Yesterday’s announcement by NASA scientists, confirming the presence of liquid flowing water on the surface of present-day Mars, filled me with a kind of excitement that I haven’t had in a long time.
It was like the day I first learned about dinosaurs. Or, you know, how I felt every day before cruel reality bludgeoned into my head the fact that Spider-Man could not possibly exist.
It was what I imagine, in some small way, my parents and grandparents experienced when they saw the first grainy images of a human being walking on a different world.
That kind of pure, childlike wonder isn’t really befitting a member of my generation, so I quickly adjourned to the Internet for a healthy dose of cynicism.
NASA announces we've found water on Mars four days before the release of "The Martian". Hmmmm….
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) September 28, 2015
How long will it be before Whole Foods starts selling artisanal, mineral-infused Mars water for $50,000 a bottle? #MarsAnnouncement
— Joe Nelson (@joe___nelson) September 28, 2015
#MarsAnnouncement of flowing water could just be NASA's way of mocking California.
— John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) September 28, 2015
This is what you expect the Internet to do: Take a huge, hopeful, potentially generation-defining positive moment and beat it unmercifully with snarky comments and pee jokes until it retreats into its tiny box, easily consumable and memefiable for the ADD and Facebook-friendly world.
I found my optimism was still intact, and I could still daydream things like, “What does this mean? Could we really be on the verge of finding life on another planet? Can you imagine? How crazy would that be?!”
The problem was that these guys weren’t really mocking the discovery, they were just having a bit of harmless fun, perhaps motivated by a deep-seated subconscious fear of just, you know, being real people who think this awesome thing is awesome.
No, to really crush my soul and eradicate any doubt that humanity might still be capable of collectively dreaming of something simple and good, I had to turn to an organization led by a man who despises those things so much you would think they must have murdered his father before his very eyes.
I’m talking, of course, about Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis. And they didn’t let me down. Their hurried response by Danny Faulkner, who holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from Indiana University, was posted mere hours after the initial announcement, and is exactly what you’d expect from people who absolutely can’t stand it when science makes anyone happy or excited for any reason.
Here’s his opening, which contains pretty much everything you need to know (I bolded the important part for you):
In the search for life elsewhere in the universe, liquid water is the Holy Grail. Liquid water is absolutely essential for life, so in the estimation of many scientists, the presence of liquid water on another planet at the very least opens the door to the possibility of life there. While water is a common substance in the universe, the earth is the only place that we know for certain where liquid water exists. That is, until Monday, September 28, 2015, when NASA officials announced in a press conference the discovery of evidence of liquid water on the surface of Mars. Or, maybe not.
Ah, yes, Dr. Faulkner is one of the great skeptics of the scientific community … you know, except when he is proposing “scientific,” um, “explanations” so chaotic, self-contradictory and nonsensical they make comic book writers look like William freaking Shakespeare.
Faulkner’s article pretty much continues like that, with a lot of science-y sounding jargon thrown in that you’re welcome to click over and read if you want to see how smart he is.
But if you value your brain cells, do this instead. Go to the nearest elementary school playground and wait for recess. Make sure you comb your hair, and bring lots of candy so the kids and teachers all know you’re not some weirdo.
So now you are outside the playground, you’ve given out all your free candy and you’ve convinced the nice police officer that you do, in fact, have pants on underneath your trench coat and are only outside an elementary school because that’s what an Internet writer told you to do.
Watch the kiddos until you find one wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt. Then, listen for the following exchange:
“Spider-Man is lame! Batman is way cooler!”
Finally, call the first kid over to the fence and tell him that in the real world there is absolutely no way Spider-Man could possibly exist. He has to learn this someday, and it’s best that he hears it from you. Then come back to your computer monitor.
The exchange that you just witnessed represents the sum total of the reasoned analysis offered in what I will generously call Faulkner’s “work.” It is 940 words worth of knee-jerk contrarianism for contrarianism’s sake. It is a more well-written, much more long-winded, but no more sophisticated version of “I’m not stupid. You’re stupid!”
It has two reasons for existing. The first is because the worldview groups like AiG have invented and sold to their legions of followers is dependent on the underlying assumption that they know everything worth knowing about everything, because they understand the Bible better than anyone else and … that’s it.
Whenever a new scientific discovery gets headlines, AiG’s only possible responses are, “Yep, we already knew that,” or the scientists are wrong because secularism and/or Satan.
But either way, they must respond, as quickly as possible, so their generous fans and supporters can rest easy in the assurance that Pope Ham and his team have whipped dem nasty lab-coat-wearing sissies once again. This is why they can’t sit on their laurels, and do what, you know, real actual scientists do.
It seems to me like an insanely arrogant, horribly unbiblical and ultimately self-defeating way to conduct, but what do I know? It’s made them millions, after all.
The second reason for Faulkner’s post is to subtly lay the groundwork for addressing what just might be NASA’s next big discovery regarding everyone’s favorite red planet. As Faulkner writes:
Even if remnants of liquid water exist on Mars today, that does not prove that life once existed or exists on Mars today. Furthermore, even if bacteria were found on Mars today or it were shown that bacteria existed on Mars in the past, that would not prove that evolution occurred there, any more than the existence of bacteria on the earth proves that evolution has occurred here. All such a discovery would prove is that bacteria either existed in the past or now exist on Mars.
So, if evidence of microbial life were ever found on Mars, we already know the discovery would be utterly meaningless. #ThanksAiG!
Now if we can just figure out how to keep Ken Ham from putting a phallus on those hypothetical life forms, we’ll be all set.