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Rajiv
2004-Oct-09, 04:04 PM
Well I am in a paradox.

I would rather that life was not discovered on mars. In my opinion this would introduce very serious moral constraints to futher exploration or colonization of mars. Colonization (or attempted colonization) of mars would almost certainly mean annihaltion of lindegenious life forms ( if any are discovered in the future)
On the other end of the spectrum discovery of life elsewhere would force us to look at ourselves from an entirely new perspective - especially as life being a mere chemical-biological phenomena capable fo replication anywhere - and shorn of all the spiritual and metaphysical babble.
Hence I would sum up my opinions in this manner :

I would not like to see life being discovered in the innter planets - probably also not in the solar system, but I will definitely welcome discovery of life elsewhere in the universe.

I would welcome your opinions on this subject

abyssalroamer
2004-Oct-10, 03:16 PM
I am fortunate, i guess, to have a larger measure of humility than most and have learned to supress my ego while "practicing" science. Life will be where it is, whether we find it or not; whether we like it or not. I would like my ideas to have some merit, but if things don't work out the way I like, then they just plain were not good ideas. To form a basis of likes and dislikes on faulty thinking doen't seem like a very satisfying endeavor.

Separated from from us by time, intellect, and obviously need, are the walks on the Langenlinie in Copenhagen of Heisenberg, Pauli, Bohr and some others. At the peak of their searches into the quantum world, each of those men put the (meta) in front of their physics (and acknowledged the "meta"). At first it was cautiously, but they realized that almost all of that group was searching for something deeper and the need became more openly expressed. We can posture and deny for ourselves the existences of those deeper meanings, but we cannot deny them outright for others. Or should not. I mean, i don't know who you are, but, respectfully, I suspect you are no Heisenberg, Pauli, Dirac or Bohr.

I had been asked by the National Academy of Sciences to dig out my notes from a philosophy of geology seminar I took as a senior in 1970, so that proper tribute could be paid to my undergrad advisor. I am also preparing a memorial lecture covering some of the areas covered. It was an intense time for me, not just in terms of the scientific revolutions going on around me, but also because men like Heisenberg and Feynman sat outside on my patio and talked with an introverted undergrad about things other than science. I have an obligation to stand up to those who decry as "babble' that which they may not fathom.

All understanding should be welcomed, regardless of where in the universe it originates. If it shatters your hypotheses, so be it. You are still all the wiser, certainly a bit more humble.

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-10, 03:24 PM
Originally posted by Rajiv@Oct 9 2004, 04:04 PM
I would not like to see life being discovered in the innter planets - probably also not in the solar system, but I will definitely welcome discovery of life elsewhere in the universe.
I agree - it would introduce some very serious problems. However, if life was discovered elsewhere in the universe it wouldn't be so bad - for a start we would probably never be able to contact them and intervene their quiet lives (if that's so) so it wouldn't really matter.

However, I must say that it doesn't really bother me in the long run - it will probably be years before we actually discover life anywhere.

antoniseb
2004-Oct-10, 04:42 PM
Originally posted by Rajiv@Oct 9 2004, 04:04 PM
Colonization (or attempted colonization) of mars would almost certainly mean annihaltion of lindegenious life forms ( if any are discovered in the future)
If the native life on Mars is a variety of extremophile bacteria living deep in the rocky surface, then I'd say that colonization would probably NOT annihilate these species, though it would certainly cause some of their habitats to be destroyed.

I do not have an ethical problem destroying microbal life, especially in an environment where it cannot possibly evolve to a higher form before the star it is orbiting dies. I think Mars is in this category.

A deeper ethical issue will concern Europa if we discover complex life like we see around deep sea vents here on Earth.

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-10, 08:08 PM
Interesting. It never occured to me before when thinking of life on other planets orbiting the sun that the sun will die before life can evolve as "antoniseb" pointed out. It seems quite sad actually. Even though our situation here on earth would become more difficult and that life on other planets would introduce problems, it qould be quite exciting!

GOURDHEAD
2004-Oct-10, 09:03 PM
do not have an ethical problem destroying microbal life, especially in an environment where it cannot possibly evolve to a higher form before the star it is orbiting dies. I think Mars is in this category.

A deeper ethical issue will concern Europa if we discover complex life like we see around deep sea vents here on Earth.

If it were a motion, I would second it!!

We must not forget that any extant martian extremophiles are not necessarily defenseless. There should be more than compassionate and curiosity for exobilogical life that fuels our respect for them.

Now is a good time to formulate rules of ethical behavior for dealing with off-earth critters. We should do it before we get too emotionally involved with them.

wstevenbrown
2004-Oct-10, 11:53 PM
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Now is a good time to formulate rules of ethical behavior for dealing with off-earth critters.* We should do it before we get too emotionally involved with them.

Couldn't agree more. The time to take responsibility is before acting. As Frost said:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And, sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood,
And looked down each as far as I could...

Italics mine. I may have misquoted slightly, as I didn't have a copy of the poem handy, and mine is a paraphrasing kind of memory, not photographic. But, you get the drift. Truly ethical behavior isn't just taking responsibility for our actions after the fact. We need to examine possible consequences before ever taking action. We don't need to export power politics on an interstellar scale. Regards, Steve

Rajiv
2004-Oct-11, 08:31 AM
Someone - i believe it was Arthur C clarke ( correct me if I am wrong ) - once said that to be fascinated with life we need not look for it elsewhere in the universe but only look all around us.
I do place great faith in the sancitity of life wherever and in whichever state it exists. However my faith in such matters is of little consequence - in the overall scheme of things. My basic question is that were life discovered on another inner planet ( say Mars ) would it not be unethical of us to colonize it - and there is many a chance we may end up destroying or profoundly altering the indegenious life forms - because of imbalances in evolutionary developement ( there is an equal chance that such imbalances wont matter in an alien ecosystem - and it may be we who will sustain more harm ) . Whatever the end result - the choices we would come up against would not be easy to make.
To simplify my questiion

Would you want to colonize another planet with life ( however primitive ) in it or would you leave the planet to the indegenious life form ? Given a choice between long term survival of our species through colonization of a planet and the preservation of alien ecosystems for thier indegenious life forms - which ones would you take ?

- let us discuss all this in context to mars & europa - because that seems closest to the topic of our debate

- One thing that comes to my mind is how can we be certain that a patricular ecosystem will not throw up advancd life in the next few billion years - would it be right to take some action based on a wrong premise.
Also if we follow the old premise we may come up against relatively advanced life forms ( say in europa - as versus mars ) would we be right in colonizing such a place.

Rajiv
2004-Oct-11, 09:58 AM
Life will be where it is, whether we find it or not; whether we like it or not.

How true !! Thank you for your candid opinions on my post. Probably my remarks regarding likes and dislikes were rather off the cuff - I have restated my questions to correctly reflect what i really wished to know.


but also because men like Heisenberg and Feynman sat outside on my patio and talked with an introverted undergrad about things other than science

You are indeed fortunate to have met the likes of Heisenberg and Feynman in flesh and blood - I wish dearly I were in your place. I have had my acquantances with them through text books and science popularization books only.Let me clarify that it was not them that I meant when I stated that most talk about life is babble.
My point in stating the same was that life is a phenomena that I do not understand ( I guess nor do most others)..but niether do I claim to understand it nor do i put forward theories regarding it. Coming from a place where metaphysics is practically a cottage industry - especially so since it seems to wallow in half-truths and deceptions - I do not place much faith on it.
If extraterrestrial life were discovered I believe it would lead to fresh evaluation of life, something which will be analytical , scientific and consistemt - than the present quasi-religious conjectures which are more often than not mutually contradictory.
What would one hope out of such revamped assesment. One would hope to see theories on life which in time children will learn about from thier school and college text books - just as I happen to have learnt theories of einstien, heisenberg,pauli and others.
With due respect - till such a time of course - I reserve the right to use the term babble. Yes others have a right to believe what seems correct to them - and they are free to fault me for my opinions or choice of words

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-12, 07:04 PM
Originally posted by Rajiv@Oct 11 2004, 08:31 AM
Would you want to colonize another planet with life ( however primitive ) in it or would you leave the planet to the indegenious life form ? Given a choice between long term survival of our species through colonization of a planet and the preservation of alien ecosystems for thier indegenious life forms - which ones would you take ?
We shouldn't "invade" alien life forms and impair on their survival. Moving colonizations of humans to areas inhabited by creatures of that planet would be wrong, even if it were to prelong the survival of OUR species.

If we should "invade" their space we could impair on their survival which is wrong. They should be left to live out their lives to the full and so should we.

We should conform to nature.

I appologize for replying slightly off the point before, but am I closer to it now?

Do you care to comment on my oppinion, Rajiv? Or anyone else?

Rigel

wstevenbrown
2004-Oct-12, 07:56 PM
We are only responsible for our choices. If it's us or them I say, circle the wagons--it's us! :( Steve

Rajiv
2004-Oct-18, 12:58 PM
Thanks for your replies - we got two diametrically opposite opinions on the subject. One with ethical/moral and the other with practical/survival related considerations.
We are all fortunate to be able to comprehend to some degree the immensity of life and thus the significance of the existance of life ( like or unlike ours ) in another planet - something that has developed very differently from ours.
From the viewpoint of of the debate between ethics and practicality - if we were ( as - say the advanced life form ) not to infringe on another habitat - it may endanger our long term survival.
Suppose we go in the question then arises - that do we as the higher life form have more right to survival. And if we do - then does not a higher life form than ours the right to move into our habitat if it so chooses.
So most of the times I have seen the either sides of the debate boomerang.
My biggest fear is that if life were discovered in mars - would we forfeit the idea of exploring it ( or for that matter colonizing it ). If that happens it would be great loss and a step backward for humanity.On the other hand say inspite of discovering life we were to force ourself on the planet - it may be a huge setback to our understanding of the process of life.
If life were discovered on mars and it would be an interesting debate - and whichever side we eventually take - we ultimately seem doomed to lose.
I am afraid there seems to be no middle path.
Any fresh ideas ?

Betelgeuse
2004-Oct-18, 05:25 PM
Originally posted by Rajiv@Oct 18 2004, 12:58 PM
I am afraid there seems to be no middle path.

I unconditionally agree with you! There's no doubt about it! B)

Liza'sFascination
2004-Oct-20, 10:43 PM
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That there is life elsewhere is not a question. Some of us have seen extra-terrestials. However, we had best observe from afar until such time as our own planet can learn to live in peace. To force ourselves on another planet that might have already learned to live in peace is very wrong at this stage of our growth. There is not much to be gained for either planet at this juncture.

kdhrocks
2004-Oct-21, 11:42 AM
As we walk across the lawn, does any of us worry about what we are killing underfoot? I think not!
Dave

Sp1ke
2004-Oct-21, 01:53 PM
To force ourselves on another planet that might have already learned to live in peace is very wrong at this stage of our growth

I think the only way that Mars can be said to be "living at peace" is because 99.99% of its inhabitants are dead. :)

Regardless, I think we do need to tread carefully with other planets from a practical viewpoint. We will learn best by studying a lifeform in its undisturbed natural environment.

And I agree that morally it would be wrong to impose ourselves on another planet until we were as sure as we could be that we would not do significant damage. I would class damage as destroying another lifeform or destroying irreplaceable environments.

This is different to walking across a lawn and crushing insects. Firstly, we are a part of our environment and this includes the constant cycle of birth, death and the killing of one lifeform by another. Secondly we need to be pragmatic; not every lifeform can be equally important and I see a big difference between one person murdering another, and a doctor destroying a life-threatening virus.

Rajiv
2004-Oct-22, 03:56 PM
Yes - I do believe it is about something larger than individual lives or even lifeforms. Ecosystems that have formed, lived and evolved in a totally alien environment may differ from our own in many remarkable ways. It would provide us with oppurtunities to study and try to understand the process of life - amd also provide unique insights on it.. More than the morality, probably this could be selfish motive we may have not to impose ourselves on alien ecosystems.
However how beneficial would be the trade-off - between going there and staying put?