Scientific Community Torn Over Extraterrestrial Bacteria Claims


Few things are quite as exciting as a good old fashioned feud between distinguished scientists. You’ll recall that a scientist, Nasa’s Richard Hoover, published an article last week in The Journal of Cosmology that claimed to have discovered a form of extraterrestrial bacteria on a meteorite. Life, in other words. But hold on! In the days that have since passed a number of scientists have come out agains the claim, saying that the original article was flawed, and, in essence, there’s nothing to see here; move along. What gives?

First, some more background info. The article, Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites, argued that, having found bacteria on certain meteorites, life on Earth “may have come from other planets.” It’s sorta like how Superman crash-landed on Earth: life coming from elsewhere, adjusting to this planet’s climate and eventually thriving.

This, of course, pretty much flies in the face of existing scientific theories about the origin of life on planet Earth, so naturally there was bound to be some opposition.

One such opposer, the University of British Columbia’s Rosie Redfield, said the article was, in essence, a load of bunk, saying that the article may be a lot of things, but it certainly wasn’t science.

A Harvard astronomer, Rudy Schild, said the article, while fun and all, wasn’t properly peer-reviewed. What good is a scientific article if it’s not peer-reviewed? What’s to stop me from writing a post saying I’ve discovered a way to turn old coffee grounds into gold?

The Journal of Cosmology, of course, says that the article was, in fact, peer-reviewed. In fact, it called the article its most reviewed article ever. So go figure.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. Remember that whole arsenic-using bacteria brouhaha from a few months ago? It’s a similar situation here: scientist makes a grand claim, and other scientists immediately hate on the claim.

As the world turns, I suppose.