Regarding Misanthropy

In the current National Geographic, a hater of humanity wrote a letter to the editor denouncing the attempt to extend human lifespans. She also condemned an earlier article on space exploration. Why? Because she believes human beings are destroying the planet, destroying other life forms, and how dare we try to live longer or spread our “mayhem” about the universe.

I’m curious as to whether people who think this way are planning to commit suicide; after all, to be consistent with their point of view, they should volunteer to take the first step to solve the “human problem.” But she probably thinks that because she holds such “enlightened” viewpoints, she is not part of the problem she deplores.

She is, of course, uninformed and irrational. That other species have failed to survive because of human beings, while perhaps sad, is inevitable in the ongoing struggle for survival. Species are constantly in conflict over scarce resources; human beings are not alone in crowding out and devastating other populations. Inevitably some species win, while others lose. Dinosaurs, for instance have not survived so well; neither have woolly mammoths. Neanderthal didn’t make it, either. Why this letter writer to the National Geographic imagines that the survival and prospering of the human race is a bad thing is, frankly, hard to fathom. Likewise it is a puzzle as to why she thinks that, say, beavers building their dams and changing the environment are more deserving of life than her fellow human beings. I doubt she is consistent in her thinking, however. I suspect that even the letter writer, should she face a conflict between her baby and an animal would pick her child. I would hope that if she saw a wolf trying to eat a friend or family member that she would want to do everything she could to make sure that animal, at the very least, went hungry.

She is very clear that she does not wish to have science find ways to extend our lifespans. If she’s consistent with her beliefs, then if one of her family members should contract some illness, I would expect her to make certain that the loved one gets absolutely no medical care so that the relative can remove his or her carbon footprint from the neck of Earth’s biosphere, the sooner the better.

Me on the other hand: I want my children, my loved ones, and myself to live as long as possible.

And, as to her concern about humanity’s effect on the universe: even if we are a plague, I think she can relax. The universe is kind of big. I doubt we’ll clear cut the whole thing any time soon. Besides, I doubt that human beings, alone among all sentient species, are uniquely troublesome destroyers of rain forests and baby seals. Chances are, any species that is intelligent is likely to share our attributes, both good and ill. Any intelligent species that has survived and reached the top of the food chain is likely to be a predator rather than a prey, and to be similarly aggressive.

Bottom line, I simply do not agree that human beings are a curse. From a Christian standpoint, the letter writer’s point of view is not viable. God made humanity in his image, then gave it the ability, power, right and responsibility to rule creation. God loves human beings, he became one of them, and he died for them. Misanthropists who see human beings as simply the spreaders of mayhem and a blight, who think human beings shouldn’t be allowed to live or spread, are frighteningly similar to those monsters who believed that certain groups, certain races, certain faiths, certain beliefs were a disease to be contained or exterminated for the betterment of a nation and a world.

Misanthropy is a pernicious doctrine.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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