The great physicist Stephen Hawking, unlike some of the more radical environmental types who scourge us as the AIDS virus afflicting the planet, believes that it is crucial and worth spending untold resources to save human beings from extinction—simply because we are human. From the story (and the above embedded clip):
The physicist called humankind’s survival “a question of touch and go” and referred to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963 as one time people narrowly avoided extinction. He also referred to the 22,600 stockpiled nuclear weapons, including 7,770 still operational, scattered around the planet.If that doesn’t drive us off, University of Sussex astrophysicist Dr. Robert Smith said global warming may reach a point “where all of Earth’s water will simply evaporate.” He said life will disappear on Earth long before the 7.6 billion years some say the aging sun will expand and destroy Earth.
CNet news said that Hawking has concerns about how humans “are eating up finite resources” and has claimed man’s genetic code “carries selfish and aggressive instincts” that have helped humanity survive in the past. Hawking suggests that if man can avoid disaster for the next two centuries “our species should be safe as we spread into space.” According to the Daily Mail , Hawking warned earlier this year that humans should be cautious in trying to contact other alien life forms because there is no way to know if they will be friendly. “If we are the only intelligent beings in the galaxy we should make sure we survive and continue,” he said.
It’s not just intelligence. It is our moral agency, our empathy, our desire to find truths and ultimate meaning within and/or beneath the purely material, our unique desire and capability of mitigating the harsh suffering caused by naked Darwinian processes.
Hawking is unquestionably saying we are not merely another animal in the fores Note, he isn’t arguing that we should try to save elephants or field mice, squirrels or dolphins. But us. Indeed, any way you look at it, Hawking believes that it matters morally that we continue to exist, and it seems to me, that can only because we are truly exceptional.