Multiple searches hunt for extraterrestrial life, yet the ethics of such searches in terms of fossil and possible extant life on Mars have not been sufficiently delineated. In response, in this essay I propose a tripartite ethic for searches for microbial Martian life that consists of default nonharm toward potential living beings, default nonharm to the habitats of potential living beings, but also responsible, restrained scientific harvesting of some microbes in limited transgression of these default nonharm modes. Although this multifaceted ethic remains secular and hence adaptable to space research settings, it arises from both a qualitative analysis of authoritative Buddhist scriptural ethics as well as the quantified ethnographic survey voices of contemporary American Buddhists. The resulting tripartite ethic, while developed for Mars, contains ramifications for the study of microbes on Earth and further retains application to other research locations in our solar system.
International Journal of Astrobiology
Capper, D. S.
(2019). The Search for Microbial Martian Life and American Buddhist Ethics. International Journal of Astrobiology, online, 1-9.
Available at: https://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/16733