NEW YORK — What if a flying saucer landed in your
backyard and a little green spaceman climbed out and you took a gun and shot
Would it be murder?
A variety of attorneys, law professors, and authorities on outer space and
international law were asked this question. The consensus of views was: “Don’t
bother me with stupid questions.”
But New York University law professor, Dr. Graham Hughes who teaches legal
philosophy and criminal law, was willing to discuss the question, although he
could offer no definitive answer.
MUST BE HUMAN
In cases of murder or homicide, Dr. Hughes noted, traditional law says the
victim must have been a human being. In England, the term used is “reasonable
creature,” which is synonymous with human being.
And even human beings haven’t always been considered as such, law authorities
Until the turn of this century, for example, certain tribes of Africa were
considered varmints under the law and it was permissible to shoot them as
Similar laws existed affecting the aborigines of Australia, and the American
Indian could be shot legally while the West was being won.
“As things stand now,” observed Dr. Hughes, “an alien person (from outer
space) would not have protection from the law.”
“If it is not human, it must be an animal, and the only legal aspects would be
those governing cruelty toward animals,” he said.
Wouldn’t a creature that could develop a spacecraft to bring it to earth be
considered reasonable, and hence human?
Dr. Graham doesn’t think so. A reasonable creature is just a synonym for human
being. It is a technical legal term and has nothing to do with reason he said.
If the creatures were equal, he feels the whole history of international
relations and international law would apply.