteria.  The new scientific plot envisioned by scientists, reported on Space.com, is that the Martians had the bacteria, and invaded Earth with it to either conquer Earth life or spread it onto our lifeless world.  Or was it the other way around?

“We know very little about the origin of life on the Earth… how it happened, what kind of environment it might have happened in, and how long it look to go from the origin to the last common ancestor of life as we know it – a very complex organism very much like modern life,” [Carrine] Blank [Washington U in St. Louis] said.
    Casting her eye back on Mars, Blank also said an unknown is whether conditions on early Mars were similar to what they were like on the early Earth when the origin of life likely happened.
    “If they were similar, then perhaps a ‘second genesis’ could have been possible on Mars.  Even if conditions were different on Mars, there could still have been a second genesis only with a very different result than what happened on the Earth,” Blank stated.  “If these different life forms were spread throughout the solar system, then they might have co-existed if they could learn to depend upon each other.  If, on the other hand, they were in direct competition for resources, then you might expect that one would ‘win’ and survive, and the other go extinct,” she advised.

So maybe the Martians won the war of the worlds.  Jack Farmer, an astrobiologist at Arizona State at Tempe, thinks the “War of the Worlds” scenario is a “serious possibility.”  Reporter Leonard David relayed some questions that raises in Farmer’s mind: “Who would win?  Is there the possibility for a competitive co-existence between life forms that originated on a different basis?”
    Much of this discussion was prompted by the evidence for water found by the Mars Exploration Rovers (see 12/03/2004 headline).  Now, Spirit has found evidence for past water from a layered rock in the Columbia Hills, reports JPL.  For more on the complexity of the hypothetical last universal common ancestor (LUCA), see 02/29/2004 headline.

Does water equal life?  Does mud equal a mud-brick pyramid?  Is science the art of building maybes on top of mights?  Does “might” make right?  Can they say the word “genesis” in school?  Does life just “happen”?  Can we say it “happened” when we know very little about the origin of life?  Can students have a chance to hear the controversy about evolution (see next headline), instead of the diet of empty speculation dished out by astrobiologists spending too much time watching old movies and not thinking straight?  Can they hear Jonathan Wells instead of H. G. Wells, and learn some science facts instead of science fiction?

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Origin of Life

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