Life in the Clouds of Venus???

Now here's a section that I never dreamed I'd have to include!! Here was a first try, BBC News OnLine, September 26, 2002. And it came back again: BBC News OnLine, May 25, 2004. Once again, this one is astrobiology, and once again, it is magnificent and arrogant speculation based on no data at all. Completely worthless scientifically, but a wonderful vehicle for extracting more taxpayer dollars out of NASA.

The Outer Planets: Jupiter's Moon Europa and Saturn's moon Titan

The prospects for life on outer solar system moons. BBC News OnLine, October 1, 2002. What this says is that subsurface water may occur inside more moons than we had thought. This is a VERY LONG WAY from saying that life is likely in any of them. But let's look at the wishful thinking that's prevalent when astrobiologists look at these moons:

The Galileo spacecraft made a close fly-by of Jupiter's moon Europa. The results suggest that Europa almost certainly has a water layer under its icy crust (people call it an "ocean"). Well, this has set off feverish speculation that there may be life in that water. Obviously, such speculation does no harm in NASA's continuing push to retain a very large budget (ten times as much is spent on exploring space as is spent on exploring our own ocean). Should all the press releases about empty speculation be forgiven because they help to raise money for a "good cause"? Maybe you could open a string of brothels across the country, profits to go to NASA: would that be OK? Take a fantasy flight! And while you're paying for it, pay for ours too! And yes, the analogy IS deliberate.

Now, in terms of the scientific publications, you can make up your own mind. It seems clear to me that space scientists, with a few courageous exceptions, are biasing their geophysical models, twisting them as hard as they can to come up with scenarios that would indicate the chances of life, rather than simply looking at plausible models and telling us what the most likely situation is. After all, there's little grant money for arguing that a moon or planet is absolutely hopelessly sterile.