Alston Badger

As the Mars mission continues, the cohesiveness of the mission continues to dissipate. John notes that it was only a matter of time before the Martian colonists split up into factions. What is so interesting is that Arkady, John, and many of the others were partly inspired to come to Mars in hopes of escaping the petty factionalism that plagued Earth. People back home were killing each other over religion and nationality. Such vices were believed to have been left back on the third rock from the sun, which explains Johns’s disdain for religion. Yet the removal of these vices have not ended squabbling over ideas. Once again, Robinson seems to be humanizing the scientists. Intuitively, killing people in order to prevent the terraformation of a dead planet seems horrifying and incredibly petty. I understand that the believers of a “Red Mars” worry that terraforming could kill indigenous organisms that may inhabit Mars. However, one would think that humans would value the lives of other humans over potential microorganisms. Robinson is suggesting that no matter what, humans will find something to fight over. Factionalism is inherent to any group of people, even if they are all highly intelligent and purportedly rational.

Another interesting thing that John brings up is research bias. Ann does not believe that Mars ever had oceans and is outspokenly anti-terraforming. Finding evidence of past oceans would be a win for the pro-terraforming group. John fears that she will ignore evidence, consciously or unconsciously, of past oceans in order to confirm her beliefs. However, who could one not have some kind of research bias? If Ann believed in the past ocean theory, she would be inclined to look for evidence to support this belief. In such a scenario John would not be concerned with research bias because it supports his belief. What makes this interesting is that John tries to rationalize why Ann is unfit for the job. In essence, despite John’s higher learning he still warps ideas to support his own. Research bias seems unavoidable because all humans are biased to a degree. Obviously one way to minimalize bias is to have multiple studies. However, the Mars mission does not have that kind of manpower at the moment. In John’s defense, he has some to reason to worry. After all, Ann is extremely anti-terraforming, and she has a lot of sway in regards to the terraforming plans.