Encountering Life in the Universe
Ethical Foundations and Social Implications of Astrobiology
Publication Year: 2013
Encountering Life in the Universe examines the intersection of scientific research and society to further explore the ethics of how to behave in a universe where much is unknown. Taking contributions from notable experts in several fields, the editors skillfully introduce and develop a broad look at the moral questions facing humans on Earth and beyond.
Major advances in biology, biotechnology, and medicine create an urgency to ethical considerations in those fields. Astrobiology goes on to debate how we might behave as we explore new worlds, or create new life in the laboratory, or interact with extraterrestrial life forms. Stimulated by new technologies for scientific exploration on and off the Earth, astrobiology is establishing itself as a distinct scientific endeavor.
In what way can established philosophies provide guidance for the new frontiers opened by astrobiology research? Can the foundations of ethics and moral philosophy help answer questions about modifying other planets? Or about how to conduct experiments to create life in the lab or about? How to interact with organisms we might discover on another world?
While we wait for the first echo that might indicate life beyond Earth, astobiologists, along with philosophers, theologians, artists, and the general public, are exploring how we might behave—even before we know for sure they are there. Encountering Life in the Universe is a remarkable resource for such philosophical challenges.
Published by: University of Arizona Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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Table of Contents
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List of Illustrations
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Preface - Jonathan I. Lunine and Anna H. Spitz
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Astrobiology is the study of life’s relationship to the rest of the cosmos. Its major themes include the origin of life and its precursor materials, the evolution of life on Earth, its future prospects on and off the Earth, and the occurrence of life elsewhere. Behind each of these themes is a multi-disciplinary set of questions involving physics, chemistry, biology, geology, ...
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This book grew out of the workshop “Astrobiology: Expanding Our Views of Society and Self,” held at the Biosphere 2 Institute, University of Ari-zona (UA), in May 2008. Members of the or ga niz ing committee were:• Travis Huxman, Biosphere 2 Director, UA Department of Ecol ogy • Tom Lindell, Emeritus Professor, UA Department of Molecular and ...
1. Astrobiology, Ethics, and Philosophy - William R. Stoeger, Chris Impey, and Anna H. Spitz
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The philosophy that guides this volume, Encountering Life in the Universe: Ethical Foundations and Issues and Social Implications, is captured in the title of the conference that gave it birth: Astrobiology: Expanding Our Views of Society and Self. It is certainly about the ethical issues raised by astrobiology and by the possibility of life originating and evolving elsewhere ...
2. Lessons from Earth: Toward an Ethics of Astrobiology - Carol E. Cleland and Elspeth M. Wilson
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If we assume that morality in other species will look just like human morality, we are likely to conclude that they don’t have morality, having blinded ourselves to this fascinating aspect of their behavior. Rather, we need to proceed with an open mind and view each species on its own What are our ethical responsibilities toward truly alien forms of life? This ...
3. Astrobiology and Beyond: From Science to Philosophy and Ethics - William R. Stoeger
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Astrobiology studies the characteristics and development of cosmic, galactic, stellar, and planetary environments, including those of Earth, insofar as they provide the conditions for the emergence and evolution of life. It also addresses questions about the constitution and possible varieties of life in those environments: What is the range and frequency of life— conscious ...
4. Beyond Horatio’s Philosophy: Biological Evolution and the “Plurality of Worlds” Concept - Martinez J. Hewlett
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There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in The discourse in the Western world on the possibilities of life on other worlds is as ancient as the philosophical tradition itself. Even to the pres-ent day the latest missions to Mars, aimed at the discovery of water and molecular evidence for the possibilities of life, excite the pop u lar imagina-...
5. The Wonder Called Cosmic Oneness: Toward Astroethics from Hindu and Buddhist Wisdom and Worldviews - Nishant Alphonse Irudayadason
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In this chapter I attempt to show how the Hindu and Buddhist worldviews affi rm universal harmony and how this can be paradigmatic for evolving astroethics. We shall explore the possible connections between key in-sights and intuitions of Buddhist and Hindu thought and our rapidly ex-panding understanding of the Universe, including our knowledge of life ...
6. Social and Ethical Implications of Creating Artificial Cells - Mark A. Bedau and Mark Triant
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The astrobiology search for extraterrestrial life and the prospect of some-day actually encountering extraterrestrial life are making us rethink cer-tain ethical and social issues. Many of those issues arise in part specifi cally because extraterrestrial (ET) life could be so different from any of the myriad forms of life we know about today. There is a second scientifi c ...
7. Space Exploration and Searches for Extraterrestrial Life: Decision Making and Societal Issues - Margaret S. Race
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For centuries people have wondered about life and our place in the Uni-verse. Where did life come from and what is its meaning? Are we alone? What is the future of life? Much has been written about the changing historical views of life’s origin and the possible existence of extraterrestrial (ET) life (see, for example, Dick 1999, 2002). Today, as we continue to seek ...
8. Astrobiology and Society: The Long View - Christopher P. McKay
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The current fi eld of astrobiology includes a fundamentally new question. Whereas previous lines of inquiry focused on the origin and distribution of life in the Universe, astrobiology as defi ned by NASA explicitly includes the question: What is the future of life in the Universe? In the near term this third question of astrobiology relates to the possibility of survival of life ...
9. Planetocentric Ethics: Principles for Exploring a Solar System That May Contain Extraterrestrial Microbial Life - Woodruff T. Sullivan III
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Two things fi ll the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we refl ect on them: the starry heav-—Kant, Critiq.scue of Practical Reason, 1seven.oldstyleeight.oldstyleeight.oldstyleThe heavens and the philosophy of ethics have been connected for a long time. But the Space Age has upped the ante with its many unpre ce dented ...
10. Contact: Who Will Speak for Earth and Should They? - Jill Cornell Tarter
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For millennia humans have looked at the sky and wondered whether or not we are alone in this vast Universe. The modern tools of astronomy now give us the opportunity to try to fi nd the answer to this old question; SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, is a scientifi c explora-tion that might provide an answer in the near future, much farther in ...
11. Astroethics: Engaging Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life-Forms - Ted Peters
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How might we frame ethical concerns that are likely to arise when we be-gin to engage interactively with extraterrestrial intelligence? Based upon ter-restrial experience, can we export Earth ethics? To speak to such questions, we must speculate. Ethical deliberation in light of astrobiology will un-avoidably extrapolate and imagine scenarios both in continuity and in ...
12. A Scientifically Minded Citizenry: The Ethical Responsibility of All Scientists - Erika Offerdahl
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What is the purpose of education? For thousands of years, societies, teachers, and students have wrestled with this question. Today the United States is trying to upgrade education, and particularly its science, technology, engi-neering, and mathematics education, to create not only future scientists and engineers but a more literate general population. In addition to this ...
13. Survival Ethics and Astrobiology - Neville J. Woolf
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Let us start by fantasizing that everything Western science now knows is adequate for understanding the “how” of the Universe. Reality seems so observer- dependent, but the standard Western scientifi c model is a start-ing point. There remains the ultimate question, why is there something rather than nothing?, and two associated subordinate questions: why is ...
Appendix: Astrobiological Risk: A Dialogue - Steven A. Benner and Neville J. Woolf
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Bedau, Mark A., and Paul Humpheys, eds. Emergence: Contemporary Readings in Bedau, Mark A., and Emily Park, eds. The Ethics of Protocells: Moral and Social Impli-cations of Creating Life in the Laboratory (Basic Bioethics). Cambridge, MA: MIT Beech, Martin. Terraforming: The Creating of Habitable Worlds. Berlin: Springer, 2009. Benner, S. A. Life, the Universe and the Scientifi c Method. Gainesville, FL: FAME ...
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Page Count: 283
Illustrations: 6 illustrations, 4 tables
Publication Year: 2013
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth