Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Is There Life on Mars?

Sometimes the pastoral skills of a newly-installed Acting Archdruid are insufficient to deal with the challenges. I am afraid that Burton is still hiding under his bed, sobbing.

It came about at our Social Media Policy meeting. I mentioned that there is a theory that Alien space-probes are prowling the galaxy, searching for intelligent life. And Burton told us how relieved he was, and that he was glad to share his story of alien abduction.

"Last Saturday," he told us, "I was walking home from the White Horse when I was dazzled by bright lights. They shone directly into my face - causing me to feel like my whole soul was being sucked out of me. They revealed that they knew all about me - called me by my name, asked if I wanted to go home - lay me down on a flat, white surface and then - when I awoke - I was laying on the floor outside my own room. It's amazing"

Well, quite. It is amazing. It's amazing to think that Burton didn't recognise Young Keith's pickup, mounted as it is with spot lights on the roll bar. But then it's amazing that Burton didn't remember how he had, shortly earlier, been walking home with Young Keith, but fell into a ditch. It's amazing that Young Keith didn't realise he'd lost a companion until he got home, and I asked him what he had done with Burton. Most amazing of all is that I agreed to drive back to find him.  And it's amazing that Burton managed to confuse the act of being thrown into the back of a pickup with an alien placing him on a lab bench.

But most of all, it's remarkable that Burton doesn't remember saying to me, "Hello, Lord. I thought you'd be less feminine."

The article asks about whether the makers of the putative drone-swarm of probes would try to hide completely from the indigenous planet-dwellers, or try to make contact on a limited basis:
"That is, unless the builders programmed the robots to set up a threshold test of the intelligence and maturity of a native species. If the species passes the test they are allowed to communicate with the interstellar probe.
What sort of maturity test would you perform on Homo sapiens?"
I guess the first maturity test I would set would be not confusing the local archdruid with a celestial visitor, of whatever kind.

But let's face it, there's a flaw in the theory. Just because a species passes an intelligence test, you wouldn't necessarily want to communicate with it. Intelligence is no guarantee of amiability. If the human race passed the intelligence test, we'd use the communication clause to find out where the probe came back. And then send a few nuclear "probes" back the same way, to be on the safe side. I may be doing the human race a disservice, but I kind of suspect we wouldn't take any chances.

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