Diablo Cody: How would religious people react to life on Mars?

If a bunch of freaky-looking extraterrestrials actually made contact with us, I think that might blow a few minds. Can you imagine the reality show? ‘What happens when this Kansas family befriends a sassy Uranian? Here Comes Beezeltron XV14.’

A few weeks ago, I was wide-eyed and wired at 3am. As the mother of a toddler who shrieks in the night as new molars breach his virgin gum tissue, being awake at this hour is not terribly unusual for me. However, on this night, I was Out (which is terribly unusual for me).

I was sitting on the terrace of a hulking Italianate McMansion with a friend of mine, a Nasaemployed doctor who invented a prosthetic hand that sends actual sensory input to the wearer’s brain. Obviously, I’m much more impressive than he is, since I write movies. I mean, I guess the godlike ability to replicate nerve impulses is OK, but it’s no Jennifer’s Body.

My friend and I were, appropriately, looking at the stars. Not the actual stars, but fake laser galaxies that were projected on to the walls and floor of the terrace via a contraption from the mailorder gadget firm Hammacher Schlemmer.

The universe swirled around us, illuminating the gaudy ironwork and Venetian plaster that made the house look like a theme-park pavilion. The real stars were reduced to background players, winking dimly in the polluted California night. Two storeys below us, a group of revellers soaked in a colour-changing Jacuzzi, passing a wet cigarette back and forth and laughing about something.

My friend suddenly turned to me and said: “Do you know what event would completely change the world?”

I thought hard. “If someone brought us another round of vodka-grapefruits?”

“Well, yeah, that would be great. But really, there would be a huge mass consciousness shift if only we had proof of life outside earth,” my friend said, getting all Nasa on my drunk ass.

“Sure,” I said. “If a bunch of freaky-looking extraterrestrials actually made contact with us, I think that might blow a few minds. Can you imagine the reality show? ‘What happens when this Kansas family befriends a sassy Uranian? Here Comes Beezeltron XV14.’”

“I don’t even mean a full-on alien invasion,” my friend said. “I mean just proof that they exist. Even though most people can intellectualise that there are planets in the sky, the mere idea that something exists beyond us could trigger a spiritual revolution.”

I got what he was saying. In earth’s most popular religious traditions, the concept of God is wholly human-centred.

As a Catholic, I was raised to believe that God created me in His image; if you think about it, this teaching infers that God has nostrils, ear wax, tibiae and fibulae, a butt, and so forth.

That’s pretty arrogant. How would the world’s believers reconcile the idea of God with, say, a sentient vapour from Mars? Or the idea that we’re not the “perfect creation” we believed ourselves to be, that there are 200ft star-gods who stalk Alpha Centauri Bb?

I’m not even comfortable with the existence of Angelina Jolie, let alone a throbbing telepathic brain stem from the outer edge of the solar system. I need to feel that I am a superior being, not a primitive, stinking flesh-poppet from a stupid mudball called earth.

I write movies, after all.

Diablo Cody is a screenwriter, producer and director who wrote “Juno” and “Jennifer’s Body”

Diablo Cody. Image: AFP/Getty

This article first appeared in the 23 October 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Russell Brand Guest Edit

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Why is the UK banning laptops on flights from the Middle East?

Critics are questioning why the security measure only applies to airlines coming from the Middle East. 

The UK has just announced a ban on electronic devices in carry-on luggage on flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. The ban is effective immediately.

The restrictions on devices such as laptops, tablets, DVD players, and some large phones follow in footsteps of a US ban affecting eight countries and nine airlines announced late Monday evening. Devices measuring more than 16cm in length, 9.3cm in width, or 1.5cm in depth will need to be checked-in to hold luggage. 

Why?

The US Department from Homeland Security cited "the 2015 airliner downing in Egypt; the 2016 attempted airliner downing in Somalia; and the 2016 armed attacks against airports in Brussels and Istanbul" as evidence that terrorist organisations are smuggling explosives inside electronic devices. A spokesperson from Number 10 stated that the UK have been "in close touch" with the US during the decision-making process.

Why now?

A government spokesperson says the restrictions have been implemented after Theresa May met with security officials this morning, after chairing several similar meetings over "the last few weeks". It is likely that a specific security report inspired the ban, though no details on this have been made available.

Which airlines are affected by the UK ban? 

The UK airlines which are affected are : British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2.com, Monarch, Thomas Cook, and Thomson

Overseas airlines affected are: Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airways, Atlas-Global Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Egyptair, Royal Jordanian, Tunis Air, Saudia

Why predominantly Middle Eastern countries and airlines? 

It is not apparent why a measure ostensibly about safety has not been implemented universally, as with the liquids ban. If the measure was truly about security - and not simply security theatre - it would make sense for something that is considered dangerous by security experts to be banned worldwide.

So what really might be behind it? 

Apart from good old fashioned Islamophobia, Henry Farrell speculates in the Washington Post that Trump is attempting to bolster business for US airlines. Unlike in the UK, the US ban affects specific airlines, not just countries, meaning that US airlines not implementing the restrictions will gain new customers. 

As for the UK, Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport said the government are "working with the aviation industry to minimise any impact". It is possible that the government recieved a credible security threat and are attempting to implement measures that don't affect the majority of Britons. 

But will these measures be effective?

Critics note that any potential terrorists can merely change flight in a different country, or depart from a different country in the first place. 

Experts also argue that placing lithium batteries in checked backage is also dangerous, as they are a fire hazard. 

Evan Hill, a prominent writer about the Middle East, has also stated that the measures will put journalists' personal and private information at risk, and therefore hinder reporting.