Published: 9 July 2019 (GMT+10)

The horrifying calculations of utilitarian ethics



Normally, when someone goes to college, we can assume they are competent in their specialization. But when someone claims to be an ethicist, what comes out of their mouth is so predictably absurd and satanic that it’s not even interesting anymore. So when philosopher and author of Secular Ethics in a Materialist Age Todd May wrote a New York Times piece entitled ‘Would human extinction be a tragedy?’,1 one hardly needs to read it to know that May thinks, on balance, it could be quite a good thing for the earth if humans were no longer on it. However, he is wrong in several key areas.

Nature’ is not benevolent

Of course, May does not ask his question from the point of view of the only thing in all of creation that has a category for ‘tragedy’, but of nature itself. Given that, from his point of view, human beings are causing climate change, turning habitats into farmland, and causing untold suffering through factory farming, might it be better if humans weren’t around?

Often, secularists think of ‘Nature’ as an overall benevolent force, and humans as an infestation, parasite, or disease—harming nature, draining the earth’s resources, and displacing far more valuable creatures. Only someone who has never seen one of the nature documentaries where a cute antelope gets disemboweled by a lion can have such a naïve view of ‘nature’.

Maybe the antelope would be momentarily better off if its grasslands weren’t turned into farms. But they would still have to deal with predators. So maybe we should remove them, too? But then the antelope would reproduce out of control and graze the grasslands bare. Then erosion would go out of control, devastating the whole ecosystem, killing the antelope.2 If we’re going to personify a non-sentient idea, Nature is a jerk. There’s no post-Fall solution that eliminates suffering entirely. If one cause of suffering is eliminated, another inevitably arises in its place.

When we come to the issue with a biblical view of creation, we recognize that God created the world good, and while it is now fallen, it retains much of its goodness. Humans were given the task of being the earth’s stewards; this entails maintaining and improving creation, fighting the effects of the Fall, while at the same time using creation for our own benefit.

Thinking both too much and too little of humans

Secularists give humanity too much power and value human life too little. They credit humans with the ability to single-handedly devastate the world, most often through climate change. But while they will fight tirelessly for whales and endangered beetles, and lobby for draconian penalties for damaging the eggs of an endangered bird, they encourage killing unborn, disabled, elderly, or other ‘inconvenient’ humans.

A biblical view of humanity recognizes that the image of God makes us more valuable than animals. It doesn’t justify us inflicting needless suffering on animals, or recklessly polluting the world. And most recognize that it is best for humans to conserve the resources we will continue to depend on for the foreseeable future.

The inconsistency of secular environmentalism

This environmental ethic is fundamentally inconsistent. Why should we care about nature, let alone contemplate our own extinction as a possible good for the world? If Darwinism is true, why should we care about the survival of endangered species? Whatever animals are not strong enough to withstand evolution’s scythe do not deserve to survive. If evolution is true, humans are just apes with overdeveloped prefrontal cortices, and have no more responsibility to the species we might threaten than the lion has to the antelope.

The Darwinist wants to value us as mere animals while giving us the moral responsibility of the image of God, but they cannot have it both ways.

Sadly, May is not the only example of this sort of misanthropic thinking being advanced. No less than the founder of CNN, Ted Turner, has said there are “too many people” on the planet and that’s why we have global warming. Turner wants a worldwide ‘pledge’ that one or two children is the maximum allowable amount.3 But close friend of Turner and famous environmentalist Jacques Cousteau4 went much further, saying that we must eliminate 350,000 people per day in order to stabilize the world population, and that even if we could eliminate disease we should not do so.5 Did Hitler ever achieve this efficiency? And would Turner privately agree with his late friend on this more direct course of action?


If the only thing distinctive about humans is the prefrontal cortex, opposable thumbs, and abstract reasoning, there’s no reason not to attempt the perverse calculus that might result in the conclusion that the world would be better off if humans went extinct. But if humans are the unique creations of God in His image, proposing our extinction is actually an attack on the Creator Himself. When we realize this, we can see the murderous satanic undertones of secular ethics.

References and notes

  1. May, T., Would human extinction be a tragedy? New York Times, 17 December 2018. Return to text.
  2. For a real-world example, see the Yellowstone wolves: Wolf reintroduction changes ecosystem in Yellowstone, 15 January 2019, yellowstonepark.com. Return to text.
  3. Morris, M., Ted Turner: Global warming can lead to cannibalism, ajc.com, 3 April 2008. Return to text.
  4. Wilkinson, T., A Time To Rally: When Ted Turner Gave Jacques Cousteau An End-Of-Life Pep Talk, mountainjournal.org, 21 September 2017. Return to text.
  5. Elnadi, B., and Rifaat, A., Interview: Jacques-Yves Cousteau,The Unesco Courier,Pg.13, November 1991; accessible online at joseywales1965.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/0003_jacques_couteau.pdf Return to text.

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Readers’ comments

Raymond N.
The crowed world? If you gave everyone of the 7.7 billion people a quarter acre it could be contained in a 1734 mile square. If everyone were gathered in one place and had 4 sq ft (2ftX2ft) they would fit in a 33.25 mile square . Like many previously said none of these claiming over population and humans are a disease are willing to be part of the solution. If they really believe evolution why are they trying to save unfit species?
Egil W.
If humans, plants and animals are all merely complex, chemical compounds, how could ethics or meaning be real phenomena? They would only (for humans) be a part of the internal chemistry governing the human bio-mechanism to program the interaction with other specimens of encountered bio-mechanisms. I.e. the brain stimulates the biochemical machinery of the body. For what reasons? Well, no reason in fact. Only impersonal causes. Because personhood would be a illusion. Like morality and meaning. Then we’d be looking out of our eyesockets, wired to do that, by the brain wired to react upon this or that. In such a world-view you don’t get to use ‘should’, or ‘we,I,he,she,you,they’ or expressions like ‘what is the moral course here?’ On the grounds that humans and animals are only bio-chemichal complex compounds, even questions and answers are meaningless. Some biochemical compounds makes sounds or react to imprint text. Thats all. Nothing has meaning. Meaning don’t exist. Can’t exist in their meta-narrative. Morality needs meaning to exist to be discussed. Its not there in a meta-narrative that limits itself to the idea that ‘we are only complex chemichal compounds in big physical room.’ Pure naturalism: Its probably THE most selfdefeating ‘concept of reality’ out there...ever. They don’t see it. Why not? Perhaps they are inconsistent. Perhaps blinded by the emotional superiority certain people may feel when taking a ‘cynical and ruthless stance’ Many of them (extreme naturalists)sounds like they now have become ruthless, dominant, strong and unburdened by conscience. That is: if you listen to what say, and are conscientously oblivious to the bragging of degrees and honors and titles.
Derek H.
Thank you Lita for this article. I'm glad you brought in the point also, that some thinkers consider reducing human population rather than eliminating humanity altogether. For me this is a far more dangerous idea because it is much easier to do it than to eliminate all humans! And what a way to solve so many problems all with one easy solution, reduce the human population! There are quite a few ways this can be accomplished without causing too much scandal. Let's hope feelings of common humanity prevail against these ideas. Yet, in the long run, it will only be a Biblical faith in Creation, Salvation in Jesus Christ, and an active caring for God's creation including all humanity and nature that will give the right solutions.
John R.
Is this anything new? Julian Huxley (I think it was) was quoted as writing something like "It seems we are a cancer on the face of the globe".
I'm not sure what Elena M is trying to say - Jacques Cousteau did believe in the existence of a God, though claims that he converted from one damning form of monotheism to another damning form of monotheism have been effectively disputed.
Ian M.
The most densely populated country in the world is Monaco.
From what I understand it is a pleasant place that is popular with wealthy people.
It has a population density of 43,800 people per square mile with the population growing at 2.5% per year.
The world's population is estimated to be 7.7 billion people with the population growing at 1.1% per year.

The area of Texas is 268,820 square miles.
7.7 billion divided by 268,820 equals 28,643.7 persons per square mile.

Therefore if all the people in the world moved to Texas the population density
would be about 34.4% less than the population density of Monaco, thus putting
Texas far behind in second place.

There are numerous regions which have a greater population density than Monaco.
Macau is the most densely populated region in the world, with 48,003 people per square mile.
If all the world's population lived in Texas, it would have a population density
40.3% less than that of Macau.

A little bit of information to defuse the population bomb.
Elena M.
Would Jaque Cousteau starts with himself among those 350 000 poor souls to save the world?
Lester V.
I think it is interesting to note that none of these "experts", who are claiming that humans need to be removed from the earth, are willing to "walk the talk" by volunteering to be among the first to depart the earth. If their position is so clear, why don't they "lead the charge", and go first? Their hypocrisy is showing! Every year the "Darwin Award" is given to the person who improves the human genome by removing themselves from it in the most insane and spectacular way, exposing the stupidity of mankind in flaunting God's laws. If these "doom-and-gloom prophets" really believe the bilge they are spouting, perhaps they could collectively compete for the next Darwin Award, and help their cause along at the same time. (This is an excellent example of the "Don't Answer - Answer" approach to idiotic claims against God and the Bible.)
James H.
You are demonizing Jacques Cousteau by quoting him out of context and inaccurately, and also not considering subtlety of his intent possibly lost thru reporting, translation, etc. He didn't say he -wanted- to eliminate 350,000 people per day, and defintitely did not say we -should not- eliminate disease. He was lamenting at his belief in overpopulation and wondering what to do about it, even considering the unpleasant idea that disease -might- be beneficial in curbing unchecked population growth. His main point was to reduce human suffering, and he was considering all the factors, even if politically incorrect. He never said he -wanted- to kill people and let disease run rampant.
Paul Price
Let me address your allegations separately:


Actually Cousteau was not quoted at all, but cited or paraphrased with source material given in references.

'out of context'

How so? He was cited in the context of discussing alleged overpopulation and his thoughts on the matter.


No, it wasn't inaccurate. I'll give you the full verbatim quote right here:

"What should we do to eliminate suffering and disease? It's a wonderful idea but perhaps not altogether a beneficial one in the long run. If we try to implement it we may jeopardize the future of our species.

It's terrible to have to say this. World population must be stabilized and to do that we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. This is so horrible to contemplate that we shouldn't even say it. [Yet Cousteau did say it!] But the general situation in which we are involved is lamentable."

What conclusion would any reasonable person draw about Cousteau's view when he says "World population must be stabilized"?
Gian Carlo B.
They sound a lot more like Thanos from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, except with the whole “50% of all life” baggage, but it’s the same nonsense. It’s all “for balance”, but it’s anything but that.
The Dominion Mandate is a "bear'. It requires us, man to act in a responsible manner as the sentient being, responsible adult, in the situation, thoughtfully making responsible God honoring decisions in questionable situations with inadequate information. Any parent should recognize the situation. Why would we jettison a major part of our instruction manual and not follow the science we know and the Bible we love, not ignoring in our "selfish childishness", our adult responsibility.
Tomislav O.
What does "is the world better off without humans?" mean? Is the world better off returning to primal state of anarcho-primitivism? That is some Ted Kaczynski level nonsense right there!
Mark E.
How ironic it is. If Darwinism is true and humans are simply complex organisms produced by surviving environmental pressures and adaptational forces, ultimately giving rise to the extent of this species all around the world, who cares if 'nature' should deem that humans should now go extinct as the human species survives itself out of existence? Afterall, humans are just another creature fighting with all the others, to survive in a hostile world.

But hang on a minute! If humans are just a collection of mindless machines where there is no morality or ethics or future, who of those humans can deem that humans should reduce in number in order to preserve the species? Upon what grounds do the privileged humans determine that some other group of humans should severely reduce the population in order to continue the species?

And, given that Darwinism is a mindless, purposeless process, lacking in any sense of the future, how can these privileged humans know that reducing the human population is the right thing or best thing to do in order to survive and have a future? Why not eradicate some other species of creature in order to reduce the global burden?

Upon what does this privileged group of humans base their knowledge when ultimately, they can't trust their own thoughts or ideas? And why should their obviously inferior genetics be preferred over others inferior genetics? Will a reduction in the human population slow the rate of genetic decay in the entire human population?

This Earth is NOT our home...do NOT get comfortable...we have a job to do. And that is to tell people the truly Good News as contained in the Bible, that we are fallen and sinful, we need a Saviour who is Christ the Lord, and we will live with Him forever in a new heavens and earth.

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