So, NASA are getting all excited about finding a large cloud of methane on Mars, claiming it likely to be the product of life. A corollary of this being that, if life has evolved there independently, it has quite likely evolved all across that universe where conditions permit; that it is a common thing.
This appeals to my sense of reason: Earth is not the centre of the universe with the celestial spheres revolving around it, our biosphere is simply a product of time, chemical reactions and energy, and man is not the God-created reason for everything. Really, as our understanding of the universe grows, our position in it is no higher than that of a microbe locked in the Martian tundra. In fact, words like ‘position’ or maybe ‘purpose’ have no meaning at all.
However, now I’m going to be the skeleton at the wedding. First off I have a big problem with this idea that this methane is a product of life. Methane certainly is a product of life, just like it is a product of all sorts of other complex chemistries. I didn’t hear anyone shouting about life when it was revealed that Saturn’s moon Titan has methane weather systems, that it has methane clouds, rain, snow and sleet. Second off, I have a problem with the idea of independent evolution on Mars.
Do you remember that whole farrago of the Martian meteorite with what looked like microbes imbedded in it? Recently there have been claims that perhaps life spread here from Mars by ancient meteor collision, yet, they are no more valid than a claim that life was spread from Earth to Mars in the same way, which rather kills the idea of independent evolution. In fact, that idea is dead in the water for any life found within the Solar System - we’ll probably end up moving more towards the panspermia view…
Of course, in me the ugly cynic then raises his head over the parapet. NASA being a cash-hungry leaden bureaucracy, quite likely due to look very silly when James Hansen takes his inevitable fall, is now looking to the future. Certain words surface in my mind with tiresome inevitability, words like ‘new’ and ‘president’ and ‘funding’.