Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How Should We Deal With Life on Mars?

When it comes to Mars, the first thought that comes to most peoples’ minds would likely not be the ethical issues that could arise if we do eventually go there. After all, there are currently no conclusive signs of living organisms on the planet. So, if the planet is available, few people would argue against visiting it since it has been a goal for human explanation for at least fifty years. However, even though scientists have yet to find signs of living organisms on Mars, it is important that we are prepared to deal with living organisms just in case they do exist on Mars. If Mars is not a lifeless planet, do humans have a right to disrupt Martian organisms no matter how small they are by introducing life from Earth onto the planet? In order to answer this question, we must consider two possibilities. One possibility is that life on Mars is biochemically and genetically related to life on Earth. The other possibility is that life on Mars arose from a completely different origin.

There is strong evidence to suggest that if life on Mars exists, it would be similar to life on Earth. This is because we already know that Earth and Mars are not isolated from each other. For instance, there are over a dozen rocks on Earth that have already been discovered to have come from Mars. If rocks came from Mars to Earth, there’s a possibility that rocks that originated on Earth are now on Mars. Given that microorganisms that live deep within rocks would be able to survive the journey from planet to planet, if there is life on Mars it is probably genetically similar to life on Earth. In this case, there would be absolutely no ethical issues of inhabiting Mars with life from Earth. Humans currently coexist with millions of species of microorganisms. If these microorganisms are like those on Earth, Mars would eventually evolve similarly to Earth, so humans speeding up the process should not cause too much concern.

While it would be more likely for life on Mars to be like life on Earth, it is possible that Martian organisms originated from a completely different source. This means that there would be a different type of life on Mars, completely independent of life on Earth. In this case, the question of ethics becomes more of an issue. It would be unethical to introduce life from Earth onto Mars if the two types of life are completely different. We cannot place more value on one type of life from another. Even if the life is only simple microorganisms, humans need to leave Mars alone. This is not a matter of saying that microorganisms are more valuable than humans, but rather that humans need to respect that there is another way for life to form. Therefore, a hands-off approach would be a better way of dealing with Mars so that life could evolve on its own.


- Autumn Hair