Detection of life on Mars could be the ‘worst news’ for humanity
(ORDO NEWS) — Many have heard of the Fermi paradox, which raises a completely philosophical question: given the high probability of the existence of alien life in the universe, why has no one contacted humanity?
If there are so many other civilizations, perhaps far more advanced than we are, why don’t they do what we do in search of life?
One idea is the Great Filter.
This hypothesis says that before extraterrestrial civilizations can reach the point where they can leave their solar system and start colonizing their galaxy, something happens to prevent them from doing so, or we would see evidence of this in the Milky Way.
Whether this is a step from multicellular life to animals that can use tools, or from where we are now to exploration of the galaxy, we simply don’t know.
We don’t know if we have passed the “great filter” or if it will happen in the future. Could it be that the majority do not live to see single-celled life, and we have passed this filter?
Or are we, like other alien civilizations, going to destroy ourselves at some point before we can leave Earth, perhaps due to war or running out of our resources before we can escape?
Some philosophers and scientists have suggested that if we found life on, say, Mars, it would have less than ideal implications for where we are in relation to the Great Filter.
Philosophy professor Nick Bostrom of Oxford University expressed hope that the search for extraterrestrial life would turn up nothing.
If we were to discover very simple life forms, Bostrom writes in an MIT Technology Review paper in 2008, then we could infer that filtering occurs some time after this life point.
If we were to detect multicellular life, that would narrow the point at which the Great Filter could occur.
Bostrom thinks that in order to narrow down the scope of the filter, we need to look at life on Earth to see what moves are unlikely.
“One of the criteria is that the transition only had to happen once,” he wrote.
“Flight, vision, photosynthesis, and limbs have evolved multiple times here on Earth and are therefore excluded.”
He also argued that evolutionary features that persisted for a long time even after preconditions had been met indicated that this evolutionary step was unlikely, such as the emergence of life.
The transition from animals to humans occurred in a relatively short period of time, geologically speaking, suggesting that this was not a Filtration event.
He believed that if we found evidence of vertebrates on Mars, then that would be terrible news, since it would mean that most of the Great Filter is still in our future, and we will have to face the possibility that we will become extinct before than we will become technologically advanced and be able to travel the galaxy.
“Such a discovery would be a devastating blow.
This would be by far the worst news ever printed on a newspaper cover,” Bostrom wrote.
“That’s why I hope our space probes will find dead rocks and lifeless sands on Mars, on Jupiter’s moon Europa, and wherever our astronomers look.
It would uphold the hope for a great future for humanity.”
While there are many other possible solutions to the Fermi paradox worth looking at, if Bostrom is right, this means that finding evidence for advanced civilizations is good news, but finding the wrong life stages would be the worst news for us.
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