When I first found out about this “movement,” the first thing that popped into my mind was a reworded version of John Lennon’s Imagine song – “Imagine there’s no people. It’s easy if you try. Only dirt below us. Above us, only more dirt.” Ok, I need to work on that, but it sure does capture what VHEMT is about. Read their blurp.
Q: What is the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement?
VHEMT (pronounced vehement) is a movement not an organization. It’s a movement advanced by people who care about life on planet Earth. We’re not just a bunch of misanthropes and anti-social, Malthusian misfits, taking morbid delight whenever disaster strikes humans. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Voluntary human extinction is the humanitarian alternative to human disasters.
We don’t carry on about how the human race has shown itself to be a greedy, amoral parasite on the once-healthy face of this planet. That type of negativity offers no solution to the inexorable horrors which human activity is causing.
Rather, The Movement presents an encouraging alternative to the callous exploitation and wholesale destruction of Earth’s ecology.
As VHEMT Volunteers know, the hopeful alternative to the extinction of millions of species of plants and animals is the voluntary extinction of one species: Homo sapiens... us. Each time another one of us decides to not add another one of us to the burgeoning billions already squatting on this ravaged planet, another ray of hope shines through the gloom.
When every human chooses to stop breeding, Earth’s biosphere will be allowed to return to its former glory, and all remaining creatures will be free to live, die, evolve (if they believe in evolution), and will perhaps pass away, as so many of Nature’s “experiments” have done throughout the eons.
It’s going to take all of us going. (http://www.vhemt.org/)
I can’t help laughing. These people really are serious, though they recognize that people could find this humorous (and they’re okay with that). If I understand them right (and I haven’t read extensively on them), they advocate for the voluntary extinction of the human species so that Earth can rejuvenate and Nature can go about its business without our pesky interference. It is more moral for us to “off” ourselves for the sake of all the other life forms than for us to remain here at the possible expense of those life forms.
If I may be so bold, this is just plain stupid. First, their argument is supposed to be a moral argument. Fine. But what kind? It could be a utilitarian argument (act utilitarianism to be exact), which would run like: the act of exterminating the human race would bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of living things. But this is highly contentious. How does one calculate greatest good in a manner like this? Humans are a part of many ecosystems such that with our absence many species would suffer. Hamsters would go extinct pretty quickly and other domesticated breeds and livestock would be in for a brutal hurting. The food chain system would go haywire. Yes, many species would benefit from our disappearance (like predators), but whether this counts as the greatest good is hard to know. And that’s the point. We just do not know whether offing ourselves would really bring about the greatest good. So I don’t buy that approach if that’s what they’re thinking.
They could be giving a moral argument for natural states. That would go: it is morally better to have a natural state of existence on earth than unnatural. Humans create unnatural conditions and interferences of life. Therefore, it is morally better to get rid of humans to preserve nature. I actually think this is more what they are thinking (or maybe they are giving versions of both arguments). Nevertheless, this argument is bad for the simple reason that humans are as much a part of nature as anything else. It is quite the big leap to assume that humans are somehow outside of nature injecting unnatural conditions into the natural state of being. The last I checked, my body is made out of the same kind of organic slop as any other biological creature or plant on the planet. It would be an arbitrary accusation to call us or our actions unnatural. We might not make the smartest decisions with our reproductive capabilities, our technology, and our resources, but we are thoroughly natural.
But my second reason why VHEMT is stupid is that moral and value distinctions only make sense in the presence of humans. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, without humans because we are the ones coming up with those concepts. If we were to extinguish ourselves, there would no longer be “better” or “worse.” There would just be what is. But these VHEMT people are saying that the world would be a better place without humans. Yet, quite literally, this is impossible. Without humans, the world could not be “better” for there would be no value giver. For there to be a value judgment, there must be humans.
“But couldn’t one project value into the future and give a counterfactual, saying that if people were to go extinct, Earth would be a better place? We would still be here projecting our value judgments into the future such that we can legitimately speculate about value even without our future existence.” I accept that that makes sense as stated. But that response does not handle the practical consequence that when the last human dies off, so does moral and value distinctions. We can speculate about future morals and future values without humanity all we want, but when it comes to the moment when there is no more humanity, that is when all morality and value end. Thus, it is pointless to speak meaningfully in any practical sense of the world being a better place without humanity.
Ugh. I’ve gone on long enough. I hope this makes sense.