Astronomy

Extraterrestrial Life Fact or Fiction



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Since the 16th century, when Franciscan monk Giordano Bruno, outspoken and enamored disciple of Copernican heliocentricity, first hypothesized that there had to be life out there somewhere, a menagerie of believers and enthusiasts have tried to use speculation, associative reasoning, conjectural thesis and the wildest extents of their  imagination, to convince us that extraterrestrial life is a forgone conclusion; a true reality. While statistical probability as well as prediction based on natural law, strongly suggests that life, be it primitive or intelligent, exists beyond Earth, what is lacking in the support of any notion of  its factual existence, is the intrinsic evidence establishing the reality of it with any degree of reasonable certainty.

Sure, there are people who will tell you stories of glaciers melting, revealing ancient meteorites containing extraterrestrial “life,” but such are more likely gross misrepresentations of factual instance and probable cases of wishful thinking, than of anything else. The problem is, that the Internet brims with these kind of wild assertions and a lot of people, long on hopeful speculative desire and short on skeptical reasoning, buy into their hypothetical premises. If they were to dig just a little deeper, researching the valid scientific evidence at hand and the implications of it, they would surely encounter cognitive reward. For instance, this article  http://astrobiology.berkeley.edu/PDFs_articles/Glavin_PNAS1999.pdf  by Daniel P. Glavin of the University of California at Berkeley’s astobiology department and other noted contributors, clearly illuminates factual accuracies with respect to meteorite evidence.

While the article titled “Amino acids in the Martian meteorite Nakhla,” reports that amino acids and even simple proteins have been isolated from meteorites suspected to have transited from Mars to Earth, this evidence, while not at all conclusive, establishes only the “possible evidence for life on Mars.”  Parse it any way you want, but the word “possible” infers that this evidence, and any conclusions subsequently drawn from it, can be considered as no more than speculation; falling far short of the threshold of certainty required to establish scientific fact.

The real fact of the matter is, that while amino acids and proteins represent the chemical constituents of life, they themselves are no more than inanimate organic molecular compounds. Before we can talk about life, the discovery of at least one instance of a nucleic base stuck to another with a molecule of sugar mono-phosphate would need be discovered in a meteorite or on some extraterrestrial body. And even then, the proof positive of the DNA or RNA fragment’s extraterrestrial origin would be a paramount consideration in establishing its evidentiary value.

Scientific fact can not be based on mere belief, however reasonable it may seem. Disregarding some pretty astute fellows in ancient Greece, who figured out the factual truth of it 25 centuries ago, the Earth was considered flat and at the center of the universe until Copernicus came along in the 16th century and scientifically established it was neither. Ironically, it took about another 150 years before the geocentric flat-earth doctrine, based solely on ancient mythological paradigm, was brought into conformance with scientific reality.

Yes, it is highly likely, that life has chemically evolved, if even only in the simplest of macromolecular forms, elsewhere in the universe and possibly right here in the solar system that is our own celestial backyard. But until compelling evidence of that life has been found clinging to a rock on some distant celestial orb, or afloat in some liquid pond on or beneath the surface of planet or moon, the factual certainty of life beyond Earth remains in question. The questionable status of extraterrestrial life, therefore, establishes beyond any reasonable scrutiny, the current hypothetical nature of its supposition.

The absence of any intrinsic evidence to support claims of extraterrestrial life, and the apparent hypothetical bases of any belief in its existence, implies a modality of whimsical notion concocted by the imaginative human brain. This word smith's New World Dictionary of The American Language (second college edition) defines such imaginative thoughtful product as “fiction,” not fact. Anyone can want to believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life with every fiber of their being, but until some morsel of evidence establishing the fact of it turns up, it can and should be considered only as a hypothetical construct, or put more simply, in a “fictional” context. To assert otherwise, discredits the very notion of human intelligence.  

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