Alien Life Without Water

Is Alien Life Without Water Possible?
For all of my life, there have been articles, videos, and public presentations claiming that there must be life elsewhere in the universe. Now that we know there are thousands of planets in the creation, we see attempts to maintain that with so many planets there must be life somewhere. Scientists are even speculating alien life without water.

We need to remember that the Bible doesn’t say that this is the only planet where God created life, so this is not a biblical issue. The latest attempts to expand the window of what life is has rejuvenated the need to show the design built into the development of life. Life on Earth is based on carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. The National Science Foundation has just funded a three-year program at Saint Louis University to explore what building blocks might be used to make a different kind of life. The chemicals they are considering are hexane, ethers, and chloroform. There is particular interest in whether these materials can form membranes that could be considered life.

The first problem is the definition of life. Life has traditionally been defined as “that which can move, breathe, respond to outside stimuli and reproduce.” An extraordinary chemistry is necessary to meet all of these criteria. Water is the basic substance of life on Earth. The water molecule is polar, meaning that one end of the molecule is negative and the other end is positive. Oxygen is the negative end. Oxygen’s bonding orbitals allow the attachment of two hydrogen atoms making that end positive. This polarity allows water to dissolve other molecules. Salt, for example, is made up of sodium which is positive and chlorine which is negative. When you put salt in water, the sodium is attracted to the oxygen end of the water molecule, and the chlorine is attracted to the hydrogen end of the molecule because unlike charges attract each other. This pulls the salt molecule apart and allows the salt to dissolve. Alien life without water seems impossible.

Hydrocarbons like methane have four hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atom symmetrically. That makes the molecule non-polar and unable to dissolve salt. Numerous experiments are underway to circumvent this problem including the use of vinyl cyanide (also called acrylonitrile) which has been found in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. Coming up with a formula for alien life without water will be difficult. How a substitute for oxidation would work has not even been publicized, so respiration would be an equally great challenge.

Chris Butch, a chemist of the Earth Life Institute, says “It’s like trying to build a car in your backyard out of lawnmower parts, versus having the Maserati factory build a supercar.” As science looks for something that can be called life elsewhere in the solar system, we should be impressed with the wisdom involved in the original building of life on planet Earth.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Astronomy magazine, February 2019, page 29-35.

TRAPPIST-1 Planets and Life

TRAPPIST-1 Planet Lineup - NASA
TRAPPIST-1 Planet Lineup – NASA Illustration

In May of 2016 astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (called TRAPPIST) announced the finding of three planets orbiting a single star which has been labeled “TRAPPIST-1.” On February 22, 2017, astronomers released to the media a report stating that they have discovered four more planets orbiting Trappist-1. The planets are small, and their location in relation to the star they orbit indicates that they could have liquid water on them. The media has picked this up and USA Today (February 23, 2017, page B1) has headlined “Newly Discovered Network of Planets Could Harbor Life.”

This is just another example of media sensationalizing and misapplying a scientific study. Let us point out before going any further that we have repeatedly said that there may be life elsewhere in the universe. We have also pointed out that chance is an unworkable explanation for the creation of life anywhere. The Bible doesn’t say this is the only place where God has seen fit to create life, so the question of life in space is moot.

The facts are that this is a remarkable scientific achievement made possible because the planets transit the star so that we can see them because we are looking at them at the proper angle. We now know that the process of star formation produces multiple planets orbiting the stars. To suggest that there will be life on one of these planets is a wild speculation. First of all, the star is very small and very dim. It is a red star just slightly bigger than Jupiter. That means it will emit the wrong wavelengths for photosynthetic life at least, and radiation levels are probably prohibitive. There are many other parameters that have to be carefully chosen for life to exist–things like shielding magnetic fields, sheltering major planets, proper spin rates, protective atmospheric layers, proper densities of the atmosphere, and many more. A discussion of some of these parameters is available in videos # 6 & 7 on our website.
–John N. Clayton © 2017