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Homo Reductio: Eco-Nihilism and Human Colonization of Other Worlds

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Abstract

Eco-nihilists argue that, until and unless humans can demonstrate an ability to live in harmony with our environment, humankind deserves extinction and thus colonization of other worlds in the foreseeable future would be immoral. This paper responds by examining three implicit assumptions behind this claim: the inevitability of doom, radical moral egalitarianism, and collective guilt. Since these are all, at best, highly debatable, we should focus the debate on how and when to colonize rather than whether to do so at all.
NOTE: 
Smith, Kelly C. (2019a) “Homo Reductio: Eco-Nihilism and Human Colonization of Other
Worlds” in a special issue of Futures on Social and Ethical Issues in Astrobiology, 108.
Homo Reductio
Eco-Nihilism and Human Colonization of Other Worlds

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I Introduction
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!*&;;<.
!$
"1
:!=*+,,0.
%!!!8
">5(?@
*+,&0.:!
$5!
1A"B
$!1!
!!
1"'()**3&;;-.$
!
(+,'5

$!'
1:
!/"
II. Implicit Assumptions
'!!
!1"
'$'!!

&.'!'!
")2!
1-
!!!"'
1!$
"C$

<">!
!*1
C!2+,,-."
A'$$2!!
!"
-B!8!
$!'
"
<'55!$2
!*!!!
!."
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!1!$$7
5"'!
!1$
G

$6*(+,,;."
E'$*(+,&G.
5/1*""$/>!
."
"!D
4$
5
$"
5!8!
"?$!!
6$"0C5
>5!
%
!"
!$!

"
Conclusion
'"'5!
!
!;"!"
'5#!
!!"B
"
/  
 -.! 
  /
@ B#7
$'"C'
12
"!
/5
$$*.
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0(?85&0EE0("
!!"
;$''*
!.$$
"
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"'$$!
!D5
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/
!
$"
'CD*+,&+.
!
1 *2.
 334
  35 3
/# !
.0  
6$0  3
78899
:; 3 3
 3 
3" 
0<=&>9# 
0<5?3/#
?3 &&
33#
03  #
'"
Acknowledgements
!6$(
3$CD$D>$"
$$"
References
C!$BC2*%".*+,,-.?D$?!$
?!=@"
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... While these matters are not likely to be settled anytime soon [1,[10][11][12][13][14][15][16], it seems difficult to deny that space settlements will, at some point, play an essential role in the preservation of humanity. Whether the urgency exists only for far future humans, or whether we will experience it in our lifetimes, it is worth considering how pursuing space settlement for survival might shape how plans and decisions are made. ...
... Time, in addition to leisure time, must be reserved for settlers to reflect on their experiences and their values, and how living in space has shaped those values. Physical spaces should be designed to permit religious assemblies, 11 For discussion of this and other implicit conceptual commitments that impact of thinking about social and ethical issues in astrobiology, see [54]. but also to permit both individual and communal experiences of and excursions into the space environment. ...
... As academics from the humanities and social sciences, we confess to a tendency to focus on norms and ideals, sometimes at the exclusion of practical or more pragmatic considerations, which may be evident in several places above. 11 Nevertheless, we need people who are able to think beyond short-term practical limitations, and who do so in studious and principled ways, since a failure to consider, anticipate, or work toward solving longerterm problems (all too often dismissed or completely ignored by more pragmatically-focused thinkers) will help us to avoid the tragic outcomes that sometimes befall major endeavors, especially those conceived and conducted in relative haste. As much is proof enough that a professional ethicist might not be the best choice for mission leader of an initial settlement effort. ...
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We advocate for a "humanitarian review" of space settlement proposals, which takes seriously the various cultural and ethical questions that space settlement raises. As a preview of how such a review might be conducted, we discuss five rationales or objectives for space settlement (for long-term human survival; for resources; for scientific knowledge; for adventure; and for spiritual insights). We argue that none of these rationales escapes the need for thorough scrutiny, because each rationale raises challenging and distinctive cultural and ethical questions during all phases of the settlement process. Of particular relevance here are questions concerning who gets to participate in settling space as well as who benefits from the endeavor. Thus, regardless of our rationale for settling space, we will not do so ethically unless we continually subject our decision-making to critical scrutiny, not only on Earth during the planning phase, but also while settlers are in-transit and throughout the settlement's founding and growth. 1 INTRODUCTION What would it mean to say that we are ready to settle space? That we have powerful enough rockets for instigating settlement missions? That habitat engineering and in situ resource utilization are sufficiently mature? That biomedical research has developed reliable treatments for space-based health haz-ards? While these are the first kinds of answers we might give, there are other equally important matters to consider. Even more daunting than the above are the seldom-appreciated ethical and cultural challenges associated with establishing a permanent (and ideally, self-sustaining) human space settlement. 1 A basic premise of the ensuing discussion is that questions about our readiness to instigate space settlement are largely incoherent on their own, and that such questions can only be investigated meaningfully alongside questions about the prox-imate and ultimate purposes that space settlement might serve. After all, we could hardly determine whether we are ready to accomplish some task before defining the task and identifying criteria of success. In other words, we cannot answer the question "Are we ready to go?" before answering the question "Why go?" The trouble here is that a great variety of answers have been given to the "Why go?" question, ranging from adventure and scientific study to economic development and long-term human survival. While reasonable people may disagree about which of these rationales is the most attractive or defensible, and while we would insist that space settlement is too important and too expensive to be done for the wrong reasons, nevertheless we would be remiss if we did not emphasize that this 1 Also under-appreciated are the distinctively political and geopolitical challenges space settlement raises [1,59], but discussing these matters falls outside the scope of this paper. question is only the first of many that need to be asked. Indeed, rationales for space settlement do not exist in a vacuum, and each raises numerous ethical and cultural questions that shape how we (should) think about what it means to pursue a successful , worthwhile space settlement program. To see this, consider that even if there was universal agreement behind a single space settlement rationale-to create a "backup planet" for humanity, for instance-many important issues would remain: Who gets to participate in the endeavor? Who is responsible for financially and materially supporting the settlement? Who receives the benefits of establishing the settlement? Will the settlement govern itself? How closely will it be tied-economically, socially, and politically-to Earth? The simple fact is that even if we agree on why we must settle space, we must still grapple with how we are going to use space settlement to satisfy this objective. This point should be recognizable to anyone familiar with the planning of contemporary space missions: Mission success comes only after a lengthy but necessary period of critical, technical, and financial review, often resulting in a mission that is substantively different from the earliest proposals. Space settlement missions are different in this regard in only one way: Given that their "success criteri-on" is the establishment of a sustainable human society, then a "humanitarian review" is mission critical. What we will explore below are some of the questions that should be raised as part of this humanitarian review. It is difficult to overstate just how complex this matter is: Why we pursue settlement missions affects who participates in these missions; and each of these things affects to whom and to what degree space settlement provides tangible benefits. In all likelihood, space settlement will be pursued for an assortment of reasons, which serves to multiply rather than reduce our task. If we are to pursue space settlement in support of multiple objectives and in
... In this article we do not consider in any detail the arguments raised by those environmental ethicists who disagree with human exploration or colonization of space 1 3 Ethical Challenges in Human Space Missions: A Space Refuge,… on the grounds that the human species does not have the right to survive, as long as it is the case that humans are not able to live in harmony with the natural world (Smith 2019). Rather, we discuss three issues that can provide objections against, as well as arguments for, human missions to Mars and the establishment of a Mars settlement: the idea of a space refuge, the scientific value of space exploration, and the challenge of human enhancement. ...
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This article examines some selected ethical issues in human space missions including human missions to Mars, particularly the idea of a space refuge, the scientific value of space exploration, and the possibility of human gene editing for deep-space travel. Each of these issues may be used either to support or to criticize human space missions. We conclude that while these issues are complex and context-dependent, there appear to be no overwhelming obstacles such as cost effectiveness, threats to human life or protection of pristine space objects, to sending humans to space and to colonize space. The article argues for the rationality of the idea of a space refuge and the defensibility of the idea of human enhancement applied to future deep-space astronauts.
... The Futures special issue entitled "Human Colonization of Other Worlds" is devoted to ethical issues on the human right and rationale to colonize space. Contributors discuss mostly human rights to colonize space in the context of various ethical, cultural, political and social issues (Billings, 2019;Marino, 2019;Oman-Reagan, 2019;Potthast, 2019), (Traphagan, 2019); challenges related to the social and psychological life on Mars (Tachibana, 2019); a careful approach to future colonisation of space (Smith, 2019), and a moral imperative and obligation to colonise space (Green, 2019;Munévar, 2019). ...
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p>Present paper discusses critical aspects of the colonization of outer space in view of the broad and robust law required in accordance with democratic ideals. The article also addresses ethical issues touching planetary environmental preservation — especially in the event of alien life — as well as relevant topics relating to future terraforming projects. Key-words: outer space law, ethics, terraforming, alien life. ================================================================ O presente trabalho discute aspectos críticos referentes à colonização do espaço exterior em vista da ampla e robusta legislação requerida em conformidade com os ideais democráticos. O artigo também aborda questões éticas tocantes à preservação ambiental planetária — especialmente na eventualidade de existência de vida alienígena — bem como tópicos relevantes relativos a futuros projetos de terraformação. Palavras-chave: lei do espaço exterior, ética, terraformação, vida alienígena.</p
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Human survival is currently threatened by many existential risks. Because humankind is the only known species capable of complex morality, if humankind went extinct, morality would die with us. Given that the existence of humankind is a precondition for morality, therefore the first principle of morality should be, as Hans Jonas noted, that humankind must exist. Compared to ensuring human survival, all other moral values and actions are secondary. While protecting human life on Earth is the obvious choice for human survival, as long as humanity is in only one place, it will never be completely safe. Because space settlement gives humankind the opportunity to significantly raise the chances of survival for our species, it is therefore a moral imperative to settle space as quickly as possible.
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An extreme position I label Mariomania seems to be taking hold within the astrobiology community. Mariomania holds that, if there is life on Mars, even if it is merely microbial, we must “leave Mars to the Martians.” This paper offers an extended critique of this position, pointing out a number of problems. Mariomania seems to appeal to a very strong conception of intrinsic value. From a theoretical perspective, there is no clear justification for such an ascription. Even if there were, doing so presents major practical difficulties since ethical rules based on such values tend to be inviolate in character. Attempts to apply the Mariomaniac ideals will thus encounter the same sorts of difficulties which plague the Prime Directive of Star Trek. These sorts of concerns no doubt account in part for the unpopularity of Mariomaniacal ideas as revealed in a poll of both lay and professional ethical audiences. Finally, I sketch the outline of an alternative argument that stresses the moral importance of opportunity costs humanity would incur by foregoing exploitation of Mars. While these issues are far more complex than the Mariomania declarations imply, there are nevertheless good moral reasons for human interests to be given pride of place when they unavoidably conflict with those of Martian microbes.
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