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Mars. Man, you gotta go.

There’s a hell of a nice universe next door. Let’s go.”

For the first time in decades, the possibility of going to Mars has been brought forward and placed on the table for discussion and debate. Not only that, designs for Mars rockets have been drawn up and prototypes have been built and are nearing the launch phase. 

I’ve been carrying on a conversation with a friend over the past few weeks about the immediate ramifications of Mars, The Going To. That and the larger issues that Mars illuminates. Those issues came to mind this morning when an email from the friend mentioned above said:

….if, indeed, life and intelligent life are as prevalent as we think they should be, why aren’t we (a) intercepting millions of alien broadcasts in the electromagnetic spectrum, and (b) positively inundated with alien landings?

One reason that is disturbing in a deep way is that we’re all wrong, and we’re all alone…What if, in all those billions of galaxies, we’re it?

Gives me the shivers.

….Look at us, mankind. We’ve been given the gift of intelligence, and the ability to expand our ecosystem out into space, where, with some significant but not insurmountable effort, we could spread like a proverbial virus.

“Oh heavens above,” I thought. All we need to do is figure out how to make a wheel within a wheel to take us away to the middle of the air.

But the Religion of Intelligent Life Is Everywhere (ILIE) requires proof that our Extraterrestrial Civilizations (ETC) exist and from that you get the High Church of SETI ( Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) scanning the skies until their deep jungle telescope collapses.

All we need is one, just one, captured episode of some far-stars afternoon sitcom and we’ll know ILIE is the one true religion. It will show us that we are not, as mentioned above, a fluke of the universe; that we are not alone.

That said, I suspect that we are, indeed, alone. Or, if not exactly alone, alone enough that it makes no practical difference.

Many years ago I read a stirring beautiful book by Guy Murchie called The Seven Mysteries of Life. It is a complicated bit of scientific romanticism and I won’t go into it in detail. Besides I’m sure if I re-read it now it would seem antiquated, even quaint. But at some point in that book, Murchie began to take on the Googlenumber of stars – X stars = X Stars Supporting Intelligent Life proposition that forms the foundation for the ILIE Religion. Murchie’s Goldilocks argument removes stars from the board of life for being in the center of galaxies, being multiple, being too big, too small, too young, too old, too hot, too cold etcetera, etcetera, and turtles all the way down until almost none are just right. This gets you a much smaller number of stars with planets and then, through the application of other elements, makes that number smaller and smaller until you get to, well, the single planet on which we have found intelligent life, Earth. In sum, Murchie’s “countdown to one” is at least as compelling as the arguments for ILIE.

But they are both still religions and we are returned, just when we thought we’d escaped into the one true faith of ILIE, back to a situation of dueling faiths each playing a slightly different tune even if the underlying harmonic blends. But let’s boost the all-alone track for now and dampen the ILIE part of the mix. Let’s say that we are all alone and that Murchie’s argument is correct. After all, the all-aloners do have a planet to stand on. The others need at least two planets to get going.

If we are alone, if we are a fluke, then what we do will hardly matter to anything other than ourselves. Hence, we need to take responsibility for our actions as a race. If we are all that is we need to keep going — if only from the imperative that life must keep going even if it is to no purpose other than simple replication. To achieve continuity with any certainty we have to create, it seems to me, a second planet just as an insurance policy, a safe haven. This is, to my mind, the most cogent argument for Mars. Elon Musk seems to agree with me and though simple agreement is not proof of a proposition, I’ll side with Musk. 


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sam Flynn October 28, 2022, 10:47 AM

    WEF Elon is going to lead us there in flying Teslas!
    Isn’t Mars the Roman god of WAR? (rhetorical is fun)
    Atlas Farted.

  • patvann October 28, 2022, 1:19 PM

    I think we’re alone, and that God hoped that we might grow into very curious monkeys, and if we did, we would need a very big sandbox to play in.
    We look for the edges of our box, as all children do.

    • Mike Austin October 28, 2022, 3:20 PM

      The edges of our sandbox? I have yet to find mine. I am 69. Not really looking, but I know they are not in the jungles of Northen Guatemala, not off the Mosquito Coast of Honduras, not somewhere in the Darien Gap, and not among the Chachapoyan ruins in the Peruvian Andes. I will keep looking. Somehow I think that on the day when—if—I find them, that will be my last day on earth.

      Fine by me.

      • patvann October 29, 2022, 2:42 PM

        I was thinking a bit bigger than that. Longer timeframe, as well. It’s not the universe’s fault you’re so angry at it.

      • patvann October 29, 2022, 2:43 PM

        I was thinking a bit bigger than that. Longer timeframe, as well.
        It’s not the universe’s (nor God’s) fault that you’re so angry with your fellow apes.

        • Mike Austin October 29, 2022, 6:24 PM

          Angry? Not at all. I am delighted at the Universe and my place in it. I am the luckiest man in the world. You might not be able to understand this, but that is hardly my fault.

  • james wilson October 28, 2022, 2:49 PM

    If the universe were finite a case could be made that we are alone, I guess. But the nature of infinity precludes that possibility. Where we might as well be alone is found in the peculiarities of homo sapien. Even if a lion could speak we would not understand him.

    • Mike Austin October 28, 2022, 2:59 PM

      Who said the Universe was infinite? You are begging the question here.

      One could understand a lion—and all animals—if one were as pure as Saint Francis. He spoke to them daily.

      • james wilson October 28, 2022, 10:49 PM

        The universe, like time, exactly like time, is infinite because, like time, it can’t be anything else. And, sorry you can’t or won’t understand the subtlty of Ludwig Wittenstein. Maybe Francis could.

        • Mike Austin October 29, 2022, 6:04 AM

          Somehow self-loathing, suicidal, Austrian homosexual philosophers don’t appeal to me. I am glad that they appeal to you. Birds of a feather and all that.

          But at least you did not mention de Tocqueville.

          • james wilson October 29, 2022, 12:39 PM

            Birds of a feather would be more like Francis and Mohammad, one chatting with a lion and one with a mule. Even the ground under a suicidal fag appears solid by comparison. Tchaikovsky says hello.

            • Mike Austin October 29, 2022, 1:58 PM

              Francis? You mean anti-Pope Francis? There is no such person as a “Pope Francis”. The pope is Benedict XVI. The theology behind this might be a bit confusing to you. Just stick with your “suicidal fag” and not comment on things you do not understand.

              And as for questions of time and infinity: I’ll stick with Genesis and not with the irrational scrivenings of some sordid and sexually degenerate intellectual.

              • james wilson October 30, 2022, 12:18 PM

                The Universe According To Mike Austin knows the reasoning of God when not a single soul can explain quantum entanglement or the quantum world hidden within our world. Brazen.
                A universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind capable of understanding it.

            • Mike Austin October 30, 2022, 4:25 AM

              Do you mean that heretic and blasphemer who calls himself “Pope Francis”? He is an antipope, the real pope being Benedict XVI. The reasons for this would confuse you—that is, would confuse you more than you already are—so I will simply let them be.

  • Ray Van Dune October 28, 2022, 5:47 PM

    I recall reading the following about the “Law of Very Large Numbers”, which would seem to apply here…

    “If something CAN happen, it WILL happen!
    And it will happen a metric shit-ton of times!”

    (My memory may have muddled that last part.)

    • Mike Austin October 29, 2022, 6:33 PM

      Not so. You imply infinite possibilities from a finite set of material. That is illogical. Infinite numbers have no reality in our finite material universe. These exist only in the minds of mathematicians and nowhere else. God has set physical laws that preclude such a universe. He had reasons for doing so.

      • james wilson October 30, 2022, 12:18 AM

        God’s rules? We don’t even know the reasons God has for the quantum world within our world, which is often a massive violation of the Rules of God According To Austin. ROGATA. Long after it has been proven real no one even attemps to explain how quantum entanglement can possibly exist. Or anything else inside that extraordinarily peculiar world inside our world. And likely outside it. Beam me up, Scotty.

        • Mike Austin October 30, 2022, 4:18 AM

          Scotty beamed you up a long time ago, though you haven’t noticed it yet.

  • Ray Van Dune October 30, 2022, 8:34 AM

    Try as I might, I cannot find the word “infinity” in my comment above. I guess I was not speaking of or implying anything about the infinite, but about the very large.

    When I used to work in an open office, I made a habit of having an astronomy image as a screen saver. One day I had up a very plain image that looked like orange smoke. When I was asked why smoke instead of an astro-image today, I responded that it was not smoke, it was stars.

    • Mike Austin October 30, 2022, 8:48 AM

      One does not have to use “very large numbers” to imply infinity. How many numbers exist between the numbers 1 and 2?

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