When people come across my philosophical worldview for the first time they often get the wrong impression. The reason for this seems to be that they interpret what I am saying from within the confines of an alternative worldview, a worldview which is narrow and flawed. To get the right impression these people need to start afresh and free themselves from the constrictions which have shaped their previous thought processes. In order to aid this 'freeing' it is useful for these people to pose questions and objections which I can answer. Here are some such questions and objections:
Objector: Humans are obviously a destructive force on the planet. Just look around you, there is human destruction everywhere. We are on the brink of initiating another mass extinction of life on the planet. How can you possibly say that we are the saviours of life?
NPC: The history of human thought concerning how humans relate to the wider cosmos has been pervaded by two extremes – either humans have a uniquely special and joyous place in the cosmos, or humans exist in a ‘fallen’ state (as in the Garden of Eden interpretation of the human condition). These two extremes have their own contemporary incarnations relating to the environmental crisis. At one extreme, humanity is the saviour of life on Earth (this would be a Noah’s Ark ‘technological’ interpretation of the place of humanity in an evolving cosmos); at the other extreme, humans are the destroyers of life on Earth. This long-standing dichotomy of ‘two extremes’ can be transcended. Due to being the bringers forth of technology humans are the destroyers of some of the life-forms of the Earth. Yet, simultaneously, humans are ultimately, and most fundamentally, the saviours of life on Earth. Far from the simple either/or dichotomy, the reality of the situation is both/and. Humans destroy in order to save.
Objector: People who actually care about Life on Earth are not wrapped up in narcissistic fantasies of human conquest; they are against geoengineering.
NPC: This is wholly unhelpful. Lots of people with very diverse views about what course of action we should take actually care about Life on Earth. The real issue is not caring; it is the realisation that the survival of complex life on Earth requires the geoengineering of the temperature of the atmosphere. A planet can be wholly populated by individuals who care about life on that planet, yet because these individuals lack this realisation their actions can lead to that life becoming decimated.
Objector: I believe that all species and all cosmological processes are in a state of becoming the next stage of creative evolution, creating the next opportunity for the next cosmological leap. Why should I believe that the human species is the end point of planetary evolution?
NPC: To see that the human species is the zenith of the evolutionary progression of life on any life-bearing planet one needs to have an adequate conceptualisation of what the human species is. For me, the human species is the bringer forth of technology; which means that it is also that part of a planet which considers itself to be not natural (this is a requirement for developing technology). In other words, the zenith of the evolution of life is to bring forth technology to ensure the continuation of that life. Once this zenith has been reached evolution will continue; species will go extinct and new species will evolve. To appreciate that there is a zenith to the evolutionary progression of life on Earth isn’t to believe that evolution will simply stop when the zenith has been reached. Indeed, it is precisely the attainment of the zenith itself that enables evolution to continue.
Objector: Is the purpose of human life "geoengineering"? No. From the perspective of modern evolutionary theory, life, including human life, is accidental and without purpose -- of any kind. "Life" (whatever that may be) just is and happens. Any presumed human "purpose" is purely arbitrary and is a social construction, it can be argued for but it cannot be established as THE, or even A, purpose.
NPC: The view that human life is accidental and without purpose is itself a social construction. Modern evolutionary theory is not wholly false, but it is a woefully incomplete picture of the way that the universe, and the part of the universe that is life, evolves through time. What we really need is a more comprehensive view of the plethora of forces that are involved in the evolutionary process. You are right that establishing that the human species has a purpose is not easy, but that does not mean that such a claim is not true.
Objector: You place humans at the peak of creation, when the reality is that this is not the case; humans exist in a relationship of interdependence with all that is.
NPC: This is a simple false dichotomy. It makes perfect sense to be at the peak of an interdependent planetary life/planet/cosmos.
Objector: The human species needs to give up its compulsion to dominate and control.
NPC: No it doesn’t. It needs to accept that it is the peak of creation; it needs to accept that its purpose is to technologically control the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere; it needs to accept that it is the saviour of life on Earth. If your ‘giving up’ wish came true, then we would have given up on life on Earth and the future would be dreadfully bleak.
Objector: You seem to believe that humans are the only valuable life-form on the planet!
NPC: No. I believe that all of life is exceptionally valuable in itself; in other words, the value of a life-form has nothing to do with human valuation and interests. The very fact that a life-form exists means that a precious thing exists. However, I believe that there are different levels of value within life-forms. I believe that sensations and feelings pervade the universe, existing in both the living and the non-living. In the realm of the living are plants which contain feelings but do not contain any awareness of these feelings. There is a slightly fuzzy boundary between plants and animals, and there may be a few exceptions to the rule, but animals can be thought of as life-forms which have awareness of their feelings. This awareness means that animals can suffer, whereas plants cannot suffer. For me, this means that animals are more valuable life-forms than plants; they are more deserving of our respect than are plants. Within the realm of animals there is a division between the human species and all other animals on the Earth; the human species is the most valuable life-form on the Earth. The reason for this is that the human species is that part of life which has become technological, and therefore it is the only life-form which can save the totality that is ‘life on Earth’ from extinction.
Some people believe that if one accepts that all life is valuable then it immediately follows that the human species should ‘rein in’ its involvement with the Earth, that it should reduce its population size and its resource use; that humans should use less technology, stop modifying habitats and ‘leave things to nature’. This does not immediately follow. Having respect for all life-forms, valuing all life-forms, does not in itself lead straight to a particular conclusion concerning the appropriate way that humans should interact with the Earth.
Objector: Do you think that we have a responsibility to ‘future generations’?
NPC: I prefer to think of the ‘future existence of planetary life’, rather than of ‘future generations’. However, I will answer your question in terms of ‘future generations’. The answer is: Yes. If we ignore ‘future generations’ of humans and non-human life-forms, if we focus solely on the interests of the life-forms that are currently alive on the Earth, then we can consider what the most appropriate course of action would be. Given that there are uncertainties and risks in the realm of geoengineering, and given that the serious time-lag effects resulting from previous actions don’t start until around the end of this century, there would be a strong case for not geoengineering the temperature of the atmosphere. In other words, if we are wholly selfish, and are only concerned about our own existence (the existence of life-forms currently in existence), then the optimal course of action seems to be to avoid all possible risks to our own existence.
However, as soon as we bring ‘future generations’ into consideration then everything changes. If we care about the future existence of life on Earth then we need to take responsibility for the future. We need to accept the risks and uncertainties arising from geoengineering in our own lifetimes in order to enable the existence of ‘future generations’. In short, we owe it to ‘future generations’ to geoengineer the temperature of the atmosphere. To not do so would be extremely selfish.