Someone recently asked why the U.S. government is spending more than $2,500,000,000.00 on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission now in progress. Out of curiosity the person was asking about Curiosity, the robotic land rover now crawling across the surface of Mars collecting data and analyzing our neighboring planet. The general tone of the question can only be understood in light of the massive government debt being continuously accumulated by the United States, in addition to the increased levels of poverty throughout our nation.
The question is a good one on many fronts, but I would like to briefly focus on the humanistic nature of this mission as opposed to criticizing our federal government. It’s not that criticism isn’t warranted, but that I prefer to expend my energies elsewhere.
It is also important to understand that NASA has canceled other space exploration programs due to a lack of funding. With no manned space flight capabilities since the retirement of the shuttle program, we are currently paying Russia–the ultimate in outsourcing–to send our people into space. All of this means that the MSL mission is hugely important in the eyes of those making high level decisions.
According to NASA, the primary mission of Curiosity is to “investigate the past or present potential of Mars to support microbial life.” Essentially we are spending 2.5 billion dollars in an attempt to prove that life had once existed on Mars. Why does this matter? To fully grasp the importance, one needs to delve into the mind of a philosophical naturalist—that is an atheist or agnostic who believes that this world came into existence apart from the influence of God.
In his classic defense of Darwin’s theory of evolution, leading scientific naturalist Richard Dawkins writes:
I predict that, if a form of life is ever discovered in another part of the universe, however outlandish and weirdly alien that form of life may be in detail, it will be found to resemble life on Earth in one key respect: it will have evolved by some kind of Darwinian natural selection.
Do you see it? People such as Dawkins strongly believe that the existence of life on Mars will somehow prove the viability of naturalistic evolution apart from Divine influence. It is not, therefore, unreasonable to deduce that an integral part of the MSL mission is to provide support for Darwin’s theory of evolution.
We have not strayed much from our origins as humankind continues to seek to be like God apart from God. If astrobiologists (that this field of study even exists speaks volumes within itself) can prove that life evolved on another planet apart from Divine influence, we can freely exalt humankind to the highest order of life, casting aside all Divine accountability in the process. What some call objective science is actually constructed upon a foundation of philosophical naturalism.
To get a sense of how much this quest means to those in positions of power, simply consider the amount of effort expended, the massive diversion of limited resources from other programs, and the overall price tag of more than 2.5 billion dollars.
What matters more than the poor, more than sound fiscal government policies, more than the future of our children and grandchildren, is our quest for total independence from God. The exhilaration coming out of Curiosity’s successful landing is about much more than the completion of an extremely challenging task; it is about the glory of humankind, which is, unfortunately, the downfall of a nation.
In closing, I would like to remind the reader that the primary purpose of this post is not to criticize the U.S. government, but to illustrate how deeply ingrained is our humanistic drive for self-exaltation–as evidenced through our quest for independence from our Creator. May God graciously refuse to grant this request or it will mean the death of us all.
 The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1996, p. 288