About origins, creation, and evolution
Scientific discoveries: 2008-JUL to DEC
- 2008-JUL-14: Mars: Speculation of impact on religion of Mars probe:
An article in SouthIndiaTimes.com noted that the Phoenix
Lander is situated near the north pole of Mars after travelling 680 million km
()from Earth. Its instruments are examining dirt samples searching for telltale
chemical components that might indicate whether the planet has ever been
favorable to life. If they find positive signs, later probes will attempt to
determine if life has ever arisen on Mars, and has either died out since, or is
The article speculates that if signs of life (past or present) are found, that
it will have a significant impact on religious belief. Such a finding would
indicate to some that the development of life on Earth was not a unique event
requiring a creator. Instead, it is a natural occurrence that would happen
anywhere in the universe that is conducive to life, as a result of natural
processes. The article suggests:
"The crunch that scriptural
faiths will face ... can loosely be termed decentralization
where the uniqueness of humanity along with Earth's biosphere will no longer
occupy centre stage as almost all belief systems have tried to sell us.
These religions would, therefore, have no choice but to modify their dogma
to bring extra-terrestrial life into their creation beliefs."
The discovery of some form of life on Mars would not have any
impact on the religious controversy over evolution.
That is because the theory of evolution starts with the first cell and attempts
to understand the subsequent development of new species. Evolution has nothing
to say about how the first cell came to be. It is abiogenesis that studies the
origin of the first forms of life. 1
- 2008-JUL-31: NASA reports finding water on Mars: The
Phoenix Mars Lander scooped up a small sample of Martian soil, heated it,
and discovered water vapor escaping from the sample.
William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist
for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA,
announced: "We have water. ...We’ve seen evidence for this water ice before in
observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed
by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been
touched and tasted." 1
Some media outlets
speculated that this finding might imply that life has a good chance of existing or
having existed on Mars. But these reports were negated a few days
later when perchlorate compounds were also discovered in the
soil. Many news sources reported that the presence of
perchlorates would make life impossible on Mars.
This is an
invalid conclusion, for two reasons:
World Science reported that:
- Sampling two teaspoons of soil from a spot on northern Mars does not tell us
anything about the soil at the rest of the planet.
- Michael Hecht of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA
commented that the finding "... is neither good nor bad for life, but it
does make us reassess how we think about life on Mars."
Perchlorates are found naturally on Earth at such
places as Chile’s hyper-arid Atacama Desert. The
compounds are quite stable and do not destroy organic
material under normal circumstances, researchers said.
Some microorganisms on Earth are fueled by processes
that involve perchlorates, and some plants concentrate
the substance. 3
- 2008-AUG-18: Evolution reaches the comics: This is not
exactly a "scientific discovery," but I just couldn't resist mentioning it. The
comic strip "Mother Goose and Grimm" is featuring a Christian fish symbol with
- In the AUG-18 panel:
- Ralph, a dog, asks "Hey, aren't you that little fish symbol with
- The symbol answers: "Yeah, name's Darwin."
- Ralph: "Were were you guys created?"
- Darwin: "Oh, we weren't 'created' anywhere. We evolved from 'I'd
rather be fishing' bumper stickers."
- In the AUG-19 panel, Darwin is standing on a beach
at the water's edge:
Darwin is a row of five fish of increasing size,
each poised to eat the fish ahead of it in one bite.
- Ralph asks Darwin: "Tell me, Darwin, why did you
- Darwin answers: "I needed some air."
- 2008-SEP-11: Congo: "Unicorn" photographed in Africa:
Okapis are animals with the long blue tongue of a giraffe and black/white
coloring like a zebra on their rear. They have a bump on the corner of their
head that has caused some to speculate that this animal may have given rise to
the unicorn written about in fantasy books. The Telegraph newspaper reported
"The species were unknown to the western world until 1901 when the British
governor of Uganda Sir Harry Johnston sent a complete skin and a skull
belonging to the creature back to London."
No okapis had been seen sine the 1950s, and some zoologists were concerned that
the species had become extinct because of the civil war in the Congo. However,
footprints were discovered in the Virunga National Park and camera
traps successfully captured photographs of some Okapis. 4
- 2008-DEC-16: Scientists broaden search for extraterrestrial life:
In the past, scientists have been searching for planets outside of our
solar system that are located in the "habitable zone:" -- that region around
star where water can exist in a liquid state. But now they are expanding their
search to include "Super Earths:" -- giant snowball planets that exist on the
outskirts of solar systems. Researchers estimate that one third of all solar
systems contain such planets. They have a solid surface covered with ice. But
they might also have an atmosphere and a liquid ocean under the ice that could
support life. The ocean would be formed as a result of an internal heat source.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- We were unable to trace the origin of the article.
- "NASA confirms water on Mars," World Science, 2008-JUL-31, at:
- "Martian salts not bad for life: scientists," World
Science, 2008-AUG-08, at:
- Louise Gray, "First photos of African 'unicorn' captured," The Telegraph
(UK), 208-SEP-11, at:
- "Ohio State study: Looking for extraterrestrial life in all the right
places," Ohio State University, 2008-DEC-16, at:
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2008-JUN-01
Latest update: 2008-DEC-22
Author: B.A. Robinson