Fulmination about the vagaries of the human race is nothing new.
After all, it was celebrated author and cynic Mark Twain who once sourly groused that “often it does seem such a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.”
But now, as discussion of global warming reaches higher and higher rhetorical heights, if only to be heard, at least one professor is offering something of a pre-extinction celebration for the end of humanity.
Todd May, a professor of philosophy at Clemson University, discussed the victory that extinction would mean for the planet in a New York Times Op-Ed titled “Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?”
May said discussion of extinction should be front and center in society “given the increasingly threatening predations of climate change.”
He begins by saying that he writes from a perspective that is “depressing and, upon reflection, uncontroversial.”
This comes despite the latest Gallup poll on climate change that shows 69 percent of Republicans think climate change fears are exaggerated.
“Human beings are destroying large parts of the inhabitable earth and causing unimaginable suffering to many of the animals that inhabit it,” he said.
He bases his position on reports in The Times about the human impact on climate change, the spread of civilization into new ecosystems and “factory farming” that “fosters the creation of millions upon millions of animals for whom it offers nothing but suffering and misery before slaughtering them in often barbaric ways. There is no reason to think that those practices are going to diminish any time soon.”
“Humanity, then, is the source of devastation of the lives of conscious animals on a scale that is difficult to comprehend,” he said.
“If this were all to the story there would be no tragedy. The elimination of the human species would be a good thing, full stop,” he said.
I love humanity, except for the people part of it
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) December 17, 2018
But May said humans do offer some redeeming characteristics related to the arts and science.
“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,” he wrote.
“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,” he added.
However, wiping out the human race today would be a touch too much.
“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,” May said.
In the end, May said, there would be something lost, but something gained, if humans no longer exist.
“It may well be, then, that the extinction of humanity would make the world better off and yet would be a tragedy. I don’t want to say this for sure, since the issue is quite complex. But it certainly seems a live possibility, and that by itself disturbs me,” he wrote.
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