The world is agog as it awaits tomorrow’s news from NASA. After all, it’s not often that the space agency announces what it calls a major science finding, so you could hardly blame people for being on edge. You could hardly be surprised that every thinking person in the world has made a mental note to watch out for this press conference, not to mention a host of chancers and charlatans who might end up with a lot of explaining to do.
But what precisely will this finding be?
The smart money is on running water, but I’d lay an outside bet on evidence of life, which of course leads to an overwhelming question. What sort of life? Of course it could be microbes but that’s boring so let’s increase the odds on the bet to astronomical levels and assume they’ve discovered evidence of sentient beings. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what kind of sentient being might have evolved on an entirely different planet?
I’ll guarantee you this: they’ll be completely different to us, and it won’t be because of the forty legs, the three heads or the vaguely pleasant scent of almonds.
It will be because they’re a peace-loving species. They’ll be rational, logical and reasonable. They’ll base their thoughts and beliefs on fact, not on prejudice or on creation-fantasies. Violence will be incomprehensible to them. It will seem obvious to these Martians that their fellow sentient beings should be helped when times are hard, no matter what part of the planet they might come from.
These beings will never try to force religion myths on other Martians, because the notion of religion will be utterly alien to them. They won’t try to force their political views on others because there will be no such thing as politics in their society. Indeed, the very notion of force will be outside their comprehension.
The Martians will understand that they and the planet they inhabit are a single organism that needs to be protected for their survival.
These Martians will be as different from humans as they could possibly be and yet, now, for the very first time, they need to feel the human emotion of fear, because the organism that is destroying the planet Earth has reached out and touched their fragile home in the shape of the Phoenix lander.
Perhaps such a kind, gentle and rational race has no way of feeling fear, but if that’s the case, they’re doomed.
We have arrived on Mars.