Crowd of people walking busy city street backlit
Crowd of people walking busy city street backlit

Bioethicist Pushes Human Extinction in Prestigious Journal

Originally published at Humanize

The fear of suffering (or deprivation of personal desires) is causing untold moral harm in the West — from ever-expanding euthanasia laws to the march of increasingly radical reproductive technologies, to transitioning children with gender dysphoria with harmful puberty blockers and mastectomies on teenage girls, to transhumanistic advocacy that threatens to unleash new eugenics, etc.

For some, it even conjures a desire to see the human race go extinct to prevent the suffering of those who would otherwise be born in the future. Yes, serious advocacy for human extinction.

The human-extinction movement used to be pretty fringy but may be gaining traction within bioethics and philosophy. For example, Peter Singer has questioned whether it is “justifiable” to continue our species. Now, a very long piece advocating the end of future humanity — and, incongruously, doing away with raising animals — was just published in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics, which is not in the least “fringe.”

I would be pleased to see no one to have children, because that would be a rational thing to do. Reproduction carries risks to the possible future individuals. All lives are occasionally miserable, some lives are predominantly miserable, and individuals may think, justifiably, that their lives have no meaning. My reason suggests that it would be unwise and unkind to bring new people into existence and thereby expose them to these risks.

The piece is very long and arcane. Finnish bioethicist Matti Häyry parses several different philosophical approaches to human extinction — such as paradoxically combining it with transhumanist immortality (!) — of little interest outside of this corner of philosophy. And he insultingly calls people who have children “breeders.”

Then, out of the blue, Häyry brings up animal production and factory farming:

I am an anti-pronatalist, or strict antinatalist and I support stopping human reproduction and animal production, including but not limited to factory farming. I would be pleased to see no more suffering-prone beings created by people. Voluntary human extinction and factory animal extinction would follow from these and I would have no qualms about them. If homo sapiens can find the kindness and the courage to break the cycle of sentience that currently holds the species in its grip, excellent. And even barring that, or if a palatably phased human demise takes its time, liberating factory animals from their suffering would be a welcome advance action. Copathy [Sic, I think he means “compathy,” or shared feelings) would motivate these developments.

I certainly understand the argument against factory farms, but I rarely see utilitarian types reference the great benefit that inexpensive, nutritious food brings to people of limited means. But it seems to me these are two separate topics.

If human and food animal suffering must be eliminated, does Häyry also advocate making all sentient life on the planet extinct? No, he does not.

I do not advocate involuntary human or wild animal extinction. I would not mourn the loss of any or all species as such, but I do not want to impose my own will upon a self-conscious collective that wants to live (humans) or groups of self-directing, possibly sentient, beings whose drive for survival is beyond my comprehension (nonhumans in the wild).

Wait a minute! Animals in the wild suffer far more than most humans and many domesticated animals–“red in tooth and claw,” and all that — so why not eliminate all organisms capable of feeling pain if the point is to end the evil of suffering? I guess we shouldn’t expect logic from nihilistic philosophers.

But I do think we should expect more from prestigious bioethics journals. Surely, there are more important actual healthcare concerns that should occupy the storied pages of the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.