More on Microbes and Meteorites

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Over at Science in Pen and Ink Lelia Battison has an in-depth discussion of Richard Hoovers’ paper on alleged “fossil” bacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites in the Journal of Cosmology. It is an excellent article that covers a lot of issues not previously covered, and brings together some other information that has been scattered around. I’m referenced as well. Go have a read of Microbes on a Moonbeam, disentangling the Meteorite Microbe claims.

(for reference my posts on the subject are here and here)

6 Comments

Is the author of the “Meteorite Microbes” paper this “Richard Hoover”? http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshal[…]/09-059.html This shows him having a doctorate in 1972, in a picture with Wernher von Braun.

Paul Burnett said:

Is the author of the “Meteorite Microbes” paper this “Richard Hoover”? http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshal[…]/09-059.html This shows him having a doctorate in 1972, in a picture with Wernher von Braun.

If it is that Richard Hoover, then there is still the chance that his Ph. D. degree was imaginary even back then.

Lelia Battison’s name is Leila - you may want to correct that for the search engines. I thought hers was an interesting article, and it is too bad that she got snookered into publishing in that journal (or do I mean “journal”?). I am kind of inclined to agree with the commenter who suggested that she pull the article if she still can.

Not bad, but my general take is that she has the same subjective focus on the trees (microscopic images that can be subjectively interpreted, especially out of context), to the relative exclusion of the forest (the overall context), that Hoover has.

Let’s look at the overall context - Hoover’s claim is that terrestrial like cyanobacteria live or lived on outer space meteorites, by implication in near zero gravity, at extreme temperatures never found near the surface of the earth, without an atmosphere. And as we all know, his broader claim is that colonization of the earth by these organisms is how life got to earth. (Please note that unlike legitimate abiogenesis research, Hoover’s claim, even if it were reasonable, does not actually address the origin of life - if cyanobacteria from meteorites colonized earth, then how did cyanobacteria get on meteorites?) Hoover has a long history of advancing the same claim with inadequate evidence; here he merely does so once again.

The correct response to the SEM micrographs is this - “They could be something else. Therefore they do not support the extraordinary claims that are advanced”. I think that this should be stated emphatically. (Incidentally, it would be quite possible to generate SEM micrographs of living prokaryotes that would be essentially unequivocal, and it might be possible to generate extremely convincing micrographs of very well-preserved fossil prokaryotes. Obviously neither of those things have been done here.)

The danger is to fall into the trap of arguing “maybe this could be a good SEM of a poorly preserved structure from a cyanobacterium, in the right context, but I’m not sure it looks like such a structure”. The point is not whether some structure from cyanobacteria could ever look like this on an SEM. That’s Hoover’s creationist-style troll game. The default is not “I win if you can’t prove it isn’t cyanobacteria”. This isn’t the right context. The onus is on Hoover to produce extraordinarily strong evidence of cyanobacteria on outer space meteorites, or abandon this extreme claim. The default assumption is that they are not there.

Incidentally, I notice via the AIG link that the “purely religious” creationists there have a large ad for an anti-Obama book.

Not bad, but my general take is that she has the same subjective focus on the trees (microscopic images that can be subjectively interpreted, montblanc mechanical pencil especially out of context), to the relative exclusion of the forest (the overall context), that Hoover has.

Let’s look at the overall context - Hoover’s claim is that terrestrial like cyanobacteria live or lived on outer space meteorites, by implication in near zero gravity, at extreme temperatures never found near the surface of the earth, without an atmosphere. And as we all montblanc boheme know, his broader claim is that colonization of the earth by these organisms is how life got to earth. (Please note that unlike legitimate abiogenesis research, Hoover’s claim, even if it were reasonable, does not actually address the origin of life - if cyanobacteria from meteorites colonized earth, then how did cyanobacteria get on meteorites?) Hoover has a long history of advancing the same claim with inadequate evidence; here he merely does so once again.

The correct response to the SEM micrographs is this - “They could be something else. Therefore they do not support the extraordinary claims that are advanced”. I think that this should be stated emphatically. (Incidentally, montblanc fountain pen it would be quite possible to generate SEM micrographs of living prokaryotes that would be essentially unequivocal, and it might be possible to generate extremely convincing micrographs of very well-preserved fossil prokaryotes. Obviously neither of those things have been done here.)

The danger is to fall into the trap of arguing “maybe this could be a good SEM of a poorly montblanc rollerball pen preserved structure from a cyanobacterium, in the right context, but I’m not sure it looks like such a structure”. The point is not whether some structure from cyanobacteria could ever look like this on an SEM. That’s Hoover’s creationist-style troll game. The default is not “I win if you can’t prove it isn’t cyanobacteria”. This isn’t the right context. The onus is on Hoover to produce extraordinarily strong evidence of cyanobacteria on montblanc ballpoint pen outer space meteorites, or abandon this extreme claim. The default assumption is that they are not there.

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This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on March 12, 2011 6:56 AM.

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