The ethical case for terraforming. The February special space of Reason is a gift that keeps on giving.
Ah! It’s time to resuscitate my prescient transcription of a future script treatment:
New from Disney:
The story of Ameboe Joe, the cute microbe on Mars. See how he and his single-celled pals band together and put their differences behind them in the face of the mysterious, dangerous invading strangers from another planet. Will they be able to find a way to communicate their desire to be left alone? Will they survive? Will Ameboe Joe manage to win the heart of Parimeesee Sue?
Directed by James Cameron.
Mars, the planet, may not have rights but…..
Watch out for Ylla’s husband…..
Does Mars have nukes? No? Release the terraforming nanobots!
I have told my wife more times that she cares to hear of it, that were I to win a multi-hundred-million-dollar Powerball prize, that my first phone call would be to Gilbert Levin to ask, “What would it take to put a life-sciences payload on the surface of Mars?”
Of course this presupposes that I would actually win the Powerball, and in order to win at Powerball I would have to actually play Powerball, which I am too cheap to do. But the point is that were I to play the lottery, only a multi-hundred million dollar payoff would be meaningful for the plans that I would have for a windfall gain. Or less money if there is some breakthrough in launch costs to lower the cost of softlanding a life sciences package to the surface of Mars.
Gil Levin would get the chance to fly his Chiral Labelled Release Experiment to Mars to back up his claim that his original Labelled Release experiment on the Viking Lander indeed discovered microbial life native to Mars. He would confirm his discovery of Life on Mars, win the Nobel Prize, and go down in history as a great discoverer. I would go down in history as the chump who gave up his Powerball winnings to land a life sciences package on the surface of Mars.
Seriously, people, not only does Gilbert Levin believe there is life on Mars, he has a Web page, not just lobbying against putting Earth organisms on Mars for terraforming or other purposes, but because of his concern of bringing life here. He is anti sample-return mission.
Even more seriously speaking. Suppose Rand, that Gilbert Levin is right, that there are living, respirating (putative methane excess discovered by orbiting Mars probes?) organisms down there. Or suppose they are all dead, but there is fossil evidence of life.
One possibility is that scenario people bounced around that life originated on Mars and got transferred to Earth by meteor impact transfer of chips of Mars rock to Earth (the other way is less energetically favorable). Another possiblity is of a completely alien type of Mars life indicating an independent origin. Think of this people, and think of this Rand, who is often at odds with Creationists and other stripes of Believer. Scientific proof of an independent origin for life. Would you throw that all away, simply to get on with some colonization of Mars by Earth, where Mars is parked at the bottom of a rather deep gravity well anyway?
I am not one of those Enviro, “Oh, the humanity, we have to preserve Mars life for its own sake! Mars life has rights!” What I am talking about is an outside chance of a history-changing scientific discovery, perhaps bigger than Darwin’s Beagle expedition, andr throwing that chance away.
So for those of you who are indifferent to life on the surface of Mars, what is the stock line of the “mad scientist” when the townspeople object to some scientific experimentation, especially in the life sciences, which they don’t understand, and the liberate The Monster or the whatever?
Fools! Fools, all of you!
I am thinking that of the other responses here, not as an Enviro but as a Hollywood Mad Scientist.
are you rubbing your hands together, staring, crazy eyed, into infinity?
I at least have the long, unkempt head of hair . . .
There’s no point in acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Mars years so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaints and its far too late to start making a fuss about it now.
What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh for heaven sake martians it’s only four light years away you know! I’m sorry but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs that’s your own regard. Energise the demolition beams! God I don’t know…apathetic bloody planet, I’ve no sympathy at all…
Mars the planet, or Mars the God?
The planet..well, it’s doubtful.
The God…he’s the God of War, so YOU can tell him he has no rights!
If Mars has rights, then let it secure those rights by banding together, overthrowing its oppressors, and instituting limited government. Worked for us. For a while.
The big question to ask first is if humans will be able to successful reproduce in 1/3 gravity. If so, then yes, terraforming Mars is a good idea. If not, then its irrelevant as there is no way to increase the surface gravity.
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