Encountering Life in the Universe
Ethical Foundations and Social Implications of Astrobiology
Encountering Life in the Universe examines the intersection of scientific research and society to further explore the ethics of how to behave in a universe where much is unknown. Taking contributions from notable experts in several fields, the editors skillfully introduce and develop a broad look at the moral questions facing humans on Earth and beyond.
Major advances in biology, biotechnology, and medicine create an urgency to ethical considerations in those fields. Astrobiology goes on to debate how we might behave as we explore new worlds, or create new life in the laboratory, or interact with extraterrestrial life forms. Stimulated by new technologies for scientific exploration on and off the Earth, astrobiology is establishing itself as a distinct scientific endeavor.
In what way can established philosophies provide guidance for the new frontiers opened by astrobiology research? Can the foundations of ethics and moral philosophy help answer questions about modifying other planets? Or about how to conduct experiments to create life in the lab or about? How to interact with organisms we might discover on another world?
While we wait for the first echo that might indicate life beyond Earth, astobiologists, along with philosophers, theologians, artists, and the general public, are exploring how we might behave—even before we know for sure they are there. Encountering Life in the Universe is a remarkable resource for such philosophical challenges.
“I found reading this book to be challenging, enjoyable, and mind-opening. I trust that future readers will react the same way.”—Guy Consolmagno, author of God’s Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion
“Astrobiology seeks to understand the origins, evolution, and distribution of life on Earth and beyond. Encountering Life in the Universe provides a keen overview of astrobiology and a thoughtful exploration of the multiple ethical issues that arise. If you are interested in astrobiology, you must read this book. If you are not, read the book and you may become interested.”—Francisco J. Ayala, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, and author of The Big Questions: Evolution