Monday, December 17, 2018

NYT: would extinction be a bad thing?

The New York Times pops the question that's clearly on a lot of SJW minds.

There are stirrings of discussion these days in philosophical circles about the prospect of human extinction. This should not be surprising, given the increasingly threatening predations of climate change. In reflecting on this question, I want to suggest an answer to a single question, one that hardly covers the whole philosophical territory but is an important aspect of it. Would human extinction be a tragedy?
To get a bead on this question, let me distinguish it from a couple of other related questions. I'm not asking whether the experience of humans coming to an end would be a bad thing. (In these pages, Samuel Scheffler has given us an important reason to think that it would be.) I am also not asking whether human beings as a species deserve to die out. That is an important question, but would involve different considerations. Those questions, and others like them, need to be addressed if we are to come to a full moral assessment of the prospect of our demise. Yet what I am asking here is simply whether it would be a tragedy if the planet no longer contained human beings. And the answer I am going to give might seem puzzling at first. I want to suggest, at least tentatively, both that it would be a tragedy and that it might just be a good thing.

The author, one Mr. Todd May who the NYT assures us  is a professor of philosophy at Clemson University, is going to suggest human extinction is a Good Thing. Oh, and that global warming is the thing that's going to kill us all.

Of course he is.

Mr. May is an American academic in 2018. If he didn't hold this view he wouldn't have a job. And what is the core of this view, anyway? What notion could view the extinction of Humanity to be a good thing?

One could press the objection here by saying that it would only be a loss from a human viewpoint, and that that viewpoint would no longer exist if we went extinct. This is true. But this entire set of reflections is taking place from a human viewpoint. We cannot ask the questions we are asking here without situating them within the human practice of philosophy. Even to ask the question of whether it would be a tragedy if humans were to disappear from the face of the planet requires a normative framework that is restricted to human beings.

 Emphasis mine. The issue is that Mr. May does not restrict his "normative framework" to humans. In other words, he's a bunny hugger.

So, then, how much suffering and death of nonhuman life would we be willing to countenance to save Shakespeare, our sciences and so forth? Unless we believe there is such a profound moral gap between the status of human and nonhuman animals, whatever reasonable answer we come up with will be well surpassed by the harm and suffering we inflict upon animals. There is just too much torment wreaked upon too many animals and too certain a prospect that this is going to continue and probably increase; it would overwhelm anything we might place on the other side of the ledger. Moreover, those among us who believe that there is such a gap should perhaps become more familiar with the richness of lives of many of our conscious fellow creatures. Our own science is revealing that richness to us, ironically giving us a reason to eliminate it along with our own continued existence.

Yes, we should all die so that nice cows and bunnies and timber wolves will be happy. I can see you doubting me out there. I can see your eyebrows going up with skepticism. Nobody could be such a dick to think Humanity should die because bunnies. Sadly, dear reader, yes they could:

One might ask here whether, given this view, it would also be a good thing for those of us who are currently here to end our lives in order to prevent further animal suffering. Although I do not have a final answer to this question, we should recognize that the case of future humans is very different from the case of currently existing humans. To demand of currently existing humans that they should end their lives would introduce significant suffering among those who have much to lose by dying. In contrast, preventing future humans from existing does not introduce such suffering, since those human beings will not exist and therefore not have lives to sacrifice. The two situations, then, are not analogous.

 So we don't have to kill ourselves, really. But we do have to stop breeding. But killing ourselves would probably be a plus, and we should strongly think about it.

That's what passes for Post Modern Philosophy at universities these days, ladies and gentlemen. These clever fools like Mr. May think themselves very erudite, very enlightened and Avant Garde for having these anti-Human views, but it has all been done before. If you look at the kind of vile writings current in the Germany of the 1920s, you'll see ideas very similar, differing in minor detail only.

How else does one justify mass murder?

The Phantom

Update: Welcome Instapunditeers!


Jonathan H said...

This reminds me of your previous post, and two (fictional) books that I read, one by Tom Clancy and another by Clive Cussler where people intentionally plan to massively reduce the number of humans (one by a disease, another by volcanic activity).

This is the ultimate direction of any person who wants to control fellow man more than he sees them AS fellow man. I'm glad that (so far as we know) has tried this is real life...

Alyric said...

Of *course* he's a bunny hugger.

"Wherever there is Animal Worship there is Human Sacrifice. That is, both symbolically and literally, a real truth of historical experience." -- G. K. Chesterton

The Phantom said...

Greetings, gents.

I read the Tom Clancy, Jonathan. I recall at the end the Bad Guys got left to make their own way out of the amazon rain forest, thought that was a great way to leave it. ~:D

Alyric, that's a good point. But I was thinking more along the lines of how Herbert Spencer's drivel became part of the core philosophy of the Nazi Party, and the Bolsheviks as well. Its very convenient to be able to label entire races as sub-human, makes the eradication campaign into a bit of pest control. Nobody objects to pest control, right?

Same way that everybody likes cute little animals. What could be wrong with being nice to the animals? Right? Come on, we have to reduce the human population! Do it for the bunnies!

John P McMahon said...

I can assure the good professor that if the environment deteriorates to the point that it won't sustain mammal life anymore, humans will be absolutely the last mammal to go since they are the most adaptive animal on Earth.

The Phantom said...

Hi John. You are not wrong, sir. But this insane belief system isn't meant to model Reality, its just to make it easier for them to kill us and take our stuff.

Save the bunnies!

Serr8d said...

Oh, come on. You know exactly what NYT is saying. You hit on it yourself, 13 years ago, in one of your earliest posts, “Modern Day Death Cult”…

We know *exactly* what they mean; that “Global Warming is People”, and there needs be billions of fewer people to sustain Mother Gaia. And they are dead-set on seeing that happen, by hook or crook, or deadly virus. Misanthropes and Malthusians, the ‘Greenies’.


The Phantom said...

Serr8d, thanks for reading my blog!

The Modern Day Death Cult guy from 2008 was a genuine nutter, founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. He is a True Believer, what I would call a victim of the Humans Are Bad philosophy being espoused by the likes of Todd May.

I think most of this latest round of bunny-hugging bullshit started with Peter Singer, here's something from 2016 on the subject. Having a pet is immoral, its "slavery."

What Todd May represents is a little different. He's a mainstream academic writing in the New York Times, not a freak-fringe nut cultist. That's more the expression of a policy than the ravings of a fruitbat. He's sending up a trial balloon to see if its safe to espouse this philosophy yet.

I hope the answer he's getting is no, it is not safe to be for human extinction.

Orvan Taurus said...

One ponders the aftermath of the extinction of the New York Times. Though, some might claim this has already happened.

Jonathan H said...

I have a problem with extinction of the human race ... on the other hand, there are portions of it which I certainly wouldn't mind going extinct!

The Phantom said...

The Minotaur said: "One ponders the aftermath of the extinction of the New York Times."

Yes, and tries to think of ways to speed that joyous day. ~:D

Jonathan H said: "I have a problem with extinction of the human race..."

Yes indeed, most of us do. One would think that a grown-ass man who studies philosophy would look at the history of the 20th Century, 100 million people killed by utopian socialism of one stripe or another, and pause to reflect upon that devastation before casting the end of Humanity in a positive light.

Another burr under my saddle, one would think these philosophers would take into account the POSITIVE aspects of Human existence while blathering about the poor helpless animals. Horses, cattle, swine, sheep, dogs and cats, et bloody cetera have never in history been more numerous, more healthy or better cared for. Even the crappiest farm is a better life for an animal than living rough in the woods, on any scale. That's what the term "animal husbandry" means. Humans, taking care of the animals because they can't do it themselves.

Stupid bunny huggers. >:(

Anonymous said...

the NYT is certainly well along the road to extinction.