Unnatural Selection or the Best of Both Worlds? The Legal and Regulatory Ramifications of the Discovery of Alien Life

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Abstract

This concluding chapter details the current state of space law and, in particular, the mechanisms that might be used to deal with the discovery of extraterrestrial life. The law in such discovery events will operate in a number of ways, defining the roles of different terrestrial agencies, protecting the scientific integrity of any discovered life, and providing valuable protection for the newly discovered life form. The chapter then argues that existing planetary protection and contamination rules, with their clearly anthropocentric bias (preserve the science), are outmoded and the resulting regulatory gap should be filled with nonbinding soft laws. It also proposes some ways forward to ensure that the seminal discovery event does not lead to conflict on Earth, the loss of irreplaceable scientific information, or even the destruction of the alien life. Ultimately, at present, there is little consensus as to how to start formulating laws to govern relations with alien lifeforms, no matter what their composition. Ultimately, at present, there is little consensus as to how to start formulating laws to govern relations with alien lifeforms, no matter what their composition
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSocial and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology
EditorsKelly Smith, Carlos Mariscal
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Chapter16
ISBN (Electronic)9780197506066
ISBN (Print)9780190915650
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2020

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