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Astrobiology and the Outer Limits of Human Ethics

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Part of the Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings book series (ASSSP,volume 58)

Abstract

When it comes to the discovery of microbial life elsewhere in the Solar System, there is a widely shared intuition that such life ought to be protected. While we might explain this in terms of protection for the purposes of science, there are at least some indications that our motivations for protection reach further, toward some notion of intrinsic value. A problem here is that we tend to discount any such notion in relation to terrestrial microbes, giving rise to what we may call a ‘similarity problem.’ This chapter will aim to dissolve the problem by presenting a picture of what it is that talk about intrinsic value does. The argument is that it tracks our reasons for action (and for other responses) and not a peculiar, figurative, sort of inner gold. On the latter, more problematic, approach it makes sense to say that all value bearers are equal and that treating them differently is some manner of bias. On the proposed approach, based around reasons for action, it is clear that our reasons for action (and hence, what ‘intrinsic value’ talk does) is situationally sensitive. Put simply, our reasons for action shift and change with context, and should be expected to vary in any comparison between terrestrial microbes and microbes discovered elsewhere.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-70482-7_15
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Correspondence to Tony Milligan .

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Milligan, T. (2021). Astrobiology and the Outer Limits of Human Ethics. In: Crawford, I. (eds) Expanding Worldviews: Astrobiology, Big History and Cosmic Perspectives. Astrophysics and Space Science Proceedings, vol 58. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-70482-7_15

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