I’m rather astonished that Salon chose to publish this article, Why some scientists believe life may have started on Mars. The operative words in that title are some – we’re talking about a tiny fringe minority – and believe, because they sure don’t have any evidence for their ideas. I guess Salon is desperate for news, so they’re letting writers invent some.
They don’t provide any evidence for their claim, only a weak chain of rationalizations.
- Some Mars rocks have been found on Earth. True enough. Meteor collisions with Mars can splash rocks into space, and they occasionally fall to Earth.
- Maybe early Martian life was adapted to survive meteor impacts, and was so hardy it could have survived the accidental launch and long journey? I had to laugh. Nothing evolves to survive meteor impacts.
- Maybe early life was fine with harsh environments? Early life would have been adapted to aqueous environments; “harsh” is floating away from food sources and warmth and a predictable pH, not drying out completely and surviving a vacuum.
- Life on Earth evolved “quickly”, too quickly. Yeah, we think replicators evolved shortly after the planet cooled enough to have liquid water. We’re talking within…200 million years. That’s not enough time? How do you know?
- Mars cooled before Earth, therefore life could have evolved there first. Wait, you think 200 million years is inadequate for life to evolve on Earth, but there was time enough for it to evolve on Mars?
The real reason this fact-free idea is getting promoted is because a couple of crackpots from Harvard, Gary Ruvkun and Avi Loeb (remember him? The Oumuamua guy?) said it, and “Harvard” is a magical incantation to the rubes. They don’t have a speck of evidence, though. It all sounds like something someone would have babbled about over lunch, and then the speculation went critical, and because they’re Harvard guys, they think it’s worth announcing to the news agencies. That’s it. That’s all this is.
They’re not even particularly clever Harvard guys.
“To me the idea that it all started on Earth, and every single solar system has their own little evolution of life happening, and they’re all independent — it just seems kind of dumb,” Ruvkun said. “It’s so much more explanatory to say ‘no, it’s spreading, it’s spreading all across the universe, and we caught it too, it didn’t start here,” he added. “And in this moment during the pandemic — what a great moment to pitch the idea. Maybe people will finally believe it.”
“Seems kind of dumb” is not an argument. It seems kind of dumb to me to suggest that the first life on earth, which would have been fragile and relatively simple, happened to be so robust and stable that it could have survived a massive shock that threw it into space, where it drifted for hundreds of thousands, even millions of years, in a vacuum, bathing in radiation, to survive a super-heated re-entry to an alien atmosphere, crashing to Earth to resume where it left off on a Martian ocean. And that this was a more significant contribution to early life than countless chemical reactions churning out organic molecules at the bottom of Earth’s oceans.
These people are fine with reciting silly arguments about the great improbability of chemicals coming together to form a self-perpetuating metabolism, but hey, chance survivors on rare random rocks flung into an immensely empty space happening to coincidentally hit a dot of a world a hundred million kilometers away, or even hundreds of light years away, no problem.
And they think a pandemic will help them? Aside from the tastelessness of that notion, we can’t even convince millions of people to wear a mask, yet they think this will convince them that we’re all descendants of Martians? At best it means these guys think people are gullible enough to fall for their crackpot ideas now.