Author(s): Persson E
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Abstract If we eventually discover extraterrestrial life, do we have any moral obligations for how to treat the life-forms we find; does it matter whether they are intelligent, sentient, or just microbial-and does it matter that they are extraterrestrial? In this paper, I examine these questions by looking at two of the basic questions in moral philosophy: What does it take to be a moral object? and What has value of what kind? I will start with the first of these questions by looking at the most important attempts to answer this question on our own planet and by asking whether and how they could be applied to extraterrestrial life. The results range from a very strong protection of all extraterrestrial life and all extraterrestrial environments, whether inhabited or not, to total exclusion of extraterrestrial life. Subsequently, I also examine whether extraterrestrial life that lacks moral status can have value to human or alien life with moral status, and if that could generate any obligations for how to treat extraterrestrial life. Based on this analysis, I conclude that extraterrestrial life-forms can have both instrumental value and end value to moral objects, which has strong implications for how to treat them.
This article was published in Astrobiology
and referenced in Journal of Astrobiology & Outreach