Life on Mars – further musings

Extraterrestrial life and creationism/ID

After I waxed lyrical about the possibility of life on Mars, I pondered a bit about how such a discovery would support the theory of evolution vis-a-vis creationism (or ID), in aspects such as the carrier of genetic information and the hospitality of the Universe to life.

Unfortunately, this is where the total and utter unscientificness of creationism/ID rears its ugly head. By doing zero falsifiable predictions, every possible outcome will fit into a creationist ‘model’ (I use the word hesitantly).

The carrier of genetic information

dna_500Evolution predicts that it is extremely unlikely to find life outside Earth to have taken a similar course as here. In the case of Mars, which orbits the same sun and in general inhabits a similar region of space as Earth, it is not without the realm of possibilities to find a DNA-like carrier of genetic information.

(I think that that may be true of all Earth/Mars-like planets – rocky, lots of water present, seasons, some atmosphere… I will write more in the future on extraterrestrial life, since I found an amazingly interesting (and free!) on-line book on this subject which is highly thought-provoking!)

Even so, the chances of finding the same four bases (GATC) used the same way as on Earth are vanishingly small, with the chances of using the same amino acids for proteins and the same triplet code being really really small. The only way this would work with evolution is the usual ‘common descent’, with life here and on Mars having the same origin – but that would introduce another problem, of course.

The thing with crea/ID is that every finding that fits with evolution also fits with that. Different genetic material? God knows that on a different planet you need another carrier for your genes. The same? That’s because God has created all life the same way. It’s just always right.

A Universe hospitable to life?

This is a little bit more tricky but also here evolution is fairly clear in its prediction. On the one hand, you don’t need an awful lot to be able to sustain life – in principle. 1) Something to carry genetic information which is stable for long enough so that copies can be made and 2) a (any) process that is able to make such copies. That, coupled with the enormous number of planets in the Galaxy – and of course there are billions more galaxies beside our own – and the enormous timescales available means life is fairly inevitable.

alien_planetI think the best proof of this is that life on Earth appeared in the geological blink of an eye, almost immediately after it had cooled down enough for liquid water to appear. That and an atmosphere was all it took, and now life has been around for 4 billion years on an Earth that is 4.5 billion years old.

On the flip-side of this coin, evolution predicts that in the absence of these (carrier plus duplication process), no life can exist. Creationism/ID would not even have a problem with the possibility of finding a man on an oxygen-less planet at 250°C – after all, nothing is impossible to an omnipotent God.

Again, crea/ID fails to predict anything, and again anything found by science fits with their beliefs. Find no other life? That’s because God created the Universe for us specifically. Life found outside Earth? Obviously, because Genesis states that He created everything and all life – it doesn’t say on Earth alone. Again, crea/ID can’t lose, because it is unscientific to the core.

As an aside it is also worth noting that of course, not a single creationist is out there trying to find (or disprove) life to support their position – they leave the work to real scientists. but let me not digress.

So alas, whatever the outcome of this great bit of research, it will not rid us of the folly of creationism or ID. Shame, really.

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