The OOL Tease: NASA’s Ponzi Scheme
If you buy into NASA’s perennial search for the
origin of life, you’ll lose it all. There’s no collateral.
I remember well the 1996 NASA press conference that announced possible fossils of microbes in a Martian meteorite labeled ALH 84001. David McKay became an instant celebrity as his suggestive images teased the public with a case of pareidolia that launched a thousand papers and breathless TV news shows. Funding flowed into NASA to upgrade the search for the origins of life. Astrobiology was born. (The rest of the story: the meteorite’s suggestive images were later discounted as abiotic, so astrobiology was founded on a lie.)
Note: Supporters of science-as-usual will point out that it was scientists who falsified the claim of life in the meteorite, which is true. But the damage was done. The hype worked, and NASA spent its new funding on Astrobiology anyway.
The NASA Astrobiology Institute was born in 1998 after the Mars meteorite scandal. It has a budget of $65 million per year. The goal of the new scheme was to attract as many dreamers in the public as possible who would vote for more NASA funding. NASA never had to pay interest on these investments, because it was all based on hope and imagination of possibilities. It was a giant Ponzi scheme, no better than the FTX scandal where Sam Bankman-Fried teased ordinary people to put their savings into his crypto exchange (19 Nov 2022), except NASA’s scheme is worse. Investing in SBF’s scheme was voluntary, but the US government confiscates millions of citizens’ tax dollars by force and gives it to NASA for astrobiological projects with no accountability. Astrobiologists can look busy and work on irrelevant projects but never have to produce the goods: evidence for extraterrestrial life.
Return on Investment Not Required
Regulators can measure the success of spacecraft missions, but how do they gauge the success of astrobiology or origin-of-life projects? It’s an open-ended dream with no end game except for actually finding life that might have “emerged” by materialistic processes. If there is no life beyond earth, they could keep the scheme going forever, never having to deliver their ROI, until they have looked under every rock on Mars and explored every quadrant of every presumed ocean under the crust of icy moons like Europa and Enceladus. Most citizens who had invested their trust in NASA’s tease will be long dead before the schemers have to concede the probable truth: there is no other life in our solar system. What then? The scammers can just carry on the search among thousands of exoplanets being discovered.
There is hope for a collapse of this Ponzi scheme. NASA tried it before with SETI. Carl Sagan, the 1980s-era scam artist, teased the public with his Cosmos series, dreaming that “there might be a million planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone that are at this moment inhabited by other intelligent beings.” (Note to Neil deGrasse Tyson, the scheme’s successor: his “extraordinary claim” still lacks “extraordinary evidence.”) After scrutiny by Congress, especially William Proxmire’s “Golden Fleece” award given to the SETI pushers (14 Oct 2010), NASA dropped SETI and the alien hunters had to raise their own money. That is fine; there’s a sucker born every minute, and at least nobody is compelled to contribute to the SETI Institute. SETI continues on its own (Space.com) in its own suburb of Fantasyland. But for evolutionary materialists in NASA, astrobiology was the perfect replacement scam. It not only widened the field of speculation to include bacteria as well as intelligent aliens, it guaranteed job security.
To be sure, some interesting science is being done by astrobiologists. As I have argued previously, a valuable thing they are learning is just how unique Earth is for life compared to every other body that has been visited. NASA has learned a great deal about exoplanets and their orbits, possible atmospheres and compositions. These facts are worth knowing. Astrobiologists can also benefit from the “ride-along” effect by using data from legitimate missions, such as analyzing the chemical content of the vapor in the geyser plumes at Enceladus from samples obtained by the Cassini mission.
But without any “bio” in astrobiology, it reduces to astrology—a pseudoscience built on a worldview. The worldview (materialism) is not science; it is philosophy or even religion. Charles Darwin was the face that launched a thousand spaceships, when he teased that life might have emerged in a “warm little pond.” Individuals and university scientists like Oparin and Stanley Miller toyed with origin-of-life questions before 1996, but never did they have the cash cow NASA provides.
When I worked at NASA-JPL from 1996 to 2011, I attended frequent materialistic sermons about the origin of life (OOL) preached in the lab’s historic Von Karman auditorium. Never was any solid evidence brought to support their belief that life could emerge by chance. It was all hope and hype. The knowledgeable scientists would sometimes frankly admit the problems and describe them as daunting. I remember guest speaker Steven Benner from the University of Florida joking that the problems in the origin-of-life field were so intractable, it was almost enough to make one a creationist. That was around 2004. So here we are 19 years later with no progress: just more hope and hype, with a stream of NASA funding still pushing this perpetual Ponzi scheme on the public.
NASA Scientists Study Life Origins By Simulating a Cosmic Evolution (NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, 10 Jan 2023).
This news item from NASA about amino acids found in comets and in cosmic dust is irrelevant to OOL. Amino acids are no more suggestive of life originating by chance than imagining a random collection of Scrabble letters arranging themselves into Hamlet. Amino acids, relatively simple compounds, are thermodynamically favored in stellar clouds and small bodies exposed to stellar energy, but life is unique in being thermodynamically unfavored without intelligent design. Amino acids, further, are useless to life when randomized into left- and right-handed forms.
Notice the easy-believism in the press release, worded to titillate customers into investing their trust in materialism:
Amino acids make up millions of proteins that drive the chemical gears of life, including essential bodily functions in animals. Because of amino acids’ relationship to living things scientists are eager to understand the origins of these molecules. After all, amino acids may have helped spawn life on Earth after being delivered here about 4 billion years ago by pieces of asteroids or comets.
On the article goes, using that old suggestive phrase “building blocks of life.” We like to point out that such terms are actually the building blocks of lie because of their inherent power of suggestion. It’s as if NASA scientists are magicians, waving magic wands over their simulated warm little ponds, shouting the the magic word Aminocamino! and presto! Life! The audience is not told that according to Louis Pasteur‘s classic experimental tests of the Law of Biogenesis, life only comes from prior life. Unpasteurized press releases like this can be toxic to one’s brain. Avoid Darwin-brand unpasteurized bilk!
SwRI examines the origins of the building blocks of life (Southwest Research Institute, 11 Jan 2022).
The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Texas, though independent, has long had ties to NASA. Many NASA-JPL mission team members are employees of SwRI, regularly coming to NASA centers to collaborate on missions. They share the same materialist worldview on life origins, as this press release shows. The force of suggestion is strong at SwRI.
A new study led by Southwest Research Institute Research Scientist Dr. Danna Qasim posits that interstellar cloud conditions may have played a significant role on the presence of key building blocks of life in the solar system.
“Carbonaceous chondrites, some of the oldest objects in the universe, are meteorites that are thought to have contributed to the origins of life. They contain several different molecules and organic substances, including amines and amino acids, which are key building blocks of life that were critical to creating life on Earth. These substances are necessary to create proteins and muscle tissue,” Qasim said.
They hold these dreams to be self-evident, that all meteorites emerge equal, and are endowed by their creative potential with certain imaginary rites, that among these are proteins, muscle tissue and scientist brains. Off SwRI goes in their quest to look under every rock and perform divination on every meteorite to find whether the building blocks of lie can self-organize into the Big Lie.
Qasim looks forward to studies of asteroid samples from missions such as OSIRIS-REx, which is currently on its way back to Earth to deliver samples from the asteroid Bennu here in September, and Hayabusa2, which recently returned from the asteroid Ryugu, to better understand the role the interstellar cloud played in distributing the building blocks of life.
Qasim has no fear of accountability for failing to find life. He has Job Security for storytellers (16 June 2020).
Do empirical rigor and epistemic modesty mean anything in science these days? For a dose of reality, watch Illustra Media’s excellent documentary, Origin. An excerpt titled “First Life” is embedded below from the John1010Project.com.