James Randi Speaks: Mars

The discovery of life forms, of any kind, would provide a real problem for the religious.

It would strongly suggest that life can originate and/or be imported to or from other planetary systems, and that would require an explanation not covered in the Bible, the Koran, or any other “word of the deity.” Since everything worth knowing is supposed to be in one of these books, I can see religious heads spinning — if not falling! — as a result.

What would be really interesting to me would be if any newly discovered life-form is basically, chemically, biologically — and significantly — different from what we experience here on Earth. It would, I believe, at least release us from the notion that we could interbreed with a Venusian…

Basically, anything that we learn can — and perhaps should — be useful to us, whether here and now, or later on. Since we have the wonderful facility of “time-binding,” the ability not only to pass on via the written word our ideas, discoveries, and philosophies, but the ability to harvest those factors from the past, as well. I personally feel that we have much yet to discover in the writings of previous inhabitants of our planet. This has recently been brought to our attention by the discovery of the “Archimedes Palimpsest,” which was purchased by a good friend of mine and given over to the Walters Museum in Baltimore. In this remarkable document we discovered just how deep Archimedes’ was — far beyond our expectations.

I cannot believe that we are the only intelligent form of life in the universe; the mathematics of the matter dictate otherwise. Every second, nature is performing billions of experiments, not only here on Earth, but on every remotely-life-sustaining planet, anywhere. Most of those experiments will fail, but occasionally one of them will be successful, and whatever results from the experiment will survive — at least for a certain period of time. Surely, species far superior to our own have originated, involved, and survived — many millions of times.

I don’t know that we will ever contact any of these wee beasties — or huge monsters — but the fact that they are inescapably out there, gives us good reason to look at a night sky with more interest and perhaps a little apprehension. Not to worry. The sun will still rise tomorrow, the taxes are due, and mothers-in-law of whatever shape, color, or size, will still carry on as they always have. And I like it just that way…

Someday, we just may learn to get along without mythology. I refer here to gods, devils, angels, ghosts, and other such intangible and unproven notions. Someday. For today, we’ll just have to hope for relief and make every possible move to encourage others to surrender their belief in nonsense. It’s been a long battle, a longer war, and far more of a problem than it should’ve been. If we give up, we only have ourselves to blame.

by James Randi

“File:Preferred official head-shot from James Randi Educational Foundation.jpg” by James Randi Educational Foundation is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Atheist Ireland


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    Gavin McBride February 18, 2009

    Great entry from James Randi and a welcome addition to the blog. James if you are out there we hope to hear a lot more from you in the future!

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    paolovf November 17, 2011

    It’s always a pleasure to read articles by James Randi, one of the most pragmatic minds I know of.

    I had never heard of the “Archimedes Palimpsest” and I have to agree that we have a huge amount to learn about our ancestors. This is progressively made easier through new technologies, for example infra-red satellite imaging of Egypt is throwing out years of work for archaeologists (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-13522957).