Before modernity, Christianity guided individuals to live according to human nature and the moral law established by the Creator. This system allowed families and societies to prosper and helped people in their quest for sanctification and the final destination of heaven.
The eighteenth-century Enlightenment threw everything into darkness. People claimed they could not have certainties about God, His moral law or heaven. Through science and reason, they imagined a world without God and moral restraints. They made liberty, not sanctification, the supreme achievement of life.
Over time, people have followed this freedom to include the right to do just about everything—even self-destruction. It hardly seems possible that humanity would have degenerated from desiring heaven to seeking out annihilation. But that is what is happening. A growing “human extinction” movement is moving out of the fringes and into the mainstream. These people do not want to exist, nor do they want others to survive.
The Process Toward Extinction
The quest for non-being comes when liberalism, which acclaims reason and science, is crumbling. Nineteenth-century liberalism sought to establish a regime where humanity would be freed from the restrictions of tradition, religion and social structures. This vision proposed the liberated individual as the supreme model and controller of personal destiny. People dreamed of a super-industrialized society that would facilitate this freedom so that all could be whatever they wanted.
Thus, modernity built a society that sought freedom inside a naturalistic and materialistic vision of reality, excluding the official recognition of anything supernatural and spiritual. It frustrated people because they could not satisfy spiritual desires that are part of human nature.
Postmodernity entered the scene in the sixties and introduced a new kind of exhilarating freedom that sought not after reason and science but the more “spiritual” imagination, fantasy and unreality. Individuals freed themselves from internal structures like reason, identity and narratives. People can be whatever they want to be—or even not be at all.
The Postmodern Embrace of Extinction
Hence, comes the twenty-first-century human extinction movement. It is a consequence of exacerbated freedom that finds the most basic structures of identity and even biology suffocating. For example, advocates like Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari deny the existence of the soul, free will, consciousness and self. All these restrictive structures must be eliminated. Indeed, being becomes onerous and oppressive, leading to the desire for human extinction.
In a feature article in The Atlantic (Dec. 1, 2022), writer Adam Kirsch traces this path to extinction. His new book is expressively titled The Revolt Against Humanity: Imagining a Future Without Us. He documents the growing acceptance of human extinction everywhere. He writes, “From Silicon Valley boardrooms to rural communes to academic philosophy departments, a seemingly inconceivable idea is being seriously discussed: that the end of humanity’s reign on Earth is imminent and that we should welcome it.”
The revolt against humanity can be divided into two contrary currents. They may radically disagree on many issues, but they share the desire for the disappearance of humans from the earth.
Better Never to Have Been
The first human extinction group consists of anti-humanist radicals who see the human ‘abuse’ of nature as a justification for looking forward to extinction. It rejects and hates the traditional Christian narrative that puts humanity at the center of God’s Creation, to be served by the lower beings.
In his book Better Never to Have Been, philosopher David Benatar argues that the extinction of humanity would not deprive the universe of anything valuable or significant. He claims any pretense of importance is “human arrogance” or “misplaced sentimentalism.” Indeed, it is better that “Things will someday be the way they should be—there will be no people.”
In this vision, humanity is a hateful virus infecting the earth that needs to be eradicated. There need not be any being that has a conscious understanding of the universe. Nature alone without perceived meaning would suffice.
Turning Matter into Data
The second group of extinction advocates consists of transhumanists who welcome the demise of humanity in its present state. Humanity’s role is to invent its successor using cybernetic technologies to go beyond being human. In the words of Yuval Harari, each can be a homo-deus, a man-god that transcends material limitations.
This current is more metaphysical and gnostic than the first one. These futurists talk of animating the universe by turning all matter, humanity and energy into data. They speak about freeing humanity from the embodiment of physical forms. Adam Kirsch likens the process to the “ancient Hindu belief that the Atman, the individual soul, is identical to the Brahman, the world-spirit.”
One ideal world of the transhumanists resembles an immense metaverse in which uploaded minds “could have experiences and adventures we can only dream of, like living in a movie or a video game.” It also foresees the possibility of Artificial Intelligence (AI) creations taking over the world and suppressing the human beings who made them.
Transhumanists see the need for someone to experience the world consciously if life is to have meaning. However, they do not care if the perceiver is transhuman, a machine, animated data or all of the above.
The Target Is God
Human extinction ideas have already entered the postmodern world. It is found in the emphasis on experience over human life, as seen in procured abortion, assisted suicide, euthanasia and ecological schemes. Others call for nihilism, the abandonment of civilization, and the end of child-bearing (already reflected in demographic trends). The enemy is humanity that must be suppressed—even those who do not desire extinction.
The actual target, however, is God since man is made in His image and likeness. The human extinction currents want the image and likeness of God erased or replaced. They cannot bear an existence by which one is indebted to a benevolent Creator.
Both currents are the logical result of Enlightenment liberal thought that imagines a self-centered world without God. Both share a hatred for the Creator and His wise limitations on finite creatures that secure their happiness. Unable to become gods, advocates of these currents seek annihilation for everyone, be it as a species or a transitional stage of development. This attitude mirrors Satan’s, who would prefer not to exist rather than serve God.
Photo Credit: © Andrea Izzotti – stock.adobe.com