What is it about?

If space explorers discover a biosphere supporting life on an off-Earth body, should they treat that life as possessing intrinsic value? This is an ethical quandary leading to a further question: how do we ground a universal moral norm to which the astroethicist can appeal? This article closely analyzes various forms of responsibility ethics and finds them weak because they commit the naturalistic fallacy--that is, they ask nature to define the good. The good, however, is self-defining and not derivable from nature. Even so, a revised responsibility ethic could ground its universal norms on the fact that life and only life can experience and appreciate the good. Conclusion: life posses intrinsic value both on Earth and elsewhere in the universe.

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Why is it important?

Preparatory ethical decisions now that get formulated into public policy would guide space explorers should the discovery of microbial life on Mars, Enceladus, or elsewhere occur.


This author concludes that off-Earth life should be treated as having intrinsic value and off-earth biospheres protected from destruction by earthlings.

Prof Ted F Peters
Graduate Theological Union

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This page is a summary of: Does extraterrestrial life have intrinsic value? An exploration in responsibility ethics, International Journal of Astrobiology, February 2018, Cambridge University Press,
DOI: 10.1017/s147355041700057x.
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