Blowed Up Real Good (guest post)

Good news, fellow citizens of Earth! We now have irrefutable proof that the Galactic Guardians are benevolent. The great wisdom and compassion of these ancient, intelligent, and technologically advanced beings comports with the principle of the widening and deepening of morality among social species in the course of evolution, as Darwin surmised – and is contrary to the silly scenarios of evil aliens in so many science-fiction thrillers. The Special Session of the United Nations and Peoples’ Representatives is expected, in the next few days, to formally accept the Guardians’ generous offer to transport all human beings and all other sentient creatures from Earth to our future home planet, Eudaimonia, three thousand parsecs closer to the centre of our Milky Way Galaxy. There, on that abundant, green world uninhabited until now by sentient life, conditions are maximal for our flourishing as individuals and in harmony with other earthling creatures.

There has already been much discussion about an appropriate celebration. In particular, it has been suggested that, as we view Earth for the last time from the vantage of our departing Space Ark, we should treat ourselves to the ultimate fireworks display: a concatenated detonation of all the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons currently stockpiled on the planet. What a show! The end of history will truly be a political science beyond the dreams of Randy Newman!

Of course, there is a strong likelihood that all non-sentient life on the planet will be permanently extinguished in the nuclear firestorm. A handful of radical environmentalists and one or two eccentric philosophers have objected to this kind of celebration on the grounds that even non-sentient life has intrinsic value. For example, Paul W. Taylor argues that all living members of the planet’s natural ecosystems have equal inherent worth. Like Holmes Rolston III, he makes the point that every living organism has a telos; it is a unified system of goal-oriented activities, the aim of which is the preservation and well-being of the organism, whether or not the individual – plant or animal – is sentient. This means, according to Rolston, that the organism is an evaluative system, even if it is not yet a moral system. If we are to have an ethic that respect life, he says, we must take into account how our behaviour affects these amoral evaluative systems.

Does the idea of value existing without a conscious valuer make sense? The notion, it might be said, is simply incoherent; or, at best, the kind of intrinsic value exhibited by non-sentient organisms is different from that of sentient beings who consciously value (positively or negatively) their experiences. If so, it would seem that the bottom line is: If most of us want to blow up the planet, let’s do it!

The Guardians, with their unimaginably superior understanding of biology and ecology, have calculated that, without our little celebration, and given the current configuration of plant, microbial, and insect species on Earth, there is no more than a five per cent chance that sentient life will ever again evolve on this planet. The Guardians have also calculated that no sentient aliens from elsewhere in the universe are ever likely to arrive on Earth in the future, either by accident or design. Should the small chance of sentient life evolving once again on the planet give us pause? As the saying goes: Why should I care about posterity – what has posterity ever done for me?

1 comment:

Faust said...

Short version: once all the sentient life is removed from the earth, is it OK to abort it?