From SpaceDaily on the debate on finding life and the Viking Mars landers.
In the context of this debate, this is for fun, just to discuss what we can imagine out of our own brains about what life might be like if it were not so Earth-centric.
Steve Benner: I agree with that. The Viking 1976 experiments were designed by Joshua Lederberg, Norm Horowitz and Gil Levin, excellent outstanding molecular biologists. They should have been designed by organic chemists, and that was a paid political announcement brought to you by the American Chemical Society - and a card-carrying member of that.
One of the problems with life detection on Mars was that the 1976 experience contaminated the history of designing life detection. What's quite clear is that we have to throw at Mars whatever we can get in terms of sophisticated chemical analysis and instruments.
Every paper that I write, I say that it makes absolutely good sense for pragmatic reasons to follow the water, not because I can't conceive in an atmosphere of a life form that lives in ammonia or supercritical hydrogen helium fluids, but because it's the most likely way to not only find life, but to be able to recognize it if we do find it. It's hard enough to design something to find life in water. I couldn't even begin to design something to detect life that's a little bit different chemically from what we know.
From Astrobiology the series of discussions on finding life in the cosmos called "Launching the Alien Debates":