Evidence of Life on Mars

Evidence of Life on Mars - There isn't any.
Selfy by Mars Curiosity Rover – NASA

The media has sensationalized the finding of organic molecules from Mars. For many people, hearing that something is “organic” means it is related to life. For example, in 1996, scientists reported on their study of a meteorite identified as ALH84001 found twelve years before in Antarctica. Characteristics of the meteorite indicated that it had come from Mars, and analysis showed that it contained organic compounds. Media reports immediately claimed that this was evidence of life on Mars at some time in the past.

Research on ALH84001 reported in January of 2022 shows the organic molecules probably came from the interaction of water and minerals and is not related to living organisms. Two chemical reactions known as serpentinization and carbonation can produce organic molecules when water and minerals react underground. Those reactions occur on Earth, and the researchers concluded that was most likely what formed the organic materials in ALH84001. Earlier researchers had made similar findings on a Martian meteorite named Tissint, which landed in Morocco in 2011.

Neither of these meteorites gives evidence of life on Mars. Organic molecules can form by abiotic (non-life) chemical reactions when water is present, along with the minerals that make up organic materials. Evidence shows that Mars is a place where abiotic chemistry has been very active, creating large amounts of organic compounds but no evidence of any form of life.

God is an incredible chemist. One reason many chemists are active believers in God is that they see the wisdom and creative design built into chemistry, making life possible. There is strong evidence that the laws of chemistry were fine-tuned for life, especially human life.

We may eventually find living things elsewhere in the solar system or other systems. However, finding organic compounds does not give evidence of life on Mars or anywhere else.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: “Organic molecules in an ancient Mars meteorite formed via geology, not alien life” in Science News (February 12, 2022, page 10) and Science VOL. 375, NO. 6577, January 13, 2022