The Danger

While reading a web board I found a link to an interesting and alarming site, that of a group dedicated to the voluntary human extinction. Yes there goal nothing less than the destruction of the human species. I found that I had to defend humanity and so wrote an e-mail.

For your edification I present the response I got on July 7th, 1999.

Note: This response is largely unedited so pardon my spelling in it.




Hello Allan,

Thank you for writing and for sharing your thoughtful views about voluntary human extinction. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the points you raise.

On 28 May 1999 You wrote: >Well, first I must say that I find your position interesting and understandable if perhaps a bit extreme. <

Yes, extinction is extreme -- there's no turning back once a species has gone. Since we are causing tens of thousands of species to go extinct in an average year, maybe one more shouldn't seem all that extreme.

>However I think there are a few alternate solutions and interpretations to
>consider. Not this is just my devil's advocacy and not necessarily the
>position I support.<

Okay, alternatives are good.

>Why breed? Why not? <

If human breeding didn't have such a huge impact on society and our environment, no justification would be necessary.

>I realize you have provided ample reasons but sadly it will never be
>absolutely compeling without proof of an objective
>moral/ethical/motivational reason to believe that living creatures
>(including humans) suffering is bad or that the loss of any animal
>speicies is bad. <

It seems to me that moral/ethical/motivational reasons are not very objective to begin with. If you want an objective reason: we are sawing off the limb we stand on. Agreement on this among the world's scientists already exists -- they don't require proofs for most things, just degrees of probability for theories. There's a high degree of probability that we are some deep shit.

If you want moral and ethical motivations, as you say, they are given at the VHEMT website. Anyone can come up with the same conclusion on their own, and they do. I hear from people almost daily who became VHEMT years ago -- some very young.

>Now obviously this argument applies to every human endevour so it is not
>really all that much of a problem. However if you have come up with such a
>system I would be delighted to here the evidence. <

Yes, you request I prove that "living creatures (including humans) suffering is bad or that the loss of any animal species is bad."

Well, I don't think other species suffer from what we've done as much as we do. We can suffer because of abstract threats of financial consequences. No other species frets about anything as removed from reality as mortgage payments.

>For example there are probably those who think that there is nothing wrong
>with just doing what they want, that nothing matters. <

Yes, quite true. The Church of Satan represents this philosophy best, in my opinion. Devotees of Ayn Rand also seem to think this. People can think whatever they want, it doesn't make it true.

>Also, as you mention on your site there are those who would put a higher
>value on human life than on other plants and animals (admitadely this
>position still requires that the degredation of the environment and
>overpopulation be addressed in some form). I doubt there is a rational
>argument to say that those positions are better than yours.<

"Always leave a certain amount of room for doubt," as the saying goes. For the sake of discussion, lets give humans a hundred thousand times more value than any other lifeform. Now place us on a balance scale like blind Justice holds, and place all the species going extinct on the other, the sales will tip in favor of our extinction.

>I am curious as to what you think the value of life is such that you are
>willing to give up reproduction to in your opinion save it?<

And I'm curious as to what people think the value of creating another of themselves is such that they are willing to give up biodiversity to do it.

>Next let me offer a more extreme interpretation, of the situation on Earth
>and that is that life (all life or possible just certain amounts of animal
>life not just human life) is not justifiable. <

Life doesn't need a justification to exist. The reason I'm seeking a justification for continued human breeding is that we are causing so much damage to other life. This isn't the same as the "damage" natural predation causes. I'm talking about wiping out entire ecosystems on a global scale. Earthworms don't have to justify their digging in the ground.

>The process of life depends on most of the creatures which are born not
>surviving to anywhere near there full potential age, also such processes
>as predation, diesease and aging cause pain and destruction to untold
>number of creatures everyday and would regarldless of man's existance. <

Such is life and death. This is the natural balance of Nature. Our activities don't remotely resemble this eat and be eaten life system.

>Also, for every new species born there were probably many other (often
>related species) species that were driven to extinction.<

Which make the extinctions we are causing all the more tragic.

>In terms of biodevirsity while the level on the surface of the earth may
>increase the overall number of species extinct will always be greater than
>those alive and always growing.<

So as long as we only wipe out less than half the species, it's okay? Each species going extinct takes others with it. When we go, around 24 species which live only on and in us will also go.

>Personally it seems to me from the point of view you have experessed that
>getting rid of the human race would only be a good start. Now your
>position of volonteerism means that even if you agree since most animals
>are incapable of volontary extinction, you would have to stop with human
>beings. <

No other species is disrupting Earth's biosphere. Exotics are causing local problems and we could do something to remedy in many cases. But we are the ultimate exotic -- we've evolved into a species that is incompatible with the rest of Nature.

>However, I think if I really believed that life was a pimple on the face
>of the universe I would be willing to get my hands dirty to eliminate it
>and thus make a world free of suffering pain and death.<

But I don't.

>I guess at this point I should ask, if the human race were to reform its
>ways and create for itself a society which was self-sustaining and did not
>adversly impact on the other creatures of this plant anymore than any
>other species did. Would you still advocate the elimination of the human
>race? What reason then would there be for the elimination of the human
>race?<

There is always a grave danger that we would revert to our old ways again. If that sustainable society collapsed or was destroyed by natural events, humans would likely breed out of control again. Too great a danger, at any rate.

>It seems to me that this voluntary postition is kind of moral cowardnice
>though. <

"cowardnice" good word. Yes, no matter which route one advocates, there will be someone claiming it should be the other one. If I were serious, I'd promote involuntary sterilization of the entire human race, right? There's nothing new about advocating involuntary actions -- human history is full of infringements of human rights.

I seriously advocate more reproductive freedom. The UN estimates that 350 million couples are lacking the contraceptives they want.

>So how strict is the volunterism of the philosophy, I mean on your site
>you ask whether or not a person would be willing to press a button to make
>humans extinct this hardly sound voluntary. <

There is no button. There never will be a button. That's just a device for helping people think through their opinions.

>What if you did have in your hands some means of painlessly removing the
>human race, would you do it? <

This is the hypothetical button again. There are two ways of painlessly
removing the human race from the planet: instant disappearance or instant
infertility. The former leaves much to be dealt with, but maybe we would
never deal with it anyway. The latter would give us the opportunity to undo
what we've done.

>Also, what if there was a way that was relatively painless on the part of
>the rest of the planet but which say caused pain and suffering to some or
>all the humans to remove humans from the planet, why not employ it? It
>seems to me (from your perspecitve at least) there is ample reason to do
>so. Why not call up a few biological weapons experts and see what they can
>do for your cause?<

No shortage of that sort of activity already. Sperm counts are down all over the planet, probably due to industrial pollution, but we don't know. This may sound like a good thing, but it probably affects other mammals as well.

>Anyway let me submit what I think is a better idea for the future of the
>human race, first and foremost for the continued survival of the human
>race would be to achieve some equilibrium position within the natural
>world so that sustainability of the human race and a greatly biodiverse
>ecosystem was possible. <

Sounds like a great improvement.

>I would say this would probably require a significant decrease in human
>population and probably a change in lifestyle from the ideal of today's
>societies. <

No doubt.

>From this position the human race in my opinion could continue to increase
>its understanding of the universe with science, create wonderful pieces of
>art of all kinds for the benefit of all, and live in a relative paradise
>by our own standards.<

This is what I envision as we phase ourselves out.

>Most important of all for people who hold beliefs like yours, a human race
>in such a position might be capable of saving the ecosystem from future
>mass extinctions from a variety of sources and would not (if all this held
>true) be the cause cause of one. <

Looks like it's too late for us to not be the cause of one, but maybe we can limit it. >You may think me a fanciful idealist but I do not think that such a
>possible future is any less likely than one where the human race has
>voluntarily allowed itself to die out. <

We're both fanciful idealists.

>Also, I think by your own standards it would be superior to your
>human-less world (in a sense there would be not humans of the kind you
>object to).<

But would they never again breed like humans? Pretty risky.

>Anyway, another question if say a "killer asteroid" (ie an asteroid large
>enough for its impact to cause a mass extinction) were found heading for
>Earth and it was possible to stop it would this be a good thing or would
>it be better to let it hit, not interfering with the natural(?) order and
>help wipe out the human race (along with countless other unfortunate
>species)? <

We're mapping and crating the paths of asteroids right now. Seems like a lot better use of military funds to me. If we could determine which ones posed a threat thousands of years from now and deflected them, we would be avoiding major impacts long after we're gone. Or maybe those impacts have value to Earth that we aren't aware of. Our meddling always seems to backfire.

>Should humanity stop other mass extinction events besides the ones it
>precipitates? Personally I think we have the same responsibility to stop
>any mass extinction we can whether it is caused by man or not, your
>solution seems to me to avoid that responsibility.<

At this point, we can only dream about preventing massive extinctions, even the one we're aware of.

>One other question, how many environmental groups like Greenpeace,
>prescribe your solution?<

Zero, officially. If I were in a position of deciding which other groups my mainstream organization would support, VHEMT would not be one of them. You can only "fight" on so many fronts. Like, Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherds knows that human breeding should stop, but his main objective is marine life protection. If he were to add population to his advocacy, he would dilute his efforts.

Unofficially, many who work within population and environmental protection organizations have VHEMT promotions in their cubicles. People hide their true feelings when doing public relations stuff . . . that's how it works -- and why it fails.

For a better world,
Les
Les U. Knight, Editor
These EXIT Times
P.O. Box 86646
Portland OR 97286-0646
Phone: 503-788-6379
Fax: 503-977-0980
Web site: http://www.vhemt.org




Well, I hope you found the discussion as interesting as I did.

For more information and discussion checkout the webpage at the end of Les' message. I want to thank Les and the members of VHEMT for their responses and giving me so much to think about, even if I do not always take it that seriously.

As for me, as birth rates in the industrialized world sink below the replacement rate, I ask you to consider the possibility that only you can save mankind, and consider the consquences if you do. I would like to hear commentary on this issue. As always my e-mail is allan.olley@utoronto.ca.


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Last Updated September 27th, 2005.