Courtesy of the Phoenix landing craft on Mars we just discovered that there is ice on Mars.
Now that is cool, very cool! In the last century there has been a constant fascination and debate about whether there might be, or might have been, life on Mars. Well, we still have yet to answer that question with any certainty, but at least we know that there is water in some form on the planet. Where there is water, there is a good chance there might be life.
The question is there life elsewhere in the Universe, is a fundamental human question that will ultimately be answered. I am of the school that given the infinite vastness of space, it is a statistical certainty of some other form of highly evolved life (if we can be so charitable as to place our species in that category).
In recent years, with vast new arrays of radio antennae and ever more powerful telescopes we have increased the range of our quest to find such life. This first evidence of water on our nearest planetary neighbor is a major discovery and one that shores up the belief of other life forms elsewhere. Aliens, and alien life forms seem to have a somewhat similar hold on humans that God does, though with profound differences. God is something we believe in and, because it is most often represented in human form, or at least its prophets are, we look kindly on God. We develop personal relationships with God. Because we take it personally, and are told what to believe about it from an early age, we don’t seem to take kindly to alternative interpretations of it. Religious intolerance should be an oxymoron, instead it is a reality. The unknown of God is cast in positive ways, in mysterious ways, in ways that are human centric.
Aliens, or life elsewhere seems to generally to be portrayed as threatening and monster-like and very non-human. Even if they are benevolent, like ET, they are ugly. There is a strong current that they, or it, must be bad and evil. It is almost like God is our projection of our good side and aliens our projection of our evil side. People who claim to have spoken with God start religions and gain followers. People who claim to have spoken with an alien land up on the pages of the National Enquirer. Perhaps we humans perceive aliens as a threat to our religious beliefs. What does the Old Testament say about life elsewhere? What does the Koran say about aliens? Alien life would upset the apple cart of organized religions as it is a threat to our anthropomorphized beliefs. How would we react to a peaceful appearance of an alien species or being in the Middle East? How do we know that the ‘burning bush’ wasn’t an alien? Maybe aliens routinely walk on water on other planets. No one can say for sure that isn’t possible.
Contact with a highly evolved, even a superior, alien life form could have the same transformational effect on humanity that the appearance of God would.
The single best example in literature on this subject is “Childhood’s End” the classic by Arthur C. Clarke. The sudden presence of gargantuan space ships over earth create a unified, peaceful human race as we come together to realize that we are not the most powerful, most highly evolved life form. The appearance of the alien beings in this novel is an intentional act to prepare humanity for its next evolutionary step.
All this rumination from the discovery of two thin sub-surface veins of ice on Mars! That is why we must always be searching the Universe for life. The unknown and the unexplained miracles that occur must drive us to continue to find other forms of life elsewhere. We embrace the unknown in religion. We must embrace the unknown of outer space. Ice on Mars – cool!