August 3, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Best Face-on-Mars Photo Looks Dead

Conspiracy theorists will probably have little to say now that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken the clearest photo yet of the alleged “Face on Mars” in Cydonia.  For the before and after photos, see PhysOrg.  The new photo is clearly an eroded, rocky mesa – that’s all, folks.

Use this as a teachable moment.  See our 09/21/2006 entry on design detection and the use of evidence to support a theory.  Most serious human observers of Mars never bought into the late-night-talk-show fantasies (05/24/2001), but there is a serious question in such cases that needs reflection: how do we humans differentiate between design and chance or natural law?  Look at our long list of paired objects, some designed, some not.  A pictorial presentation of these pairs for kids can be a great way to help them think logically about design.  Some of them are trickier than at first glance; they raise additional questions about deeper levels of design, and what we mean by design and natural law, that can trip up adults, too.  And some of the most ardent scientific opponents of the Face-on-Mars idea have a puzzle of their own: how did they use intelligent design theory to show the believers were wrong?  Moreover, how do they justify the inference of alleged microbes on Mars from methane, color, or other indirect biomarkers?  Dumb as the Face-on-Mars theory was, it can be turned into a lively discussion on important questions, and can refine everyone’s baloney detecting skills.

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