a reply to: odzeandennz
To ask why we look for specific markers, familiar life, rather than trying to find any life at all, no matter how apparently strange and unfamiliar,
is reasonable. The answer is simple. We have only the frame of reference provided by our own home world, and the evolution of the species which dwell
on its surface, in its oceans, and in the deepest recesses of the ground beneath our feet.
We only know of our own species, in terms of intelligent life, and to be fair, our intelligence can be called into question all too readily, given
the awful things we do to one another, and the planet upon which we all live. A poor example of intelligent life we may be, but we are the only one we
have so far. Until we encounter intelligent life which does not resemble us, from a planet which does not resemble our own, the trend for searching
for long lost cousins of ours in the depths of space, regardless of how utterly pedestrian and therefore idiotic that is, will remain in place.
Another issue which plagues us at present, is how fundamentally bad we are at using our resources, both on the material and financial level, and on
the human level as well. If all the resources currently dedicated to murdering one another, and inventing pretexts upon which to justify that action,
were funnelled into advancing propulsion techniques, the things that hold us back from travel in the stars would be the work of decades, rather than
centuries to complete to a satisfactory standard.
As it is, we cannot even visit a relatively local object like Mars, without months or more of travel time. That is like taking half an hour to get
from ones bedroom, to ones bathroom. Even when we finally pierce the envelope of the solar system, and send a human being to another star, we will not
have gotten off our own block, and therefore will not be able to say that we have seen enough, and learned enough, to properly and broadly predict
where life may, or may not occur.
But the question of why we look at all is not a reasonable question to ask, unless one lacks either the wit, the soul, or the imagination necessary
to answer it for oneself. Why did explorers head out in ships, over vast distances of open ocean? Why did continents get discovered, why were cures
for diseases found, why was the electric guitar invented, or the automobile?
These things came to pass because a human being decided one day that they would, decided to refuse to accept the norm, the present, the regular, and
took a trip into the fantastic, absurd, sometimes even the improbable. We are explorers, inventors, and discoverers of things. We do these things for
the same reason that our deep ancestors stopped living in trees, for the same reason which saw the expansion from the West to virtually everywhere
else on the globe, for the same reason that lead archeologists to exhume mummified remains from tombs in Egypt. That is to say, that human beings have
always been curious creatures, never satisfied in the main with the daily grind, always striving for an answer or at least a diversion from whatever
This drive at the species level is what drove us to become more than the apes we descend from, to do more, to see more, to learn anything at all of
the world beyond our field of view. It may seem to be simplistic to suggest that the only real reason to look beyond our atmosphere for information we
would like to have, is that we are naturally curious, that we are programmed that way at the genetic level, but simplicity is no barrier to the truth.
Boiled down, we explore because we can, because we desire to do so, and when everything else is stripped away, that is all that matters.
We can justify that curiousity these days, because the fruits of previous curious efforts tell us that if we live and move on more than one planet,
or even multiple star systems, that we are less likely to be wiped out by a single cosmic event, like an asteroid impact, or the death of our home
star. But in reality, even if our species was not threatened by being present on only one world, curiosity would drive us ever outward. We are at our
most productive, we are most alive as a species, when we are about the business of discovery, because of all the traits we possess, our curiosity is
easily the strongest.