Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nasa has done it again.

It has made another discovery of monumental proportions—one that will supposedly “impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life” and “alter biology textbooks” forever.

In fact, the discovery is so huge and awe-inspiring that much more research is needed—hence much more government funding. At least that’s the implication.
What is this so-called life-changing discovery? Nothing less than the redefinition of life.
For decades scientists have been searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life—and not finding it. Now, nasa researchers say, we may know why.
In the past, scientists believed that six elements (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur) were needed for life to exist. Scientists believed this because there are no known examples of life existing without these elements.
That is no longer correct, says nasa.
According to a December 2 highly hyped press conference and an article published in the journal Science, nasa researchers led by astrobiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon have discovered bacteria completely alien to what we know today.
The press release begins: “nasa-funded astrobiology research has changed the fundamental knowledge about what comprises all known life on Earth” (emphasis mine throughout). In a lake in California, scientists claim to have discovered bacteria that do not need phosphorus to live. Instead, these bacteria are said to use the poison arsenic to grow and reproduce themselves, and use it to make dna and other cellular organelles.
“The definition of life has just expanded,” said Ed Weiler, nasa associate administrator. “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.”
The reason scientists haven’t discovered life in the universe is not because it isn’t there, they say, but because they were looking for the wrong things.
So just what constitutes life if it isn’t life on Earth? “We will know it when we see it” seems to be the only scientific answer so far.
“The idea of alternative biochemistries for life is common in science fiction,” said Carl Pilcher, director of the nasa Astrobiology Institute. “Until now a life form using arsenic as a building block was only theoretical, but now we know such life exists in Mono Lake [in California].”
Sadly, though, it is a lie.
Yes, the researchers found bacteria that can survive high arsenic concentrations, but if a growing chorus of outraged non-nasa scientists are correct, the microbes are not the only ones in nasa laboratories suffering arsenic poisoning-like side effects.
“I don’t know whether the authors are just bad scientists or whether they’re unscrupulously pushing nasa’s ‘There’s life in outer space!’ agenda,” wrote University of British Columbia Prof. Rosie Redfield. “Basically, it doesn’t present any convincing evidence that arsenic has been incorporated into dna (or any other biological molecule).”
Redfield, who runs a microbiology research lab at the University of British Columbia, said she was compelled to critique the study after “nasa’s shameful analysis of the alleged bacteria in the Mars meteorite” made her “very suspicious of their microbiology.” Her skepticism was only strengthened by her reading of the journal article, she said.
Harvard University’s Dr. Alexander Bradley agrees: “There’s been a lot of hype around the news of … the microbe claimed to substitute arsenate for phosphate in its dna. In the midst of all the excitement, one thing has been overlooked: The claim is almost certainly wrong.”
Critics say the study has a whole host of flaws, including some mistakes that shouldn’t even be made by undergraduates. Bradley says one 10-minute test could have conclusively proven if the bacteria’s dna was really built with an arsenic backbone. Just put some in water. It is as simple as that. If it hydrolyzes (splits apart), it is arsenic, if it doesn’t it is phosphorus. It is an easy, generally accepted test, he says, but it was omitted.
According to Bradley, the nasa scientists actually incidentally performed this hydrolysis test. During one of the many laboratory procedures, the bacteria dna had to be immersed in water. Guess what happened?
The chains of dna did not hydrolyze. They stayed together like good little phosphorus molecules.
In other words, the nasa scientists’ own procedures inadvertently contradicted their own conclusions.
Bradley also pointed out that mass spectrometry, another easy and convincing test, could also have shown whether or not the dna contained arsenic in place of phosphorus. Strangely, this test was omitted too. The nasa scientists say they didn’t have it in their budget.
In defense of the nasa scientists, though, nowhere in their report do they claim that they found bacteria that naturally use arsenic to live (as much of the media reported), nor do they claim that the bacteria came from outer space (as some have theorized). In fact, the authors clearly indicate that although the bacteria were naturally occurring in a high-arsenic environment, they used phosphorus to live.
The scientists then force-fed the bacteria arsenic while depriving them of phosphorus. nasa claims the bacteria were able to switch from using phosphorus to using arsenic.
The criticism of the nasa science mostly surrounds the experiment methodology, which critics say was childishly sloppy. According to Redfield, both the cleanliness and calculations were primitive and probably contributed to the faulty conclusion. Her calculations show that the amount of residual phosphorus in the lowest samples proved that there was enough to account for all the bacterial growth. No arsenic was even needed, she says.
And the arsenic that was detected in the dna was a very low level. In such a high-arsenic environment, even very minor contamination could explain why low levels of arsenic were found in the dna, she wrote. “If this data was presented by a PhD student at their committee meeting, I’d send them back to the bench to do more cleanup and controls,” says Redfield.
“There’s a difference between controls done to genuinely test your hypothesis and those done when you just want to show that your hypothesis is true. The authors have done some of the latter, but not the former.”
As Redfield brings out, researcher bias is all too common in many fields of science today. Instead of seeking to prove if a theory is correct, scientists commonly just test to prove their theory correct.
Unfortunately, junk science, like that produced by nasa, offering bogus scientific studies, or evidence that the universe could be full of alien life, or that evolution is fact, are shamefully prevalent.
There is a very plausible explanation why this is the case.
Outer space is like the fossil record for evolutionists. The proof just isn’t there.
In July, the journal Nature reported that there may actually be 300 sextillion stars in the universe. If true, that means the known universe is three times larger than previously estimated. The result is that “[t]here are possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars,” said Yale’s Pieter van Dokkum. “[These stars] have been around long enough for complex life to evolve on planets around them.”
The new study, therefore, greatly increases the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the cosmos, say the authors.
But here again, as far as evidence goes, evolutionists come up empty. Despite the vastness of the universe and the virtually infinite numbers of planets, not once has anyone discovered any proof of alien life. And with each upward revision in the size of the universe, the evidence gap becomes more obvious and harder to explain.
Surely, among a virtually infinite number of worlds, signs of extraterrestrial life would be somewhere. Surely there is better evidence than a very Earth-like bacteria, even if it has the interesting characteristic of surviving lab-induced arsenic poisoning.
Like the fossil record, however, the evidence for alien life is missing because it isn’t there.
Until scientists accept this fact, junk science will continue to proliferate—and be exposed—sadly discrediting the good with the bad.