Life without due process?

Is there life on Mars? A number of scientists say the answer is yes!

But for reasons not clear to me, they are remaining tight-lipped:

There is a palpable buzz here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California that something wonderful is about to happen in the exploration of Mars.

In a small patch of Martian soil, scientists see spheres and fragmented pebbles, sand grains and finer material, and a range of colors suggesting different compositions.

Several images from Opportunity's microscopic camera were stitched together to reveal BB-sized spherical objects on the Martian soil.

Opportunity made this close-up images of spherules embedded in the wall of a trench it dug with one wheel. These spheres are more reflective than those previously found on the Martian surface.

There is no doubt that the Opportunity Mars rover is relaying a mother lode of geological data. Using an array of tools carried by the golf cart-sized robot -- from spectrometers, a rock grinder, cameras and powerful microscopic imager -- scientists are carefully piecing together a compelling historical portrait of a wet and wild world.

Where Opportunity now roves, some scientists here suggest, could have been underneath a huge ocean or lake. But what has truly been uncovered by the robot at Meridiani Planum is under judicious and tight-lipped review.

Those findings and their implications are headed for a major press conference, rumored to occur early next week -- but given unanimity among rover scientists and agreement on how and who should unveil the dramatic findings. Turns out, even on Mars, a political and ego outcrop hangs over science.

A political and ego outcrop?

Did I hear that right? What does politics have to do with such a simple question? Egos, sure. Everybody wants to be the first to say, "I FOUND IT!"

But what are the political implications?

I mean, I can see that in some people's minds, there might be religious implications, although even that's a stretch. The Bible does not say that there isn't life on Mars. "God created the heavens and the earth" would seem to include Mars, and the sentence, "Let there be life" in no way limits life to earth.

Or might they think it constitutes some kind of slippery slope towards moral relativism if ordinary mortals are allowed to know that there exists life somewhere else?

According to one scientist, Gerald Levin (who maintains that the existence of life was confirmed in the earlier probe), there is indeed a fear of acknowledging even the existence of water, much less life -- precisely because water is a slippery slope:

Levin said that brine on Mars is a code word for liquid water. He senses that great care is being taken by rover scientists because the liquid water issue starts the road to life.

"That's the monument that they are afraid to erect without real due process," Levin concluded.

Perhaps we could settle this whole matter by defining life as occurring only on Earth!
Life shall consist only of life on earth. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that life or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon life which might be discovered, or which is alleged to have been discovered, any other planet.
That way, life on Mars would simply be unconstitutional. A nullity.

Terraforma incognita!

The die is Kassed?

UPDATE: After spending an hour researching and writing the above, I now see that Glenn Reynolds reports that water has been found. I'll stay tuned for life.

posted by Eric on 03.02.04 at 03:53 PM


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Life without due process?:

» News that has Relevants! from Who Tends the Fires
Ummm.... what caliber do you use for hunting relevants, anyway? (00) Dean's World on PEW's Dissing the Internet. Those who can't relevant, irr. Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of links and commentary on Touch Screen Voting. Eeeww.... setting up for... [Read More]
Tracked on March 3, 2004 3:28 AM


On Mars, they're all under martial law. And on Venus, they all have venereal diseases. Jupiter would be quite jovial, however.

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