The revelation last week that tiny eight-legged animals survived exposure to the harsh environment of space on an Earth-orbiting mission is further support for the idea that simple life forms could travel between planets.Right. Now who’s wearing the “tinfoil hat”?
This idea, called panspermia, is not new. It holds that the seeds of life are everywhere, and that microbial life on Earth could have traveled here from Mars or even from another star system, and then evolved into the plethora of species seen today. In essence, we may all be Martians.
In various forms, the panspermia concept was discussed among scientists in the 1700s, again in the 1800s, and then notably when Sir Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe popularized it about 30 years ago. Mainstream scientists have often dismissed the hypothesis, however, even into the 1990s. But new life has been breathed into the idea in the past decade.
And why do they think this answers any questions at all about origins? Somewhere, sometime in the distant past, life had to originate. Saying life here just came from someplace else only pushes the inevitable to a place science cannot currently investigate, so the unspoken message is that the laws of physics as we know them here must not apply elsewhere, thereby giving hope (aka blind faith in miracles) that things really can just pop out of nowhere and without a cause. In another part of the universe... a magical place where miracles occur. And this is all pronounced with a straight face by respectable scientists.
But of course the “elephant in the living room” is that this amounts to an embarrassing admission: that all our scientific observation and knowledge about what we can investigate here, in our world, proves that life simply could never have arisen here by accident. The laws of physics and biology and even philosophy are constrained to conclude that things can’t create themselves, that effects require causes, and that the mind-boggling complexities and inter-dependencies of life require intelligent design from Someone outside the laws of physics.
Faced with such ugly facts, the faithful atheist must imagine a magical place devoid of laws and order and observability, and find a way to call that “science”. You just have to admire a faith like that.