Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


25.1.2  Fasan's Metalaws

Table 25.2 summarizes the many metalegal rules which have been suggested by various human philosophers, theologists, xenologists and other writers for use in dealings between sentient races. Many are unfeasible even in theory, some are unworkable in practice, but all appear to be based on anthropocentric considerations which derive from the sociobiological framework and essentially simian psychology of man. We are still left with the problem of developing a set of nonconflicting, serviceable metalegal rules.


Table 25.2 Suggested Metalegal Rules and Formulations
Suggested Metalaw/Author/Reference
"This is the sum of all true righteousness; deal with others as thou wouldst thyself be dealt by. Do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain." (Hindu Mahabharata S.1517)
"A man should treat all living creatures as he himself would be treated." (Sutra-Kritanga)
"What is hurtful to yourself, do not unto your neighbor." (Judaic Talmud)
"As you wish men to do to you, so also do you to them." (Bible, Luke 6.31)
"Therefore all that you wish men to do to you, even so do you also to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Bible, Matthew 7.12)
"Treat others as thou wouldst be treated, dispense not to others what thou likest not for thyself." (Abdullah Ansari)
"According as I do to you so also to me." (Ahikar)
"We should behave to friends as we would wish friends to behave to us." (Aristotle)
Ancient "Men are used as they use others." (Bidpai)
Ancient "What I do not wish others to do unto me, that also I wish not to do unto them." (Confucius)
Ancient "Therefore if anyone would take these two words to heart and use them for his own guidance, he will be almost without sin. These two words are bear and forbear." (Epictetus)
Ancient "Do good unto others as God has done unto thee." (Mohammed)
Ancient "Whatsoever is hateful unto thee, do it not unto they neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, the rest is but commentary." (Rabbi Hillel)
Ancient "Accept for thyself what thou wouldst accept for others." (Sadi)
Ancient "You must expect to be treated by others as you have treated them." (Seneca)
Ancient "Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and regard your neighbor’s loss as your own loss." (T’ai Shang Kan Ying, Taoism)
Ancient "Hurt not others with that which pains yourself." (Buddhist Udanavarga 5.18)
1532 DOCTRINE OF FREE EGRESS: "People have the right to travel to any lands they desire subject to the restriction that they must not do harm to the natives residing therein." (Francisco de Vitoria3410)
1788 THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE: "Act only on such a maxim as you can will that it should become a principle of universal legislation." (Immanuel Kant3492)
1945 THE ETHICAL EQUATIONS: ". . . link conduct with probability, and give mathematical proof that certain patterns of conduct increase the probability of certain kinds of coincidences." (Murray Leinster3482)
"In substance, the Equations stated that if one did a person or an alien a good turn, an equal reward would ultimately be forthcoming, and that the same would apply if someone did something wrong. Eventually an exact balance of punishment or reward would occur."2442
1948 "If any of (the planets) is inhabited by intelligent beings,, then clearly man should do his utmost to adopt a relationship of genuine community with these nonhuman intelligences,, seeking earnestly to enter into their point of view, and to cooperate with them for mutual enrichment, both economic and spiritual." (W. Olaf Stapledon556)
1949 "There could be no truce between men and a superior form of life." (Murray Leinster3205)
1953 DOCTRINE OF EXCUSABLE FRAUD: "Deception, when welcomed by the victimized party, comes within time realm of caveat emptor."
PRO-RATA SENTENCING: "terms of penal servitude are to be based upon comparative life expectancy." (Edward Wellen1203)
1956 GREAT RUI.E OF METLAW: "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them." "There may be no visitation whatsoever of any inhabited area until intelligible contact will have been made and the Authority is satisfied that no physical or psychological hazard exists to either the explorer or the explored." (Andrew C. Haley698)
1958 "Occupation of the Moon, at most, would entitle Earth to preferential domination in the event of legal claims put forward by political organizations from other planets." (Aldo Armando Cocca3405)
1958 "Press on with regard." (S. W. Greenwood1181)
1958 "It is better to destroy Mankind than to violate Metalaw." (Andrew C. Haley3397)
1958 "It cannot be our intent to make slaves of the inhabitants of Mars or the Moon."
"Human relationships with other lifeforms must always be based on a policy of fairness and reason." (Charles S. Rhyne3398)
1959 "Intelligent and sapient beings should he granted rights out of sheer humanitarianism." (W.H. Hannover3401)
1960 INTERPLANETARY LAW OF COOPERATION: "The precondition for any such relationship is that such beings be capable of decision based on morality and free will. This denies the possibility of Metalaw with beings who, like insects, are individually incapable of such decision, and thus Mankind would have the status of overseer to such creatures:" (Bueckling3403)
1960 "Outer space is res omnium communis for all nations, including even rational creatures of other civilized worlds."
"There is also a necessity, and therefore also the right of self defense against some possible evil intelligences." (Faria3406)
1960 "If the planets arc inhabited, sovereignty may be established only in two ways: By a victorious war or by agreement. War is and will always be the first origin and the ultima ratio. Sovereignty means power and ultimately military amid technical power, whatever may be the means amid ways. Agreement would be the acceptance by time inhabitants of the rule of the conquerors. The hypothesis of mutual sovereignty is practically excluded as the superior group would necessarily dominate."
"Much will depend on the degree of sovereignty attained by the ‘peoples’ of the planets. If they are technically more advanced than we are, there is no doubt that the small expeditionary corps of our globe will disappear and never come back. If they are less developed technically it is certain that the ordeal would follow very much the lines of the discovery of the Americas by Europe."
"If the planets are not inhabited, the law would be established by virtue of occupation. The planets would then be res nullius and the venerable custom and general principle of law, according to which the effective possession and continuous occupation establishes sovereignty, would govern." (Julian G. Verplaetse386)
#213: "The celestial bodies should not be subject to appropriation by individual states; the basic concept of space as free for use by all should be extended to include the planets as well as open space."
#225: "Although international law requires occupation and control as well as discovery of new territory to give the discovering nation a valid claim, these requirements should be relaxed somewhat when the claim is for a distant uninhabited planet."
#245: If man colonizes the other planets, such colonies will be highly scientific rather than imperialistic."254
1961 "If we find on the planets living beings of a very low grade of civilization or without civilization, our role would be to unite and to play the role of guide to such beings."
"If we find there living beings whose civilization is on a very high level, they could be much stronger than we are, so Mankind must be united to defend itself from those living beings from other planets, or at least to be able to represent the united community of Earth." (M. Smirnoff3411)
1962 "The regulations of Mankind with other intelligent beings should develop on a basis of complete equality of treatment."
"Planetary bodies should admit of occupation if they are vacant, or pacific relations if a legal order exists there."
"Any idea of aggression or conquest should be discarded -- the mission of man when visiting other planets should evidence a high degree of civilization and a sense of legality." (Aldo Armando Cocca358)
1962 "(i). No contact shall be made with a planet having intelligent life until the intelligences of that planet have themselves achieved spaceflight
"(ii). No belligerent or sectarian views or acts may be promulgated by any interplanetary voyager until a common understanding between planetary intelligences has been achieved."
"(iii). No artifact or written material or biological specimen shall be passed between voyagers unless it is within the technical competence of both parties." (E. Conrad Miller1183)
1962 "Conquest and enslavement or domination of other intelligent beings would be contrary to generally accepted precepts of law." (Robert K. Woetzel357)
1963 "The main consideration is to keep the extraterrestrial environment and its inhabitants as intact as possible."
"We must forgo any thought of enforcing our legal concepts on other intelligent beings. The principle of enforcement is malum in se. In establishing spatial relationships, no force of any kind may be used."
"To Metalaw we can project only one principle of human law, namely, the stark concept of absolute equity.’
"Space outside an individual’s zone of sensitivity is free space to which the traditional freedom of the seas may apply."
"In any instance where there is reason to believe life exists on a planet, no terrestrial spaceship may land (1) without having satisfactorily ascertained that the landing and contact will injure neither the explorer nor the explored, and (2) until the ship has been invited to land."
"We may find inferior beings, and these we may keep from harming us by purely protective means." (Andrew C. Haley382)
1963 "There are forms of coercion justified as they may be by local theology philosophy, that cannot be tolerated in a universal public order that affirms the dignity of advanced forms of life." 
"It is compatible with the policy of minimum interference to insist upon a decisive process with the other civilization in which an effective voice decision making is available to many and is not monopolized by a few."
"We do not recommend the concentrated use of our resourecs to save lives if the probable consequence is to multiply numbers while diminishing the level of living."
"If the other race does not use its resourccs, we may use them."
"We have no hesitation in recommcnding a policy of active colonization in habitats that are wholly unoccupied or very sparsely inhabited by people of inferior culture. If local inhabitants have not accumulated the knowledge required to employ resources most abundantly, we regard them as having lost an opportunity."
"A strategy of minimum interference is correctly applied when it steers between total absence of pressure for change and a demoralizing tempo of innovation. It interferes sufficiently to encourage an effective demand for the incorporation of the new, without precipitating a sudden blind rejection of the old."
"If new lifeforms are conspicuously inferior in brain capacity so are incapable of learning a complex technology, the humane course would appear to be to set aside reservations for the exclusive use of permanently handicapped populations. In this way it will be possible to protect near-human types from exploitation as pets or domesticated animals, with the resulting danger that sensibilities will be coarsened in human relations as well." (Myres S. McDougal,, Harold Lasswell, Ivan A. Vlasic252)
1963 "Defense of colonizers is not justifiable against an indigenous native population. (E. Conrad Miller1204)
1964 "Press on with very considerable care."
"The meeting of two different intelligences in the cosmos must lead to an attempt by the superior intelligence for its own protection to dominate the inferior." (S. W. Greenwood1186)
1964 MAGNA CARTA OF SPACE, ARTICLE 18: ‘The peoples of the Earth do hereby declare that they recognize the rights of sovereignty, ownership and control of any other planet by the inhabitants thereof." Adopted by the General Assembly of the Inter-American Bar Association at Bogota, Columbia, on February 3, 1961, (William A. Hyman1525,385)
1964 "Nobody may injure others." (E. Korovin3404)
1964 "Astronauts should be subjected to ethical fitness tests. The astronauts chosen should have these standards as part of their basic beliefs for only in this way can one know, with some degree of probability, how our representatives may behave on contact with aliens."
‘No belligerent or sectarian views or acts may be promulgated by any interplanetary voyager until a full and mutual interchange of laws has been achieved between those planetary intelligences." (J.L. Smith1204)
1965 "We reserve the right of self defense for the case of attacks from other intelligences against our Earth." (Brownlie3399)
1965 "If there are intelligent beings occupying the other planets, the question of legal control would be much the same as it would be in the occupation or visitation of any new unexplored territory. If there be no intelligent control or if the control is of inferior intelligence, exploration and exploitation of the major planet should then be undertaken." (Tamm3195)
1965 "If these intelligent beings were in possession of a more or less advanced culture, and a more or less pcrfect political organization, they would have an absolute right to be recognized as independent and sovereign peoples." 
"If they should reject all peaceful cooperation and hecome an imminent threat to the Earth, we would have the right to legitimate self-defense, and to conquer them, but only insofar as would be necessary to annul this danger, without striving to exterminate them."
"If they are not politically organized, Earthmen will have the right to colonize them. Of course, this colonization cannot be conducted on classic lines."
(M. Seara Vázquez253)
1966 "If living creatures exist on a celestial body, the problem of their protection aiming at averting their destruction will assume greater significance. Establishment of strict control over importation of Earthly forms of fauna and flora to celestial bodies will be required. In case of necessity, interested States can establish agreed recommendations on steps for the protection of natural resources on celestial bodies." (G. P. Zhukov317)
1966 THE NONINTERFERENCE DIRECTIVE: Under no circumstances are Federation personnel to alter, influence, or interfere in any way with the normal cultural evolution and technological development of any alien society. (From Star Trek)
1967 ARTICLE I: ‘The exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, and shall be the province of all Mankind. There shall be freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies."
ARTICLE IV: "The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purpose shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the Moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited.’
ARTICLE VIII: "A State on whose registry an object launched into outer space is carried shall retain jurisdiction and control over such object, and over any personnel thereof, while in outer space or on a celestial body. Ownership of objects launched into outer space, including objects landed or constructed on a celestial body, and of their component parts, is not affected by their presence in outer space or on a celestial hody or by their return to the Earth." (Outer Space Treaty, signed into law on January 27, 1967; 73 member-State signatories, incl. U.S., as of 1977.)
1967 "Precaution, reservedness, and endeavor for the attainment of exact knowledge..." (P. Creola3402)
1968 "The intelligent races of the universe have fundamentally equal rights.’
"Any activity damaging the other race must be avoided."
"The preservation of the one race must have preference over the development of the other race."
"To help the other race is an ethical, but not a legal, principle."
"The right of self-defense is a basic principle of Metalaw." (Ernst Fasan3407)
1968 "We can conceive of forming a single society with extraterrestrial persons, either here on Earth or on their planetary abode. Social assimilation without biological identity as its foundation is distinctly possible." (Roland Puccetti71)
1969 INTERSTELLAR GOLDEN RULE: "Do not disrupt unilaterally the ecosystem of an alien sentient being. (George S. Robinson1079)
1970 FASAN'S METALAWS (see text)372
1973 "Our basic interest will be to protect ourselves from any possible threat to Earth's security. Our second concern would be to assist in developing or to participate in a stable system of interstellar politics that provides an acceptable level of security for all. Our third concern would be to learn from the aliens in order to advance our knowledge of the universe and to add to the tools of civilization."
"Another interest would be some sort of weapons limitation, at least in the space between the two solar systems. We might work toward agreed numbers of ships that could be in certain volumes of space." (Michaud272)
1974 "If expansion from world to world is the normal course of evolution, an intelligent race that has not already colonized its entire solar system will someday need to do so; alien colonists must leave all its alone. Moreover, it is likely that sooner or later Man will encounter colonists of other starfaring races, and their new worlds must not be touched either." (Sylvia Louise Engdahl747)
1974 "Any race capable of interstellar travel may have enough respect for intelligent life to avoid exploiting the asteroid belt of any star that possesses a planet with intelligent life." (Robert McCall, Isaac Asimov2362)
1974 "(1) Upon contact with sentient nonhuman beings, officers will communicate the existence of such aliens to nearest Fleet command. All other objectives will be considered secondary to this accomplishment. (2) After the objective described in (1) is assured, officers will attempt to establish communication with the aliens, provided however that in doing so are not authorized to risk their command unless so ordered by higher authority. Although officers will not initiate hostilities, it must be assumed that nonhuman sentient creatures may be hostile...." (Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle668)
1975 "Advanced civilizations might be reluctant to disseminate information that may be dangerous to less-developed societies, or which might, in the hand of those societies, become dangerous to themselves." (B. Campbell3241 ?)
1975 THEORY OF RECIPROCITY: "Respect others in the manner you yourself would want to be respected, and act accordingly." (Golden Rule)
DOCTRINE OF FREE CHOICE: "Any lifeform, any cultural entity or part of a cultural entity as defined in its own terms has the right to accept or reject, under no duress, temptation, or threat, any proposed changes we might offer in their lifestyles or in the management of their property." (Barbra D. Moskowitz3396)
1975 "Galactic Code, Article 7224, Section C: No intelligent being may he removed from its home planet without its consent." (Roger Zelazny3488)
1977 PRINCIPLE OF DEFENSE: "A primary requirement of all extraterrestrial races may be physical security."
PRINCIPLE OF NONINTERFERENCE: "We should leave other cultures entirely alone -- let them evolve naturally, with no help or interference by outsiders." 
GOLDEN RULE: "We should treat aliens as we would wish to be treated ourselves, and behave towards them as we would wish them to behave towards us." (Robert A. Freitas Jr.2001)
1977 "Before a certain threshold is reached, complete contact with a superior civilization (in which their store of knowledge is made available to us) would abort further development through a ‘culture shock’ effect. If we were contacted before we reached this threshold, instead of enriching the galactic store of knowledge we would merely absorb it." (Kuiper & Morris2608)
1977 "The alien species will respect the role of intelligence in the Universe and will understand the logic of the Interstellar Golden Rule." (M.A.G. Michaud2610)


A major step toward this goal was achieved in 1970 by the Austrian jurist and legal writer Dr. Ernst Fasan. In his book Relations with Alien Intelligences,372 Dr. Fasan attempted to develop a sophisticated, self consistent set of eleven basic metalaws which he believes should be applicable to interactions among all sentient beings in the universe because they are divorced from the details and specifications of individual races.

The central philosophical underpinning for Fasan's Metalaws is the so-called Categorical Imperative, first elaborated by the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant.3492 The main thrust of the Imperative, which is said to hold for any rational being, is that no activity can be ethical for one if it is not ethical for all. In Kant's own terminology it is a moral axiom which is true for every ever sentient creature: "Act in such a way that the maxim of your will can at the same time always be valid as a principle of general legislation." That is, if a particular course of action will lead to contradiction or a generally destructive result, then it is proscribed by the Categorical Imperative. Thus if one contemplates murder, he should ask: "Would it be desirable for everyone to murder?" Clearly it would not, as the murderer’s own death would be the result. This inherent contradiction rules out murder as a viable "principle of general legislation."2000

Fasan. then goes on to discuss the physical nature of extraterrestrial beings. He points out that all living organisms select those acts which will minimize entropy and build internal order out of external chaos. As Fasan observes:

So life must necessarily fight, with every sort of movement and decision, the influence of entropy. Evolution means gathering more and more information which enables the organism to better withstand entropy. This gathering of information produces the highest possible level of life: Life coupled with reason and intelligence. Life is reasonable and intelligent if it can understand itself. Like all living beings, the intelligent ones -- but consciously so -- will choose the alternative which seems to be the least harmful, which seems to be most anti-entropical.372

Those beings which are the proper subjects of metalaw, says Fasan, therefore must of necessity possess the following five characteristics:

1. The ETs are alive in the negentropic sense.

2. The ETs have intelligence, consciousness, free will, and empathy.

3. Each metalegal partner is physically detectable by the other.

4. The aliens have existence or activity within three-dimensional space.

5. The ETs have some, if only rudimentary, will to live.

Using the Categorical Imperative and these five basic assumptions about the nature of all sentient extraterrestrials, Dr. Fasan derives eleven metalaws of presumably universal validity, reasoning along the following lines.

First, to destroy or harm intelligent life is necessarily illegal. This is simply a prohibition against increasing entropy for intelligent life. The rule might be phrased as follows: "Any act which causes damage to another race must be avoided." This confers both rights and obligations on all sentient races. If one race does not comply, then the injured race should have the right to protect itself. So every race has the right to defend itself against harmful acts perpetrated by another race.

The basic will to live will not permit any intelligent race to consider itself inferior. The Categorical Imperative will not permit any race to consider itself superior, because that would mean that every race could consider itself superior. Therefore, all intelligent races of the universe have, in principle, equal rights and values. Since no one may have sovereignty over an equal partner, every partner of Metalaw has the right of self-determination.

Any interaction between mutually detectable races may result in a collision of interests. Damage may be present or future, immediate or prospective. Since the preservation of life is a precondition for its further development, opposing interests must be resolved in a way that gives priority to avoiding actual present damage to existence over possible future damage to development. Hence the preservation of one race has priority over the development of another race. Similarly, no race has the right to seek benefit by demanding that another race inflict damaging entropy upon itself to help the first race out. It is not a legal but an ethical principle that one race should help the other by its own activities. Also, if a race is damaged by past acts of another then it should be able to demand positive action to remove the damaging consequences of those acts. The Categorical Imperative tells us that such is a viable metalegal rule since, according to Fasan, if every race were free to inflict harm on another race without any obligation of restoration, the legal insecurity would increase and the damaged race might feel inclined to retaliate with force. In case of damage the injurer must restore the integrity of the injured party.

Of course, if restitution is impossible it cannot be demanded. Living organisms are not capable of performing the impossible. Even if restitution is possible but would threaten the very existence of the damager himself, says Fasan, still it is not mandatory. No person nor nation must destroy itself in order to fulfill any legal obligation. The basic trend of life is to preserve its own existence. The concept of life itself prohibits any rule which would demand suicide. In other words, no rule of Metalaw has to be complied with when compliance would result in practical suicide for the obligated race.

Finally, the Categorical Imperative demands that relations between intelligent beings must be based upon truth and honesty. If one race relies to its detriment upon faulty information or broken promises made by another race, the damaged race has suffered unlawful harm. Metalegal agreements and treaties must be kept. And since every conceivable race of aliens must exist or act in three-dimensional space, all sentient species need living space as a necessary condition for their existence. Every race has a title to its own living space.

In descending order of importance and precedence, Dr. Fasan summarizes his eleven metalaws as follows:

1. No partner of Metalaw may demand an impossibility.

2. No rule of Metalaw must be complied with when compliance would result in the practical suicide of the obligated race.

3. All intelligent races of the universe have in principle equal rights and values.

4. Every partner of Metalaw has the right of self-determination.

5. Any act which causes harm to another race must be avoided.

6. Every race is entitled to its own living space.

7. Every race has the right to defend itself against any harmful act performed by another race.

8. The principle of preserving one race has priority over the development of another race.

9. In case of damage, the damager must restore the integrity of the damaged party.

10. Metalegal agreements and treaties must be kept.

11. To help the other race by one’s own activities is not a legal but a basic ethical principle.372


Last updated on 6 December 2008