Monday, 1 August 2011

Nature: We Should Be Cautious When Interpreting Alien Worlds

The red planet has been a source of speculation for ages. Image courtesy of NASA/ESA.

Joel Kontinen

Last year Gliese 581g made headlines around the world. It was hailed as the first habitable exoplanet. However, soon news broke out that the planet most probably did not even exist.

And before that there were theories of canals on Mars.

Some time ago Michael Carr reviewed Maria Lane’s book Geographies of Mars: Seeing and Knowing the Red Planet (University of Chicago Press, 2010) in the journal Nature and brought up past speculations about Mars, including the assumed canals that US astronomer Percival Lowell (1855-1916) promoted a hundred years ago and the “Face on Mars” formation that was supposedly seen in a low-resolution photo taken by Viking 1 in 1976.

The Mars canal controversy is a reminder to be cautious when interpreting alien worlds”, Carr concludes.

It seems that the basic problem behind the lack of critical evaluation in discoveries – both real and assumed – is a reliance on the Darwinian worldview. Since many people believe life on Earth originated and evolved through natural processes, they assume that it has also evolved elsewhere.

However, life is so complicated that it cannot have come about by purely natural means.The best and most logical explanation begins with the words “in the beginning God created”.


Carr, Michael. 2011. Martian illusions. Nature 470 (7333), 172-173.