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Dawn of Science

written by Eric Erkenbrack on September 23, 2004 | contact me
number of views: 76964 |   printable version (text) (PDF)

Ruins of Earth?
Ruins of Earth?
Credit: Indiana University
Yesterday, my pre-college biology class visited the Biological Museum at Mare Imbrium. My teacher was especially excited due to the grand opening of a new exhibit touching upon a former period in the evolution of hominids. The traveling exhibit was enormously popular, since this period in the development of hominids – a period popularly known as the ‘Dawn of Science’ – is held in extremely high esteem. Due to our classical education in the sciences, the exhibit was just like taking a trip back in evolutionary time. In school, we read about those critical, brave first insights. And living on the moon familiarizes one with all the great Homo sapiens scientists: many of our famous “telescope landscapes,” as we call them, on the Moon were named by H. sapiens. Ptolemy, Kepler, Copernicus, Aristotle: we’ve read excerpts of many great works from that era. It’s nice to reflect on the past, learning from their mistakes and reveling in their accomplishments. We are very different from our predecessors though. Like hominids prior to H. sapiens, we have evolved. We are Homo intellegens.

Since the era of H. sapiens dominance, an inhabitant of the solar system has changed: Mars. When H. sapiens flourished, science was a fledging field–they were unsure of their own power, their own capabilities. They undertook several missions to Mars. After several unsuccessful attempts, they finally succeeded in setting up an Ecological Niche Manipulator – a new self-operated mechanism aimed at providing a solution to Earth’s overcrowding. It slowly changed the Martian atmosphere, creating a hospitable environment friendly to hominids. What they could not foresee was what would happen over the next few centuries. Due to environmental effects and the process first proposed by their own Charles Darwin, natural selection, the H. sapiens living on Mars slowly morphed and mutated into a new hominid.

This idea—the idea of small changes over a large expanse of time having a tremendous affect on a population of organisms—was one which many H. sapiens failed to grasp. There were many years of turmoil in their institutions over the validity of the evolution of their species; not so much arguing over the evolution of other species, but their species specifically. H. sapiens had propped themselves atop the animal kingdom as an elite organism because of their relatively superior mental abilities. It proved to be a great blunder. From what we know, unfound and dangerous ideas were transmitted to their young by means of tradition and culture. H. sapiens scholars called them ‘memes’. This method of conveyance was so powerful that, even when those memes were exposed to be errs, they persisted; young H. sapiens were born ripened like fruit on a spectacularly complex tree—but these young were rotting from day one. It was not until H. intellegens began to prosper on Mars that many of those pre-intellegens memes were shed, for the first time, from the hominid family—progress for the critical thought process. But what was the catalyst which ignited the onset of a new species? What created us?

Some scholars today speculate that it was the infrequent trips between the two ecosystems, one new environment and one old. But it also could have been the random mutating of certain genes located in human mitochondria which had a drastic effect on the imported inhabitants. When combined with the idea known to H. sapiens as “population bottleneck,” change was imminent. This change was certain to be of the drastic type, genetic drift their own scientists should have seen.

The first H. sapiens to visit Mars were left there to flourish. The artificial environment created by the humans had strange but positive effects on human development and intelligence. The human gestation period sharply decreased, allowing the new carriers of this genetic mutation to rapidly reproduce. On top of this abnormality was a significant increase in intelligence. The increase was so significant that young children of this new hominid were understanding mathematical and philosophical human concepts at a much younger age. These two powerful mutations rose in several populations of Martian H. sapiens inhabitants. This suggested that the mutations were mainly attributed to environment. But many believe that, as always, genes also had a significant role in the development of this new species, H. intellegens.

Now, though, H. sapiens is nothing more than a memory. H. intellegens has many superior attributes when compared to its predecessor. Among those attributes are the aforementioned and others such as losing the “little” toe (the most distal and useless phalange). It ended up being a battle of existence, a battle to protect the sphere in which each species inhabited. Which species had more long-term potential? Which species would be able to confront the problems brought forth by the passing of many millennia?

When the first probes were sent by the Martians to the asteroid belt residing between Jupiter and Mars, many frightening discoveries were made. And due to the asteroids being so much closer to them, Martians were more concerned with exploring this region than their ancestors on Earth. The asteroids were found to be a great danger to the long-term existence of H. intellegens. The belt is a chaotic place in which collisions amongst neighboring asteroids take place regularly. If enough force was produced in one of these collisions, so we concluded, the Sun’s massive gravity would pull that tiny asteroid towards it: possibly sending it on a course of impact with Mars. Of course, the word “tiny” is relative: tiny to the Sun, but not tiny to Mars. We believe in preparation for the unthinkable, the unimaginable; we do not believe in procrastination and over-delegation. Scientists on Earth had also hypothesized about a possible collision, but humans on Earth were, to borrow a phrase from their vocabulary, “only human,” and seemed to be always worried about rather trivial things. H. intellegens, being that much closer to the danger, saw the evidence of collision pock-marked all over their planet; and, additionally, saw evidence in the form of fossils of organisms gone mysteriously extinct on display in Earth’s and their own museums. To us there was no mystery: asteroids had indeed collided with all the great bodies in the solar system. And so, the wheels were set in motion to create a device by which a species-saving deflection could be made, if need be.

This technology was new and innovative, and it was not generally beyond many of the concepts H. sapiens were capable of achieving. It’s intriguing because, even though they had achieved and understood many things up to that point, the vast amount of them would rather concern themselves with politics on Earth and not politics to preserve Earth. It’s as if some of them excelled and the vast majority were born to occupy space or join in on the politics of the day. Earthlings concerned themselves daily with topics such as the local weather, the local news, and trifling issues. Years often passed in their lives without any motivation, goals or preoccupations. The “three-Gs” consumed them: greed, gluttony, and guilt. Those who excelled did just that. But there was such a gap in intellectual inquiry and understanding that the entire species could not often comprehend their most important scientific or socio-psychological principles. They kept to themselves on their own planet; the vast majority of them were worried only about pro-creating, about family values, and sometimes about their own biosphere.

Is it feasible to poke at their inadequacies? They comprehended things on a global level—simply incapable of seeing things on a multi-planetary or galactic level. This was innate. It was not a flaw; it was simply the niche which they filled until a species capable of a higher level—that of superior intellectual capacity, potential, capability—came along. They developed revolutionary ideas about economics and business, about language and culture, and many other things kin to humans. But all these things would not save them from a giant rock composed of iron and carbon hurtling at them at astronomical speeds.

The mission to Mars was a monolithic undertaking. This marked their first steps towards populating the rest of the solar system; it was their first step towards multi-planetary cultivation and inhabitation. Many astronomers and ecologists—scientists, in general—were able to convince the populi that this mission was both feasible and necessary. Earth was simply no longer able to manage all the hominids then inhabiting it. All of their nation-states put aside the talk of economics and looked to the sky; they looked towards the “red planet.” It was their proudest moment. To facilitate the mission, many nations simply had to contribute without any compensatory agreements; thus, many nations were sacrificing greatly to be a part of “creating and shaping hominid’s next home in the cosmos.” Problems were not far off. When some smaller nations had reservations about the financial burdens of such an undertaking, verbal threats were issued by Earth’s largest and wealthiest nation-states: “this is a collaborative effort, and anyone not collaborating will not call Mars home.” The pressure was so great that these tiny nation-states then contributed what they couldn’t afford to contribute. This led to tremendous loans at banks in the wealthiest of nations by which the country who made the contribution would be forced into irreconcilable debt. These funds were then passed on to the taxpayers in the form of taxes. These taxes, in turn, forced the prices of goods to rise and inflation to sky-rocket, for many nations could not account for such debt. As the dominoes fell, so did patience and peace.

This was the reason missions were so rare after the initial deliveries of the necessary components for the Ecological Niche Manipulator. The first and most vital components of the machinery were assembled on Mars via computers and satellites technology controlled on Earth. The terra-forming was a great success, or so thought the scientists on Earth. After many decades, Mars, terra incognita, was ready to accept its first permanent residents. The first mission had representatives, mainly scientists, from those who had contributed the most to the mission: the United States of North and Central America, the South American Alliance, the European Union, the People’s Republic of Asia, et al. Their first steps on the foreign turf were made in spacesuits, fearing the possible affects of the newly formed environment. They sent test subjects, organisms brought from Earth, into the Martian ecosystem with mixed results. After many more decades, they took the spacesuits off only to find that no immediate affects were noticeable.

More vessels followed with many more hominids than the scientists had suggested. The populi on Earth were very eager to undergo a new beginning, like many of their ancestors before them. Because of the enormous costs of such missions, they left in fleets—thousands at a time. The scientists had their reservations about these space-aged pilgrims, and they let those of Earth know this. But the hominids failed to listen. In the past, the scientists had seemed to blow things out of proportion—at least this is how it seemed to the public. The large democracies on Earth were so infested by means of special interest groups that they often misrepresented scientists’ findings. This led to disarray and a feeling of distrust towards the scientists. There was also the fact that this was their first undertaking, and the chance that the scientists could be wrong may have been higher in such situation; no one was quite sure what exactly this would enormous experiment would yield.

So as on Earth, society went on its way without yielding to the warnings of its most devoted individuals. The practice and thoughts of science were left in the wake of those ancient hominid ideas of economy and market.

Back on Earth, many nations found themselves in conundrum after conundrum. Defaulting loans, escalating inflation and unemployment were common-place. No breaks were given to those tiny countries; capitalistic competition was still its old self. These nations founds themselves in such trouble that many of the great new amalgamated nations of the day—the South American Alliance, the African Federation—began to break at the seams due to the enormous pressure from the older powers—the European Union, the United States of North and Central America. Great wars broke out like those centuries before. Just when humanity seemed to coalesce into the most cohesive, cooperative, unabated juggernaut, it all yielded to old alliances and old grudges hastily revived from a period when H. sapiens were relatively mindless and overly reactive. And thus, their new home, Mars, was quickly swept under the rug in exchange for blood, tears, and scientific and humanitarian setbacks. Flights to Mars dwindled and became sparse. Soon the new conflict had completely consumed those on Earth, and the great preserver of global-uncooperativeness reemerged: nationalism. For there would be no more great undertakings with this hydra in place once again. All would be on hiatus until the great battle would be decided: the lender conquering the debtor. The war went on for far longer than any human had ever imagined; this was a global affair—the only global effort since the voyages to Mars, unfortunately. H. sapiens on Mars watched in disbelief. They chose sides too, but not nearly as whole-heartedly, not nearly as blindly. Maybe it was due to the distance between the two planets which lessened the significance of the war; maybe it was simply seeing things from an outside perspective. Humans on Mars were investing their time in securing the future of Mars, and they concerned themselves with that. Strange happenings were slowly being realized on Mars. After several generations of H. sapiens on Mars being exposed to their new environment, minute differences, yet too small to notice, were occurring. Soon these differences would begin to compound. What was once a nine-month gestation period turned to eight and a half, then eight, and so forth. Intelligence scores on standardized tests brought from Earth but formulated for Martians were strangely increasing. Caloric intake gradually decreased; this happened along with a decrease in that period of the day when consciousness is nearly lost, sleep. What was driving these changes? More important, what was to become of these changes?

H. sapiens had developed a theory called punctuated equilibrium. It states that, when a species is exposed to a new environment and when the conditions are right, over many generations the species will be forced to adapt and adapt with a certain unbelievable degree of celerity. It could have been the chemical composition of the Martian atmosphere; the rain which fell from the sky; the soil in which many inhabitants dared to grow new, exotic Martian plants and crops. It could have been a combination of these things or something altogether heretofore unthought-of which triggered the awesome forces of change e.g. population bottleneck, etc. These changes were concentrated in certain Martian populations which soon greatly outnumbered those lacking these essential survival adaptations. It seemed as though it was merely a tick on the clock of geological time in which H. sapiens on Mars had been completely rendered inferior, and then, extinct.

The Great War had come to an end. Reconstruction was now underway on nearly the entire planet Earth. Many scientists had fled to Mars long ago, and the practice of science on Earth was not a top priority, nor would it be for many centuries to come. The bulk of the work then had to be what it has always been for H. sapiens: rebuilding what they had destroyed. This was a long, arduous process. Many were claiming, however, that a return to that once great age of prominence and discovery was not far off. So they worked. By this time it was obvious that the two organisms, humans on Earth and their counterparts on Mars, were no longer of the same type. Scientists on both planets decided to classify humans on Mars as a different species, but still within the same genus: Homo intellegens. The differences were stark. H. intellegens is more efficient during gestation, it also excels at digestion and overall energy drive. H. sapiens needed 8 hours of sleep; H. intellegens needs only 4. H. intellegens eats less and maintains concentration levels only achieved by the great humans such as Einstein and others. And no pesky “little” toe!

The intelligence increase proved to be vital. Over the next several centuries, advances in H. intellegens technology made it possible to construct a device which would alert them of imminent dangers such as asteroids, comets and other possible catastrophic calamities. When approached about a mutual protection pact between the two planets, Earth and Mars, H. sapiens scoffed at the idea of the need for any such device and, in a fit of jealousy, cut off all communications with the “gloomy, worrying pessimists.” Members of homo sapiens were still struggling and squabbling amongst one another after the Great War. They quarreled and caterwauled, not able to ever come to agreements due to a vast array of different traditions and conventional cultures. My physics teacher taught me that, assuming normal conditions in the universe, gravity always wins. And it did when what the H. intellegens scientists had predicted to happen happened: an asteroid collision in the belt produced just the right amount of force for it to began its long, spiraling descent towards the sun. The asteroid was just big enough to cause a significant amount of damage to Earth or Mars. It headed for Mars; but we were ready. The enormously complex system of deflection put in place by its inhabitants saved the planet from what would have been an awesome collision. Unfortunately for life on Earth, the deflection was uncontrollable. The Earth was now directly in its path. How would H. sapiens react?

After the catastrophe, we made an extended effort to develop the Moon as an outpost for the terraforming of Earth’s post-impact atmosphere. This has been a great success. Earth is now readily accessible several times per day by a device which fully utilizes gravity’s immense power to send passengers to and from the Moon. Entire cities now inhabit both the Moon and the Earth.

Archaeological digs on Earth regularly take place, in hopes of salvaging remnants of their history. This is one of the reasons why this traveling exhibit of items brought back from Earth is so appealing: they are the remnants of our ancestors. Even though we are quite familiar with many of the objects found due to the advanced technological stage in which we lived when the catastrophe occurred, we still find the thrill of discovery ever powerful.

Some modern day scholars suggest that it was simply a matter of time before H. sapiens did itself in, so to speak. The path humans were on was always divided, rarely united. Knowing its history and the cultural differences which persisted, we, however, still find it difficult to understand its inability to cooperate with one another. Being a species devoid of political boundaries and cultural differences, we are nearly always working towards the greater good and the advancement of our humankind. Seeing H. sapiens in conflict simply reinforced our earlier generations’ dispositions towards unity and cooperation. H. intellegens will not forget H. sapiens. We thank them and honor them for bringing about the ‘Dawn of Science’.

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