2010–The Year We Learn That Life Beyond Earth Exists?

Dr. David S. McKay, Astrobiologist. Photo: NASA

There’s a buzz out there amongst astrobiologists that before this year is out, Dr. David McKay and his research team are going to announce that they have definitively identified fossilized organisms in meteorites from Mars that have been collected on earth.

Martian microorganisms.  Martians.  Real Martians.  That bubble of perception that life exists only here on Earth will have been burst.

The next step, of course, will be to design Mars missions to determine if any of those organisms have survived Mars’ harsh and extreme history in an environment in which only extremophiles (as we now know flourish on Earth) could survive.

That those first missions will be robotic is certain.  The opportunity that a human will ever reach down and pick up a rock from the surface of Mars that potentially carries evidence of life living or fossilized in this century, at least under the sponsorship of NASA, appears increasingly doubtful in the current political and geo-centric environment.

Although we may be witness to the extinction of the hominid drive to discover the undiscovered, life confirmed beyond the delicate bubble of rock, water and air from which we were formed, literally changes the very quantumization of life itself.  It is a change that cannot be undone. From the present into the future, what it means to be living, what it means to be human will be different.  For life, as we’ve always known it, no longer requires Earth.

Martian Metorite NAKHLA 2058. Possible Fossilized Life. Microscopy Photo: NASA

There is more, however.  All technical considerations aside, if and when this announcement comes, the theological implications, as well as our geo-centric Christology, will no longer be the topic of idle speculation but confront us with a reality that demands a response to the world.

Since 1543, when Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the

Folio Pages Showing the Copernicus' Heliocentric Model. De Revolutionbus, 1543. Photo Courtesy fotosearch.com

Celestial Spheres), we have been attempting to unify our Christology with our Cosmology.  The results have been, in my opinion, at best, mixed.

Parable of the Sower, from the Plenarium or the Evangelical Book of the Year, 1516. Basel, Switzerland. Photo: Pitts Theology Library, Emory Univ.

The announcement of alien life, even microbial, requires a new conversation with a new set of rules.  It shall be a heady time, indeed.  Ours is the generation that broke the shackles of gravity and set off across the Solar System.  If, too, we are to be ones who confirm that life’s seed has been sown across the expanse of space like the Sower in one of Jesus’ parables, we have much work to do.

Here are three links:

http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1001/09marslife/

http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2010/01/11/2169791.aspx

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/47114/proof-life-mars-come-year.html

Looking into the stars that seed the night will never be the same. Ever.

3 thoughts on “2010–The Year We Learn That Life Beyond Earth Exists?

  1. My thoughts were about life on earth, start and evolve at one point. There might be several points of “first life” if it rises out of chaos. Is it more likely precipitation from space? Not very religious I suppose.

    Let me leave a couple links and thoughts of the past week.

    Genesis- The whole story simply is to explain that prohibition never works. Here we had the first ever example. God prohibited eating from the tree of life. God was the cop and he only had to watch 2 people! You know where I’m going with this.

    Anonymous said…

    We could back-up and by celebrating human reason in understanding the natural world. Religion/ faith doesn’t seem to have done much of this in the past- just the opposite. David Mc

    Reason and meaning shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. I can’t imagine my creator would be upset I use all I can know and learn to discern the truth. Those looking for bliss on earth the old way are finding it in very short supply. David Mc

    “Incarnation, Creation, and Kenosis”
    1 Comment – Show Original Post

    Anonymous said…

    We need to understand these conjectures are merely hypotheses, and will likely never reach the level of truth or even theory. Unless we plan to add to the scriptures, we need to remain humble in our imaging. These are the type of constrains (good) scientists live with everyday, usually without anxiety. Theologians, or self-proclaimed prophets sometimes tend to proclaim a “truth” that might be simple emotion, rather than God inspired truth. Remembering this it’s a good way to progress though. I often like prayer that involves imagination and fantasy based on reason. David Mc

    “Happy Birthday Chuck — An Evolution Weekend Sermon Reposted”
    Anonymous said…

    We could back-up by celebrating human reason in understanding the natural world. Religion/ faith doesn’t seem to have done much of this in the past- just the opposite. David Mc

    Hitchens, and Dennett aren’t scientists, and I resent them trying to represent them. There are serious scientists out there more worthy of debate. These three have had there day, you’re only helping them sell their condescending books. Let’s add Pat Robertson to the lot of them and set our brain to “ignore”.

    Hitchens’ my favorite, he’s such a sweetheart-

    I wish more people would listen to “real” honest scientists-

    To live without fear is a good thing.

    Inconceivable nature of nature.

    David Mc

    Peace
    by Eino Leino

    What is this fragrance around me?
    What is this quietness?
    What is this knowledge of peace in my heart?
    What strange, great, new thing is this?

    I can hear the flowers growing
    and the talk of the trees in the wood.
    I think all my old dreams are ripening,
    all the hopes and the wishes I sowed.

    Everything’s quiet around me,
    Everything’s gentle and sweet.
    Great flowers are opening up in my heart
    with a fragrance of deepest peace.

    (1898)

    translated by Lola Rogers

    Hope all is ell David, peace
    David Mc

  2. David– Good to hear from you! I was envisioning God as the Sower and seeding the universe with life, but certainly not restricted to the life “sown” on Earth, and equally imagining that sowing in trillions of environments would produce trillions of results. In the parable, not all seed falls on ground that will allow it to grow and produce. In my analogy, I would expect the same kinds of variations of life evolving, some, as on Earth, evolves with a rich diversity; others, in alien environments, might flourish for completely different reasons of adaptation or grow to a point and then face extinction. The question of our theology (what we believe about God) and Christology (what we believe about Christ’s act of salvation on the cross) must be reexamined in unprecedented detail if life, sentient or not, is strewn across the Cosmos. We do not have, in my opinion, anywhere near a harmonization of Cosmology and Christology, that answers the questions of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins beyond the boundary of Earth.

    Your thoughts?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s