by Robert Waltz
Not for the faint of art.
|Well, it looks like I didn't get as astronomical as I expected, so here's my usual just-after-midnight post. Last night, after completing my blog entry, I ended up getting completely danchu, sampling from many different bottles. Predictably, I felt like shit all day (worth it). Hence, tonight, I ended up just taking my traditional couple of shots of birthday tequila, and I also had some port with dessert. Consequently, I'm functional right now.
I'm sure you've all heard about the successful Perseverance rover landing on Mars yesterday. Technology works, and we can do some pretty awesome shit when we put our minds to it. By the time we finally land human boots on the fourth planet, there will be a thriving robot society there. They'll probably pass resolutions to send us back home, or maybe put us in concentration camps to discourage further immigration.
So with the success of the landing, which is designed to search for signs of past life on the Red Planet, it's appropriate that this subject came up at random from my stash.
I'm somewhat sure that there is no alien life on the internet, politicians' tweets notwithstanding. Oh, wait, that prepositional phrase is meant to modify "discussion," not "alien life." English is fun.
Anyway, this blogger, PZ Myers, is one of the few that I follow regularly, because he usually has something interesting to say, even if he does have an obsession with arachnids. Fortunately, spiders are (we think) from Earth so there aren't any in this particular post.
I like speculations about alien life, just as I appreciate the diversity of life on Earth, the different forms of life in the past, and the prospect of evolution in the future, but every time I read about this stuff in astronomy-related journals, I feel like they’re making an effort to reduce my intelligence.
I know the feeling.
The problem is that they have no imagination and no biology, but they’re trying to imagine the nature of alien biology, and all they end up doing is running around in circles trying to figure out why little grey humanoids aren’t landing their flying saucers en masse to march out and shake hands with the president.
I know I've ranted about this sort of thing in here before, so here's another guy's take on the subject.
So, in this post, Myers does what I usually do, which is comment on someone else's article. So here I am commenting on an article that comments on an article. If someone quotes this entry and comments on it, that would be really meta.
This is my problem with the general tenor of these speculations. They all assume that we, that is human-like intelligences, are desirable, inevitable, and the only proper kind of life; they’ve read far too many science-fiction novels prophesying a colonialist destiny led by strong-jawed Anglo-Saxons with glinting eyes and a finger on the trigger of their blaster.
I mean, hey, I love those stories as much as anyone, though I prefer phasers.
They’re always going on and on about the likelihood of finding an intelligent civilization like ours. Why not speculate about finding a planet that has produced kangaroos? Or stomatopods? Or baobab trees? These are all unlikely outcomes of a contingent, complex process that produces immense diversity, and they’re all wondering what the “barrier” is that prevents our kind from winning the cosmic lottery every time. Get over it, we’re not a favored outcome, there’s no direction to evolution, and that’s why there aren’t smarty-pants bipeds tootling about the galaxy stopping by for tea.
I kinda hate that Myers puts this more eloquently than I have in the past. But I agree.
Anyway, I'm not quoting the quotes here, and I'm leaving out a lot of the commentary, so of course I recommend reading the source. Whether you read the article he's ragging on is up to you; I certainly didn't.
Point is, though, that this is a biologist's perspective on the question, but it's similar to one I came up with previously: that if we find life "out there" -- be it living life, or, as is hoped with the Mars robot, evidence of life that existed in the past -- it will, in all likelihood, be something other than a technological civilization. And yet, we've been so conditioned to equate "life" with "intelligent life" (as usual, please refrain from making silly dismissive comments about "intelligence," as the fact that you can make such a comment immediately contradicts it) that it's almost impossible to find someone who doesn't immediately think of bulbous-headed big-eyed gray guys, or Klingons, or other generally humanoid, tool-using, spaceship-flying aliens.
That said, I really hope this Mars rover finds unequivocal evidence of some sort of living, or once-living, organism on Mars. Because that by itself would be an incredibly important discovery, never mind what sorts of things we might learn from it.
Thanks for all the mixed drink recipes! I definitely saw a few I'd like to try. Rolling the Virtual Dice for the nine commenters (sorry, one comment came in just after midnight), the result is 3, so the Merit Badge will go to... 🌎Cubby✏️ for the mojito recipe (and I do love mojitos).
Still, I appreciated all the comments and we'll do this again soon!