Liquid Water on Mars?

Scientists have announced indirect evidence of liquid water on the surface of Mars, raising hopes among secular scientists that life may be present on the "red planet."1,2,3 But why do they hope for this—and are such hopes realistic?

Images obtained by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) show dark, narrow streaks (about 100 meters long) running downhill. These streaks, called recurring slope lineae, lengthen and darken during warm seasons but fade in cooler seasons. Spectroscopic imaging suggests that the streaks are composed of hydrated (water-containing) salts.

Mars' thin atmosphere and often frigid surface temperatures generally prevent the existence of liquid water on the surface. However, the presence of salts in water would allow the water to exist as a liquid over a greater temperature range than water in a pure state. Hence, the authors of the study believe these salts enable liquid water to exist on the surface, albeit briefly.

The source of water for these streaks is still unknown, although one suggestion is that the salts pull water vapor out of the Martian atmosphere in a process called deliquescence.

Full confirmation of this purported discovery will be delayed, perhaps indefinitely, as an international treaty bans "harmful contamination" of celestial bodies. Vehicles and robots that have not been completely sterilized will not be allowed to approach suspected water sites in order to prevent possible contamination with microbes that may have originated on Earth.4,5 However, if Martian water is confirmed, it would definitely be a significant discovery, though not nearly as important as evolutionary scientists would like to make it out to be.

First, any present-day liquid water that might exist on Mars is likely miniscule. Regarding the recurring slope linae, the NASA press release states, "Scientists say [sic] it's likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening" [emphasis added].2

Second, it has long been known that large quantities of liquid water were present on the Martian surface, although likely only for a brief time. Moreover, there is extensive evidence for catastrophic flooding on Mars.6 It is one of the ironies of the creation-evolution controversy, that evolutionary scientists have no trouble accepting the idea of catastrophic flooding on Mars (despite the presence of, at best, miniscule amounts of liquid water on the surface today), yet they vehemently deny the possibility of global catastrophic flooding on Earth, a planet seventy percent of which is still underwater!6

One might well ask, "Why are evolutionary scientists so excited about the possibility of liquid water on another planet?" Since liquid water is essential for life as we know it, they think its presence on other planets means that life might exist there.

Based upon biblical considerations, most creation scientists absolutely do not expect intelligent extraterrestrial life to exist and think it is unlikely (though perhaps not impossible) that unintelligent life would exist elsewhere in the universe.7,8,9 Likewise, since microbes appear designed to benefit multicellular creatures (the fact that some microbes cause disease seems to be the result of genetic deterioration in a fallen world),10 it is unlikely that in situ microbes will be found on a desolate planet like Mars.

Evolutionary scientists, on the other hand, desperately want to find extraterrestrial life because they realize that life does seem far too complicated to have arisen naturally. In their minds, finding life on other planets would somehow make the evolutionary story appear more plausible and remove the need for a Creator. In the absence of evidence for actual extraterrestrial life, finding liquid water, a pre-requisite for life, is the next best thing.

But the possible presence of liquid water on another planet does not help the evolutionary story at all. Liquid water is abundant on Earth, yet the problems with secular explanations for the origin of life on this planet are so great that even secular researchers have admitted that they don't know how life originated on Earth—as a whole they are at a complete impasse.11 Likewise, the presence of primordial water is actually a problem for secular origin-of-life stories: water tends to break apart complex biomolecules via chemical reactions known as hydrolysis. So although liquid water is necessary for life, its presence is actually destructive to the very biomolecules that are supposedly in the process of forming in a primordial soup!12

Hence, even if in situ microbial life were to be found on Mars, its existence would still require a miracle, as even single-celled organisms are far too complicated to be explained by natural processes. Two well-crafted precision watches found on two different beaches both need a designer. Yet secular scientists act as if the existence of complex micro-machines on a second planet somehow implies that the complex machines on the first planet didn't need a designer! Obviously, such reasoning is nonsense.13

But of course, life has not been found on Mars, only indirect evidence for small amounts of liquid water on the surface.

As one creation astronomer has noted, this story really is "much ado about very little."14


  1. Ojha, L. et al. 2015. Spectral evidence for hydrated salts in recurring slope lineae on Mars. Nature Geoscience. DOI: 10.1038 / 2546. 
  2. Brown, D., L. Cantillo, G. Webster, and G. Anderson. NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today's Mars. NASA press release. Posted on September 28, 2015, accessed September 30, 2015. 
  3. Pearson, M. Liquid water exists on Mars, boosting hopes for life there, NASA says. Posted on September 29, 2015, accessed September 30, 2015. 
  4. Crew, B. Here's why NASA's Mars rovers are banned from investigating that liquid water. Posted on September 30, 2015, accessed October 1, 2015. 
  5. United Nations Resolution 2222 (XXI). Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. Article IX. Posted on 
  6. Snelling, A. 2007. Water Activity on Mars: Landscapes and Sedimentary Strata. Acts & Facts. 36 (2). 
  7. Hebert, J. Strong Evidence for Life on Mars? Science News Update. Posted on February 8, 2013, accessed September 30, 2015. 
  8. Because of the universality of the curse imposed on the creation as a result of Adam's sin (Romans 8:19-22), any intelligent life that might exist in the universe would also be suffering as a result of Adam's sin, which hardly seems fair. Moreover, 1 Corinthians 4:9 may suggest that men and angels are the only intelligent created beings in the universe.
  9. See Isaiah 45:18.
  10. Francis, J. What About Bacteria? Posted on January 23, 2015, accessed October 1, 2015. 
  11. Gish, D. 2007. A Few Reasons an Evolutionary Origin of Life is Impossible. Acts & Facts. 36 (1). 
  12. Sarfati. J. 1998. Origin of life: the polymerization problem. Journal of Creation. 12 (3): 281-284. 
  13. Psarris, S. 2009. DVD. What You Aren't Being Told About Astronomy, Volume 1: Our Created Solar System. Creation Astronomy Media.
  14. Faulkner, D. Mars Water: Much Ado About Very Little. Posted on September 28, 2015, accessed September 30, 2015. 

Image Credit: Copyright © 2015 Credit Jet Propulsion Laboratory/University of Arizona, via NASA. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.

*Dr. Hebert is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Dallas.

Article posted on October 8, 2015.