Another common justification for space travel is that it will provide answers to "life's great issues," such as the genesis of life on Earth and whether or not terrestrial life is alone in the Universe. 

Astrobiology and the scientific hunt for alien life are concerned with such issues. 

According to proponents of astrobiology, such issues are not only inherently interesting, but almost everyone wants to know the answers. 

According to Bruce Jakosky, Both scientists and the general public are interested in astrobiology and astrophysics because they address issues that are almost universal. 

We're looking for answers to questions like how the universe formed and evolved, how galaxies and stars form, evolve, and die, how planets form, behave, and evolve, and whether they're common; whether Earth-like planets exist elsewhere; how life evolved and whether microbial life exists elsewhere; and whether intelligent life is unique, rare, or common in the universe. 

As humans, we are profoundly moved by these questions. 

They address the fundamental question of how we connect to our environment, both collectively and individually. 

There are two different rationales to consider. 

  • On the one hand, there is the notion that we have a moral responsibility to answer "life's great questions" via astrobiology and the scientific hunt for alien life because these issues are inherently valuable. 
  • On the other side, others argue that we have a responsibility to answer "life's great questions" via astrobiology and the scientific hunt for life since the majority of the public wants to know the answers. 

I don't want to encourage doubt about the first argument. 

This is because, although I agree that concerns concerning the origin and breadth of life are inherently interesting, I shall argue in Chapter 4 that the scientific hunt for alien life is not the most essential consideration when it comes to space environmental preservation. 

However, we should be cautious of the second argument, which claims that we owe it to the public to answer "life's great issues" based on astrobiology and the scientific hunt for life. 

However, we should not reject this argument as just ad populum, since it would disregard the importance of political and social context to scientific study. 

Although we do not need to go so far as to support a highly democratic stance, such as Philip Kitcher's well-ordered science15, it is fair to believe that in a democratic society, at least certain research objectives should be sensitive to the public's needs and wants. 

If the public is vehemently interested in a topic, there is at least a prima facie case for funding research into that topic. 

When there is a confluence of public and genuine scientific interest, it is much more obvious that we should fund study into problems. 

Assuming that the public is particularly interested in the search for alien life, and that the quest is already genuinely scientifically fascinating, it seems that there is a prima facie duty to assist the astrobiological search for extraterrestrial life. 

As a result, gauging the public's interest in astrobiology and the scientific quest for alien life has some significance. 

And it is here that I shall offer an issue to the second astrobiology reason. 

The public's perceptions of astrobiology and the hunt for alien life are mostly unknown. 

There has only been one significant study of the American public's views about extraterrestrial life that I am aware of, and it did not try to measure interest in, or support for, astrobiology or the quest for alien life. 

Although I will discuss the survey's findings in more detail later, it is instructive to form two preliminary hypotheses based on well-known aspects of American public opinion that are likely to influence public perceptions of astrobiology, namely, the public's views on evolution and space exploration in general. 

As previously stated, the American public usually supports space exploration, yet, somewhat paradoxically, the American people is typically opposed to NASA budget increases. 

Insofar as astrobiology and the scientific quest for alien life include spaceflight, it's conceivable that the American people may respond similarly. 

Meanwhile, the public in the United States is split on the origins of terrestrial life—religiosity is linked to skepticism regarding natural selection-based evolution. 

Those who doubt that terrestrial life originated via natural selection may also doubt that life arose anyplace else in the Universe.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan 

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