Planting Our Seed

I love reading about ideas. I come across new ones every almost day, but every now and then one sticks out as either quite remarkable or quite original. Such is this idea from Michael Mautner, Research Professor of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University, who claims seeding the universe with life is not just an option but is our moral obligation.

Lisa Zyga, the article’s author, beings with an interesting proposition:

Eventually, the day will come when life on Earth ends. Whether that’s tomorrow or five billion years from now, whether by nuclear war, climate change, or the Sun burning up its fuel, the last living cell on Earth will one day wither and die. But that doesn’t mean that all is lost. What if we had the chance to sow the seeds of terrestrial life throughout the universe, to settle young planets within developing solar systems many light-years away, and thus give our long evolutionary line the chance to continue indefinitely?

Well, what if? Mautner suggests that seeding the universe with our life is possible with current technology through a process called “directed panspermia”. The process involves depositing “an array of primitive organisms on potentially fertile planets and protoplanets throughout the universe.” Further, he says, “We have a moral obligation to plan for the propagation of life, and even the transfer of human life to other solar systems which can be transformed via microbial activity, thereby preparing these worlds to develop and sustain complex life.”

I wouldn’t go so far to say that humanity has a moral obligation to do as Mautner suggests. But, the Earth will eventually die out, and while the odds are that intelligent life exists somewhere else in the universe, there’s a chance it doesn’t. If we’re to keep life as we know it going in the universe, spreading primitive organisms across space seems like as good a strategy as any. The human race may never have the technology to leave the earth permanently and establish a civilization on another planet, but shouldn’t we plan for the possibility?


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