“We have a moral obligation to seed the universe with life”

Paul Raven @ 10-02-2010

Centaurus A galaxies eruptingThat’s the opinion of Michael Mautner, Research Professor of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University:

As members of this planet’s menagerie, and a consequence of nearly 4 billion years of evolution, humans have a purpose to propagate life. After all, whatever else life is, it necessarily possesses an incessant drive for self-perpetuation. And the idea isn’t just fantasy: Mautner says that “directed panspermia” missions can be accomplished with present technology.

“We have a moral obligation to plan for the propagation of life, and even the transfer of human life to other solar systems which can be transformed via microbial activity, thereby preparing these worlds to develop and sustain complex life,” Mautner explained to PhysOrg.com. “Securing that future for life can give our human existence a cosmic purpose.”

Hasn’t the relentless drive of self-propagation been shown to be somewhat problematic over the long term? Do we need a cosmic purpose? More importantly, does the cosmos need us to have a cosmic purpose? When evangelical ideology and colonialism run out of planetary surface, I guess they have to start looking further afield for things to interfere with… [image via badastronomy]

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5 Responses to ““We have a moral obligation to seed the universe with life””

  1. Andy Havens says:

    Not that a universe full of bickering humans is necessarily the best thing ever… but if the choice is that or a universe full of inanimate rocks and lifeless cauldrons of chemical ooze… I’ll take the bickering.

  2. Robert Koslover says:

    If the universe is ever to become populated with civilizations, then it will become populated, and dominated, by those who choose to reproduce and spread themselves vigorously among other worlds. If you/we choose not to do that, regardless of any validity of the moral/religious/humanistic reasons we might cite in making that decision, then you/we will NOT be among those future, dominant, civilizations. Reproduce and spread or become extinct. It pretty-much applies to all animals, plants, insects, bacteria, and us. It always has, and quite possibly, always will.

  3. Steve Wilson says:

    I’m with Andy – “inanimate rocks and lifeless cauldrons of chemical ooze” aren’t worthy of enough moral consideration to prevent us from seeding them with life.

  4. Jetse says:

    Robert–

    “Reproduce and spread or become extinct.”

    That’s what the bugs thought before the exterminator came in…

    See also Bruce Sterling’s classic short story “Swarm”.

  5. Nancy Jane Moore says:

    The universe is already teeming with life, so from the perspective of spreading life (either microbial or, supposedly, civilized) I see no moral imperative. Life will develop (and has already developed) throughout the universe regardless of whether we humans spread some of it around or wipe ourselves out so thoroughly that no microbes remain to start life anew here on Earth.

    That is to say, it’s not our job to populate the universe, though I’m all for us exploring it. It’s our job as human beings to evolve into beings that one day might qualify as civilized and truly intelligent. (Anyone who thinks we’ve reached that point already clearly doesn’t read enough newspapers.)