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Pages: 1
Author Topic: What ethical obligations do we have to extraterrestrial life?


Bryan
Europa Astronaut
Posts: 98
What ethical obligations do we have to extraterrestrial life?
on: October 11, 2013, 23:20

What ethical obligations do we have toward other life, and do the obligations change based on how advanced that life is?

I find it unlikely we find life that is intelligent as we are in the seas of Europa, but it's conceivable that we find something on the scale of Arthropods, bacteria, or even pre-biotic chemical soup. What level of contamination and harm should we allow the astronauts to commit in order to study and live on the planet?



Timothy709
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 6
Re: What ethical obligations do we have to extraterrestrial life?
on: December 11, 2013, 21:02

Inadvertent but mitigated contamination would have the smallest impact. It would be unreasonable to assume that human interaction with other life will leave it forever unchanged. We can intend for that change to be analogous to the way a sperm changes an egg but may change other life like the way a cancer changes a cell. We have the apparent luxury of time to plan an ethical, small human footprint mission. However, I for one have a sense of urgency. If we are to continue as a species, we must leave Earth, now. If, collectively, humanity sees its immanent destruction, let's say a planet killer is coming that we can't stop, does that make it more ethical for us to disrupt other life's natural evolution?
Barring destruction I think our ethical obligations do not change based on the complexity of other life.. .sort of. One Europan bacteria is a precious as a Europan tube worm. I am comfortable with telling a pre-biotic chemical soup, "Sorry, we're disrupting you're chemistry." I may have just prevented a potential new species but didn't kill anything.



Tsiolk
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 3
Re: What ethical obligations do we have to extraterrestrial life?
on: December 19, 2013, 16:27

Do we intend to take samples for preservation or record only data? What kind of equipment, sterilization methods, and expertise would be necessary for something like this?

On the subject of ethics though, I'd like to point out that we as humans do not regret what became of dinosaurs, so is introducing change to the Europan biological system really such a tragedy?



Drake
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 20
Re: What ethical obligations do we have to extraterrestrial life?
on: December 19, 2013, 19:55

We do not regret the loss of the dinosaurs because we never knew them, and did not cause their destruction. We are however, fighting to save endangered species today. So avoiding any damage to extraterrestrial life forms would be a priority.



Tsiolk
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 3
Re: What ethical obligations do we have to extraterrestrial life?
on: December 19, 2013, 20:29

I was trying to say that we don't feel like those 64 million y/o species should exist now; not that its a sense of guilt we feel. The event which brought about such a dramatic shift in evolution on Earth is not something which people would think ethical to reverse. I support that not critically damaging the alien system is a top priority, but perhaps simply influencing it in some way is not quite as bad.



Drake
Europa Dreamer
Posts: 20
Re: What ethical obligations do we have to extraterrestrial life?
on: December 19, 2013, 21:11

Agreed, although if we find life at this early a stage in its evolutionary process, we have no way of knowing just how large the ramifications will be after a small change today. I'm not worried about physical disturbances such as taking samples, more so leaking toxic fuel or battery acid, or a microbe their immune systems have never seen before.

If we do find out for certain that life on Europa is doomed, or doesn't exist at all, I support attempts to alter it or introducing a species of our own. I believe it is very important that there be a second cradle of life in our solar system, should anything happen to the first.



Bryan
Europa Astronaut
Posts: 98
Re: What ethical obligations do we have to extraterrestrial life?
on: March 12, 2014, 19:53

I would personally like to see Europa evolve without human intervention, if indeed life is there. But that is more of a scientific desire than anything else, to see an alternate form of life, to understand the different possibilities of self-replicating chemistry, and this interest informs my personal ethics regarding intervention.

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