We’re fascinated with Mars and beyond. Truth be told we really hope our planetary probes find something not unlike Mr. Spock, Luke Skywalker or E.T. It may take more than a few months or a couple of our mortal lifetimes, then again it might never come to pass, but it is naive not to believe that somewhere beyond our Sun’s gravitational influence other forms of life exist.
Perhaps at this very moment a celestial neighbour, looking in the direction of our own star system, is asking a friend, “Ever wonder if there’s life out there, eh, Bob?”
With respect to NASA, Star Trek, Steven Spielberg and the good inhabitants of the Orion Nebula, belief in an extra-terrestrial presence is theological, not unlike one’s faith in a particular God, the (1st or 2nd) coming of a Progeny with evangelical predictions of a catastrophic homecoming. Both theological and extra-terrestrial theories seek revelation, communication, salvation and (sadly) vindication.
If Star Trek’s assimilating Borg or Klingon warriors come knocking, all bets are off. Resistance would be futile; and likewise for a theological visitation? If it’s a spiritual deity that makes an appearance I, for one, can only hope, ironically pray, that the occasional reference in the Christian Bible to a “merciful God” isn’t just column-space fodder or New Testament feel-good sidebars.
Are we the only intelligent life in the universe or its Forrest Gump?
What if Arthur C. Clark was wrong in 2001: A Space Odyssey? What if a one-eyed one-horn flyin’ purple people eater from beyond the orbiting rock synonymous with Mickey Mouse’s dog didn’t leave a monolith to nurture our species from the first organic molecules to what we have become today? “Imagine”, as John Lennon wrote, “there is no Heaven, above us only sky.” What if the Terrans of Earth are a unique sentient and the only intelligent life form throughout the entire galaxy? Frightening thought, eh? The alternative would be that intelligent life flourishes throughout the universe and we’re the Milky Way’s equivalent of Forrest Gump.
What does this tell us about humans and our evolutionary march through millennia?
From 5,000 BC, when the earliest cities of Mesopotamia first appeared, to modern day wars, starvation, terror and “what’s in it for me” governments and special interest groups, humanity has had seven millennia to get it right. We had the ability to crawl out of the primal ooze and develop the species, to bear witness to self-revelation, enhance global health, promote education and encourage the desire to be what one want to achieve, to make art, history, philosophy, and justice the cornerstones of our existence. To bask in moral salvation, equality, respect and empathy.
So, Forrest, how are we doing so far?
How far we have come as a species is light years from “fascinating”
After 7,000 years, not everyone has decent shelter. Not all regions of the planet produce or process enough food to ensure our species’ children don’t go to bed hungry. Education is more or less accessible – albeit more so in affluent countries or nation-states with resources needed by the aforementioned affluent first world groups. The tunnel vision types will point to the Internet and say it has opened doors to information and knowledge for all – not to mention disinformation and bad grammar – and brings the people of Earth a tiny-bit closer, thanks to WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, email and www.xxx.com. Oh, goody, we can communicate electronically with strangers while naked and starving.
The precious few with government or private health plans receive transplant organs, sometimes from dead people. In the UK the Office for National Statistics tells me I’m going to make it to 87. So, we’re living longer; for what? If I’m tired and bored with life having recently retired, what am I going to do for the next 20 years? Billions of people do not have pension plans that allow then to travel to warmer climates in the winter, play golf or ‘enjoy our golden years’. They didn’t have the opportunity, like many politicians and already wealthy board members to vote for their own pension plans. Humanity has been to the Moon and can start the minivan, open the garage door or change channels with a wireless remote. Hot damn!! Or, as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock would say: “Fascinating.”
Read the newspaper, watch the evening news, listen to the All-news stations all the time. What we are living is light years from fascinating!
It’s time we got it right
Since the time of early Man, we continue to quarrel over bits of land, whether it is the West Bank or Canadian native land claims. When Jesus and Mohammed walked the Earth, children went to bed hungry, just as they do today in Ethiopia and Edinburgh. As it was in the time of the Pharaohs, no quarrel or expense is spared to raise great armies or develop and deploy horrific weaponry to defend the realm, even if it results in innocents being used as cannon fodder.
All the while the core fundamentals of human rights and decency – freedom of thought and speech, health care, education, clean environment, access to food and housing are constantly under threat and continually debated and debated to ad nauseam by the many. Meanwhile the few, the political masters and corporate giants have one agenda: the preservation and continuing financial betterment of the politico-bureaucratic-economic elite, and to encourage the masses to keep debating.
It is arrogant to assume other intelligent species are not beyond our star system.
It is arrogant to assume humanity has made great strides since the cities of Mesopotamia flourished.
It is frightening to fathom that our species, alone, might be the seed carrier for sentient life throughout this galaxy. A troubling thought indeed.
It is time we got it right.