In “Mars Probe Revives Theology Debate: Who Might Be Out There?” (Jan. 18-24), speculations behind the launching of the Mars rover Spirit are discussed. The official view is that the $820 million project is justified by the possibility of finding water, or traces of water, on Mars — thereby opening up the possibility of life there, in the past or in the future.

This conjectured “possibility” has, however, no basis in fact. In effect, on Earth itself, employing not only water but also a “soup” of additional inert materials, along with real or synthetic lightning flashes, no such transition is acknowledged as having taken place. (Biology textbooks give vivid pictorial descriptions of this taking place but do not declare, as truth requires, that the scenarios are imaginary, not observed.)

Whence, therefore, the grounds, scientific or otherwise, of the possibility of such a water-to-life occurrence on Mars? (The same non-results would occur if such a transition were actually impossible!)

Hence the actual status of affairs is that the Mars enterprise has no claim that a possible water-to-life transition should exist, since no evidence fulfilling such a possibility of a transition from the nonliving to the living is known to exist.

In view of the non-evidence, optimism for a Mars nonliving-to-living transition is futile, a futility broadened by imaginary views of life from the nonliving now proliferating through the universe! (Meanwhile, sick and homeless people wander the streets of the nation's capital.)

Someone has mentioned, however, that the money is actually well spent. The aim of the expedition, it is said, is to distract the public from thinking about God.

Such a thought is not so outlandish, since a world without God was the aim of Cornell astrophysicist Carl Sagan, an evangelizing atheist. Steven Squyres, NASA's lead scientist in the Spirit mission to Mars, was attracted to Cornell by Sagan.

When the Mars dust settles, the fact is life does exist on Earth: We see when it ends — but no one knows, so far, on earth or on Mars, how it begins, other than by postulating a God. The non-God view is being now reduced, believe it or not, to rightly refuted “spontaneous generation”!

Father Pierre Conway, OP Dominican House of Studies Washington, D.C.