Terraforming, vandalism and virtue ethics

In Jai Galliot (ed.), Commercial Space Exploration: Ethics, Policy, and Governance. Ashgate. pp. 161-178 (2015)
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‘Terraforming’ is hypothetical climatic and geo-physical engineering of other planets on a grand scale, with the aim of turning the so-called ‘barren’ planets in our (or for that matter another) solar system into habitable earth-like eco-systems. Although terraforming sounds like an idea from science fiction (where it indeed has appeared), it has been seriously proposed as a future project for the human race. With such a technology we could colonise the solar system and perhaps eventually others, moulding them in an image of our own making. In this chapter I consider the ethics of terraforming through the lens of an ‘agent-based’ virtue ethics. I argue that advocacy of - and any attempt at - terraforming is likely to demonstrate two significant character flaws in agents: an insensitivity to beauty; and, hubris, an excessive pride or faith in our own abilities in the course of transcending the proper limits of human activities.
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