Divine Intervention without God: by Jim Voelz
Just this week, a story hit the headlines concerning life elsewhere in the universe. According to the Journal of Cosmology, Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight center,
has discovered evidence of microfossils similar to Cyanobacteria, in freshly fractured slices of the interior surfaces of the Alais, Ivuna, and Orgueil CI1 carbonaceous meteorites. Based on Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscopy (FESEM) and other measures, Richard Hoover has concluded they are indigenous to these meteors and are similar to trichomic cyanobacteria and other trichomic prokaryotes such as filamentous sulfur bacteria. He concludes these fossilized bacteria are not Earthly contaminants but are the fossilized remains of living organisms which lived in the parent bodies of these meteors, e.g. comets, moons, and other astral bodies. Coupled with a wealth of date published elsewhere and in previous editions of the Journal of Cosmology, and as presented in the edited text, “The Biological Big Bang”, the implications are that life is everywhere, and that life on Earth may have come from other planets.
Ah, yes, “and that life on Earth may have come from other planets.” This has been all the rage for about the last several decades now. A recent book by Rhawn Joseph, Rudolf Schild, and Chandra Wickramasinghe is entitled Life on Earth Came From Other Planets: The Origins and Evolution of Life. This follows in the line of ideas such as microbes being found in Antarctica that have come from Mars. Consider the next (rather old) story (and read all the way to the end):
A group of scientists led by David McKay of NASA’s Johnson Space Center published an article in the 16 August 1996 issue of Science magazine announcing the discovery of evidence for primitive bacterial life on Mars. An examination of a meteorite found in Antarctica and believed to be from Mars shows: 1) hydrocarbons which are the same as breakdown products of dead micro-organisms on Earth, 2) mineral phases consistent with by-products of bacterial activity, and 3) tiny carbonate globules which may be microfossils of the primitive bacteria, all within a few hundred-thousandths of an inch of each other. Based on age dating of the meteorite, the following scenario has been proposed:
- The original igneous rock solidified within Mars about 4.5 billion years ago, about 100 million years after the formation of the planet. (Based on isotope ages of the igneous component of the meteorite)
- Between 3.6 and 4 billion years ago the rock was fractured, presumably by meteorite impacts. Water then permeated the cracks, depositing carbonate minerals and allowing primitive bacteria to live in the fractures.
- About 3.6 billion years ago, the bacteria and their by-products became fossilized in the fractures. (Based on isotope ages of the minerals in the fractures)
- 16 million years ago, a large meteorite struck Mars, dislodging a large chunk of this rock and ejecting it into space. (Based on the cosmic ray exposure age of the meteorite)
- 13,000 years ago, the meteorite landed in Antarctica.
- The meteorite, ALH84001, was discovered in 1984 in the Allan Hills region of Antarctica.
And don’t forget the matter of meteorites from space killing off the dinosaurs.
What is of interest in all of this is the following: science seems to have given up on the basic evolutionary “truth” that life and organisms emerged on earth and developed by the process of natural selection, all of which is (supposedly) possible within an enclosed system. The Second Law of Thermodynamics seems to have set this development in motion, beginning in the latter portion of the 20th century, saying that any system moves toward entropy as time goes on. The reply came back, “That is only true within a closed system. The system of our planet isn’t necessarily closed.” Radiation from space was cited as the first intruder—not only from the sun but also from elsewhere in the universe. And recently it has been the meteorites.
What, as Luther (and my hermeneutics book) might say, does this mean? It seems to me that this is strong evidence that we humans have a sense that everything cannot be explained “up from below,” i.e., from within the system in which we ourselves exist. When the evidence is presented, it seems much more reasonable to suppose that a meteor came from space bringing life to our earth, than that life arose spontaneously on this planet and developed into the life forms that we see today. Put another way, we seem to feel that something had to intervene in our closed system to bring us life, even though that “something” is not a creator God. It cannot all be explained on the basis of the features of our own world. And, you know, that may be a start. Is this a connecting point (Bob Kolb would say Anknuepfungspunkt) for discussion with the agnostics—even atheists—of our world? I, for one, intend to find out.
Ryan Tinetti March 12, 2011
Thanks, Dr. Voelz, both for highlighting this story and also for pointing out the implicit lack of faith in Darwinism that is emerging within the scientific community. I think it’s an effective argument to wed these kind of findings with our own existential “hunch” that something (or someone?) has had to intervene into the cosmos.
I take the illocutionary force of that last line to be an admonishment to evangelize, and that, too, is welcome.
Jim Voelz March 15, 2011
I just love it when guys pick up on illocutionary force!!!
Rick Strickert March 17, 2011
“science seems to have given up on the basic evolutionary ‘truth’ that life and organisms emerged on earth and developed by the process of natural selection, all of which is (supposedly) possible within an enclosed system.”
This is probably too broad a brushstroke based on the two referenced articles about claims of evidence for life in Martian rocks.
The claims of fossil evidence of life in the 1996 Science paper have remained controversial; other researchers have published papers claiming the carbonate globules, magnetite grains, and PAH material found in the rock may be made by abiotic means. While there is significant evidence that the rock came from Mars, additional evidence has refined the original claimed age of the Martian rock.
The first referenced article is from the Journal of Cosmology, which was founded in 2009 as a web-only publication with a particular slant toward articles supporting the existance of life in outer space. The journal is ending publication in May. That JOC article and its claims have also met with mixed opinions in the scientific community.
There are scientists (especially those with SETI-related research projects) who have interests in the notion of life on other planets. Obviously, scientists who do not lean toward such notions are more likely to do research in areas where they have more interests in making discoveries.
The bottom scientific line is that, to date, the extraordinary claim of extraterrestrial life has not been demonstrated by any requisite extraordinary evidence.