Beyond Ray Bradbury

The Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars and sent pictures. Its nine months journey( perhaps symbolic) to the red and icy planet a great hope for scientists to discover whether there once was or ever could be life beneath the craggy looking surface. We’ve been fascinated with Mars for decades now, perhaps since Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles titillated our imagination about Martians and what they would be like and would or would not do. We tended to assume them as funny looking bipeds, and when the idea of life on Mars seemed remote, we transferred our fantasies to aliens from whatever planet or galaxy. Carl Sagan’s beliefs in extra terrestrials infused us with the idea that it is not only possible, the probability is higher than many had up to then dared to think. And Steven Spielberg’s endearing ET made us pine for contact with an extra-terrestrial. The more we know about science the more we realize that for humans to be the only form life in this vast universe may be an anomaly. So naturally we look for life elsewhere, and when science is too slow our wishful thinking makes up the difference. I am so amazed by the form these thoughts often take. Perhaps it is due to the memorable The Day The Earth Stood Still. Do I remember them correctly,weren’t the magic words klatu, berata nicto? In the movie the ET is wise, all knowing, coming from a civilization more advanced than earth issuing a warning for us to stop our warring ways. It seems as if that idea has colored so much of our imagination, which also surfaced in another Spielberg movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. That ET too seemed wiser than we are. But would that be so?
The Vatican has now joined the fray, indicating that aliens are possible and would be like us children of god, since god’s realm extends to the universe. It is a good point and one that may be more useful to the debate than many have given it credit for. Still whether or not other life forms in the universe would be children of god does not automatically endow them with wisdom, love or the desire for peace. There’s at least a fifty fifty chance that they could be behind us in development or mirroring certain periods in our history when we were more brutal and savage than we are now.
When contemplating whether there’s life out there, the idea may not be whether it exists, but whether we are ready to handle the possibility with all its unknowns and possible dangers?