The world is ending. Not right now, mind you, but we can rest assured that it will end. Whether from massive star explosions in nearby solar systems, a collision with another body in space or the death of our own sun, life on this planet -- all life -- at one point will cease to be. And according to Michael Mautner of Virginia Commonwealth University, we have a moral obligation to seed life throughout the universe before that happens.
Mautner, a research professor of chemistry, argues in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Cosmology that as the product of 4 billion years of evolution from early life forms that very well may have been deposited here from elsewhere in the universe, we have an obligation to keep the evolutionary ball rolling. Self-perpetuation is ingrained in our DNA, and there's no reason that should be limited to our tiny rock.
It seems like an impossible task; the universe is a hostile place, and even with missions like Kepler designed to identify earth-like planets circling faraway stars we may never find one suited to life as we know it. But it's important to remember that Earth was once a hostile neighborhood as well; hardy little organisms spent millions upon millions of years sucking down toxic gasses and withstanding harsh environmental conditions before creating a habitat for higher evolution. Kick-starting that process on other planets is our moral duty, Mautner says.
What we need to do, he argues, is send an array of these resilient little life forms with a range of environmental tolerances to a variety of potential target habitats where some species might thrive and eventually create the conditions necessary for higher life forms. These places include extrasolar earth-like rocks, accretion disks around young stars that will eventually form planets and even interstellar clouds that will eventually become the stuff of stars.
These microbial payloads would be small -- 100,000 organisms would weigh only 0.1 micrograms -- and solar sails powered by the radiation pressure of light would be physically capable of carrying the organisms across great distances in space. The real challenge would be hitting target habitats many light years away. But if we launch a few hundred tons of biomass into space over many years and on multiple missions the numbers should shake out in favor of landing some organic matter somewhere where it can take hold.
But while it's certain that life on Earth will one day cease, it's less certain who among us will pick up the tab for multiple space launches sending a bunch of bacteria to sow the seeds of life on planets we very well may never see. Still, we like Mautner's macro-universal thinking: a cosmic legacy for all life on Earth, perpetuating the evolutionary idea that life can overcome anything (even collapsing stars). Is seeding the universe a moral obligation, a matter of right versus wrong? That's debatable. But it's certainly a matter of life or death.
Ah, manifest destiny for the 21st century and beyond. No way this could possibly be twisted to justify interplanetary genocide and conquest in the far flung future...
I generaly agree we should do that in future. However I would wait until we know more about worlds we are targeting. If there is life there we could destroy it by ours.
What about the possible contamination of this new world. Very egotistical of man to think that life on another world has followed the same evolutionary path as Earth.
Isn't that saying we are no much better than any parasite, bacteria or virus? Invading a new enviroment and destroying it's old population. Very Darwinism evolution indeed.
@alderman.....I believe it displays, in stark reallity, the arogance of the human species. Isn't this pretty much the same attitude the caused the near genocide of the Native American peoples throughout the Americas?
@cowboy82: Speak of the devil, it's called "manifest destiny": wikipedia(dot)org/wiki/Manifest_Destiny
Thats entirely true. We are a virus, that is our nature and no matter how technologically advanced we become we will always be destructive.
What do you all define as growth?
Whether or not we agree with the saying "sacrifice a few to save many," you wouldn't be here without it.
And although I am not saying any of the above comments are wrong, that is one of the two sides. We are capable of doing as much good as we can do evil. Key word is capable.
How can you be certain that life on Earth will one day end?
You cannot be because we are still here.
Most here are babbling about weather it is bad or if it is good. In all kindness, you are all wrong. Nothing is bad or good, everything just is. Meshca pointed this out, but still says "bad" and still says "good." We can't do bad or good for there is no such thing. Even if we do put life on a habitable planet, which is unlikely, and find the planet is home to others, which is next to impossible, it would not matter. For all we know, the same thing brought us to be, why would it be wrong for us to do the same, why would it be wrong to live as human beings?
AI guided Von-Neumann machines with a biological package.
Once we have the technology to acheive this we may also one day have the ability to travel to the stars. Then we can take our humanity and seed the stars. I think it is more imperitive for us to know if there is other life already out there. If not, then maybe we one day seed the universe. If so, then our existence is not that special and why bother because we are not all that unique. We as a species should try to keep improving ourselves to the point where our species survival is meaningful enough that the universe will be worse off without us. Right now I think we would not be missed very much. We may even distroy ourselves before the universe ever gets a chance. Vanity, vanity all is vanity!! "Who are we that God is even mindful of us?"
I think we will advance our technology to the point where there can be mechanical life that will spread out along side the biological life.
Despite the varying and impreise meanings of "life" there is one thing to be sure. Life may have a meaning of its own, but life GIVES MEANING to the universe. If life did not exist, if lifeforms such as us, capable of thought beyond instict, did not view, inhabit, and marvel at the universe, then it would just be this giant empty space of gas, rock, and fire.
Are we the only lifeforms in the universe? Debatable. However, any moral issues with damaging a planet via our terrestrial bacteria is mute. Its only a big, giant rock with gas around it. The only issue that arises is if the planet already supports life. A planet without life has no meaning, so there can be no harm is granting meaning to an otherwise unnoticed, and inconsequential universe.
Note that the professor did not say "moral obligation to spread humanity". He only said to spread "life". Anyone that has taken biology in highschool sees how complex it is. Once you take college biology classes, dealing with protein arrangment, and the most understood nuts and bolts of life propegation, you can understand how marvelously rare and infinetly unlikely it is for life to develope. So, at the small little blue planet close to a star amongst billions, at the edge of an unnamed galaxy, the impossible of impossibilities occured. *(on that note, the question: Why here? is waited, because it had to happen somewhere, and wherever we happend, we would ask why there*) That potentially only, or one of few occurances where life propegated and evolved to sentience has the ombligation to make sure that life endures, because it may not without conscious action.
Perhaps this is what God realized, and so he created Earth, created in the sense that the rock might as well not of existed, if there was no one around to care. Perhaps God did not create us, and we developed over eons of mutational evolution. I have no idea. I just know that life is necessary, and if it occurs, it should spread.
I fully agree with the mandate to spread life. That's a long term imperative.
It's always funny seeing people who understand the truth of evolution, but water it down and mix it with modern politically correct/anti-human BS like alderman and cowboy82. Manifest Destiny was natural. A more advanced culture at the time overtook another one, and created a nation where Florida could be used for liftoff of rocket ships to be tracked across the continent by people in another location, such as Houston. It's only in the comfort of the society that manifested (no pun intended) from Manifest Destiny that they could ridicule it, and they don't even see the contradiction. Humans are more valuable than ants only so far as we increase intelligent life in the universe.
If some groups or beliefs produce a higher state of existence, they should dominate. The morality of survival is the highest, above any religious superstition or political correct niceties. If we can make this clear divide between tiny organisms and humans, it can also be applied to primates in general, as well as modern humans.
A long term goal that is very admirable ... and good for planning purposes.
Ok ... fine evaluate practically how it can be achieved, discuss it fully and openly. Get binding agreement on the exact scope ...... before even contemplating leaving orbit.
.... How many thousands of years of "humanity" has it taken us to reach where we currently are ? .... and we're still nowhere near perfect enough to inhabit another planet. Here on this planet we have many different nations/cultures, ceaseless wars, crimes and disease. We can't even guarantee introducing a species on this planet won't upset others .... and we certainly aren't doing a good job at looking after this planet either.
Humanity is (and has been) far too ignorant to allow itself to indulge in the privilege of replication elsewhere before it matures substantially. That includes (but is not limited to) taking full responsibility for it's actions wherever they may be in this universe.
lol. Nothing has any meaning until a conscious entity gives it meaning, what ever that meaning may be. Humans only are meaningful because they choose to believe that they are. lol.
I believe we should do this, but only to deserted planets that could harbor life. If there is no life on a habitable planet, egg it.
If it's inhabited, let the lifeforms there grow.
We also have a moral obligation, and I do believe one that holds greater precedence, to improve the lives and welfare of those already in existence.
You don't spend time and money giving birth to more kids when you already have a dozen toddlers that you can't feed.
I just giggle whenever a naturalists talks about having a moral obligation to do anything.....naturalism is such a bizarre religion. It claims to have no law giver, and yet magically can pull morality out of thin air when it's convenient. Not that they can ever give a good foundation for it though. Yeah, if we ever do spread to the stars...I think it would be best to leave naturalism behind on earth. It's already killed so many.
Why shouldn't we send out life to other worlds? It's nature: survival of the fittest. If there is native life wherever we send them, it either dies off or destroys our package. Like someone said above, there's no right or wrong, there only <i>is</i>. (And besides, we'll all be long dead by the time a biopackage gets anywhere. Who cares?)
I am going to be taking a few shots at every negative small minded prick to post on this, so bear with me.
Um, what is with all the cynicism? From what i have read so far, it seems like a vast amount of you are entirely uneducated, or at least didn't pay attention in school enough to grow up to have anymore than a third-rate opinion n the subject matter.
Calling humanity a virus, saying humans are arrogant... hello you egotistical prick, you are part of that system no matter what path you take, you might as well make most of it. The idea of possibly contaminating a new world is silly and utterly small. For one, a new world likely can barely support life, based on the planets being discussed here, they would be inhabitable by intelligent life, we'd be doing the planet a favor by placing the life forms necessary to establish higher tier evolution.
And as far as genocide goes cowboy82, I am 1/4 cherokee and my ancestors died because of natural selection, survival of the fittest... In case you haven't noticed, life feeds on life and a natural part of survival and evolution has always been killing what is weaker or has something you want, it is inevitable, life isn't gum drops and rainbows, luckily today, socially, we have surpassed the flaws we once encountered in ourselves during those times, get over it. Sure the europeans and americans and the french who all took part in the mass slaughtering of 97% of an entire race, but it was inevitable at the time with the radical views of people with religion and the lack of understanding of life and how it forms then, manifest destiny, genocide, to people back then, seemed like the right thing to do, even to the native americans. Hell, some places today there are worse problems than that happening, like Africa, lets worry about current events rather than argue semantics on the past.
And as far as us always being destructive, if you are an avid reader of this site, popular science in general... I am very surprised you would make such a comment, if you haven't noticed, nearly every single nation across the globe are making huge efforts to reducing the amount of destruction we leave behind entirely... Eventually, we will be running of sustained power that doesn't require burning anything.... we will travel in space, we will eventually inhabit more than one planet, we have the ability to adapt, survive, build and react at incredible paces... it is inevitable, whether you like it or not.
Peace out bitches.
wow what a bunch of flakes! lol quick to jump on the guy for trying to save millions of years of development. and you cry about what ifs. go hug a tree.
You have got to be kidding me. Thats the most ridiculous load of crap i've heard in a long time. If you count how long the our current event horizon has been around which is I believe 11 billion years old just imagine what life could have evolved on the edges of our known universe and you think you can do the job better huh. GOOD LUCK. I think mother nature is in perfect control of the rest of the universe you should worry about your own butt.
"Moral obligation" good way to catch attention with a headline. Ours is not a moral obligation but our species has a built in desire to propogate and spreading to the stars is an inevitable future.
What the hell are you talking about? If there's "better" life out there, it'll eat/ignore our little package and go on with its life. If its inferior, then our package eats it/out produces it and lives on. We're talking about microscopic life here. If there's intelligent life out there it will find our biopackages and be all the better because it will know that there was other intelligent life in the universe. And if it dies from the package, well, in a billion or two years hence perhaps a new intelligent species will arise to repeat the process. Either way, life goes on.
A moral obligation is irrelevant. We should do this, because we can.
I prefer to live out my moral obligation by playing SPORE. It's so much fun to terraform alien worlds, abduct citizens of other planets, and then struggle for domination of your own little sector of the galaxy.
If life is so common as some believe (thank you Drake's equation and Carl Sagan), then there is no imperative to spread our own version of life. However, I guess that this is very consistent with the basic tenets of Darwinism. The ultimate good is perpetuation of the genes, and since we share so many genes with all living things on earth, any genes that we manage to "plant" on another planet fulfills this goal.
Yay for panspermia!
"mother nature" doesn't exist on foreign planets twiggster345. Thats the point. This is not about seeding humanity throughought the galaxy (though i'm a big proponent) but delivering the spark of life, dispering it, so a natural disaster here won't get rid of one of the most rare commodities in the universe. Life propegates itself quite well, but getting it started is something I doubt humans could acomplish for centeries, if ever.
And yeah, life only matters because we as humans are arrogant enough to think that WE matter. But, the fact that we can think we matter shows we have acomplished a greater feat than anything else in the universe (unknown sentients aside). The universe is inconsequential so long as there is nothing to contemplate it. Its just tons and tons of atoms flying about and occasionaly chemically reacting. For those of you that are religious and scientific, Think of creationism as giving meaning to the universe, making it exist by giving it something self-aware.
One note to point out.
How many extra terrestrial life forms have been identified definitively?