Saturday, July 23, 2005

Mars Bars

They wouldn't be serving water at Mars bars, anyway, according to this article. The whole thing that puzzles me about searching for life on Mars is why we care. Even the most ardent advocates of evolution have to admit that it is an incredibly unlikely event. For it to have happened not once, but twice, reduces the probability from almost zero to entirely absurd. If there is life on Mars, it came from earth. We've found extremophiles 40 miles above the surface of the earth, in the upper reaches of earth's atmosphere, in a location where strong solar winds (such as those resulting from solar flares) can displace them into space, blowing them outward--away from the sun--which, ironically, puts them right on target to hit Mars. So here's the probabilities for you: the most unlikely event in the universe happening not once but twice, versus the probability of an endless shower of microorganisms happening to hit a suitable home on the nearest planet that is directly downstream. I'm not a gambling man, but I know which odds I'd take.

3 Comments:

Blogger Noumenon said...

Even the most ardent advocates of evolution have to admit that [abiogenesis] is an incredibly unlikely event. For it to have happened not once, but twice, reduces the probability from almost zero to entirely absurd.

Providing you with an "it" there.

So -- what if we do find independently originated life on Mars? Wow! We will know twice as much about the origin of life as we did previously. We'll know that explanations relying on random chance should be dismissed almost immediately.

I'd say the question isn't why we care, but why we'd bother to look when we're so unlikely to find it. Even the possibility of studying Martian Earthlife would really just be a long trip for more extremophiles, albeit more genetically isolated than the others.

2:42 AM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

I don't know how timely this link is, but what if we find life on Titan first? Microbes wouldn't learn to breathe methane on Earth.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Octavo Dia said...

Two scenarios, neither of which I approve of. One option is that the methanogens are creatures that life by deep-sea thermal vents, but that causes of the problem of getting them into the upper atmosphere, which would depend on some non-repeatable occurrence.

From an evolutionary point of view, however, the best option is that earth's atmosphere has not always had oxygen in it (since oxygen would destroy any amino acids that might have formed). Thus methanogens would be what seeded Titan, just a lot earlier.

7:58 AM  

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