Is there Life on Mars, and does it matter? Forty-odd years ago, The Bowie Boy seemed to think the query merited framing in a song that still plays to the gallery today. More recently, in October of this year, Barack Obama declared Mars a des-rez piece of real estate worth investing billions of dollars in proposed sheltered housing on the red planet.
Of course, it’s a good question to ask, but it does rather depend on what you mean by life. There is, for example, Life on Earth, and it comes in a myriad shapes, forms and structures, and exists at many levels. We have yet to fully understand life on earth in all its wondrous diversity, and much of it will disappear before it has even been witnessed, described and recorded. It is also rare in the Universe, but you wouldn’t think it if the way that earthlings behave.
It ought to be clear by now as the humanity project struggles to get out of first gear that our regard for life is a sometime thing. You often hear about the sanctity of life, but humans always talk a good game, and nowhere more so than from the leadership platforms around the globe. So, what’s the urgency about Mars? After all, we have plenty of work to do down here as it is. We still have to find a way to achieve the sanctity of life, or at the very least win some respect for it. And that’s before we start dealing with all the Martians living among us today.
A visitor to our 21st-Century world would come to the inescapable conclusion that humanity cannot escape from the demons in its own DNA. As a species, humans had already begun down the path of self-destruction long before Oppenheimer put the icing on the cake. At the heart of this flaw in our nature is a willingness to use violence to lethal effect for perceived gain. Sophists will argue that this is merely the nature of nature, but the reduction of all relationships on Earth to that of predator and prey belittles the collective intelligence of humanity.
The world is better connected than it has ever been yet it is no closer to Peace on Earth now than it has been at any other time in history. More dangerously, there is such a strong fear of a war to end all wars, that an appetite it seems to get growing daily for it; almost as if we want to get it over and done with. Trouble is, once we’re done with this planet, our next best option might be a trailer park on Mars. Maybe, that’s why the question keeps popping up in conversation. Is there already life on Mars?
Don’t concern yourself about that. All life that we know of for now is all around us. Mars is not habitable. That’s why there are all these Martians living openly on our island earth. The climate is great, there’s plenty of room and nature provides bounteously. The thing is, they don’t see what we see; that resources are also finite. Good stewardship must prevail over rapacious consumption otherwise you end up with planets that look like Mars.
The first step along the road to nowhere is to deny there is a problem. The current, fashionable cult of denial can only be the product of Martian thinking, which is intuitively arid and hostile to reason. Humans are capable of creative thinking that is much more productive than that, and that’s why we have to stop banging on about Mars. More importantly, we have to stop listening to Martians, who do know better, they just choose to ignore our customs.
It is no fanciful whim that prompts this editorial at this particular time of year. One especially strong set of conventions among humans is to stop, calm down, reflect, re-organise and redirect in times of crisis. Other life forms simply run away from their responsibilities.
A season of goodwill at the turn of the year is one of our better ideas, but it needs to be affirmed as a template for further variations on themes of harmony and understanding. Call it Christmas, if you like. I do, for I believe that we need a fixed point among our troubled stars if we are ever to transcend the tragedy of all our lost causes.
Of course, a time of reflection may only serve to deepen a prevailing mood of pessimism, and the temptation to jump ship is always there amongst the faint-hearted. We all have our stop-the-earth-I want-to get-off moments, but the tough truth is that peace on earth really is our only option. War is over if you want it more than an ego-massage from those to who whom consensus is an alien concept.
So, don’t concern yourself with Mars, don’t listen to anything a Martian says and don’t even think about being the first kid on the block to stick your flag in the red dust. It’s hard enough to communicate among ourselves with earthbound barriers like television and the internet in the way, so how will we ever communicate properly if you’re on Mars and the rest of us are down here?
1320Radio is an interstellar radio station from Scotland. It broadcasts to the back of beyond, and if you have wi-fi, you can listen in from Mars too.