Frank Crespo (02/18/04)
Today's discussion was quite powerful; seeing the different religious stances on one common theme was amazing. However, the underlying motif that I saw throughout the class was that of a compromise between religion and science. This is evident with the Catholic church and Galileo incident.. Of course, this is not true for all religions. A Christian whom I interviewed believes that "God created science," so there really isn't a separation between the two. Another commonality that I observed was the fact that finding life on Mars would absolutely strengthen God's mystique and power. Creating organisms so complex could only be explained by supernatural means.
I also interviewed a Muslim student on this matter and found a surprising response. She told me that the Koran forbids her from believing in life elsewhere because it is "magic." Professor Kenneth Miller, Professor of Biology, also had something to add on this matter. He told me, "If life is found on Mars, then we will come to accept that life can originate from non-living compounds. This is no way will disprove Darwin's theory of evolution."
Humans care if there is life elsewhere in the cosmos simply because we want to know whether or not we are alone in the universe. If intelligent life is found, then there might be an integration between both societies (i.e., both societies will attempt to understand each other). The United Nations would now become The United Galaxies. Existentialism would also play a major part in this discovery. Humans would begin to understand where they fit in the universe. Also, from the sheet music and poem discussed in class it seems that Man is fascinated with the idea of perfection. Our failure to achieve a utopia here on Earth has driven us to search for it elsewhere. In today's current state of affairs, I see a similar pattern. With all this fear of terrorism, we are turning to space exploration as a diversion from reality.
As for religion, I think it will become a safe haven to turn to among all these new discoveries. Religion will once again explain the inexplicable.
Today Mars continues to be a subject of interest because humans are still driven to explore. There are many unanswered questions that Mars might answer. For instance, "what constitutes life?" or "where did life originate?" Mars might tell us where life on earth came from or what trajectory life on Earth is taking.
By exploring Mars, not only are scientists satisfying their urge to discover, but they might even find something that may revolutionize medicine or science. From a political standpoint, America will show its technological stronghold, by once again being one step ahead.
Although television and the media constantly suggest that there might be life elsewhere, society in general tends to phase out such notions. Case and point: All the people I interviewed about Mars told me that "It's not something [I] think about." I think it's time to face reality.
Other noteworthy things from today's class included a discussion of the Mariner missions, believability of tabloids, the Sagan-Mayr argument, and the "superiority" of mankind. On the latter issue, I believe that humans should stop with their egocentrism and view all living things as equal. Who are we to say that we are better than nucleic acids? If indeed we are descendants from Mars, then this human "special ness" notion will have to be discarded. However, I think that some people would still consider themselves special because of mans egocentric nature. Besides, Earth was considered the center of the universe a few years back so remnants of these narcissistic thoughts will still exist.
In reference to the Sagan-Mayr debate, I'd have to side with Sagan. I think his point that intelligent species, other than humans (i.e., the bonobos), exist here on Earth supports the fact that intelligent life can be found on other planets as well. We are not that unique after all.