Should we colonize Mars?

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Mars in outer space
The red planet.

Mars is our nearest neighbor and the planet most similar to Earth in the Solar System. For millennia we have known of its existence and only in recent times has the prospect of colonization gone from myth to science fiction to plausible plan. Should humanity push this path?

We're talking about colonization in the 21st century, not in the remote future.

We should colonize Mars[edit]

  • Argument Argument Eventually there will be another mass extinction event, human caused or not. We must colonize Mars to mitigate existential threats to humanity as a species.
    • Objection Objection Why should we value, in and of itself, the continued existence of the human species, if neither those of us who stay on Earth nor our descendants will survive such an event?
      • This operates under the assumption that a mass extinction event on Earth would also end a Martian settlement. One of the prime objectives of such a settlement would be reaching self-sustainability, which could be achieved before an extinction event happened on Earth.
  • Argument Argument Colonizing Mars could bring Earth many, many resources.
    • Objection Objection We have plenty of resources here. We don't need more resources, only more wisdom in using them.
      • Even if we don't need more resources, having more resources is always better.
    • Objection Objection Even more greenhouse gases to pump to our atmosphere. No thanks.
      • Not all resources on Mars produce greenhouse gases. We could control imports like we do here on Earth.
    • Objection Objection Transporting bulk cargo from Mars to Earth would be tremendously expensive, so resource extraction on Mars for markets on Earth would be economically infeasible.
      • Transporting cargo with current technology would be tremendously expensive. If cost does not hinder colonization why would transporting materials?
  • Argument Argument We would be fulfilling our destiny.
    • Objection Objection What destiny is that? The same manifest destiny that led American settlers in the 19th century to get stranded in the mountains and resort to cannibalism? (Look up the Donner Party) It's a cold, lonely red rock in the middle of space. It would cost billions of dollars and our perceived "destiny" is not worth that.
    • Objection Objection We're destined to do something, there's no need to argue as to why we should do that thing, because it's destined to happen.
    • Objection Objection There's no such thing as our destiny.
    • Objection Objection Even if there is such thing as our destiny, we don't know which of the many possible destinies we can come up with is the real one.
      • Experts can decide.
        • Experts on what? There's no such thing as "experts on humanity's destiny".
    • Objection Objection Even if there is such thing as our destiny, and one of us knew which of the many possible destinies we can come up with is the real one, others wouldn't have much reason to believe it.
      • People are gullible.
        • The public may be, but if a space program costing billions of dollars is allowed to be gullible, then that is a major problem.
      • If someone knew which is the real destiny of humanity, then unless s/he got a revelation, s/he'll have arguments or even evidence that led to the conclusion. Such arguments and evidence can be shared to others.
  • Argument Argument Colonizing Mars would give humans a mission so great that no nation can accomplish on its own, and that all nations would benefit from. This has the potential of uniting nations, which is something we should strive for.
    • Objection Objection If Mars is colonized, it will be done by the few superpowers that have the capability of sending people to Mars.
    • Objection Objection Groups of organizations can achieve great things by competing against each other in a positive-sum way (e.g. successful free-market economies), rather than by uniting together into a single organization, so an effort to colonize Mars wouldn't necessarily unite the world's nations even if all the world's nations did participate in the effort.

We shouldn't colonize Mars[edit]

  • Argument Argument We have big problems here on Earth. Colonizing Mars would be a huge waste of resources.
    • Objection Objection Colonizing Mars could solve many of the problems here on Earth, through the unlimited influx of resources, like colonizing America solved most of the problems on Europe.
      • What resources? The soil on Mars is unfarmable. The air is unbreathable. The only thing mildly reasonable is mining but that would not be a colony. A colony requires food, water, and air, and to provide that would cost more than we could export.
    • Objection Objection By that same argument, nobody should be doing anything that isn't helping sick, hungry or thirsty people.
      • Strawman fallacy.
      • Indeed, nobody should be doing anything but solving the world's problems.
  • Argument Argument If we have the technology and will to expand into space, why should we waste that on going back down to a gravity well, and go to the enormous effort of terraforming a planet, when we could move into space habitats instead?
  • Argument Argument There is, as yet, no economically viable reason justifying an effort to colonize Mars, and without one, any colonization effort will run on a finite supply of political will and will fail once that is exhausted.
  • Argument Argument Although some of the aspects of the Martian environment that make it hostile to human life can be terraformed away with present day technology or plausible developments this century, the low gravity and lack of a magnetosphere are intractable problems given the same constraints, and whether a healthy human population can live with such problems is unknown. Establishing a permanent colony despite this would be unethical.
    • Objection Objection The colonists can volunteer.
      • Yes, but their children will not have consented to being born on Mars and made part of a dangerous experiment.
        • No child has ever consented to being born anywhere, we don't bar people from having their children wherever they want.
          • China does.

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