For some of us, history and ethics go hand-in-hand. When considering extraterrestrial life, we may have to consider our “track record” in the colonial times of yesteryear. So, the question may arise—how do we treat extra-terrestrial life at first contact? The question is simple but it has thorny repercussions; especially for our children’s children. I do not want to tread upon any “prime directive (Star Trek ethics)” or a “manifest destiny” type assumption. If we find extra-terrestrial, microbial life on Europa, Enceladus or Mars—how do we regard the new-found “life.” The decisions we make will, firstly, be indicative of how we regard ourselves; secondly, be indicative of where we may never trod again.
We have “finally” found microbial life under the surface of Mars. The “latest” rover has drilled 3 meters into the Martian crust and found definitive life. In addition to the finding of life—we discover that the “life” has the ability to convert inorganic carbon (Carbon Dioxide) into Diamond. The question being—how do we as a species treat the finding? Do we farm the Martian planet? Do we allow business interests to develop the finding? Perhaps, based upon the state of “Climate Change,” the discovery is viewed as “the finding of the millennium.”
We discovered “microbial” life on Enceladus. Samples were returned to Earth and all who handled the “returns” perished. Ironically, our pursuit to find life beyond Earth succeeded, and we knew of water on Enceladus for past 40 years. However, the discovery dealt a bad blow to the further pursuit for life beyond Earth. And it is viewed as the perfect time to end the search for life beyond Earth.
The scenarios commonality allows one to ponder the “what if” of technology’s effect upon our perception of science. Generally, science and scientists are viewed favorably among the general public. But, what if the two years (of discovery) were reversed—would the government allow “ground-breaking” science to continue?