December 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Another academic pondering the interaction between mankind and the environment has tentatively concluded that the extinction of the human race might be preferable for the planet and its animal inhabitants, making the case this week in the pages of the New York Times.
On Monday, the leading left-wing national newspaper published an op-ed by Clemson University philosophy professor Todd May, who contends that “human beings are destroying large parts of the inhabitable earth and causing unimaginable suffering to many of the animals that inhabit it.” Therefore he suggests, “at least tentatively, both that it would be a tragedy and that it might just be a good thing.”
Despite admitting that nature itself is far from peaceful and animals “kill other animals regularly, often in ways that we (although not they) would consider cruel,” May claims “there is no other creature in nature whose predatory behavior is remotely as deep or as widespread” as man’s, and that there’s “no reason to think that those practices are going to diminish any time soon.”
Human extinction would end the devastation, in his telling, but the only thing keeping that outcome an unqualified good is humanity’s “advanced level of reason,” capacity for art and science, and ability to “experience wonder at the world in a way that is foreign to most if not all other animals.”
Therefore, the professor says human extinction would represent a loss of thought and culture rising to the level of tragedy, yet potentially a tragedy outweighed by the benefits to animals and nature.
“How many human lives would it be worth sacrificing to preserve the existence of Shakespeare’s works?” May asks, concluding that a single human life would be too many. “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 answers. As for that “moral gap,” May suggests that people who consider human life uniquely valuable “become more familiar with the richness of lives of many of our conscious fellow creatures.”
May next admits he does not have a “final answer” as to whether the current generation should kill itself to prevent future animal suffering, but suggests that preventing future generations from being born – presumably via widespread sterilization, contraception, and/or abortion – would be a much easier call.
“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 professor argues.
May concludes that it “may well be, then, that the extinction of humanity would make the world better off and yet would be a tragedy.” He admits he’s not yet certain of the “complex” question, but it “certainly seems a live possibility.”
May’s assertions echo a common refrain from radical environmentalists and population control activists, including in previous New York Times essays, though most generally call for limiting future births rather than ending the human race entirely.
The professor, whose CV shows no training in any environmental sciences, has received negative reviews from pro-life commentators.
“May’s reasoning is fascinatingly nihilistic,” Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro writes. “May doesn’t actually treat people as members of the animal community – he treats us as independent of the animal community, which is an odd position to take if you’re going to analyze human interests as equivalent to that of animals.”
At National Review, Discovery Institute Center on Human Exceptionalism senior fellow Wesley Smith argues “there is a ‘profound moral gap’ between the status of humans and animals, a chasm, that is both of kind and quality” that can be seen in the fact that humans alone “have the capacity to worry about the suffering we cause to other life forms” as well as a “duty to not cause suffering gratuitously.”
Smith also warns, “Worse, human-phobia can be dangerous because there are mentally unbalanced people out there who don’t see this crap as an intellectual mind game and could act out their misanthrope.” As an example, he cites the case of James Lee, a militant environmentalist who took hostages at the Discovery Channel headquarters in 2010 and was eventually killed by the police.
Despite environmentalists’ certainty about the planet’s grim future, there remains significant debate among scientists as to whether human activity contributes to climate change and whether its effects will truly be dangerous. The oft-cited “97 percent scientific consensus” is a misrepresentation based on an overview of 11,944 papers from peer-reviewed journals, to which just four percent of the authors responded.