Mars Meteorite Life Ruled Out
The meteorite that sparked the new science of Astrobiology
in 1996 was not biological; it was geological.
The field of “Astrobiology” still thrives, even though its foundation has been pulled out from under it. Scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science have concluded, “Martian meteorite’s organic materials origin not biological, formed by geochemical interactions between water and rock.”
The Allan Hills Meteorite #84001 caused a sensation in 1996 when David McKay and other NASA scientists thought they found fossilized microbes in it. NASA convened a highly-publicized press conference. They tantalized the world with what looked like worm-like creatures in the rock – evidence that convinced many that Mars once had living organisms (1 March 2014).
Shortly after this media whirlwind, NASA formed its Astrobiology Institute, and received funding to search for evidence of life beyond the Earth. The new name indicated a shift from an earlier term “exobiology” and also distanced itself from SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Evidence for simple organisms, astrobiologists reasoned, would be sufficient to prove that life could arise naturally, with the presumption unstated that once established, it could evolve all the way up to intelligent aliens wanting to communicate with us (12 Aug 2016). Evidence for microbial life would be the camel’s nose in the tent to bring in all the fruits of naturalistic science.
25 Years of a Lie
Many geologists and biologists were not convinced that the ALH84001 was sufficiently strong, and found geological processes to account for the organic molecules and shapes (24 May 2012). The latest study piles on evidence that the rock had nothing to do with life.
Astrobiology, therefore, still has no “bio” in it, making it functionally equivalent to astrology. The field is alive and well, though, as most NASA missions include teasers about how the work might help scientists understand the origin and evolution of life.
25 years too late, word comes out that the organic molecules and shapes in the ALH 84001 are geological in origin, not biological. The Carnegie Institution team decided that plain-old geological processes are responsible.
They found evidence of water-rock interactions similar to those that happen on Earth. The samples indicate that the Martian rocks experienced two important geochemical processes. One, called serpentinization, occurs when iron- or magnesium-rich igneous rocks chemically interact with circulating water, changing their mineralogy and producing hydrogen in the process. The other, called carbonization, involves interaction between rocks and slightly acidic water containing dissolved carbon dioxide and results in the formation of carbonate minerals.
No life was responsible for the rock that shook the scientific world and ignited mystical dreams in the minds of millions of students: dreams that life was simple to evolve, and was popping up all over the universe.
The Story Must Go On
The myth of Martian life has been too profitable for atheistic scientists to let go. The press release keeps the dream alive at the end by saying that the organic molecules in the meteorite could have contributed to the emergence of life:
“These kinds of non-biological, geological reactions are responsible for a pool of organic carbon compounds from which life could have evolved and represent a background signal that must be taken into consideration when searching for evidence of past life on Mars,” Steele concluded. “Furthermore, if these reactions happened on ancient Mars, they must have happened on ancient Earth, and could possibly explain the results we’ve seen from Saturn’s moon Enceladus as well. All that is required for this type of organic synthesis is for a brine that contains dissolved carbon dioxide to percolate through igneous rocks. The search for life on Mars is not just an attempt to answer the question ‘are we alone?’ It also relates to early Earth environments and addresses the question of ‘where did we come from?’”
The dream is alive, even if its foundation has been destroyed. Mars is dry, dusty, and dead, covered with toxic perchlorates and static electricity. Students will continue to be taught, undoubtedly, that it could have had life.