March 9, 2022 | David F. Coppedge

Adventuring for Fake Science

Researchers can go to extreme lengths to gather data for
evolutionary studies, but that doesn’t make it all worthless.

 

 

Three scientists from the University of Colorado climbed thousands of feet on a volcano in Argentina in December 2021, enduring strong winds, ice fields like daggers and thin air with high UV radiation levels at almost 21,000 feet for 3 weeks. Their story is told in a press release at CU Boulder Today, 7 March 2022. Photos from the expedition can only hint at the hardships of their exhausting trek for science. Now returned with data that is being analyzed, what were they trying to learn about?

The extreme environment resembles something from a sci-fi film or another planet, but it’s right here on Earth, on the flanks of the world’s highest active volcano, 22,615-foot Ojos del Salado. Here, on the border of Argentina and Chile, a team of CU Boulder scientists seek to discover how tiny organisms persist at one of the driest and highest points on the planet.

Supported in part by a grant from the National Geographic Society, the first-of-its-kind project may ultimately help inform the search for existing and extinct life on other planets.

NASA has been pushing scientific materialism for many years.

Regardless of the data they gathered, the adventurers deserve kudos merely for taking on this challenge. The team included:

  • Brian Hynek, professor of geological sciences and research associate at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), an astrobiologist
  • Adam Solon, graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Amanda Steckel, graduate student in geological sciences and LASP

The data are being studied by two other scientists: Steve Schmidt, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Nick Dragone, graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology. Clearly “evolutionary biology” figures into their motivation, with two professors teaching it and two grad students learning it. But what does evolution have to do with the effort to climb a remote volcano?

The team’s previous research on neighboring volcanoes suggests this trip will provide valuable insights about the microbiology and flow of chemical elements through this habitat, which mimics those of the past on neighboring planet Mars and possibly the present of Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa.

Martian Minds

Mars weighs heavily on the evolutionary biologists minds. Professor Hynek explains that the NASA rovers encounter minerals on the surface of the red planet, so understanding similar minerals on Earth where life exists might help astrobiologists identify life on Mars.

“The ultimate question is whether this is a good place where life could have come about,” said Hynek. “Because life on Earth probably started in hydrothermal systems, it’s probably where it would have started on Mars. These are key targets for looking for life on our neighbor.”

To astrobiologists and evolutionary biologists, life is just something that emerges out of minerals and molecules. It might happen in a hot spring (Hynek was eager to look at those on the volcano), or embedded in ice. But while life on Earth survives in extreme conditions, does that mean that it emerges in similar conditions on other worlds? The syllogism commits the fallacy of the undistributed middle:

Earth life survives in extreme conditions.
Mars has extreme conditions.
Conclusion: Mars has life.

Surprising life at the extremes

The press release takes note that while the harsh slopes of the Ojos del Salado volcano require hard work and training for humans to climb, other life forms thrive up there: “alpacas roam freely and flamingos seek out scarce water, both unexpected sights in this wild world.” Another press release from University of California, Davis (7 March 2022) shows other animals that call the high Andes home: vicuñas, pumas and condors.

Most amazing are the microbes. In those fields of icy daggers called penitentes, Adam Solon found an abundance of photosynthetic bacteria living inside the ice.

Even as extreme an environment as it is, it might be surprising how many different types of microbes are actually here. There can be a whole food web that is developed, even with these very limited resources,” said Solon.

The microbes might actually enjoy the light bouncing around inside the ice. Researchers at the University of Cambridge (7 March 2022) built tiny glass “skyscrapers” and rented them out to cyanobacteria. They found that the photosynthetic microbes enjoy their little penthouses and go to work making food, donating their waste electrons to science. The Cambridge team thinks they can channel the electron flow into sustainable renewable energy.

So whether in ice or hot springs, microbes do well at the volcano’s high altitudes that humans find taxing.

Useful data from fake science

If history is any guide, the CU Boulder team is unlikely to find evidence that life originated in conditions like those at Ojos del Salado. Nor are the NASA scientists likely to find life on Mars any time soon after decades of false alarms (24 Feb 2022). “Evolutionary biology” is therefore unlikely to be fruitful as a motivation to climb the volcano.

But all is not lost. The data that Hynek, Solon and Steckel brought back from their adventure is very likely to demonstrate some important observational truths:

  • Microbes have complex molecular machines that enable them to thrive in spite of high levels of UV radiation.
  • Large mammals and birds operate at extreme environments due to complex specified information in their DNA.
  • There’s no place like Earth.
  • Human beings, unlike animals, have an innate curiosity about truth and a moral desire to learn and share it.

They may not have intended it, but this team accomplished a lot for evolution-free science. For that, their adventure was worth it.

Their work helps intelligent design science. Creationists and ID advocates love data. There’s nothing like raw data to challenge the speculations of materialists who rely on the Stuff Happens Law. We’re glad whenever evolutionary biologists volunteer to do the heavy lifting for us. It’s like harnessing mules to help us plow up the ground of materialism. Just don’t read Psalm 32 to them, or they might get spooked or lie down on the job.

I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.

 

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