Life Here Began Out There? Yeah…. Maybe Not

Here’s another example of the mainstream media covering a science story and getting it completely wrong.

Seriously, we trusted these people to write about science before there were bloggers? What were we thinking?

The Leader Post cut-and-pasted a story today from the National Post (which was in turn picked up from Fox News….. so you know it’s totally legit, right?) about how scientist Richard B Hoover claims to have discovered fossilized microbes on meteorite samples.

Hoover’s conclusion: life on Earth was seeded by meteors.

So what does a biologist like, say, PZ Myers of Pharyngula have to say on the subject?

No.

No, no, no. No no no no no no no no.

No, no.

No.

He goes on….

The extraterrestrial ‘bacteria’ all look like random mineral squiggles and bumps on a field full of random squiggles and bumps, and apparently, the authors thought some particular squiggle looked sort of like some photo of a bug. This isn’t science, it’s pareidolia. They might as well be analyzing Martian satellite photos for pictures that sorta kinda look like artifacts.

And in case you’re thinking Myers is just being all knee-jerk skeptical like notorious Scooby Doo killjoy Velma, he’s not alone. David Dobbs over at Wired and Rosie Redfield at RRResearch are similarly dismissive.

Apparently, the Journal of Cosmology which published this paper hews closer to the Omni magazine style of science journalism than to say the model of Science or Nature. The editor-in-chief, Rudy Schild, is a bit of character who likes to spout off on Paranormal TV about the possibility of meeting aliens. Check him out at right driving around in a truly brilliant automobile. Doesn’t that package just scream screwball?

UPDATE: Myers is reporting that NASA is diplomatically trying to distance itself from Hoover’s paper, noting that he had submitted it to the Journal of Astrobiology in 2007 but “the peer review process was not completed.” (Read: the paper is bunk.) Myers also talks about all the angry phone calls he’s been getting for stomping all over claims that extraterrestrial life has been found in space. A good read.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.