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Would human extinction be a tragedy?
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We’re a virus with shoes

Bill Hicks, one of America’s most popular comedians, once said, “isn’t humanity neat? Bulls***. We’re a virus with shoes." Humans cause immeasurable destruction and devastation to the earth’s environment and its other species.


Humans have a hugely detrimental impact on the earth. There is no area on earth that we have not sullied with our footprint. Plastics have been found in the snow in Antarctica and the deepest point of the ocean— the Mariana trench, some 36,000 feet below the surface. [1][2] Extinction is now happening at a rate 1,000 times faster than at any other time in earth’s history, and the greenhouse gases we produce are putting the future of earth as a life-sustaining planet at risk.[3]

The Argument

Bill Hicks, one of America’s most popular comedians, once said, “isn’t humanity neat? Bulls***. We’re a virus with shoes”. [4] From an ecological standpoint, he could not have been more accurate. We wreak havoc on almost every ecosystem on earth, clogging up earth’s rivers with pollution, pumping the oceans with plastic, and making the deserts warmer through man-made climate change. Beyond that, we knowingly breed hundreds of millions of animals each year, who live, often in conditions of unimaginable cruelty, for the sole purpose of eventually being slaughtered for our own gastronomic gratification.[5] Humanity causes untold devastation. Therefore, the immediate extinction of all humans would not be a tragedy, but an objective triumph, given it would signal the end of a species that causes the unimaginable pain and suffering of every other species on the planet.

Counter arguments

Humans are not the only ones responsible for altering the earth’s landscape and killing other species. Nature is not a bastion of serenity and peace. Other animals kill each other, often in brutal ways. Some species of wasp lay their egg in another species and lets the larvae eat their way out while the beast is alive. But if this species became extinct it would be seen as an unmitigated tragedy.[6] Animals and plants can even modify the environment to the detriment of natural ecosystems. Beavers dams cause rivers to stagnate. Inflated deer populations cause deforestation, as do many arboreal diseases. But, again, if the beaver or the deer became extinct, we would deem it a tragedy. Humans have a significant impact on the earth, but the extinction of any species is always a tragedy. Every species offers something unique, be it the wasp or the human. We offer the earth something no other species can; comprehension and rational thought. Therefore, it would be a tragedy if humankind were to become extinct. Also, animals have no moral standing. As Kant argues, the suffering we cause to other species and the environment is not objectively “immoral” because neither the earth nor other animals have the cognitive capacity to deserve “moral rights”.[7]



P1: Humans cause extensive destruction to the earth and the other species that inhabit it. P 2: Therefore, if humans died this destruction would end. P 3: Therefore, it would not be a tragedy.

Rejecting the premises

Rejecting P 3: Just because we have a negative impact on the environment doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a tragedy.


This page was last edited on Monday, 10 Aug 2020 at 14:35 UTC

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