What is it about?

The question of whether or not earthlings should colonize Mars is exacerbated by the hostile conditions space travelers will confront: radiation exposure that threatens life; diminished gravity causing loss of bone strength; an alien surface atmosphere requiring cocoon living; and isolation from ongoing Earth history. If planners of a permanent Mars colony elect to create a posthuman species to populate the Red Planet, could CRISPR gene editing speed up adaptive evolution? To prevent interplanetary sin transfer, could genetic engineering pre-program virtue and altruism into the future Martian community? This essay concludes: if a biosphere already exists on Mars, we should treat it as having intrinsic value; but if Mars is currently lifeless, then, despite interplanetary sin transfer, we should take advantage of the opportunity to seed the Red Planet with life borrowed from Earth.

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Why is it important?

Enthusiasm for traveling to Mars is growing. The scientific and technological challenges are immense, yet terrestrial can-do-ism affirms that we will rise to the challenge. This challenge may require genetically modifying astronaut DNA. This will include germline modification, which has been a no-no so far on Earth. Will the extraterrestrial context change our ethics?


We ate the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley, California, sponsor research programs, cultivate good teaching, and offer public service.

Prof Ted F Peters
Graduate Theological Union

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This page is a summary of: Evolving from Earthlings into Martians?, January 2020, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-42036-9_16.
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