Psychics Claim of Evidence of Life on Mars Debunked
This image of Mars taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows what some psychics have claimed to be evidence of life on Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

A team of psychics claims to have found evidence not only of life on Mars, but a large industrial dome and a plume of waste coming from it.

In a recent video presentation titled, "Evidence of Artificiality on Mars," researcher Courtney Brown, founder of an organization of psychics called the Farsight Institute, claimed to have found mysterious features in a photograph of Mars. [See the Mars photo.]

In a YouTube video describing the "anomaly," Brown states, "Here at the top you see a spray.... a straight nozzle that's horizontally placed, and what looks like a pipeline going into a dome... below there's also a very large dome that is highly reflective, it looks like it's made of some sort of resin material."

Brown goes on to say, "We know of no geological processes that produce a horizontal nozzle with a strong powerful spray coming out of it. In fact most geological processes with geysers have flat land and the spray comes up. So that was an anomaly, we wondered: What's that all about?"

This question launched the so-called "Mysteries Project," in which Brown employed a team of psychics (also known as remote viewers) to help him understand the anomaly.

Remote viewing on Mars?

Some remote viewers described tunnels and rooms under the domes and work going on inside them; others explained that the domes might be part of a secret U.S. military experiment; still another explained that the beings that live in the domes do not fully understand the technology they use.

It's all very heady, sci-fi stuff masquerading as scientific research; according to Brown they are "using remote viewing in a scientific manner to do exploration."

There are several errors here, so let's unpack them one at a time. The most obvious mistake is that instead of verifying that the anomaly observed in fact exists, he simply assumes that what he reads into the NASA photo is correct and asks psychics to "confirm" his interpretation.

Seeing things on Mars

This is completely unscientific, because there is no verifiable, third-party data to support or refute either Brown's interpretations or the psychics' information.

Just because Brown sees something that he thinks resembles a spray, a pipeline, or a dome doesn't mean it's actually there.

If the information that a psychic provides agrees with Brown?s interpretation of the photo, Brown deems it "verified." But whether the dome is made of resin, metal, or recycled Britney Spears CDs ? or even exists at all ? is unknowable without sending a space probe there.

If two guesses happen to match, it doesn't "verify" or validate the guess. Without being able to determine what is actually there, everything in this project is not science but instead pure ungrounded speculation, not unlike asking 'How many Martians can dance on the head of a pin?'

Second, even if the "spray" that Brown sees is in fact a spray of some sort, calling it an anomaly because it doesn't resemble Earth's geological geysers is meaningless.

Mars anomaly dissected

Earth and Mars have very different atmospheres, and there is no reason to assume that a spray of some unknown substance on the surface of Mars would look anything like an identical spray here on Earth. So that part of the "anomaly" doesn't even exist. This is grade-school science, and the fact that Brown ? a Ph.D. social scientist at Emory University ? would make such basic mistakes is puzzling.

This is of course not the first time people have claimed to find evidence of structures on Mars. Most famously, American author Richard Hoagland claimed to find a so-called Face on Mars ? which turned out to be merely a trick of the light in a very low-resolution photograph.

If the Farsight Institute wants to spend their time and energy asking psychics to tell them what's inside Courtney Brown's imaginary resin domes on the surface of Mars, they are welcome to.

I'm sure the publicity from the project will help sell more of Brown's books and seminars. The real danger is in misleading the public about how science works, and pretending that the project is scientific, cutting-edge research.

Benjamin Radford is managing editor of the Skeptical Inquirer science magazine. His books, films, and other projects can be found on his website. His Bad Science column appears regularly on LiveScience.

Editor's Note: Several readers have pointed out the absurdity of this claim. We could not agree more. SPACE.com has a long history of pointing out and debunking absurd claims because, frankly, if it's not done, then a lot of people end up buying into the pseudoscience. We in no way meant to give credence to the claim, but we recognize that that risk exists whenever one devotes some ink to debunking. In retrospect, a more skeptical headline would have been in order.