Run, Martians, run!

Mission to Mars (2000)

Perhaps one day a little Earth child will sit down to play with a little Martian child, or larva, or whatever they are. But, after a while, guess what happens: the little Martian tries to eat the Earth child. But guess what the Earth child has? A gun. You weren’t expecting that, were you? And now the Martian child is running away, as fast as he can. Run, little Martian baby, run!

Jack Handey, “What I’d Say to the Martians” The New Yorker, August 8, 2005

In one of the funniest book ever written, on any planet, Jack Handey’s, “What I’d Say to the Martians: And Other Veiled Threats” (2008) covered what is probably our most likely response to alien life; and is in keeping with physicist Stephen Hawking’s warning that it would be “too risky” to communicate with aliens. But what if our current expedition to Mars really did uncover traces of life on another planet?

We all know the old adage, “curiosity killed the cat,” but in the case of the Mars Curiosity probe, the proverbial cat is potentially going to be our religious beliefs and humanity’s standing in the scheme of the universe. You have to hand it to mankind; even in the face of faith-destroying scientific findings, we still have the daring to name our Mars detection device after the human (and feline) desire that leads to inevitable destruction.

So say the Curiosity rover does find life or evidence of former-life on Mars; given the current shape of our planet’s socio-economic and political atmosphere, I first wonder if we would even be told of any significant discoveries. I’m certain our government knows that a serious scientific find regarding alien life could be the grease that loosens man’s slippery grip on a civilized society and sends it over the edge – meaning, of course, that these officials would never get reelected.

See also: Mars, lock up your women: Is Newt’s moon madness really just a layover?

While I love all of the “boldly going where no man has gone before” aspects of this Mars mission, I see evidence of life from Mars as driving the Earth in one of three directions (or some combination thereof) and none of them fare well for mankind. I believe an alien life discovery would lead to either greater Earthy conflict than we already experience, a more peaceful but ultimately doomed world, or an indifferent culture that really could not care less about alien life – or Mars.

Would the discovery of life on another planet spark the loss of religious faith and the total collapse of mankind? I’m certainly not a religious scholar but I do know that alien life would make the writings of some denominations obsolete or at least more ambiguous than they are already. It is doubtful that the hardcore faithful would change their beliefs and it is more likely that evidence of otherworldly life would be discounted completely or simply twisted into a shape that fits their respective religious beliefs; in the same way that Intelligent Design has done.

Another path that an alien discovery could cause our culture to take might be one of peace and enlightenment, a la John Lennon’s Imagine, where there is no longer religion and the world lives as one. While many religious beliefs would be disproved by evidence of alien life, I don’t see the world using that opportunity to join together in harmony. If anything, we are likely to end up with mutant forms of our current faith-based beliefs that are likely to cause more hatred between our humanly brothers than we have already. Yes, I think Lennon was certainly dreaming when he wrote his song.

I think the most likely scenario is that the evidence of life on Mars will be met with mild amusement and indifference by the people of Earth. Oh sure, it’s cool, but in the end I don’t see the discovery prompting us to stop killing each other or changing attitudes to solve any other world crisis. Man is his own worst enemy and the discovery of long dead alien life will never change that. It will only confirm our ultimate destination.

How do you think a Mars Curiosity discovery of alien life would affect us here on Earth? Should we be careful what questions we ask, lest we discover the answers? Join our comments and let us know what you think!

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.


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