Professor Todd May (a professor of philosophy at Clemson University) recently penned an editorial for the New York Times titled "Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?" It piqued my interest enough to go read it. I found it raising a very profound question.
♦ Is this what passes for a "professor" of philosophy pondering human existence?
The piece was pretty well the underwhelming drivel I expected; a humanity-loathing leftist opining that humanity deserves to die (as in all of us) because we don't do what is right. "Humanity-loathing" for these leftist is to hate humanity in terms of all the ignorant little people not falling in line. The enlightened are not to be so loathed since it is embarrassing to them to even be of the same species.
Anyway, read the editorial if you want, but here's the gist.
A tragic character (in theater) is someone who does something bad and it costs them (usually their lives and the lives of those they love); BUT we (the audience) sympathize with them. Fair enough, on this I can agree.
May continues… Humanity is the protagonist in a play currently progressing on this little globe/stage of ours. Humanity is committing the following somethings, according to Mr. May, that may cause extinction or at least justify it.
♦ Climate Change
♦ Factory Farming
This list of somethings should sound familiar to any casual WB reader. Several WB participants would heartedly agree.
For the benefit of space and time, it is not my intent to debate the validity of each something listed. I want to address the same subject as the editorialists concerning if human extinction would be a tragedy.
So, assuming those "facts", would it be a tragedy if we (humanity) simply ceased to exist? I think the key question, Mr. May implies must be answered, is would we deserve the sympathy from whoever the audience is… and I agree... to a point. While Mr. May would concentrate on the validity of the sympathy, I would concentrate on the audience (or lack thereof) in answering that question. (See below).
Mr. May doesn't really answer the question, but you can tell where his sympathies lie; and it’s not with humanity. It's exactly where I see many secular leftists coming down on the question. This beautiful world and its animals would be so much better off without humanity. Without us, they would return to a Disneyesque utopian circle of life. <cue the music>
From my non-humanity-loathing point of view; I would answer the question this way. It can only be a tragedy if there is a conscious sentient audience to make that determination after the curtain closes (space aliens or God for example making the call). The animals, and plants, and the earth itself will never know we're gone; will never contemplate if things are better or worse. They'll just continue to spin, and kill, and eat, and procreate until they don’t; for whatever reason fate decides.
Secularly, if our demise is a tragedy, then it will only be one for a blink of an eye since all existence would be finite. Compared to infinity, a day, a year, or a billion years are all close to nothing. So, humanity's little time would equal the significance of 1) the whole existence and death of a fruit fly; and also 2) the whole existence and death of the planet Earth or our solar system... meaning zero significance, NONE.
Religiously, if our demise is a tragedy or not depends on the nature of God and his relationship with humanity. Does He "so love the world" or is he a pimp for homicidal nut-jobs?
So, seek and find; or eat, drink and be merry… tragedy, comedy, or farce. Someday we’ll know… or not. :)