Are we alone in the universe? Are the planets our playground to treat as we will, or do we have a responsibility to other creatures who may inhabit or use them? Do we have a right to dump trash in space or leave vehicles on Mars or the moon? How should we interact with other life forms? Encountering Life in the Universe examines the intersection of scientific research and society to further explore the ethics of how to behave in a universe where much is unknown. Taking contributions from notable experts in several fields, the editors skilfully introduce and develop a broad look at the moral questions facing humans on Earth and beyond. Major advances in biology, biotechnology, and medicine create an urgency to ethical considerations in those fields. Astrobiology goes on to debate how we might behave as we explore new worlds, or create new life in the laboratory, or interact with extraterrestrial life forms. Stimulated by new technologies for scientific exploration on and off the Earth, astrobiology is establishing itself as a distinct scientific endeavour. In what way can established philosophies provide guidance for the new frontiers opened by astrobiology research? Can the foundations of ethics and moral philosophy help answer questions about modifying other planets? Or about how to conduct experiments to create life in the lab or about? How to interact with organisms we might discover on another world? While we wait for the first echo that might indicate life beyond Earth, astobiologists, along with philosophers, theologians, artists, and the general public, are exploring how we might behave-even before we know for sure they are there. Encountering Life in the Universe is a remarkable resource for such philosophical challenges.
Chris Impey is a University Distinguished Professor at the University of Arizona, USA. As Deputy Head and Academic Head of the Department of Astronomy, he runs the US's largest undergraduate majors programme in astronomy and the second-largest Ph.D. programme. His research centres on observational cosmology, gravitational lensing, and the evolution and structure of galaxies. Anna H. Spitz is the Education and Public Outreach lead on OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sample Return Mission at the University of Arizona, USA. OSIRIS-REx is a partnership (University of Arizona, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Systems, Lockheed Martin, and worldwide collaborators) to return a sample of an asteroid to the Earth. Since joining the University of Arizona in 2000 Dr. Spitz has worked on various projects with the Center for Astrobiology, Biosphere 2, and Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter. William R. Stoeger is the Senior Staff Scientist at the Vatican Observatory Research Group at the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA, specialising in theoretical cosmology, gravitational physics and interdisciplinary studies bridging the natural sciences, philosophy and theology. He specialises in black-hole astrophysics and cosmology, and as a Jesuit priest, he explores the interface between science and theology, and science and philosophy.