ICR’s Jason Lisle: There Was Never Life on Mars

The creationists are absolutely crazed by the continuing barrage of blows being dealt to them by science. First it was Galileo and the solar system, which displaced Earth from the center of the universe. Then it was James Hutton and the age of the Earth, followed a few generations later by Darwin’s theory of evolution. At first these discoveries were few and far between. Most sects have been able to adjust to these challenges, albeit with difficulty. Some are still in furious denial about geology and evolution.

But the blows keep coming and the pace is quickening. Recently we’ve been fascinated by news about:

• the continuing discovery that the galaxy seems to be teeming with billions of stars that have their own planetary systems, and that billions of those extra-solar planets are orbiting within their star’s habitable zone — see, e.g., Earth-sized planets in habitable zones are more common than previously thought; and

• the discovery that Mars once had conditions that were favorable for life — e.g., NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars.

It’s not difficult to figure out why the creationists are so frenzied. Their primitive minds and religious systems compel them to think small — about themselves and their deities. Their thoughts, their gods, their universe, and the meaning of their lives — all of these are small. Very small.

Their god made a simple universe, with an unmovable Earth in the center as its principal object, the focus of divine attention, and humanity was designed as the ultimate goal of creation. The universe is all about us. It always was and always will be. That’s all there is to know. Don’t bother your pretty little head about any of that science stuff — it’s an evil, diabolical plot to lead you astray.

Even the most dim-witted Neanderthal would resist if he were compelled by the clan chief to be forever begging forgiveness for deeds he never committed, and commanded to live in a perpetually precarious state of conditional forgiveness. Surely, even a pre-human brute would flee into the wilderness rather than live in that kind of tyranny. But creationists like those conditions.

This is not an atheist blog, but such a system of deities and dogmas would be an embarrassment even to a blowfish. Nevertheless, that’s what confronts your humble Curmudgeon on a daily basis as we report on the writings and activities of creationists. Consider the latest from the creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. ICR is in a panic about the news we discussed yesterday about the findings of the Martian rover, so they put one of their best minds to work on it.

The result is this tragically stupid piece: Washing Machines on Mars, by Jason Lisle. He has the prestigious job of being ICR’s Director of Research. The last time we wrote about one of his articles was Jason Lisle: Mathematics is Creationist. Jason says, with bold font supplied by us for emphasis:

Several news outlets yesterday heralded early reports from NASA that the Curiosity rover on Mars has found evidence that the red planet could have supported primitive life. But imagine reading the following in the news instead:

[Jason's imaginary news story:] The Mars rover Curiosity once again pushes forward the frontiers of science. The rover has the ability to drill holes in Martian rocks, and to chemically analyze the resulting powder. Such an analysis has recently revealed that Martian rocks contain the following chemicals: sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and carbon. The significance? These are all elements found in washing machines and laundry detergent. Yes, it seems that conditions on ancient Mars were just right for the existence of operational washing machines!

A supremely clever analogy! Then Jason undertakes to demolish his pathetically-constructed straw-man:

Aside from the concluding sentence, the above paragraph is entirely true. Curiosity did find these elements on Mars (they are fairly common elements in the universe). And indeed, such elements are used whenever someone does a load of laundry. But few scientists would draw the conclusion that washing machines once populated the surface of Mars.

That’s a safe assumption. Let’s read on, as Jason explains why his imaginary conclusion is unacceptable:

The reason is simple. It is fallacious to assume the existence of a complex structure on the basis of the mere existence of its raw material. In addition, there is no organizing principle on Mars or informational instructions by which such basic elements could be naturally organized into something as complicated as a washing machine.

Uh huh. We agree, so far. Jason continues:

Living organisms also are comprised of many of these same elements. Like a washing machine, the elements are organized in an intricate and organized way according to the information in a blueprint. There is no known mechanism by which such a structure can come about without a blueprint and creative information.

Aaaargh!! Jason says that if nature can’t construct a washing machine, then logically — cough, cough — it can’t produce living organisms either. Clever, huh? Here’s his conclusion:

So why do we see news articles concluding that Mars possibly had life on the basis that it has some of the same elements? If we wouldn’t conclude that there were probably washing machines on Mars, then why would we infer the existence of something far more complex and intricate?

So there you are, dear reader. Now you know why there was never any life on Mars.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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28 responses to “ICR’s Jason Lisle: There Was Never Life on Mars

  1. Ceteris Paribus

    Lisle says: “Curiosity did find these elements on Mars (they are fairly common elements in the universe).”

    So Lisle is OK with a wastrel Inefficient Designer who mindlessly scattered valuable elements all over the universe, even though they would prove to be useful only on this one lonely planet where Inefficiently Designed life was created.

    From that Lisle might also argue that the US government was intended by the Inefficient Designer to be a theocracy. Otherwise how would we account for the fact that our government has scattered 10 nuclear aircraft carriers around the globe, while the godless communists in Russia and China ,with 5 times more population than the US, have to make do with only 1 carrier each?

  2. If there was no life on Mars why did they need a Laundromat?
    Makes as much sense as Lisle.

  3. @SC: Did you mean “teeming will billions of stars” rather than “teaming with billions of stars” in your first indented paragraph?

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    SC says: “pathetically-constructed straw-man”

    While reading his argument I was thinking ‘suds-man’. Pathetically-constructed … that is brilliantly said (although pretty obvious to all but him).

  5. doodlebugger

    Ceteris says “wastrel Inefficient Designer”
    Sir, the designer very efficiently constructed the microbes
    and viruses and parasites responsible for malaria, small pox, the Black Plague, diptheria, tuberculosis, gangrene, elephntiasis, mumps, chickenpox, shingles. He designed cancer. He designed
    earthquakes, no oops, plate tectonics is wrong, skip that one.
    Plus what about all the other neat inventions. Birth defects, still born,
    infant mortality, cholera, dysentery, pneumonia, Crohn’s disease.
    The list is endless here. There is evidence of design everywhere.
    The designer was clearly no wastrel, nor was he inefficient.
    Plus, the designer made the components that go into haggis, mountain oysters AND chitlins.
    He made scrapple, locusts, plaque, syphilis, glaucoma, osteoarthritis,
    Downes syndrome. harrumphh, a wastrel. NOT.

  6. Gary says:

    Did you mean “teeming will billions of stars” rather than “teaming with billions of stars” in your first indented paragraph?

    Yup. You’ve saved me again. It’s fixed. Thanks.

  7. As a creationist, Jason can make no claim about the existence of washing machines on Mars. A creator can poof anything into existence anywhere, anytime. To say otherwise is to claim knowledge of the creator’s powers and thoughts, which is impossible, or to ignore the creator entirely and apply materialist scientific logic to the problem.

    Creationism, by its nature, must admit the possibility of anything happening anywhere.

  8. docbill1351

    Obviously, washing machines are totally natural products of evolution. Evolution created man, man created washing machines. Ergo, mofo!

    And, in other news, Real Scientists detect water vapor on exoplanet 129 light years thataway.

  9. How do we know washing machines aren’t the dominant life form in the universe? Since about the 1950’s they’ve been living in a symbiotic relationship with us. They clean our clothes, in return we feed them skin particles, water and detergent. And they’ve slowly been evolving, becoming more sophisticated as time moves on. Maybe they’re just waiting, biding their time until they’re ready to take over the planet.

  10. I’m going to take a contrarian view here. After carefully reading Jason Lisle’s article, I couldn’t find anything that says “There Was Never Life on Mars”. The closest he comes is in his last paragraph:

    “So why do we see news articles concluding that Mars possibly had life on the basis that it has some of the same elements? If we wouldn’t conclude that there were probably washing machines on Mars, then why would we infer the existence of something far more complex and intricate?

    He seems to be making the same misinterpretation of NASA’s news release that Klinghoffer made — that NASA said there’s evidence of life on Mars.
    But Lisle is not saying “There Was Never Life on Mars”. He’s just saying that we can’t infer “life” just because we found these elements. I hate to say it, but I agree. (I don’t agree with his washing machine analogy, however. Life on earth has clearly progressed from very simple forms to more complex, and it’s not unreasonable to think that the earliest, simplest form could have started without “outside help”. Not so for the washing machine.)

    Frankly, I think NASA is stretching it a bit by implying life may have existed on Mars just because they found elements on Mars that are in living things on Earth. We already knew these elements existed on Mars. NASA is just putting out a steady stream of news releases to keep the public interested — whether there’s any real news to report or not.

  11. Just wait until washing machines access the internet…

  12. This is the best mind the ICR has to offer?

  13. retiredsciguy says:

    But Lisle is not saying “There Was Never Life on Mars”. He’s just saying that we can’t infer “life” just because we found these elements.

    But he says more than that. In his second-to-last paragraph he says: “There is no known mechanism by which such a structure [a washing machine] can come about without a blueprint and creative information.” And in his last paragraph he says: “If we wouldn’t conclude that there were probably washing machines on Mars, then why would we infer the existence of something far more complex and intricate?” His meaning is clear. If unaided nature couldn’t do the simple thing (make a washing machine) then it couldn’t produce life, which (he says) is far more complicated.

  14. Ed's Washer

    Ed,
    Your clothes are done.

  15. Realist1948

    Ed wrote Just wait until washing machines access the internet…


    If we get smart electric meters or a smart grid, your washing machine might go online to monitor the current price of electricity, and do its thing when power is cheap. If your washing machine is lonely, it might go to dating sites, too… Top loading 1995 Maytag seeks newer model dryer for a tumble…

  16. Realist1948, our Maytag overlords regretfully report that they are unable to clean your underwear.

  17. Ceteris Paribus

    Realist1948 Not only will the Maytag overloads not allow your underwear to be cleaned, they advise that in at least 40 of the 50 states only front loading washers and matching tumble dryers are legal.

    And lifting the lid to look into a top loader during the spin cycle is not only kinky, it can cause loss of matching socks when you grow up.

  18. gnome de net

    Dave wrote:

    How do we know washing machines aren’t the dominant life form in the universe? Since about the 1950′s they’ve been living in a symbiotic relationship with us. They clean our clothes, in return we feed them skin particles, water and detergent.

    Don’t forget socks (but never more than one from each pair).

  19. gnome de net

    That’s what happens when you don’t refresh the page before posting!

  20. Realist1948

    CP wrote And lifting the lid to look into a top loader during the spin cycle is not only kinky, it can cause loss of matching socks when you grow up.
    What about those front loaders with clear glass windows? Not only do I not risk losing a sock, I can watch the action without fear of laundrus interruptus. Reminds me of a song by The Pretenders…

    http://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?p=pretenders+watching+the+clothes+go+round

  21. Just got an email from my stacked washer / dryer pair. They’re holding my socks hostage until I arrange for the washer to be on top….

  22. Ceteris Paribus

    And remind the happy pair to practice safe laundry by always using a lint filter.

  23. retiredsciguy,

    //// But Lisle is not saying “There Was Never Life on Mars”. He’s just saying that we can’t infer “life” just because we found these elements. I hate to say it, but I agree. Frankly, I think NASA is stretching it a bit by implying life may have existed on Mars just because they found elements on Mars that are in living things on Earth. We already knew these elements existed on Mars. ////

    You’re confusing what NASA reported. First, they didn’t infer life from the chemicals found. They simply said conditions were suitable. Second, this discovery is different from previous ones in that the soil was neutral or mildly alkaline, unlike the harsh acidic conditions found before. Curiosity detected a mixture of oxidized, less-oxidized, & non-oxidized substances providing an energy gradient of the sort many microbes on Earth exploit to live.

  24. Hmm. Perhaps Jason Lisle, Ph.D. is talking about anisotropic washing machines. That would explain everything! If Mars had all those washing machines, it proves that Mars had lots of water — so where did it all go?

    Isn’t it obvious? It all wound up on Earth in Noah’s Flood!

  25. docbill1351

    Lisle has screwed himself, not uncommon for a creationist. He announced that all these elements are common throughout the Universe. Now astronomers have estimated that perhaps EVERY star has planets and that planets like Earth may be as common as 10-penny nails. So, you get life originating on little old Earth and now you have life likely to originate around EVERY STAR IN THE FREAKING UNIVERSE!!!

    I don’t think he saw that coming. But, then, he works in a former Kwiky-Mart building in Dallas, the perk, I guess, is having a Slurpee machine in reception.

  26. Stig's mate

    How does he know there’s no washing machines on Mars? Has he been there?

  27. Dr Lisle says: “It is fallacious to assume the existence of a complex structure [such as a washing machine or life] on the basis of the mere existence of its raw material. In addition, there is no organizing principle on Mars or informational instructions by which such basic elements could be naturally [or otherwise] organized into something as complicated as a washing machine.”

    Wisdom from the mouths of boobs!! Since Mars has neither washing machine factories, nor gods that might be able to swish up washing machines, such devises are vanishingly unlikely even if conditions are favorable to their existence. My modest expertise on the topic tells me that much the same can be said with respect to life. For life to exist you need both the physical and chemical conditions for its origin (not merely for its existence) AND lots and lots of time for chance to act (panspermia excluded). The fact that NASA ignores the issue of origin suggests that that they are either simpletons, woo-mongers, or dishonest, or all of the above.

    My wager: $1000.00 (I’m poor) that native life will not be found on Mars (within the next 10 years).

  28. @Borny: That’s not what I said. I didn’t say NASA inferred life from the chemicals found. What I said was:

    “I think NASA is stretching it a bit by implying life may have existed on Mars just because they found elements on Mars that are in living things on Earth.”

    “Imply” does not mean “infer”. I know NASA is not stating that life did exist on Mars. It does appear, though, that NASA is trying to drum up public interest in funding more Mars projects.

    Although finding unequivocal evidence of life on Mars would be huge, it would do nothing to prevent the next mass extinction event from occurring on Earth. There are a lot of stray bullets out there, folks. It’s not a question of if Earth will be hit again, but when. Personally, I’d like to see NASA spend some effort in getting public (read “political”) support behind research to prevent the next would-be cosmic collision.

    Creationist politicians are a clear threat to the future survival of mankind. By denying evolution, they are denying paleontology. Without paleontology, we would have no knowledge of past mass extinction events. We know now that extraterrestrial impacts are the probable cause of most, if not all, extinction events (some might argue this, but a strong case can be made).

    So by denying evolution, the creationist cult denies the fact that mass extinctions have occurred. If politicians think this, they will not fund any efforts to prevent impacts from happening in the future.