The book, The Revolt Against Humanity: Imagining a Future Without Us, does not make a very good first impression.
One reason is that the 2023 work is an awfully small book to deal with such a monumental subject as human extinction. The elimination of humanity should merit something more than a mere hundred pages. The first impulse is to disregard it as a booklet, pamphlet or tract.
However, in this case, looks are entirely deceiving. The author, Adam Kirsch, is an art critic and editor for the Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Review section. He is deadly serious about narrating the story of the human extinction movement. Publisher Columbia Global Reports is an imprint of Columbia University, representing an official endorsement of the establishment. The book itself is a well-designed and high-quality publication. It aims to impress—and even intimidate.
Thus, Americans should take notice and beware. From a Catholic perspective, it describes a plan that directly challenges the Creator. Rarely are such plans revealed with such clarity.
A New Kind of Ecology
The human extinction people are not environmentalists of the Rachel Carlson Silent Spring variety.
The old school of ecologists wants to prevent humanity from ruining the earth. It advocates recycling, carbon credits and Green New Deal programs to make the planet a cleaner place to live. This old form of eco-thinking has become yesterday’s revolution and is rejected as not radical enough. The human extinction people want to remove humanity from the universe.
“Even the most radical twentieth-century thinkers stop short at the prospects of the actual extinction of our species,” Mr. Kirsch notes.
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To dispel any notion that this movement is insignificant, he notes that it is found in Silicon Valley boardrooms, academia and other places of influence. It is becoming mainstream. He writes, “It has already spread beyond the fringes of the intellectual world, and in the coming years and decades, it has the potential to transform politics and society in profound ways.”
Two Groups to Eliminate Humanity
The human extinction movement is divided into two groups that differ in how they want to eliminate humanity. The first is the anti-humanist faction that believes humanity’s self-destruction is inevitable and everyone should welcome annihilation as a just sentence for destroying the earth.
The second group consists of the transhumanists. These believe that through technological and scientific progress, humanity should advance to an improved and immortal cybernetic form that will transcend Homo sapiens.
Both visions reject the Catholic vision of Creation, humanity, original sin, and redemption.
Man No Longer Has Dominion Over Nature
The central thesis of the first group, the anti-humanist extinctionists, is a denial of humanity’s central role in Creation.
Indeed, Mr. Kirsch quotes Genesis, where God gives humans “dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth.” (Gen. 1:28).
The anti-humanists want to abolish this dominion, which they deem hateful. They claim that humans are no longer part of nature but work as an anti-natural force to destroy the earth. Even indigenous peoples are cited as earth exploiters for their hunting, gathering, fire-starting and herding. Humans must go—all of them.
Anti-humanists also believe in a radical egalitarianism where all matter, organic or non-organic, is equal. Non-human matter is deemed superior to humanity since it does not destroy others by dominion.
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Thus, anti-humanists promote a “solidarity with nonhuman people” that recognizes the rights of “animals, plants, stones, and waterfalls [that] inhabit the world in their own ways, which are just as valid as ours.”
Getting Rid of Humanity
However, the only real solution for the earth is the eventual elimination of humanity. The anti-humanists only stay around long enough to ensure the project is done.
One prominent anti-humanist author is Patricia MacCormack, who calls in The Ahuman Manifesto for “an end to the human both conceptually as exceptionalized and actually as a species.”
She further claims, “The death of the human species is the most life-affirming event that could liberate the natural world from oppression.”
Another author, David Benatar, wrote a book titled, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. He claims that giving birth is morally wrong and thus calls for abortion, suicide and euthanasia.
The Transhumanist Vision
In contrast to the morbid tenets of anti-humanists, there is the cheerful optimism of the transhumanists. They believe Homo sapiens must morph into ever-new species over “trillions of years.”
The benefits of this transformation include a complete liberation from Adam’s curse of “involuntary suffering.” Aging will be slowed or abolished, and immortality achieved. Humanity will have access to new colors, sounds and feelings impossible to describe now. Human brains will be turbocharged and bodies redesigned.
Thus, while the transhumanists seek to eliminate suffering and mortality, the real target of their hatred is the idea of a fixed human nature. They believe minds and bodies “should be endlessly plastic, able to assume whatever shape and enjoy whatever experiences our ingenuity can invent.” They want to change human nature and thus God’s design and intent for humanity.
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Many transhumanists hold that humanity and the universe can be reduced to one thing: data. People are nothing but organized data, and life is the interactions of algorithms. Data flow governs the universe and thus facilitates a constantly changing nature. The drive to interconnect everything will make the universe come alive with data patterns and transform it into one giant mind.
The Disembodiment of Humanity
Inside such a fluid world, the human faces the limitation of an organic body that exists in time, space and causation. Thus, the transhumanists favor the disembodiment of humanity. If a person is just information patterns, it does not matter where that information resides—a body, computer chip or metaverse.
The underlying philosophy of transhumanism is best expressed by Mr. Kirsch, who declares, “First, we know that the human mind has a completely material basis. There is no intangible soul or spirit that occupies our bodies; the experience of being an ‘I’ is produced by chemical-electrical processes in the brain. This thoroughgoing materialism is still resisted by most religious believers, but science has known it for a long time. There is no metaphysical gulf between human and animal, or between animate and inanimate matter; the only difference has to do with how matter is organized.”
Once disembodied, people thus organized can live in imaginary worlds with unlimited means of fulfilling the “dream of complete mastery” long pursued since the beginning of the species.
Why It Matters
While anti-humanists and transhumanists differ in their approaches, they share a metaphysical hatred of Creation—and the Creator. They both confide in a radical egalitarianism that excludes any dominion found in the Catholic order.
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Some might ask why Catholics should be concerned by such ideas that appear removed from their daily lives. However, the themes of both schools are found all over postmodern culture. Transhumanist ideas permeate Hollywood films and mold the minds of Elon Musk-type figures. Anti-humanist propaganda dominates today’s culture of death and eco-friendly anti-development models. No one escapes from these ideas.
Mr. Kirsch says that this revolution has the potential to “turbocharge the central ideological struggle in America and Europe” with “unpredictable consequences for politics, economics, technology, and culture.”
The Obstacles to This Agenda
However, the main reason why Catholics need to oppose this threat is surprising.
The author dedicates his last chapter to listing the serious obstacles faced by the human extinction movement and says something entirely unexpected.
The obstacles to this program are religious principles, especially those professed by the Catholic Church. These Catholic positions are keeping this program from happening.
He claims that religious humanity resists “with a strength that seems to be growing over time, rather than weakening as social scientists once anticipated.”
The Church Has the Answers
Indeed, only the Church has reassuring answers to the fundamental questions about the meaning and purpose of life by offering a divinely ordained plan. The author laments the nihilist response of postmodernity that fills humanity with “existential horror.”
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Two Catholic notions are among the many religious obstacles. They are deeply embedded in human nature and are enjoying a renaissance among Catholic thinkers.
The first is the “Catholic idea of natural law,” positing that individuals should act according to fixed human nature. The author qualifies natural law as the embrace of limit “directly opposed to the ideals of enlightened humanism, from Pico della Mirandola to the transhumanists, which cherishes our ability to abolish boundaries and challenge authority.”
The second obstacle is the Catholic notion of sacrifice, in which the believer voluntarily gives up a part of his freedom. This act becomes “a concrete expression of the belief that the believer serves something more important than himself.”
Indeed, the central act of Catholic worship is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Enlightened thought can offer nothing to replace what human nature craves. It presents no motive for sacrifice, absolute reward, or higher authority.
A Revolt Against God
Thus, the two sides are engaged in a culture war as the liberal order fades. Mr. Kirsch frames the debate with the familiar narrative of a battle between enlightened “scientific” liberals and uneducated religious zealots.
The nonchalance with which the human extinction movement treats the death of billions does not speak of light but darkness. However, the fact that the Church poses the major obstacle to this diabolical plan should encourage all Catholics to keep up the good fight.
However, this existential battle needs to be better framed. The human extinction movement is a revolt against God, not against humanity. Hopefully, its enlightened partisans will figure out that they are on the wrong side of history, for God always wins.