Expanding The Search For Intelligent Life

By Greg O’Brien, Codfish Press

At 300 miles wide—the distance from Boston to Philadelphia—Enceladus, a snowball of a moon circling Saturn, appears to be a “hot spot” for life. NASA’s orbiting Cassini probe has detected what scientists speculate are water geysers on the moon’s icy surface, suggesting this celestial chunk of ice might be an incubator for life, intelligent or otherwise.

High-resolution images indicating geyser-like eruptions of ice crystals and water vapor could be proof positive of underground reservoirs of water close to the surface—a fundamental ingredient for life.  

“We have the smoking gun,” declared Carolyn Porco, a Cassini imaging scientist, noting Enceladus should be put on a short list of remote places in the universe that might support extraterrestrial life, along with Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Just a day after these findings were reported in Journal Science, NASA announced Friday that the well-traveled Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had downshifted into an orbit above the red planet to begin a two-year search for life.

Imagine the possibilities: if life is found on Enceladus, Europa or Mars, how might have it progressed elsewhere?

Ever since Galileo Galilei squinted into his telescope, we’ve been agog over the possibilities of finding life, perhaps intelligent, in the universe—spending billions of dollars in the hunt, and fueling speculation that such discovery might shake our faith in the Almighty at its primal roots. But nothing could be further from the truth. God never promised us a rose garden, nor did the Lord say we were the only ones here. The prospect, however far-fetched, of an intelligent existence beyond our borders is intriguing, life altering (as we know it), and should be pursued with old-fashioned common sense.

That said we ought to fix our eyes on our own planet in the search for intelligent life, a black hole of a place for thoughtful dialogue and behavior. We have a country today driven by hateful, polarizing partisan politics and a world amuck with radicals seeking to blow the place up. Our vision, while expanding in the universe, is constricting at home, threatening an implosion of more violence, anarchy and worldwide starvation.

Are we prepared, scientists inquire, to meet long distance cousins in the universe? Hell, no! We’re not even prepared to meet our own fundamental needs on earth—whether it’s plucking abandoned blacks off a highway bridge in storm ravaged New Orleans, responding to the threats of an avian flu pandemic, patching the world’s porous security networks to prevent further acts of terrorism, or bottling the nuclear genie that could render this planet less habitable than the moons of Uranus.

Until we collectively understand that working together means basic problem solving, not just processing partisan political or cultural points of view, we will continue as a species to lack vision.

Let’s face it, intelligent life elsewhere or not, we’re all we got here!


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