Some time ago, I read a piece in the Guardian that brought up the age-old question of where in the hell life comes from and what it’s all about. In the article, writer Philip Hoare comments on a study that shows that the ingredients for life could have been simmering over on Mars then catapulted over on a rock to Earth. Hoare says this could be a burden to all sorts of belief systems, scientific and religious alike. The commenters (it’s always fun to read a mile down the comments section of an opinion piece) targeted this particular conjecture, stating this is no new challenge to any such beliefs. But theories such as these do seem to beg the question, are we humans, Martians, or some other galactic entities?
It isn’t a new phenomenon, wondering where we came from. Life is, at its core, pretty gosh darned confusing, a befuddling how-do-you-do to philosophers, scientists, science fiction authors, regular folks who are bored. And any possible answer is generally something people cling to, whether evolution, god(s), or something else that is quite ineffable. Confusion even comes about as to why us humans are burdened with wondering, and can’t just go about eating stuff off bushes and punching deer. As a species, we’re coded with the question of our origins. Maybe that’s because our real creators and masters want us to come find them, and then have super awesome spaceship battles.
Or evolution is straight up weird. Either way, the question is out there, and we’re not even sure if we’re supposed to find the answer, regardless of what that answer might be. Life’s just a big ol’ mess, but with the capacity for a good deal of badass science fiction economizing on the basic unknowns of the universe.
In response to Hoare’s idea that technically being from Mars could change everything, I guess it could be a small boon to our already grand scientific or religious identity crisis. Does this mean we’d have to introduce ourselves as Martian Earthlings to any visiting extraterrestrials? I’ve met a fair few folks who identify as Asian American and African American; it’d be kinda neat to add that to being an Earthling. But then science would, as it usually does, discover more stuff about other comets that delivered genetic pudding to Earth. It’d turn out years later I’ve always been an Alderaan Earthling or a Vulcan Earthling (both real tragic if you’re all caught up on being a nerd).
At the end of the day, the questions here go beyond science and religion and find themselves nestled in every human’s little fear of being alone in the universe. Science and religion give us a number of lovely theories, but none of them are ultimately definitive. And no matter what you say, science and religion are similar in that they require faith, albeit different sorts of faith, but faith nonetheless. Humans want to feel chosen by some process or another, and want their faith to pay off. We’re really into ourselves.
Really, it doesn’t matter if we’re from Mars or Pluto or from a rift deep in the brain of some mighty super being. Whether life was created or just a weird accident, it’s most important to respect and keep it from being extinguished. As a species, we like to squish other species. We ought to put a stop to being the biggest jerks on the planet, even if it’s not our original home. And if we colonize other planets, we should still treat Earth well, cause big mommy planet doesn’t really care about us all that much. It’d take Earth a couple eons to forget about us, then some other stuff would happen, then the sun would explode. Sure, it’s really interesting to wonder where life began, but only when it’s not at the cost of dealing with a whole mess of present issues.
Say, for instance, that some definite scientific theory trumps all the rest and decrees, “People of Earth! We’re actually Martians!” Would that really change the relationship between Democrats and Republicans? I reckon the only way it would have any effect would be if some other Martians, like from Mars right now, came over and said, “Hell no, we’re the Martians!” We’d all rally together to squish the bastards, then go right back to being the only life in the universe. Megalomaniacally perfect.