Does Mars Have Rights?

An ethical case for terraforming the Red Planet

Does Mars have rights? What about Europa, Ganymede, and Titan—the moons of Jupiter and Saturn that may be home to rudimentary extraterrestrial life? The 1967 Outer Space Treaty requires spacefaring nations to conduct exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies “so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter.” The goal of the treaty is to prevent both back contamination (the introduction of extraterrestrial life to Earth) and forward contamination (the introduction of Earth life to extraterrestrial environments). 

The reason for avoiding back contamination is pretty clear. We want to prevent an Andromeda Strain scenario in which an unleashed alien life form harms life on Earth. Returning Apollo astronauts and their hauls of moon rocks were quarantined for a couple of weeks, just to make sure that no lunar microbes escaped to wreak havoc. Years of testing found no indication of life hidden in the moon rocks.

The main reason to guard against forward contamination is to prevent equipment designed to detect extraterrestrial life from getting confused. Consequently, NASA regularly sterilizes gear destined to land on other celestial bodies. So far no mission has detected life anywhere else in our solar system.

All this caution is reasonable, as long as we are just poking around and taking some readings. But what are our ethical obligations if, as some space exploration visionaries urge, humanity begins the process of making other worlds fit for human habitation? British planetary scientist Martyn Fogg explains, “The ultimate in terraforming would be to create an uncontained planetary biosphere emulating all the functions of the biosphere of the Earth—one that would be fully habitable for human beings.”

Mars in its current condition is not a promising home for Earth life. The Red Planet’s average temperature is -60°C, well below Earth’s average of 15°C. The pressure of its carbon dioxide atmosphere is one-hundredth that of our planet’s nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, and it lacks an ozone layer, so its surface is blasted by DNA-destroying ultraviolet rays from the sun. 

Can Mars be made more hospitable? The level of life-sustaining carbon dioxide could be raised by pumping potent man-made greenhouse gases like perfluorocarbons into the Martian atmosphere or by directing extra sunlight from a space mirror 250 kilometers in diameter at the Martian South Pole. Either solution would take an estimated 100 years to build up an atmosphere thick enough so that the new warmth would prove hospitable to colonizing anaerobic microbes that thrive in extreme environments on Earth. 

Later, we could genetically engineer Earth plants so that they could begin to pump oxygen into Mars’ atmosphere. It might take another 10,000 to 100,000 years for the terraformed Martian atmosphere to contain enough oxygen for people to breathe unassisted. But assuming that terraforming Mars would work, would doing so violate a moral obligation to leave Mars and other worlds alone?

Yes, argued Australian philosopher Robert Sparrow in a 1999 article, “The Ethics of Terraforming,” in the journal Environmental Ethics. An effort to terraform Mars, Sparrow asserted, “demonstrates two serious defects of moral character: an aesthetic insensitivity and the sin of hubris. Trying to change whole planets to suit our ends is arrogant vandalism.” 

Developing what he called an agent-based virtue ethics, Sparrow argued that what makes actions right or wrong is the character of the moral agent. Terraforming Mars indicates an ethically significant aesthetic insensitivity reminiscent of a remote hiker wantonly whacking a transient but beautiful set of icicles on a wintry day. “What is significant is the blindness the hiker has displayed to beauty even though no one else may suffer from its loss,” he wrote. The blindness is a vice. Filling Mars’ Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system, with genetically modified redwoods would indicate that we do not properly appreciate its present desolate beauty.

The second moral defect demonstrated by terraforming, according to Sparrow, is hubris, which “occurs when humans willfully ignore their limits and seek to become like gods.” Instead we should stay in our proper place. “A proper place is one in which one can flourish without too much of a struggle,” Sparrow explained. So our proper place is Earth, and “we must show that we are capable of looking after our current home before we could claim to have any place on another.”

Sparrow acknowledged that he did not offer an objective account of beauty, so the notion still resides in the eye of the beholder, as does desolate ugliness. And as awesome as the view down Valles Marineris might be right now, it would arguably be even more so if it were teeming with life. With regard to the hubris of terraforming, one initial response should be a hearty “so what?” Terraforming offers the promise of helping humanity toward practical moral improvement by increasing our understanding of just how precious terrestrial life is, aiding us in managing it toward greater integrity, stability, and beauty.

Mars may not be lifeless. Some researchers believe that Martian life may have retreated to warm underground refuges as the planet’s oceans dried up and froze hundreds of millions of years ago. Do we have any moral obligations toward Martian microbes, should they exist?

“If life is present on another world, the introduction of terrestrial life forms could lead to an ecological holocaust, a moral and aesthetic tragedy, as well as an immense loss to science,” argued University of Oregon sociologist Richard York in a 2005 article, “Toward a Martian Land Ethic,” in Human Ecology Review

Martian life might indeed constitute a “second genesis,” that is, life that has arisen independent of Earth life. Or it might be the result of transpermia, in which organisms were spread via meteors between planets. Perhaps life originated on Mars and eventually reached Earth, where it thrived. If so, what we could learn from Martian life probably would be limited, and terraforming would not be ethically much different from colonizing terrestrial ecosystems uninhabited by humans.

NASA astrobiologist Christopher McKay, who first raised the question of whether Mars has rights in a 1990 essay in the book Moral Expertise: Studies in Practical and Professional Ethics, argues that if Martian life is a second genesis, “its enormous potential for practical benefit to humans in terms of knowledge” might “exceed the opportunity cost of not establishing human settlements on Mars.” But finding a second genesis so close to Earth also would suggest that the emergence of life is a relatively common occurrence in the cosmos, reducing the moral force of arguments for preserving Martian microbes. Saving samples of Martian life for later study is a prudent precondition before embarking on terraformation.

Dead planets and moons are not intrinsically valuable. And as fascinating as they might be, Martian microbes are not moral agents, any more than are terrestrial microbes. They simply do not have an ethical point of view that we must consider. On that account, there is no good moral reason why humans should limit the expansion of terrestrial life, including themselves, throughout the solar system.

Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey is the author of Liberation Biology (Prometheus Books).

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  • Ice Nine||

    Do we have any moral obligations toward Martian microbes

    This is mental masturbation for philosphers - if you'll pardon the redundancy. Call me morally barren but I just have trouble getting very worked up about the fate of Mars' microbes.

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  •  ||

    Can't wait for the first Martian tweet.

  • ||

    5 to 20 minutes delay, depending on the relative orbital positions of Earth and Mars.

  • ||

    "an aesthetic insensitivity and the sin of hubris. Trying to change whole planets to suit our ends is arrogant vandalism.”

    Or something that will be crucial for mankind's survival in the long-run..

  • Brett L||

    Right. Wanting to terraform Mars=hubris, writing an ethical prescription for an entire species=?

  • Radioactive||

    el douchebag supreme?

  • ||

    That was IRT to "arrogant vandalism"

  • ||

    This guy is a nitwit. To use his own example, terraforming an uninhabited planet would be like a hiker collecting transient and beautiful icicles that nobody else was ever going to see and melting them over his campfire for drinking water so he could survive.

    What a twit.

  • k2000k||

    Exactly, the first ethical olbigation we have is the continued survival of our species. Would he be so against Martian terraforming if it mean't the difference between the survival of the human species or not?

  • ryan||

    Considering that he writes in a journal called Environmental Ethics, not to mention the quotes, I'm guessing that he would be against it.

  • ryan||

    And after consideration of the quotes, I'm guessing he's functionally retarded.

  • ||

    I feel like I've read this online before...

  • Brett L||

    Just how will we reap the "benefits to science" of a second genesis without a Mars-base? Our turnaround time between formulating and implementing experiments is approximately 10-12 years. Not that that's insurmountable, just silly. And once people are there short-term, what's the "ethical" limit on how much change they can impart on Mars before they've bridged from temporary to permanent settlement?

  • Old Mexican||

    On that account, there is no good moral reason why humans should limit the expansion of terrestrial life, including themselves, throughout the solar system.


    If a few humans pool their own resources to colonize and terraform Mars, I don't see why would this be a moral issue. As long as my future generations are not plundered t pay for an expedition that serves mostly for the agrandizement of some politician, I don't have qualms about placing earth-originated life on Mars.

    The academic exercizes by scientists should never become arguments to limit human freedom - I'll grab shot, wadding, powder, knapped flints and rifle before I let some scientist limit MY freedom.

    As Bailey said, microbes are not moral agents nor is it legitimate for a few humans to appoint themselves as their advocates in order to limit people's freedom to colonize another world.

  • Tony||

    A world in which you have to defend your freedom with a personal arsenal is one in which you don't have any freedom.

    Behind all your entitled crybaby nonsense is the inescapable truth that without government providing you with various services, someone with a bigger arsenal would mow you down and take your stuff, perfectly legitimately. You'll really be crying then. Libertarianism: handouts for me, fuck you!

  • k2000k||

    "A world in which you have to defend your freedom with a personal arsenal is one in which you don't have any freedom."

    This is fucking stupid Tony. I mean grade A fucking dumb. What's the alternative, relying on someone elses personal arsenol to defend my freedom? In the end the only agent that you can rely on to protect your rights is yourself. If other agents, such as the military, do so for you then thats great, wonderful even. But do not assume for a second that it will always be the case.

  • .||

    Behind all your entitled crybaby nonsense is the inescapable truth that without government providing you with various services, someone with a bigger arsenal would mow you down and take your stuff, perfectly legitimately.

    Yes, and that "someone with a bigger arsenal" is usually government. A world in which your freedom is at the mercy of everyone else is a world in which you don't have any freedom.

  • Spencer||

    Way to have faith in people, Tony. Way to believe that we could exist peacefully without the threat of force looming over our heads. MORON.

  • NotSure||

    The one with the bigger arsenal is the government, you really are the worlds dumbest cunt, how else do you think government is are able to take my money to pay for losers like you ? By asking nicely ?

  • ||

    Well, if it is OK for the govt to take your house in order to give it to some supporter of the current govt leader, because "it benefits the public", why would it be not OK for the govt to decide to give a planet to a different supporter of the govt to terraform, "because it benefits the public"?

  • THE FUCKING COMMERCE CLAUSE||

    One day I'll reach between worlds. You'll see.

  • ||

    I don't think this will ever be a practical moral issue. Mere human presence on Mars isn't going to wipe out any native life or even likely affect it in any significant way.

    Once we get to the point where we might attempt to terraform the world, it will be well after we've been there for a while and have dug deep into its secrets. If there's life, we'll know about it and can judge the situation with vastly better information and knowledge than we have now.

    I know it's in vogue to assume some sort of panspermia, which means Mars life and Earth life are related, but that's not necessarily true or even likely. If there's independent evolution of life on Mars, even simple life, it's worth a little time to study before we do anything dramatic. Again, we should have the time even if we terraform at the earliest available opportunity.

  • ||

    I wasn't aware that was "in vogue". Here I thought I was just a crackpot, when it turns out I've been trendy!

    I agree about the pacing -- the real hubris is in thinking that we need to make a decision now, and insist that it somehow be binding to the future generation that actually confronts the issue.

  • ||

    We're supremely ignorant about the rest of the solar system and will likely remain so for some time to come. Even when we've put footprints on some other worlds, it will take some time before we have a permanent research presence.

  • ||

    I think it was very likely that life did form on on Mars but, I will be surprised if we find any Martian life forms still surviving.

    If there are any surviving, they will be absolutely invaluable for comparing dnd understanding some of the basics of biology. (I find panspermia a dubious idea.)

  • ||

    I won't be surprised at all if we find some deep subsurface life or maybe even something living in/near the ice on the poles (though all of the CO2 there might make that less likely). Probably not very advanced, but who knows?

  • ||

    Assuming that the panspermia hypothesis is incorrect, I wonder what such life would use for encoding. Lifeforms that did not use RNA/DNA would tell us a huge amount about the nature of life itself.

  • ||

    Assuming no panspermia, a discovery either way would be fascinating. Does live tend to spring up in the same basic manner universally, or are there many ways to skin that cat?

    Just on Earth, we can see how much variety is possible based on a single system--DNA--and if there are other, dramatically different foundations for life. . .well, the universe is going to prove even weirder than it seems from here.

  • ||

    Can the universe get any weirder than Max or Tony or Hercule Sauvienen Triathalon? (sp?)

  • ||

    Apparently, maybe.

    And don't just assume they're posting from Earth. Unproven!

  • Spencer||

    The fact is that this possible life is in such a form that we haven't the capacity to even imagine it. It would be that totally alien. We might not even recognize it as life.

  • ||

    Maybe, but we could have life that alien right here and not know it.

  • FatDaddy||

    This article should be re-titled, "Is it ethical to do things to rocks?"

  • Spencer||

    That depends on what you're doing... and if it's in public or hidden behind a paywall after a 30 second preview.

  • Tim||

    How can a dumb-ass collection of cells have any rights?

  • FatDaddy||

    I'll fight any dumb-ass collection of cells for my right to party, because the TV told me to do that in 1985.

  • Tim||

    In that case may we assume that you are also "hot for teacher"?

  • Alack||

    So it's okay to kill the mentally handicapped?

    Noted!

  • Spencer||

    Look, when I shape my hand to fit that weird alien hand print and melt the ice core to create a breathable atmosphere on mars, then this will all be moot.

  • Sum Dum Gai||

    I took a shit on Mars once.

  • jasno||

    I've never understood the fetish with Mars. Venus is more likely to have life, it actually has an atmosphere you can work with, and it seems generally more Earth-like.

    Bonus - if we can fix Venus we'll get rid of global-warming worries for good.

  • ||

    Venus is more likely to have life, it actually has an atmosphere you can work with, and it seems generally more Earth-like.

    Only if you are Thetan.

  • ||

    Any life that survives surface temps hot enough to melt lead has got to be fun to party with.

  • Tim||

    Science fiction tells us that the universe is full of Lava-men. Or Lava-persons more properly.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    It's either a global ocean or a lush jungle with constant rain. NASA is propagating lies to scare off the Soviets.

  • Carson Napier||

    What do you know of Thetans?

  • ||

    Huh? With a surface temperature of over 850 degrees Fahrenheit, heavy cloud cover of sulfuric acid and global basaltic floes suggesting a surface that is less than 300 million years old? On this you expect life?

    As for terraforming - the extra mass of the planet does seem to make it more plausible for obtaining the correct atmospheric properties - eventually. You'd probably need to bombard mars with comets regularly to maintain a decently thick atmosphere over time.

  • jasno||

    Yeah but I bet if we looked we'd find some form of self-replicating molecules, if not life outright. It might not be carbon based... so what?

    Venus has liquids... much more than mars. Liquids are where the chemical reactions happen.

  • ||

    Are you sure you aren't thinking of Titan and its methane lakes? The only liquids around at 850+ degrees F are molten metals.

    Although at the incredible pressures at the surface of Venus, the atmosphere actually acts as a supercritical fluid. As such it can act as a solvent of sorts. Maybe there's liquid sulfur? Mmmm... molten sulfur.... yummy!

    Really tough for any information-carrying molecules to hold together at those temperatures.

  • Moogle||

    Huh? With a surface temperature of over 850 degrees Fahrenheit, heavy cloud cover of sulfuric acid and global basaltic floes suggesting a surface that is less than 300 million years old?

    In real estate agent terms that would be a "fixer upper."

  • johnc||

    Seems like it would be the other way around... fixing Earth will be the prototype for fixing Venus.

  • ||

    This is the same argument as the primitives who don't want anyone wandering around a "pristine" forest for fear they might startle a bird. Instead of a forest, they're declaring a whole planet pristine. Chalk me up as not persuaded.

  • ||

    You should go watch Avatar. It explains why you are evil and shouldn't ever be allowed near nature. Plus, Gaia is real... 'n stuff.

  • k2000k||

    My favorite moment in Avatar wasn't actually the movie but an online spoof where the *real ending* was shown. After their *defeat* the corprate workers and their mercenaries simply fly up into space and then proceed bomb the Navii out of existence. I mean if James Cameron is going to do a movie on corporate imperialism then he might as fucking well get it right.

  • ||

    The worst thing about Avatar is that they are making a sequel.

    The second worst thing about Avatar is that it was produced by James Cameron (all of its other manifold evils arise from that fact.)

  • .||

    Plus, Gaia is real... 'n stuff.

    Yeah, mostly stuff.

  • ||

    Cameron is a thief. Read Old Man's War and tell me what a brilliant writer Cameron is.

  • Tim||

    How about a compromise? We colonize Mars but no Wal Marts.

  • ||

    Can we have In-N-Out Burger? Please?

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    Those are good burgers.

  • ||

    Maybe you could get a Gomez's Hamburger Nebula franchise.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gomez's_Hamburger

  • ||

    I'll be glad when we've moved on from the Reason Mag Space issue.

  • Tim||

    Still, it's much better than "Reason Saves Cleveland-with Drew Carey".

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Get your ass to Mars.

  • ||

    It would seem that Robert Sparrow is a douchebag.

  • ||

    Filling Mars’ Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system, with genetically modified redwoods would indicate that we do not properly appreciate its present desolate beauty.

    That is a value judgment. You say vanilla. I say Schweddy Balls.
    I think giant fucking redwoods would look awesome.

    the second moral defect demonstrated by terraforming, according to Sparrow, is hubris, which “occurs when humans willfully ignore their limits and seek to become like gods.”

    I never understood this argument. First, living is all about willfully ignoring, pushing, finding limits. whether it is me convincing myself to have one more shot of jager or telling a sprinter he can't run any faster. Secondly, humanity seems to have a technological roadmap to at least practical physical immortality. So what this wiener should be concerned about is what that means for duties, rights, and responsibilities.

    I agree with Pro Lib. We are gonna have plenty of time to study any life that may exist and be able to make a better judgement. If there is life, it is likley very small like microbes. Meh! Too bad.

    IMHO, It'll be a multiple area endeavour. People will modify themselves to use less oxygen and deal with cold. Plants will be engineered to take whatever exists in abundance to use as food. I think some comets will used. No one has any idea how to do that.

    But, to me, this is all moot until we can get into low earth orbit very cheaply.

  • Moogle||

    I think if you showed the guy the plans for a Dyson sphere, his head would retract into his body in a fit of moral panic.

  • CE||

    ...hubris, which “occurs when humans willfully ignore their limits and seek to become like gods.”

    You mean like traveling at high speed on the ground and flying and communicating instantly over great distances and wielding almost unlimited power and modifying genomes and smashing atoms together and stuff?

    I think that ship has sailed.

  • anon||

    Trying to change whole planets to suit our ends is arrogant vandalism.

    lol'd.

  • ||

    Indeed.

    Earth First. We can Stripmine the other Planets Later.

    Mars needs to be terraformed. IF anything, it will annoy the Back to nature yo-yo's to no end

  • Walter Tyler||

    Not only Mars, but all the outer planets can be broken up and transformed into a Ringworld, where Back to Naturists can have their own continent in the middle of the Great Sea, out of everyone's hair and mind.

  • anon||

    hubris, which “occurs when humans willfully ignore their limits and seek to become like gods.”

    We've been the masters of our destiny for a long time. You're late.

  • Old Man With Candy||

    It is important to consider the Crosspatch Decision.

  • ||

    If the Martians haven't swatted us after we've put a few dozen probes up their ecosystem, they aren't going to do anything now.

  • ||

    They're setting up us the bomb.

  • Charles Novins||

    Oddly enough, Carl Sagan had a weird bugaboo about this. He felt that if even a single living microbe were found on Mars, we shouldn't go there to live. This was a more destructive view than the theoreticals discussed here. Apart from the insurmountables of "terraforming" anytime in a century, certainly enclosed bases on Mars are a fundamental goal of manned spaceflight. Much as many of us loved Carl, this was not his only gaffe; "nuclear winter" also tended to be a poor theory. But that was a factual gaffe. The ethical gaffe seemed to be a blind acceptance of dogma. I doubt that even the fictional "prime directive," which Sagan seems to have mistook for reality, would have barred Roddenberry's characters form "interfering" with bacterial or microbial life.

  • Moogle||

    I always thought the guy was overrated. Cosmos was a decent series, but it spent a bit too much time gazing at the universe's navel.

    I do still use his "Venus: we see nothing. Conclusion: dinosaurs" example, though. It's ever more relevant these days.

  • Charles Novins||

    It was re-watching COSMOS that compelled me to agree with you. On first viewing as a young-un, I considered the show a fabulous educational effort. On a second viewing, decades later, I still liked the educational aspect, but then I noticed he threw in the "don't disturb microbes" bullshit. Then, I realized, "much overrated," as he was an inarguably great scientist and teacher, but a far sub-par ethicist. And a scientist accepting looney dogma? Many do, of course (see global warming,) but the halo came off that day. That said, CONTACT was a cool novel, and the subsequent film was one of so few really good (albeit flawed) sci-fi films.

  • ||

    What could possibly go wrong with terraforming?

    Look at how well the introduction of European animals and plants worked out for Australia.

  • ||

    2045: Mars is completely overrun by giant rabbits.

  • ||

    A little GE myxomatosis and problem solved.

  • ||

    So...terraforming is moving from one part of a world which is perfectly suited to human habitation to another part? Thanks for the clue, I was confused there for a second. Everyone else seems to be talking about some sort of monumental engineering project which carries within it interesting questions of social organization and ethics and stuff.

  • ||

    European animals and plants displaced native Australian species. As of yet there is no evidence that Mars has any species to displace.

  • Moogle||

    Developing what he called an agent-based virtue ethics

    IOW, some crap he made up to sound important and sell a book. Seriously, this guy is a class 5 (Fujita scale) asshole.

    Filling Mars’ Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the solar system, with genetically modified redwoods would indicate that we do not properly appreciate its present desolate beauty.

    Shit, he's trying to come across like Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. Also sounds about as connected to reality as someone whose perception has become unhinged from causality.

    Would you even put trees in a canyon? Wouldn't terraforming involve adding a lot of water? You'd have a sea, not a canyon.

  • Another Point of view||

    There are three books on the topic, fiction of course, but nonetheless 1,500 or so pages of rationale for terraforming.

    See: Red/Green/Blue Mars (Mars Trilogy) by Kim Stanley Robinson

  • ||

    It makes no sense to "terraform" Mars. The planet has such a thin atmosphere because it lacks an electromagnetic field. Mars' molten core cooled long ago and is no longer capable of producing an EM field like Earth's to protect it from solar radiation. This resulted in most of the planet's atmosphere and any trace of surface water being blasted away by the Sun. Any attempt at artificially building a new atmosphere for the planet will end with the same result.

  • KDN||

    The solution to this is obvious: re-start the core!

    Don't tell me it can't be done. The Core is prophecy.

  • Brett L||

    Nah. Unobtanium is still bullshit.

  • squishua||

    I thought it was pretty funny that Bailey forgot that Mars has no magnetosphere.

  • gdp||

    Sorry, no. Planets lose atmospheres on a _geological_ timescale, not a human timescale. The half-life for a re-established martian atmosphere is well over half a million years --- e.g., far longer than the previous existence of Homo sapiens sapiens, and in all likelihood far longer that its future existence as well. H. sapiens is likely to either evolve or re-engineer themselves into some other species long before Mars runs out of air for a second time.

    But if one is _seriously_ concerned about the lack of magnetic field (and the need is overblown --- most of the Earth's radiation protection comes not from its magnetic field but from its atmosphere, which provides the shielding of ~10 m of water, ~3 m of rock, or ~1.5 m of steel), it would be relatively easy compared to the terraforming job to run superconducting cables around Mars's polar regions to create an artificial magnetic field.

  • ||

    I'm amazed no one has yet mentioned Melinda Snodgrass' excellent book "Circuit" (first of a science fiction trilogy - "Circuit", "Circuit Breaker", & "Final Circuit") which addresses this and a number of other legal issues of space colonization. All 3 are well worth reading.

  • Walter Tyler||

    By what power do earth governments have the privilege of dictating to individuals what they may or may not do on Mars (or any other off-world object)? Earth governments certainly do not possess Mars, and the first person to put his boot on Mars will be de facto the owner thereof; consequently it is he who shall make rules and regulations concerning terraforming Mars. It is an awesome arrogance for earthly governments to presume the own all of the universe.

  • ||

    We already told you, the Commerce Clause.

  • Realist||

    Now that is the kind of "science" Bailey is good at. Stupid, childish bullshit!

  • anon||

    Where does the Face on Mars fit into this?

  • ||

    It doesn't. We'll have to nuke it.

  • ||

    The claims apparently made by Sparrow regarding the "sins" of aesthetic insensitivity and hubris are absolutely breathtaking in their idiocy. Icicles or barren Martian landscapes are beautiful because he says so and thus no one may touch them. I assume when asked why his aesthetic experiences create universal moral obligations for all other people, I cannot help but believe that he pounds the desk and repeats his claim in a loud voice. What else could he possibly do? Even worse, we are morally obligated to avoid "hubris", a topic into which he has some inexplicable moral insight denied others. He tells us we are morally obligated "stay in our proper place". He apparently has discerned the "proper place" of human beings in a grandiose vision inacessible to those of us without ouija boards.
    The kind of imbecility that gets published in peer reviewed journals is astonishing.

  • ||

    Mars is an inanimate object. Of course it has no rights. It doesn't have to act in order to keep existing, let alone use reason to survive.
    So again, of course Mars doesn't have rights.

  • ||

    Forget the 10,000 year terraforming project.. a waste of time and effort due to low-gravity. Likely too the lack of a molten core/magnetic field means life-killing radiation.

    The better approach is a smaller.. dare I say more ethical footprint ?

    Why not huge radiation-shielding, atmospheric bio-domes ? with large forests, crops, and animals to sustain an atmosphere ? and make a pleasant home for Earth humans ?

    Heated by nuclear-electric reactors...located near ancient Maritian ice reservoirs... the bio-domes could be located anywhere on Mars with some in the arctic ice zones and others in warmer tropics or near mineral-rich zones ?

  • ||

    I'll be sure to check back here in a few hundred/thousand years to see how the terraforming debate is going. Meantime keep watching the stars, and keep those propellers spinning.

  • newt gingrich||

    what a great idea - i guarantee we will land on mars by the end of my 8th term!

  • QuiJon||

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the micro-organisims.

    Manifest Destiny...we will out grow the capacity of the Earth to sustain our civilization and with unlimited numbers of planet out there that can support life its time to get started on Mars or one of the moons around Jupiter

  • ||

    Pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-scientific, technocratic trekkies and their delusions...lol...

  • ||

    The purpose of life can be seen by qualities that it has across the spectrum. Grow, Adapt, Reproduce and expand to it's limits. Man is a subset of life. We are doing what we were meant to do... Spread life. The universe is big enough for us to do this to our hearts desire without messing it up for goodness sakes. Stop with the small minded we need to learn to live on our speck of dust theories cause you dont have the nuts to go out and explore and expand like we should be doing... if there is any more lofty goal than to bring life to the universe man has not found it.

    This is my saying and claim it as my own:
    Belief Creates Reality and Reality creates belief.

    Whose belief will you follow ?

  • John Lemon||

    This is an amazing coincidence. A few weeks ago my small press reissued Frederick Turner’s book, Genesis: An Epic Poem of the Terraforming of Mars.

    http://www.amazon.com/Genesis-.....983300224/

    You will find that one of the reviews is from the same Martyn Fogg of whom you refer to in your article.

    If you haven’t already read Turner’s book, I think you may find it to be of great interest. One of the key elements of the story is the conflict between eco-theists on Earth vs. the struggles of Martian colonists to create a livable world on a harsh Martian frontier. It addresses many of the ethical issues you speak of in this article. Please excuse the shameless plug for the book, but I think this particular audience may appreciate it. Thanks for the great essay.

  • دردشه عراقية||

    Thanks

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