Scott Waring, editor of UFO Sightings Daily, claims he is certain that the Curiosity rover image above shows an ancient Mars civilization carving of the face of a dragon or a horse. But if after taking a close look you aren't convinced, don't lose faith. According to Waring, the sculpture looks like a rock, rather than like a dragon head sculpture, only because it is millions of years old and therefore worn by the elements of the Martian weather.
"Here we have an ancient carving of a face that looks similar to a horse or dragon head. The detail is still high even though its been beaten by the sun and dust storms that ravage Mars over thousand or millions of years."
Waring and other Mars anomaly hunters would have us believe that this Curiosity rover image is the latest addition to the growing mass of photographic evidence from NASA's Curiosity and Opportunity rovers that Mars once hosted intelligent life and civilization.
"Now was this horse-like face a pet or an intelligent alien species? We may never know, but we found it, two faces of aliens out there."
But why hasn't NASA been updating us about the regular earthshaking finds of Curiosity rover even before Mars anomaly hunters are able to see the images?
Waring and his colleagues presume we all know that "NASA has been lying to the public" for years.
"We all know that NASA has been lying to the public, but did you know that NASA was created 50 years ago in order to hide the truth from the public?"
Of course, most viewers don't believe that this and other images really show fossil and archaeological remains of ancient life on Mars. Yet, our fascination with the daily finds of lizards, rats, coffins, and dinosaurs on Mars persists apparently for one reason: Mars anomaly hunters are giving a haunting demonstration of the species-specific susceptibility of the human brain as a pattern recognition system to the illusory perceptions of pareidolia.
Pareidolia refers to the tendency of the brain, as a pattern recognition system, to struggle to make sense of any given array of random or insignificant data by imposing significant meaning within the context of limited experience.
The photo below shows a rock in Ebihens, France. Do I need to tell you what it looks like? The scowling humanoid profile of the rock is so glaring that it looks, more convincingly than our Mars anomaly hunter's Mars dragon skull sculpture, as if someone invested time to carve a human face in profile out of the rock. The eyes, nose, lips, chin, cheeks and hair are so distinct that one could ask why this couldn't be the creation of an intelligent sculptor rather than of random weathering process.
Evidence that the human brain is a pattern recognition machine comes from the observation by artificial intelligence systems designers that pattern recognition computer software, such a facial recognition programs, are also susceptible to the same pitfalls of pareidolia as human observers.
What is termed pareidolia falls under the broader category of the mental phenomenon termed apophenia, define as the tendency of the human brain or mind to perceive significant patterns or logical connections in random or meaningless data.
Apophenia and its subcategory pareidolia stem from the tendency of the human mind to struggle to make sense of a jumble of data, to impose ready-made categories of meaning derived from previous experience.
If you add up the number of the letters of Obama's name and add the number x, you get 666. Now, that is significant, isn't it? But only so if you are an evangelical Christian who has pondered the meaning of the "number of the name of the Beast" while reading the Book of Revelation.
While we may view the antics of Mars anomaly researchers poring over Curiosity rover images as harmless and frivolous fun, we do well to take note of the significant issue it highlights in our ongoing quest for extraterrestrial life: The unexpected challenges we might face recognizing extraterrestrial "life" when at last we find it.
Contrary to the opinion previously held by psychiatrists, that pareidolia is a form of psychosis, it is now better understood to be a normal human tendency arising from the automatic information processing functions of the brain's pattern recognition system.
While searching for evidence of extraterrestrial life, scientists must proceed armed with preconceived notions of what life is and what it isn't. Our preconceptions about "life" are potentially a double-edged sword that could lead us wildly astray if they prove narrow and parochial, or guide us right if they prove adequately universal.
Ponder these questions: What do we mean when we use the term "life"?
How much more living is a dragon fly than an autonomous artificial intelligence program-driven helicopter?
Are we sure that we have conducted an adequate conceptual analysis of the vague term "life" that prepares us for encounters with the unexpected as we search for evidence of extraterrestrial life?