exstinctionem hominum

Would human extinction be a good thing for the good of the planet? We’re all familiar with the concept of the greater good, but what is the domain of the greater? We presume it to be the domain of all humans or at least our chosen in-group. But if we dilate the aperture, we might encircle the entire biosphere. In my experience, humans rarely extend the circle beyond themselves and barely even do that, opting to extend it to their race or tribe. Whilst some humans are not as self-centred as some narcissists and sociopaths, the radius doesn’t go too far.

Human beings really are this virus upon the earth, and the earth's running a fever, you know? If you step away from that kind of inherent human sentimentality and just look at it neutrally, the universe is neutral morally. —Eef Barzelay

Is one a misanthrope if one considers the greater good to be the earth devoid of the human virus? Perhaps, yes, if stated in those terms. But if one calculates that humans do more harm than good, doesn’t the cost-benefit calculus indicate that fewer people or no people would be better for the earth. I’ve long been fond of the late George Carlin’s routine where he proses that we don’t have to save Earth; the earth will remain long after humans no longer inhabit it. It’s been said that 99.9% of species that ever occupied the earth as no longer extant. Humans are past the mean duration of a species. Perhaps it’s time to move on.

I started to write this post some time ago after having had a discussion on antinatalism. Rather, I defended anti-natalism in the course of a conversation on the inherited notion that humans as sacred.

I supposed I am not a strict antinatalist, but neither do I feel that life is somehow sacred. Mine, of course, but except that. Just kidding. If you are reading, yours is, too. Just kidding, not you either. Interestingly, this ties into the post on the narrative gravity of the self.

As I write this in a world with a population of almost 8 billion people dominated by a handful and no picnic for that lot either, there are likely enough people already. I do feel that even if population trends continue upward—given offsetting depopulation trends in some regions—, humans will cap out at around 10 billion anyway. Perhaps in a Malthusian manner, but I am thinking in terms of deer herds and population limiting factors as expressed by equations like Xn-1 = rxn(1-xn).

Life does appear to have at least common characteristics and perhaps only one: the need to procreate. The second is the need to live, but that can probably be reduced to the need to live long enough to procreate. This is core to Richard Dawkins’ Selfish Gene theory. I like Robert Sapolsky’s treatment of the subject in Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst.

The concept of ‘sacred‘ is a religious vestige. I’m not sure why this needed to be codified, but religious dogma seems to capture the notion ‘thou shalt not kill’, as if it needed to be said. I won’t spend any time on the hypocrisy of the many people who espouse this edict.

Except for that motherfucker right there!

It may be a valid position to consider me a misanthrope, but that’s probably overstated, but I’m generally not a fanboy. I guess what bothers me most is the hype and self-promotion. I don’t find it to be particularly inconsistent to see the small positive aspects humans bring and still consider them to be parasitic. This is a compositional challenge–a dimensional consideration that moves away from binary-trending heuristics, the age-old right and wrong, good and bad, good and evil, and on and on.

As with geocentrism, we put ourselves at the centre because this is how we experience life—inside out. All else seems to extend from this model, except there is no centre. It’s just our perspective. I experience life the same way. I’m no exception. Nonetheless, I don’t seem to need to cling to this central notion—this notion of centrality.

When all is said and done—when the last human has made their exit, there will be no epilogue or postscript, afterword, or coda. Humanity is a story in need of a narrator. The ongoing codicil will cease, and to copy-paste the high art of Monty Python’s parrot sketch:

E’s not pinin’! ‘E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘im to the perch ‘e’d be pushing up the daisies! ‘Is metabolic processes are now ‘istory! ‘E’s off the twig! ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

Monty Python – Pet Shop Skit

Hopeless Hubris

There’s a dangerous arrogance to hopelessness… Total hopelessness assumes that we know everything there is to know.…
When we think we know everything, we preclude opportunity.

James McCarthy

In a recent panel discussion on Climate Change, James McCarthy played Enlightenment standard bearer as he derided the hopeless. Steven Pinker, whom I’ve mentioned in this vein plays to the same tune.

Whether realistic, simply optimistic, or Pollyannas remain to be seen. Future history will be the final arbiter, but I want to touch on the relationship of arrogance to hopelessness.

McCarthy is right to make the equation, but what’s left unsaid is the hubris on the other side, of the Scientists, who put more faith in possible solutions than is, perhaps, warranted. This, too, is arrogance:

We gotten here from there, so we must be able to continue from here to the next there… along our next journey to progress.

It reminds me of the one about the person falling to their death from a tall building. At the fifth floor, in response to the question, ‘How’s in going?’ says, ‘So far, so good‘.

This is missing the perspective that we could already have situated ourselves into some evolutionary dead end, just awaiting the inevitable ground splat.

I’m not a pessimist. I am merely pointing out the arrogance of both vantages. In fact, I see it as a line curved so as to bend back upon itself.

Hubris Circle

Whilst one said may be correct, it is not through knowledge but through ignorance and emotion they arrive at their position. It’s primarily temperament and opinion. It’s certainly not science, save the blind faith variety.

I don’t really have much to say on the subject at this moment. I just wanted to share my reaction.