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The Ethics of Planetary Colonization (part 1)

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Aug. 28th, 2007 | 01:30 am
posted by: beachofdreams in exobio

The chances of humanity ever discovering and and colonizing another world like ours are rather slim. Obviously, I can't put a figure on it (although I'm betting it'd be higher than some would expect). Still, it is a possibility, and barring the certain fact that humans would have evolved since then (and possibly evolved a new way of thinking about morality) it is not inconcievable that colonizing another earth-like planet would force us to rethink our relationship to nature, if we haven't done so already.

But this wouldn't be the same nature of which we are a part. This "natural world" would likely be far different from our own, and we'd be faced with the same moral problems that are involved with introducing "alien" species to foreign ecosystems. Except, in this case, the aliens would be true aliens, with no genetic relation - so far as we're aware - to any of the life forms that populate this 'new world.' Of course, we'd have to assume that the ecology works the same on this new planet as it does on earth; what good would our environmental ethics do if this new planet had only a relatively small group of species all extremely resilient and extremely long-living (as in, say, hundreds of thousands of years)?

This is assuming that you subscribe to the view that there environmental ethics in the first place. I don't think you'd be able to reasonably argue that the environment doesn't fall into our moral sphere, although it's always up for grabs just what those ethics specify. And I don't think you'd be able to argue that other planets and their biospheres (if any exist) don't fall into our moral thinking as well.

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Comments {5}

The Peristaltic Testator

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from: peristaltor
date: Aug. 28th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
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This is assuming that you subscribe to the view that there environmental ethics in the first place.

Which is why, whenever I consider the possibility of colonization, I always choose dead wet rocks and self-contained space arks, and steer clear of anything remotely biotic.

As to altering or destroying any native life, no matter how small, whatever. Really. Any ships of fools that need to touch down on "inhabited" planets by definition NEED to do so. The distances involved to discover new rocks simply stagger the imagination.

Besides, let's say some living toehold appears. Never mind the Star Trek Prime Directive preventing interference. The biggest danger from this life is not our hapless destruction of it, but it's defensive reaction to us. Very War of the Worlds.

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Justin

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from: beachofdreams
date: Oct. 1st, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)
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"The biggest danger from this life is not our hapless destruction of it, but it's defensive reaction to us."

That's true. I was considering the ethics of sending astronauts (or exterranauts) to another planet and putting them in harm's way. I was also considering the ethics of not not doing this; ought we capture the opportunities space exploration offers us?

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The Peristaltic Testator

Mining the Rocks

from: peristaltor
date: Oct. 2nd, 2007 12:50 am (UTC)
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For that reason, I have for decades now been enamored of the Human Virus concept.

Essentially, instead of building ships designed to go from place to place and able to repair themselves only in ports, we build ships designed to build other ships. Massive, yes. Slow, yup.

But instead of "seeding" a planet with a colony, they travel from dead rock to dead rock -- asteroid belts where one should find all the ice and metals one would find planetside without having to fight the massive gravity wells. At the rocks they gather the usable resources and fatten up, leaving when depleted. When bulked up, they orbit suns, set up solar forges, and replicate all the components. One big ship flies in; two fly out. In especially large rock clusters, maybe more than two.

I saw the concept as a means to explore. Other than the replication task, the ships would also beam back travelogues. Smaller exploring bots could do the crawly survey work on gravity well surfaces. I also thought it would be cool if they returned with all that gathered materielle.

Oh, and whether or not people join this multiplying fleet is frankly irrelevant.

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(no subject)

from: the_real_eris
date: Apr. 6th, 2008 12:27 pm (UTC)
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you mean by that that soon aliens are going to eat all of us, including animals, leaaving out maybe one or two mammal species??

who wants to correspond in email:
poo.face@y7mail.com

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zorander22

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from: zorander22
date: Apr. 7th, 2008 03:23 am (UTC)
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I think that this is a very interesting question which is not easily answered. I think almost all morality depends somewhat on the context... so I can see with various contexts the answer going one way or another.

I would say that if we get to the point where we are able to colonize another "natural world", we'd likely have a better solution for expanding our living area, without interfering with the planet in question. I suppose that's circumventing the question somewhat... but I like to think that if there is a very tricky moral question, the best answer usually lies in never having that question become an issue in the first place.

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