Life in a meteorite: Claims by N. C. Wickramasinghe of diatoms in a meteorite are almost certainly wrong.

In the end, the idea of life in space is a scientific one, and must be solved with scientific processes. Careful scientific processes. After all, this is one of the biggest and most fundamental questions we have. Flamboyant articles with grand conclusions based on questionably-conducted research and incomplete reporting are not the right way to go about this.

via Life in a meteorite: Claims by N. C. Wickramasinghe of diatoms in a meteorite are almost certainly wrong.

I disagree with Phil Plait on a few things, but here I think he is exactly right. Evidence of extraterrestrial life would be a super extraordinary claim, and super extraordinary claims require super extraordinary evidence. And the Wickramasinghe paper isn’t even close.

Wickramasinghe was a student and collaborator of Fred Hoyle, the famous and eccentric British cosmologist. Hoyle had some clever and interesting at the time ideas such as continuous creation, and his work on stellar nucleosynthesis was brilliant. Wickramasinghe worked with Hoyle on the idea of panspermia–life is common in the Universe and life on Earth originated due to extraterrestrial contamination. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe also believed the evolution of life on Earth is influenced by a continual bombardment of viruses from comets and the like. A discovery of diatoms in a meteorite would move those ideas from fringe to hot topic status. One can see why Wickramasinghe would be eager to find fossils in meteorites. All the more reason to maintain a skeptical, show me the evidence attitude. Plait lays out the skeptic’s case quite well.

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