The reaction to the NASA-arsenic based life story makes a nice study guide to epistemology and how scientists think and how various distorting influences (like media priorities and funding needs) can bollix things up. PZ set us straight last week almost before the ink was dry, Rosie Redfield wrote a scathing analysis on Saturday, Carl Zimmer talked to a dozen experts on Monday.
Almost unanimously, they think the NASA scientists have failed to make their case. “It would be really cool if such a bug existed,” said San Diego State University’s Forest Rohwer, a microbiologist who looks for new species of bacteria and viruses in coral reefs. But, he added, “none of the arguments are very convincing on their own.” That was about as positive as the critics could get. “This paper should not have been published,” said Shelley Copley of the University of Colorado.