Background

Ecological and environmental concerns on Earth had largely been settled in the previous century by advances in economic theory of all things.  As soon as satellites were capable of hyper-sensitive measurement and tracking of literally every molecule on the planet, artificially intelligent economic forecasting software postulated a method for determining a monetary value for every living thing.  It wasn't long before the self-aware computers developed a complex formula to equate all energy, life, and monetary currency on Earth.  It was, of course, beyond any human understanding, but by allowing the software to balance the prime interest rate against mean sea surface temperature, and legal age of sexual consent, Earth has enjoyed decades of sustained equilibrium and bounty.  This 'Global Balance Theorem' as it came to be known, was in large part what allowed mankind to commit substantial resources to deep space exploration. 

Astrophysics, as it turns out, is one of the few remaining sciences where humans are still more successful than software.  The unknowns are just too large for the computers to deal with.  Even with thousands of deep space probes taking measurements, the data retrieved is such a small sample compared to the entire universe that its literally insignificant.  Humans have that one tool that software can never have; imagination.  The current debate, the one that's threatening to rip the scientific community to shreds centers around preservation.  Conservation is a non-issue.  With a universe full of matter and energy, there's no reason to conserve anything, but preservation; that's the big question.  Do we use the things we find, or do we leave them as we find them?

When Mars was terra-formed, and a breathable atmosphere was generated, the debate kicked into high gear.  Of course no life had existed there, but what if it was going to develop in a few billion years?  Did we have the right to interrupt that potential process?  The debate isn't limited to planets either.  What if a comet carries some of the chemicals and elements that are essential to the development of life?  Do we have the right to pillage that comet and use it for fuel?  They're even debating about micro particles and dust that could contain microbes of life.  According to some, it's getting downright ridiculous.  But to others, these are central questions to the future of mankind.   This gives you an idea of the eggshells scientists have to walk on now.

The End

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