On Thursday I came across this article, which discusses the peer-reviewed journal article, “Fungi on Mars? Evidence of Growth and Behavior From Sequential Images”. As its pictures seemed to me to suggest fungal life active now on Mars, I
Some news from inside NASA ames research Center
1. The "misinterpretation" hypothesis is still #1 obviously.
However the second leading hypothesis is contamination from earth got onto the rover and the fungi somehow survived the journey.
#1 is about >95% likely but #2 has a small chance of being real
Fine with me.
(On Khaldun, he also says the lower is prepared to "become" the higher, "and sometimes does.")
I wasn't saying you took a stand on the quality of the contrarian positions; I'm saying you took a maximally uncharitable stand on the quality of the critics' critiques. Because no critic actually wrote "this author is too contrarian". Instead they wrote things equivalent to "this author's previous works defended claims with astronomically low priors", or "this author's previous work was retracted by a journal". The first of these examples is on its face a comment on the quality of the science, albeit a simplistic one. The second is repeating the decision of the journal, and the decision of the journal is (or at least should be) a comment on the quality of the science. Yet you round these all off to "this author expressed other contrarian opinions".
You’ve retreated to the motte of “rocks are likely to move between planets” from the Bailey of “life is likely to move between planets”. One claim is speculative and unsupported, one claim is reasonable. To be crystal clear: Panspermia is a contrarian view. That is the position you are advocating, not interstellar rock travel generally.
Large asteroid impacts are known to eject smaller rocks from planetary surfaces into space, which sometimes fall as meteorites themselves. There are some extremophile microorganisms that live inside rocks, some of which feed on minerals. Would it be plausible for endolithic microorganisms, once they developed on Earth, to have spread to another planet in a meteorite?
I did not say that Mars wasn’t habitable early on, so I don’t know why you felt the need to reiterate that. The point that I made, that you did not address, is that it was not just Habitable but Likely Inhabited. Again, you’ve made a bold claim (greater than not confidence in life), and upon being confronted have retreated to the weaker claim that life was simply plausible.
In short, I reiterate that your two priors - panspermia and likelier-than-not Martian life - are misplaced, and are driving you to anti-rational thinking and conclusions in support of those priors.
My description doesn't take a stand on whether the contrarian positions are correct. Yes, most people do tend to see contrarian positions as incorrect, so in their eyes this makes them low quality opinions. But I didn't want to take a stand here on their quality.
re "mainly complaining that the first author had...expressed other contrarian opinions": This seems like the least charitable description - after all, can't the quality of previously expressed opinions be a legitimately useful signal about the likely quality of the current opinion? Imagine that you personally had carefully reviewed three of this author's previous papers and had each time discovered what you believed to be bad science - say claims for which you had very low priors backed up by evidence which you believed was being completely misinterpreted analyzed through statistical techniques you found inappropriate (or just absent). Wouldn't you be justified in avoiding their future papers on these grounds, and also warning others not to waste their time reading them?
Of course while your characterization seems uncharitable, my example is way *too* charitable - I doubt most of the Twitter critics actually did the careful review described above.
Khaldun also said that "the last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish". That's hardly any better than Genesis saying humans came last. The Mars fungi paper has side-by-side photographs of puffballs "growing". If the puffballs turn out to be alive, that's a Nobel for whoever first spotted the growing puffballs.
But note that the bet I offered Robin was about the living puffball theory, and not about whether any particular proponent of it gets hailed. I'm not very interested in that.
I hold elected office and have been writing on the Internet for >30 years. For such a lop-sided bet with someone whose reputation I don't know, I'd have to hold their stake. So if you win in 2045, I'll pay you $1900 in 2045 dollars plus whatever your $100 in 2021 dollars has become worth in 2045. (I won't escrow my side for such lop-sided odds.)
The idea that many rocks moved between the planets is completely standard, not some odd contrarian view. So also is the idea that Mars was similarly habitable early on.
I said not necessarily my opinion, even at 10 to 1. But I would bet $100 against $2000 in favor of the puffballs, by 2045 (because I would be surprised at any human mission to Mars before 2040.)
But more to the point: YOU might count that as the puffball picture being vindicated. That does not mean there would be many academic citations of it. There would not.
Ibn Khaldun said in the 14th century that humans were related to monkeys, and while it is not explicit, he suggests the idea of biological descent. But he is not therefore frequently mentioned as anticipating the truth about human descent.
"First, our priors are that early Mars and early Earth were nearly equally likely as places for life to arise, with Mars being habitable sooner. The rates at which life would have been transferred between the two places look high, though sixty times higher from Mars to Earth than from vice versa. Thus it seems nearly as likely that life started on Mars and then came to Earth, as that life started on Earth. And more likely than not, there was once some life on Mars."
The core claims being made here:1. It it not only conceivable but likely that life travelled between Earth and Mars through 200 million miles of interstellar vacuum.2. It is at least 51% likely that life has existed on Mars.
Both seem far, far afield of good science. The linked article is paywalled, but does not seem to support the strength of your claim from the abstract; it takes pains to reinforce that it's a theoretical paper speculating about hypotheticals alone.
As such, it seems that this mismatch is due to you having developed a cognitive blindness to the weakness of your priors relating to extraterrestrial life. Because you've misunderstood a number of basic tenets, you have created a situation where it seems reasonable for you to believe unfounded, poorly thought-out theories about alien life. You also seem to be searching for evidence that confirms your priors, like that paper on Mars-Earth life transfer, and immediately trusting them due to them confirming your priors, rather than dispassionately evaluating them.
I think Chris was talking about the similar looking spheres in the same photo.
Overall he's just saying that there is more evidence, and that evidence is not helpful for the life hypothesis.
Obviously not. But I think you're at risk of saying "worry about prestige is keeping them from seeing the truth" out of one side of your mouth and "the researchers in this field are blisteringly incompetent" our of the other.
I have been consistently impressed whenever I get to learn about NASA research efforts or anyone involved in interplanetary science, for that matter. None of them are doing it for the money or prestige, as far as I can tell. There aren't that many jobs and tons of people are interested in doing it. It's pretty much the opposite of a tenured History professor gig at Brown. In fact, it seems more and more absurd the more I think about it. Planetary scientists at JPL are driving 10 year old Honda Accords back to homes in exurban Pasadena. To think these folks are prestige-motivated is clear a misunderstanding of how this operation works.
Pick a time frame, and I'll give you the same 10 to 1 odds on the puffballs. When living puffballs are discovered on Mars, that will count as the puffball picture being vindicated.
That seems a critique ready made to dismiss ANY contrarian data. All data is selected from a far larger space, and those who evaluate such contrarian arguments almost never have the time to go look at a thousand times as much data that was not offered as evidence.
Do you have any examples in mind from the past 50 years where a major discovery was ignored by scientific investigators in an evidence-based field because they feared losing prestige? I can't think of any.
I can actually think of a LOT of cases where it's the opposite. A prestigious researcher trots out a major and incorrect announcement because his status didn't permit the review process to work as well as it might. In these instances the investigator is either a) too cocky about his own abilities based on past success (see Vitamin-C and and Pauling or... it escapes me. A prestigious geologist who thought oil wasn't actually from old deposits) Or b) underlings are afraid of contradicting the boss so they falsify results to make him happy. Or he wants to deliver on high expectations. Hwang Woo-suk, for example.