The UK Telegraph ran a story today about the private efforts to send people to Mars. Nothing really new here for anyone who follows this stuff, but it’s interesting to me that this is being treated seriously by the popular media and not just other space fanboys.
But if we’re going to do stuff with the potential to be suicidally dumb, we’d better get serious about our spacefaring capabilities. Those Star Destroyers aren’t going to build themselves.
Is there intelligent life out there? Beats me. I tend to doubt it, but that’s only because of my Christian faith. It’s not a concept that I take all that seriously, though it wouldn’t be a shock if there’s other life out there – finding microbes on Mars or sea creatures on Europa wouldn’t be any more theologically jarring than finding a new species at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.
Finding sentient life would be an entirely different matter, and I have to admit it would shake me to my foundations if it happened. And I like to think of myself as a fairly open-minded guy: I’ve made peace with the concept of evolution alongside the creation story in Genesis. My God is big enough, and science can’t explain everything. A lot of fellow believers haven’t reconciled themselves with that – too many, in fact, have blown off science entirely because it challenges their belief system and they just don’t want to have to think about it.
Presuming there is intelligence out there, how can we be sure they’d be good neighbors? I never bought into the starry-eyed presumption that the only way a civilization could make it that far was through peaceful coexistence, because anything else would have surely resulted in their annihilation.
Well, isn’t that nice? Think happy thoughts. Happy people. Happy trees. Shiny shiny.
What a load of crap.
Real scientists will no doubt tut-tut my ignorance but it seems to me that if there are other civilizations in the universe, there’s only a few reasons we haven’t heard from them:
1. They’re really that much smarter than us and don’t think we’re ready for it.
2. They’re no smarter than us and haven’t been broadcasting for long enough.
3. They’re smarter than us and know the neighborhood’s not safe, so shut up already before you attract any more attention to yourselves!
The first time I read about hypothesis (3), I was stunned that it hadn’t been advanced earlier: what if everyone who can communicate doesn’t because there’s a really good reason not to? Should we be carrying on like we’re in the ol’ Griswold Vacation Wagon, broadcasting our suburban-honky naivete to all the gang-bangers within earshot? Because if predators count on anything, it’s the prey’s ignorance that they’re being stalked.
Of course, I’m always looking for reasons to stock up on ammo.