Directed Panspermia, Wild Animal Suffering, and the Ethics of World‐Creation

Journal of Applied Philosophy 39 (1):87-102 (2021)
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Directed panspermia is the deliberate seeding of lifeless planets with microbes, in the hopes that, over evolutionary timescales, they will give rise to a complex self-sustaining biosphere on the target planet. Due to the immense distances and timescales involved, human beings are unlikely ever to see the fruits of their labours. Such missions must therefore be justified by appeal to values independent of human wellbeing. In this paper I investigate the values that a directed panspermia mission might promote. Paying special attention to the outcome in which sentient animals evolve, I argue that we have strong reasons to believe the value of a mission would be negative. Research on wild animal suffering has shown that there is a huge amount of suffering among wild animals on Earth. I argue that there are structural features of evolution by natural selection which explain the prevalence of suffering on Earth, and make it predictable that suffering would prevail on the target planet too. Finally, using insights from procreative ethics I argue on non-consequentialist grounds that creators have duties to their sentient creations which cannot be met in directed panspermia missions.



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Gary O'Brien
Lingnan University

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