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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Bacteria Fossils in Meteorites

When I first heard about the discovery of fossil bacteria in meteorites I immediately read the paper in the Journal of Cosmology [Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites: Implications to Life on Comets, Europa, and Enceladus]. The first thing I noticed was that this "journal" seemed to be of very low quality. A little bit of digging revealed that it was some sort of online journal that publishes just about everything.

The second thing I noticed was that the evidence of fossils in these meteorites was not convincing. It seemed like the author, Richard B. Hoover, was not being very skeptical about what he was seeing. I dismissed the paper, it was almost certainly not true.

Lot's of other people reached the same conclusion.

Ian Musgrove at The Panda's Thumb [Life from Beyond Earth on a Meteorite, or Pareidolia?] [Commentaries posted at Journal of Cosmology]

Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy [Followup thoughts on the meteorite fossils claim]

PZ Myers at Pharyngula [Did scientists discover bacteria in meteorites?]

Rosie Redfield at RRResearch [Is this claim of bacteria in a meteorite any better than the 1996 one?]

The Journal of Cosmology has now published 21 commentaries on the paper and only two of them are the least bit critical or skeptical of the results. That inspired the journal to insert this statement in the introduction to the article.
Official Statement The Journal of Cosmology,
Have the Terrorists Won?

Only a few crackpots and charlatans have denounced the Hoover study. NASA's chief scientist was charged with unprofessional conduct for lying publicly about the Journal of Cosmology and the Hoover paper. The same crackpots, self-promoters, liars, and failures, are quoted repeatedly in the media. However, where is the evidence the Hoover study is not accurate?

Few legitimate scientists have come forward to contest Hoover's findings. Why is that? Because the evidence is solid.

But why have so few scientists come forward to attest to the validity? The answer is: They are afraid. They are terrified. And for good reason.

The status quo and their "hand puppets" will stop at nothing to crush debate about important scientific issues, and this includes slander, defamation, trade libel... they will ruin you. Three hundred years ago, they would burn you for questioning orthodoxy. Has anything changed?

The scientific community must march according to the tune whistled by those who control the funding. If you don't do as you are told, if you dare to ask the wrong questions, they will destroy you.

JOC offered the scientific community a unique opportunity to debate an important paper, but for the most part they have declined.

The message is: Be afraid. Be very afraid. Or you will be destroyed.

Why is America in decline?

Maybe the terrorists have won.
Did you need convincing that this is not real science?

Now here's the tough question. Why did so many people immediately see that this paper was flawed while many others, including some journalists, were taken in? I think it's because many of us recognized this as an extraordinary claim that required extraordinary evidence. We also realized that if this was even close to being true it would be published as a front page story in Science or Nature. In addition, we have lived through many examples of exaggerated claims, including previous claims of meteorite fossils that proved to be untrue; not to mention the 3.5 billion year old fossils that weren't fossils [Did Life Arise 3.5 Billion Years Ago?].

It's a combination of skepticism and experience. Can that be taught?


Eamon Knight said...

Even if I hadn't seen the commentary by others, that response alone would convince me that we are dealing with crackpots.

Anonymous said...

My goodness. This reads like a "cut and paste" from a Discovery Institute "Teach the Controversy" press release.

Anonymous said...

"Official Statement The Journal of Cosmology,"

Wow man. Wow. They really brought on the crazy. A journal for crackpots, by crackpots.

DK said...

Oh dear. I thought it was misguided attempt to save the "journal". Turns out it's a full blown kookery.

Anonymous said...

If the article and journal are by "crackpots", and if the commentaries are overly positive, then why don't you provide a commentary to the journal and enlighten everyone? I challenge you. I'm not sure at all about the findings because I am no expert, but I am sick of so-called "experts" picking on fringe scientists, and the use of "quotations" when describing the journal is disrespectful. Your arguments themselves are not very scientific: by god, "other people have reached the same conclusion", wow, the official statement of the journal, despite having nothing to do with the findings themselves, make it clear that you do not "need convincing that this is not real science"? Really? And, that the results would be published in "Science or Nature" if they were "true"? Really? Wow, thanks for enlighten. No but really,wow this is the worst evidence-based assessment I have yet to hear. Do you realize the extent to which you yourself are blinded by your own ignorance and that your own scientific research will be a joke in 100 years.
"When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him"
Jonathan Swift

So I guess that makes you a dunce?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the terrorists have won