March 9, 2020 | David F. Coppedge

Astrobiology’s Endless Quest for a Good Myth

Come join the Astrobiology Storytelling Society! You’ll never be out of work!

The post on March 6 described the “perfect swarm” that permitted NASA to launch a perpetual storytelling society. Here are more examples.

Study reveals life in the universe could be common, but not in our neighborhood (Phys.org). There’s the ‘could’ word. Did you catch it? Now watch for the Darwinism, the materialism, and the lack of evidence.

To help answer one of the great existential questions—how did life begin?—a new study combines biological and cosmological models. Professor Tomonori Totani from the Department of Astronomy looked at how life’s building blocks could spontaneously form in the universe—a process known as abiogenesis.

If there’s one thing in the universe that is certain, it’s that life exists. It must have begun at some point in time, somewhere. But despite all we know from biology and physics, the exact details about how and when life began, and also whether it began elsewhere, are largely speculative. This enticing omission from our collective knowledge has set many curious scientists on a journey to uncover some new detail which might shed light on existence itself.

Is life a game of chance? (Astrobiology Magazine). What do you predict their answer will be? This is a reprint of the above article posted on NASA’s flagship website for all things bio-astrology, originally from the University of Tokyo. The author admits that RNA, a leading candidate for one of the building blocks of life, “is still orders of magnitude more complex than the kinds of chemicals one tends to find floating around in space or stuck to the face of a lifeless planet.” And yet they believe it emerged. So yes, their answer is that “life is a game of chance.” Guess how they try to improve the odds. You’ll never guess. They appeal to inflation! The cosmological myth concocted by Alan Guth in 1980 gives the storytellers more planets for chance to work with. The fact that most of them would be far beyond our horizon, and therefore never capable of observation, doesn’t seem to bother Professor Tomonori Totani, who glories in the fellowship he has with others who are sophisticated in their ignorance.

Like many in this field of research, I am driven by curiosity and by big questions,” said Totani. “Combining my recent investigation into RNA chemistry with my long history of cosmology leads me to realize there is a plausible way the universe must have gone from an abiotic (lifeless) state to a biotic one. It’s an exciting thought and I hope research can build on this to uncover the origins of life.”

Nearly barren Icelandic landscapes guide search for extraterrestrial life  (American Geophysical Union Blogosphere). See? They’re working while vacationing in Iceland. “New research on microbial lifeforms living in nearly barren volcanic landscapes in Iceland may help scientists understand how best to search for life on other planets,” the press release boasts. Problem: Iceland is already inhabited. Cheaters.

Curiosity rover on Mars

What’s in a name: Why NASA chose ‘Perseverance’ for its next Mars rover (Space.com). By now, many have heard that the Mars 2020 rover, which will search for life, has been named ‘Perseverance.’ Why did NASA choose it? Because storytelling must go on. The bio-astrology storytellers must never give up, even though all previous Mars missions have failed to find any sign of life.

Yes, it’s curiosity that pulls us out there, but it’s perseverance that does not let us give up,” Zurbuchen said during a teleconference with reporters on Thursday, referencing the name of the NASA rover that has been exploring Mars’ Gale Crater since August 2012. (The body of Perseverance, which is scheduled to launch this coming July, is based heavily on that of Curiosity.)

To be sure, perseverance is a good quality to have. Those in pursuit of a worthy goal must persevere with all intensity and intelligent design. But perseverance can also imply doing the same thing over and over again in hopes of achieving a better result. A synonym for that is insanity.

What other planets can teach us about Earth: Stanford researchers explain (Stanford News). Astrobiology can have some value, as we reported before (9 Jan 2020): it can help specify and constrain the requirements for life on Earth by comparing the conditions here with those found on other planets. Stanford scientists studied Earth’s magnetic field, for instance, to determine if ours is anomalous as planetary fields go, recognizing that it is essential for life on our planet.

Ultimately, the mystery around the origin and engine behind Earth’s dynamo is a mystery about what creates and sustains the conditions for life. Earth’s magnetic field is essential to its habitability, protecting it against dangerous solar winds that can strip a planet of water and atmosphere. “That’s part of why Mars is such a dry desert compared to Earth,” Tikoo-Schantz said. “Mars started to dehydrate when its magnetic field died.”

Dr Richter’s book Spacecraft Earth explores numerous unique properties of our home planet. A second printing is coming.

That part of the Stanford article is scientific, but the speculation about life goes beyond science.

“We’re trying to get to the point where we can characterize planets that are like the Earth, and hopefully, someday find life on one of them,” said co-author Laura Schaefer, a planetary scientist at Stanford Earth who studies exoplanets. Chances are it will be something more like bacteria than E.T., she said.

Schaefer has failed to do a literature search, like a scientist should, otherwise she would know that probability calculations for one short protein show it would never spontaneously form, under ideal conditions, anywhere or any time in the history of the universe. She bases her speculation about chance on nothing but a gut feel that since life ‘evolved’ here, it must be doing so elsewhere. Using her skull as a crystal ball, she even sees them. “They’re not going to be at the same stage of life as we have today on Earth, and so we’ll be able to learn about how planets and life evolve together.” Once upon a time, the Stanford imagineers think, “complex life burst forth” even though the article admits that the processes “remain opaque” to the storytellers.

One definition of opaque in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “dull, stupid or unintelligent.”

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