Over the past months, many of us have argued back and forth over the possibile existence of life on Mars. I have always felt this is an impoortant question, although I have never uynderstood exactly WHY I thought it was important.
However, now I understand that this question relates to several other important subjects of public debate, which have been very much on the public mind. The teaching of evolution in public schools has come under unwarranted attack. The reason for this is that many people believe it is wrong, and want to teach creationism instead. At the same time, hard scientific evidence of global warming and climate change have been challenged. I think the underlying dilema is the issue of scientific fact versus public opinion. Science seeks to understand the universe through a process of careful observation and logic. By observing the universe, and developing theories to explain what we see, we may eventually come to understand everything from climate modeling to quantum mechanics.
I believe, for many reasons, that there is or was life on mars. You can find all these arguments in this forum, if you can sort through the signal to noise problem (ES, RW, etc!) But this is an important question, because we live in a time when people want to abandon science, logic, and reason, because they are not popular. Because it takes a lot of hard work to understand the truth. Because it is easier to try to understand a simple story which was told thousands of years ago they to accept the logical truth which, after all, we can see with our own eyes.
Science is based on observation, and thus the foundations of science are our own five senses, and everything we can reason from them.
That is why it is IMPORTANT for NASA to give a little bit more emphasis to bio science and less on geo science. That is why the loss of the ESA's Beagle experiment was sucha tragedy. Beagle had bio science experiments, the rovers do not. For nearly 30 years, NASA has resisted addressing this question.
Although in many ways NASA is a pioneer in the field of science, in this one important area they have been reluctant to uncover the truth. I do not really know why, perhaps it is because of pressure from the same people who want to teach creationism in public schools and post the ten commandments in our court rooms. There is nothing wrong with faith, so long as it does not blind us to the objective truth. This is a question of truth, and in the end it is a question of freedom.