NASA Throws Tax Millions to Evidence-Free Astrobiology Projects
Astrobiology has yet to establish that it has a subject to study, but NASA is giving millions of tax dollars to multiple teams, including SETI researchers.
It’s no surprise that Astrobiology Magazine published smiling faces from 7 teams joining the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) that will be receiving an average of $8 million in taxpayer funds. Here’s the stated justification:
“The intellectual scope of astrobiology is vast, from understanding how our planet went from lifeless to living, to understanding how life has adapted to Earth’s harshest environments, to exploring other worlds with the most advanced technologies to search for signs of life,” said Mary Voytek, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Program in a recent press release. “The new teams cover that breadth of astrobiology, and by coming together in the NAI, they will make the connections between disciplines and organizations that stimulate fundamental scientific advances.”
Another entry on Astrobiology Magazine sums it up: “NASA has awarded five-year grants totaling almost $50 million to seven research teams nationwide to study the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe.” One of the teams is the SETI Institute, whose primary purpose is to search for intelligent aliens, even though this award money is allocated for something else: “The goal of the proposed research is to best prepare for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover” how? “to better understand where and how to search for life, and what biosignatures to look for,” the article says. The SETI Institute, to remain afloat after years of non-detection of aliens, has had to diversity into other projects. “I am absolutely thrilled that the SETI Institute is joining the NAI,” the team lead said (PhysOrg).
This goes to show that Astrobiology, as a young science (less than 20 years old) is still receiving NASA priority, despite no detection of life anywhere beyond Earth.
If you look through the proposed projects, none of them need to fall under the heading of “astrobiology.” It may be justifiable as “basic research” to study the properties of organic molecules and see if they could survive transport to Earth via comets. It may be interesting to consider the habitability of Europa. It may be worthwhile to constrain what life could look like, so that we don’t fool ourselves on the next Mars mission. But none of this justifies considering “astrobiology” a science; it’s a made-up concoction, like “Space Turkey.” The whole enterprise, furthermore is drenched in materialistic evolutionary speculation. We need the NAI like we need the NEA; the country would be better off without the wasteful spending that achieves nothing and often makes matters worse.
Nobody is stopping the dreamers from dreaming on their own dime. But wouldn’t you like to stop throwing good money after bad? If there’s such a market for aliens, let the interested parties try crowdfunding in the free market instead of forcing everybody to pony up. How about less Darwin and more Pasteur? (10/01/14). How about spending taxpayer money on something that can cure disease, improve human life, or help the economy? Biomimetics deserves more support than astrobiology.
NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine website spends most of its time drawing cartoons or reproducing other institution’s press releases; it is completely expendable. The whole Astrobiology Institute scheme was born out of exorbitant hype over a Martian rock that turned out to have nothing to do with life. Yet here we are, 18 years later, suffering in a down economy with a crippling debt, stuck with Space Turkey and nothing to eat.