Is Extinction Bad?

A world without humans may not be a bad outcome.

Carl Sagan once observed that “Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception”. Indeed, it is estimated that 99.9% of all plant and animal species that have ever existed are now extinct. It is just a matter of time before the same is true of those species that exist today. Thus, whereas Benjamin Franklin said that “in this world, nothing can be certain, except death and taxes”, he might have added to that list of certainties the “death of taxa”.

While extinction of a species is inevitable, its timing is not. There is thus good reason not to be apathetic about recent reports that humanity has wiped out 60% of (non-human) vertebrate populations since 1970. The phenomenon of anthropogenic extinctions is as old as our species. This is not to deny that there were mass extinctions as result of

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Manuel Trotta 4 January 2019

I think that the answer depends, obviously, on the meaning of "bad".
"This means of extinction (non-procreation) would bring additional harms to the final people who, in their old age, would live
without the benefits of a younger generation to produce food, and provide medical care and innumerable
other services."
One could argue that natural resources on earth are limited. Even without economic inequalities, in the future, there could not be enough food or water for everyone. If this is the meaning of "bad", than extinction is not bad. In that case, non-procreation would lead to extinction, and extinction would avoid the "final people" to suffer from the consequences of overpopulation. But maybe there exists a "third way" between extinction and overpopulation. If only a limited number of individuals abstain from procreating, it would not necessarily lead to human extinction. Non-procreation would then help to avoid human population to reach its critical value. But non-procreation could not be a feasible solution, because there will always be individuals who want to be parents.

Daniel Kaufman 3 January 2019

What about the possibility that humanity is the only route for life to expand beyond the solar system? There's a chance that humans going to the stars means the difference between all life going extinct within the next few billion years, versus earthborn life continuing until the heat-death of the universe.

Les Knight 23 December 2018

Thank you for including the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement in your thought-provoking essay. Many of us in The Movement are concerned about how destructive our species is, and many also identify as antinatalists. In the unlikely event that VHEMT is successful, the last humans could be cared for with preparation and automation, leaving far fewer to experience an unpleasant end-of-life than do now. Naturally, it would be exploitative to create new humans just to care for the last humans, as they would then become the last humans needing more humans. As you say, our extinction is more likely to be involuntary: another very good reason for us to refrain from co-creating another of ourselves.