Life on Mars? Evidence from Antarctic meteorite

There are three sections here.
  1. First, the original 1996 proposal, and its gradual disintegration.

  2. Second, new attempts in 1999-2004 to present a revised version.

  3. Third, the crackpot spin-offs (at least, that's my opinion of these ideas!).

The Original 1996 Proposal

In 1996, a group of scientists claimed that they had found evidence that life once existed on Mars. This claim is and always was controversial, and most people now think the evidence is dubious. Various sites show the development of the original proposal, and its gradual disintegration.

New Attempts to Present a Revised Version

The original team clings tenaciously to the idea. Even if the bacteria are not bacteria, and the organic chemicals are largely if not totally contaminants, they said,

AND FINALLY, in 2004, Chris McKay gives up (without saying so). Finally, in 2004 Christopher McKay, lead author on the original bacteria-from-Mars paper and a vigorous proponent for it over the years, all but gave up. In a paper on the search for extraterrestrial life, he forgot to mention his own claims about Martian bacteria, and said at least twice that there is only one known site of life: Earth.

Methane on Mars

There was a flurry of interest in 2004 about supposed detection of methane in the Martian atmosphere. It doesn't mean life. It may not even mean methane, because the data have not yet been published. See a summary by Richard Kerr in Science: Kerr, R. A. 2004. Heavy Breathing on Mars? Science 306, p. 29.

Chlorophyll on Mars

This is another outrageous piece of non-science from NASA.
  • Chlorophyll on Mars? BBC News OnLine, April 5, 2002. Beautifully crafted NASA BS again. Note how the scientists don't actually say the chlorophyll is Martian, but they are perfectly willing, even eager, to have the reporters say so. And no, the "discovery" is not ready for publication, especially in a prestigious journal, but we're perfectly willing to talk about it.... I just can't accept this as good science.

    The Crackpot Spin-offs

    The real problem is that the successful hype of the "Mars bacteria" (after all, it DID get more money for the scientists in that research field) seems to have removed all normal restraints on "science" in this particular field. Things have REALLY gone off the rails (in my opinion). Remember that science is supposed to work on evidence, and remember that the "bacteria from Mars" suggestion is rapidly disappearing into the "good try, but no prize" category, as EVIDENCE piles up against it.

    Here's an idea that you can judge for yourself:

    Life began on Mars. It was transported to Earth on meteorites, splashed off Mars by asteroid impacts, and thus life began on Earth. I am not kidding. The paper was published in a normal scientific journal (Journal of Geophysical Research, Planetary Sciences section, November 25, 1998).

    And that's not all. There is even the thought that life began on Earth, and was transported to Mars (on meteorites), where it survived, even though the Earth was sterilized by asteroid impacts. Or the other way round. Or both. This comes from an Australian physicist, Paul Davies. Here is an accessible account of this suggestion, written in 2002, including the thought that we are all descendants of microbes that originally evolved on Mars!

    Here is an article from the New York Times, January 13, 2000. Read it carefully. At first reading, it looks like real science. But is there a shred of evidence that what could have happened actually did happen? I could say that a Chinese fleet sailed round the world in 1350 AD. Sure, they could have, but there is no evidence that they did, and no sane historian would suggest such a scenario unless there was at least SOME evidence. [That hasn't prevented some people from exactly that suggestion.]

    Page last updated October 15, 2004.

    All links checked September 29, 2005.

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