Home » Extraterrestrial life, News » What’s really at stake in finding life on Mars?

What’s really at stake in finding life on Mars?

In an interesting piece in the Washington Post, Joel Achenbach states up front,

Martian life is awfully cryptic. That’s a scientific term: It means life that is out of sight, below the surface, burrowed into ecological niches not easily scrutinized by robotic sentinels from the planet Earth.

Or perhaps it’s not anywhere. Mars may be dead as dead can be.

Going back to the 19th century, a persistent feature of hypothetical Martian life has been the way it has bewitched and teased earthlings but then refused to materialize. Time and again, scientists have detected signatures of Martian life, only to discover that they were written in vanishing ink.

The Curiosity Rover did not detect methane in Mars’ atmosphere, hence the Monday morning assessment quoted.

His good overview article makes clear, however, that the search for extraterrestrial life is driven by a psychological need, and no disappointment really matters.

As Tom Bethell put it in 2007,

Some of us want to believe in extraterrestrials because an article of our secular faith holds that there is nothing exceptional about human life. This is dogma, lacking any justification, but it has already been codified as the Mediocrity Principle. The Earth, life, mankind, and civilization are humdrum, routine developments; nothing out of the ordinary about them. And if that is so, we should expect to find such life all over the Galaxy.

To most people, it would make no difference if we don’t find any such thing, but

The longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer — he worked on the San Francisco docks for 25 years — noted that intellectuals of the past century had done all in their power “to denude the human entity of its uniqueness”; to demonstrate that we are “not essentially distinct from other forms of life.” He contrasted Pascal’s comment that “the firmament, the stars, the earth are not equal in value to the lowest human being,” with that of “the humanitarian” Bertrand Russell: “the stars, the wind in waste places mean more to me than even the human beings I love best.” Somehow, we take that as a sign of our maturity. Our philosophers want to rub our noses in the dust. Thou art dust!

That’s what’s really at stake here.

Sometimes, it takes a comic turn: Achenbach recounts,

Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, related one of the many false-start Martian-life stories: In 1928, when Mars and the Earth came unusually close to one another, some people in the United States got the notion that anyone with a radio transmitter should turn it off. The radio silence would presumably make it easier to detect any radio signals coming from a civilization on Mars.

In fact, some people did detect radio signals coming from somewhere out there. Explained Shostak: “They weren’t actually Martians. They were merely Canadians.”

But that means there’s hope, see?!! Francis Collins and Karl Giberson know how Canadians can become an extraterrestrial separate species. It’s just that they’ve been hard to motivate, that’s all.

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One Response to What’s really at stake in finding life on Mars?

  1. As to Seth Shostak, I believe that this is Shostak in the following video saying ‘all we have to do is to sit here and wait for them to call’,,, right before the phone rings :)

    SETI – Search For Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence receives message from God,,,,, Almost – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4007753

    I find it strange that the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) organization spends millions of dollars vainly searching for signs of extra-terrestrial life in this universe, when all anyone has to do to make solid contact with THE primary ‘extra-terrestrial intelligence’ of the entire universe is to pray with a sincere heart. God certainly does not hide from those who sincerely seek Him. Actually communicating with the Creator of the universe is certainly a lot more exciting than not communicating with some little green men that in all probability do not even exist!

    “When I was young, I said to God, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the universe.’ But God answered, ‘That knowledge is for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And he told me.”
    George Washington Carver

    Related notes:

    The Place of Life and Man in Nature: Defending the Anthropocentric Thesis – Michael J. Denton – February 25, 2013
    Summary (page 11)
    Many of the properties of the key members of Henderson’s vital ensemble —water, oxygen, CO2, HCO3 —are in several instances fit specifically for warm-blooded, air-breathing organisms such as ourselves. These include the thermal properties of water, its low viscosity, the gaseous nature of oxygen and CO2 at ambient temperatures, the inertness of oxygen at ambient temperatures, and the bicarbonate buffer, with its anomalous pKa value and the elegant means of acid-base regulation it provides for air-breathing organisms. Some of their properties are irrelevant to other classes of organisms or even maladaptive.
    It is very hard to believe there could be a similar suite of fitness for advanced carbon-based life forms. If carbon-based life is all there is, as seems likely, then the design of any active complex terrestrial being would have to closely resemble our own. Indeed the suite of properties of water, oxygen, and CO2 together impose such severe constraints on the design and functioning of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems that their design, even down to the details of capillary and alveolar structure can be inferred from first principles. For complex beings of high metabolic rate, the designs actualized in complex Terran forms are all that can be. There are no alternative physiological designs in the domain of carbon-based life that can achieve the high metabolic activity manifest in man and other higher organisms.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2013.1

    Privileged Planet Principle – Michael Strauss – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4318884/

    The Privileged Planet – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnWyPIzTOTw

    Privileged Planet – Observability Correlation – Gonzalez and Richards – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5424431

    The very conditions that make Earth hospitable to intelligent life also make it well suited to viewing and analyzing the universe as a whole.
    – Jay Richards

    Verse and Music:

    Isaiah 45:18-19
    For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens, who is God, who formed the earth and made it, who established it, who did not create it in vain, who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘seek me in vain’; I, the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.”

    Sarah McLachlan – Ordinary Miracle
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqZE4ZDnAkQ

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