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Philosopher puts a positive spin on contemplating human extinction

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A sign of maturity, he thinks:

The history of the idea of human extinction is therefore also a history of enlightening. It concerns the modern loss of the ancient conviction that we live in a cosmos inherently imbued with value, and the connected realisation that our human values would not be natural realities independently of our continued championing and guardianship of them …

So, human extinction could become meaningful (and thus a motivating target for enquiry and anticipation) only after value was fully ‘localised’ to the minds of value-mongering creatures. We had to realise that the Universe was not inherently a cradle of justice and morality. ‘Value’ and ‘fact’ had to be disentangled before we truly came to appreciate the potential fact of the end of value. Only through this were we first motivated to forecast, in order to redoubt human justice against an extrajudicial nature. It is such a dynamic that, across modernity, drags our concerns further and further into futurity, and continues to do so.

Thomas Moynihan, “The end of us” at Aeon

But the other half of the apple is that evolution utterly deludes us, remember?:

Why some scientists think science is an illusion. It’s a useful illusion, they say, but our brains are not really wired to know the facts. The great triumph of the theory of evolution was to show that humans are just animals in nature—clever, yes, but clever animals. Or so we are told.  But wait!

So many scandals and impasses that science faces today stem in large part from the problem Moynihan avoids. Facts don’t validate themselves outside a structure that posits meaning from beyond the system. The system does not validate itself.


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