It is not inevitable that humanity is going to discover the existence of life in universe beyond Earth. Such life could very well be non-existent. Or, very very far away. Or, long since gone and erased from the evidence record. The actuality of life forms other than those supported by our planet remains for now a mystery.
Still, doesn’t it kind of feel like we’re getting warmer? How much longer can it be? I know that’s optimistic. I’m okay with that.
Optimism is deeply embedded in my operating system. I look forward to the future with eagerness and hope, and a willingness for surprises. Often in this space I write about the tendency of American politicians and planners to prepare for the world to fall apart, to see in the future chaos brought about by human frailty and failure, requiring firearms and contingency plans to keep the marauders at bay.
The movies and art of our times are no better than our politicians. The human imagination of the early 21st century apparently envisions a future of survivalism and despair, of fleeing Earth out of desperate necessity, and using our creativity to outlast the apocalypse. I love Cormac McCarthy, too. But, really, I don’t think we’re going to destroy ourselves. I think we’re going to better ourselves. We’ll leave our home, not because the Earth got used up, like Firefly, but because we want to explore strange new worlds and seek out new life and new civilizations, like TNG. When the news comes to Earth of life on other shores it will be good news, not a death sentence.
I have no evidence that this is true, and it is not inevitable. Among those who are smarter than I (which is a lot of people), some are quite determined there is no reason to believe life exists anywhere but here. It’s quite possible that life on earth is a one-off fluke, the outlier rather than the norm. I don’t know. But many things which are not inevitable will turn out to be so. Not inevitably, then, I still believe the future will be better than the past. Science is helpful and people are, in the long arc of history, improving. Science and human creativity will continue to combine to expand human knowledge, to create objects of beauty, to improve our deteriorating relationship with our planet, and even, to find others in the universe to learn from. I’ll take the optimism; I’m okay with that.
I think, pretty soon, we’re going to find life. It might have been on Mars, once, in some form, or it might not. According to the team at NASA’s JPL, the Mars Rover has discovered the necessary elements to indicate that at some point in the planet’s past, Mars had conditions capable of supporting microbial life. That doesn’t mean it ever did, only that at some time it could have. “We have characterized a very ancient, but strangely new ‘gray Mars’ where conditions once were favorable for life.” That’s fucking crazy.
It’s out there, somewhere, right? Some microbial movement in the muck of a yet undiscovered moon? Probably.