Life On Mars

Ron Hughes:  Recently, I’ve been seeing some interesting articles in magazines about water existing on Mars.  Some people, some secular scientists are looking at water on Mars as meaning that there could be life on Mars which may challenge the whole Christian paradigm.  I’d be interested to hear from a man of science about this whole issue of Mars.  What’s really out there?  Could there be life elsewhere?  Maybe even intelligent life?

Let’s talk about it.

Dr. Humphreys:  Very interesting question and of course a lot of scientific effort is going into trying to find life in other parts of the universe.  Actually, it was several years before this more recent story about water on Mars that people got particularly excited cause they saw some remnants of molecules that were thought to evidence of at least the precursors of life.  But I have to say as a scientist, Ron, I don’t get as excited about little bits of evidence for some precursors of life on Mars as some people do.  As a matter of fact, I’d be very surprised if we don’t find at least some organic molecules or even some tiny organisms.

Because for one thing, you know, these things, Ron, could be carried to planets as close to Earth and Mars is by solar winds.  I mean, there’s a lot of interchange of materials in the…

Ron:  Solar System?

Dr. Humphreys:   ..the planets orbiting… Yeah!  I mean, it’s fairly turbulent out there with solar winds.  And it’s such a big ‘if,’ because these signs of life have never proved to be anything very definitive.  There’s much speculation.  But if they were to find things that were quite clearly organisms, the first place I would look for an origin , that is, of course, Earth.

Ron:  Take a minute and just explain to me what these scientists have vested in finding life.

Dr. Humphreys:  Well, it’s very interesting, actually.  Of course, many scientists are what we call, naturalists.  That is, they assume nature is all there is.  They don’t believe, as I do, in a purposeful creator.  So they have a little bit of an agenda.  Of course, we all have presuppositions, we all have assumptions that drive us.  I presuppose a creator.  That’s what my explanatory principle is:  Intelligent Design.  But I have colleagues who are driven to justify a belief that life could arise by chance, by the random collection of molecules.  Something which I don’t see any evidence for as a chemist, but anyway.

So their feeling is, if they find life in other parts of the universe they can say, ‘Well, look.  Life arises spontaneously.  Happened to arise on Earth, but it arose here [too].’

And they can say, not correctly in my view, but they can say, ‘See.  Life arises in other places so we don’t need God.’  So this avoids a creator.

But you see they want to have their cake and eat it.  They would say, ‘If we don’t find life out there and the Earth is unique, that shows that it was just happenstance.  That it happened to come on Earth.’

So if you are driven by this presupposition – there is no creator, there is no God – you really are going to argue both ways.  If you don’t find life:  look how unusual it is, it was just a chance that it once appeared on Earth.  If we do find it:  hey, see life is abundant, there’s nothing special about it.  And that’s always something you need to look out for; have people got a presupposition or an agenda.  But I think the motivation of a lot of this work is that somehow they assume, wrongly, that it affects the Christian belief in a creator.

But I don’t like as a scientist to get too much into speculation.  As a Christian and a scientist what I really believe in and am dogmatic about is things that we’ve shown to be true, that we’ve demonstrated.  And until there’s evidence I’m just going to keep a really open mind on this question.  But I have to say that it doesn’t touch Christian theology.