Customer Reviews


9 Reviews
5 star:
 (2)
4 star:
 (4)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to help overcome complacency
Some of the reviews below miss the point of John Leslie's book. Professor Leslie is a utilitarian philosopher at the University of Guelph in Ontario, and as such he's written this book with the express objective of providing a warning to civilization of the dangers that lie ahead. In spite of what the book's title may initially suggest, the book is not the work of some...
Published on July 28, 2001

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars READ HALF OF IT
This book is a strange mixture of four elements. The first presents main dangers to the survival of humanity, with preliminary references to the Carter "doomsday argument." The second deals with philosophical arguments on prolonging human history. The third takes up at greater length the doomsday argument. And the fourth suddenly jumps to a short excursus on nuclear...
Published on April 13, 2012 by Yehezkel Dror


Most Helpful First | Newest First

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book to help overcome complacency, July 28, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction (Paperback)
Some of the reviews below miss the point of John Leslie's book. Professor Leslie is a utilitarian philosopher at the University of Guelph in Ontario, and as such he's written this book with the express objective of providing a warning to civilization of the dangers that lie ahead. In spite of what the book's title may initially suggest, the book is not the work of some gloomy apocalyptic doomsayer; rather, it is a sensible consideration of the perils that an advanced civilization like our own must overcome over the next crucial period to advance. It's easy to simply take civilization for granted, but Leslie's point is that its survival is not guaranteed, but depends on the choices that we make in the near future. Prof. Leslie asserts that if humanity can make it past the next few centuries then civilization will be in fairly good shape; it's the period soon to be upon us that will be so rocky, with dangers in everything from the spread of nuclear weapons to the practice of biological warfare, from impacting asteroids to poorly thought-out particle physics experiments gone awry, from chemical weapons to the biggest threat of all-- the destruction of earth's fragile ecosystem upon which we all rely, but so often do not recognize. What Leslie is calling for is wisdom, and for the practice of restraint and discipline on a societal scale, to avoid the petty squabbles and foolish waste of resources that we can no longer afford. Admittedly some of the methodology used in the book is flawed and has been shown to be problematic, but this does not belittle its value. The book suggests that it's time to "shape up" and to put into practice, those qualities associated with "higher functioning" and a truly advanced society, and to recognize the dangers ahead of time-- thus applying foresight and planning far ahead for crises, and averting them in the first place. The book is therefore an excellent "wake-up call" to move us out of complacency, and for this reason alone it is quite valuable.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In our age of "end of the world" books, this one is BEST!, November 27, 1997
By A Customer
Being tremendously interested in the end of the world (from a sociology standpoint) I immediately devour any books on catastrophism, eschatology or millenialism.
What John Leslie offers here is something quite different than the run-of-the-mill babbling on possible scenarios. He looks at the likely(and not so likely) events which may trigger "the end"; somewhat similar to Asimov's approach in his 70's non-fic A CHOICE OF CATASTROPHES. Leslie takes us a little deeper into the complexities of these situations by examining the true risks and consequences involved, all the while maintaining a solid scientific objectivity.
All this would make for a great book alone, but Leslie goes further. He has the courage to explore the idea that perhaps we are arrogant in assuming we can control our fate as a species (hence the ETHICS portion of the book title) and maybe we have lost (or never had) the necessary objectivity we need to endure.
A truly fascinating book about something the average human being doesn't (but should) think about.
Kudos to John Leslie for putting humans where they belong in the scheme of the universe: the tiny little box marked "naked & vulnerable"!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good and wholly entertaining book...., August 30, 2000
By 
J. Michael Showalter (Nashville, TN United States) - See all my reviews
The reviewer below misses the thrust of Leslie's argument. Initially, in the first two chapters of the book, he sets out to list ALL of the ways through which society could become extinct (a notion that has not been held in high esteem for policymaking relevance, anyway, in modern society). As such, he does borrow a lot from other authors. And, adding in, his lifting of the mathematical equation suggesting that we are near the end of 'our' time on the Earth makes mathematical sense, even if being totally anthropomorphic.... And the case is made, if you let it be, that we should probably start thinking about how we are going to 'go', and plan thereof....
Aside from that, this book is a riot. The first two chapters, though morbid, are a laugh. The book (setting aside the good philosophy) should be read just for the initial paranoia. It's all in good fun....
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously disturbing, October 4, 2007
By 
Joseph Davis (Calgary, Alberta Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
John Leslie is a professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph. Much of this book is taken up with explorations of, criticisms of, and defences of the 'Doomsday Argument', championed by Leslie and cosmologist Brandon Carter. The 'Doomsday Argument' goes something like this:

-if humanity were to continue to prosper and multiply, eventually spreading beyond the solar system, and perhaps the galaxy, the total number of human beings today (6 billion) will seem insignificant compared to the potential trillions and trillions of humans in the future. But if this were to actually happen, humans today would be among the very earliest of the race -perhaps in the first 0.1 per cent or even 0.001 per cent. How likely is it that we are that special? In the year 2090 the population of earth might be 12 billion people. Of all the humans who had ever lived, one in ten would be alive in that year. Instead of expecting to be in a remarkably early stage of human civilization, say in the first 0.1 per cent, it is much more likely that an inhabitant of the year 2090 will be among that 1 in 10 present when humanity died.

To me this argument seems flimsy, sophistic, and somehow just wrong, but Leslie does an impressive and thorough job of refuting the many objections to it. My eyes glazed over during some of these detailed and convoluted defences, but then I only took one philosophy course in university. What I liked this book for was the exploration of the many delicious ways in which humanity could be wiped out. Some of these faces of doom might seem quite far-fetched and unlikely, but all have some formidable scientists and philosophers backing them. Here is an abbreviated list:
-nuclear war. "Small nations, terrorists, and rich criminals wanting to become still richer by holding the world to ransom, can already afford very destructive bombs." Suitcase bombs in particular worry me. I believe a few well-placed bombs could de-stabilize the United States almost overnight.
-biological warfare. Such weapons are less costly than nuclear weapons, easier to conceal, and could be more dangerous because their field of destruction is harder to limit.
-chemical warfare.
-destruction of the ozone layer. "...by chlorofluorocarbons or other things."
-'Greenhouse effect'. "On Venus, greenhouse effect temperatures are sufficient to melt lead."
-poisoning by pollution. "Hundreds of new chemicals enter the environment each year. Their effects are often hard to predict."
-disease. Many deadly diseases are developing immunity to our best drugs. New viruses are thought to filter down from outer space. Global warming could thaw out some virulent disease from the past, such as the 1918-1919 flu, which preferred younger, healthy victims. ("They died horribly, their lungs filling with fluid, becoming stiff and solid, literally drowning them. As they expired, they vented pints of the highly infectious liquid from their mouths and noses." -Calgary Herald, October 4, 1997)
-volcanic eruptions. Which might produce a 'volcanic winter' akin to 'nuclear winter'.
-hits by asteroids or comets. If Shoemaker-Levy had hit earth instead of Jupiter, we would all be having drinks with the dinosaurs right now in the Restaurant At the End of the Universe.
-an extreme ice age due to passage through an interstellar cloud.
-a nearby supernova. Earth would be bathed in deadly rays, cleansing it of all life.
-essentially unpredictable breakdown of a complex system. As investigated by Chaos Theory: "the system in question might be earth's biosphere; its air, soil, its water, and its living things interact in highly intricate ways."
-something-we-know-not-what. "It would be foolish to think we have foreseen all possible natural and technological disasters."
-unwillingness to rear children. Seen already to a certain extent in rich nations.
-a disaster from genetic engineering. "Perhaps a 'green scum' disaster, in which a genetically engineered organism reproduces itself with immense efficiency, smothering everything."
-a disaster from nanotechnology. "Very tiny self-reproducing machines -they could be developed fairly soon through research inspired by Richard Feynman -might perhaps spread world-wide within a month in a 'gray ooze' calamity." Sounds like something from a Philip K. Dick story.
-disasters associated with computers. Okay, so Y2K was a bust. That doesn't mean a real computer disaster isn't possible. We are becoming more and more reliant on them.
-production a new Big Bang in the laboratory.
-the possibility of producing an all-destroying phase transition. 'Comparable to turning water into ice", as in Ice 9 from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. "In 1984, Edward Farhi and Robert Jeffe suggested that physicists might produce 'strange quark matter' of a kind which attracted ordinary matter, changing it into more of itself until the entire earth had been converted ('eaten')." In contrast, there might be a very real vacuum meta-stability danger associated with experiments at extremely high energies. The vacuum we live in is not stable, it is meta-stable. This is because it is not a true vacuum. It is filled with a force field (a scalar field) and so is a pseudo-vacuum. While stable at low energies, a high energy experiment (such as planned in conjunction with the new super particle-colliders due to come on line in the near future) might provide enough of a jolt to destabilize it (like a ball bearing resting in a hollow on a wooden incline that starts rolling because of a nudge). An experiment might produce a bubble of 'true vacuum' which would then expand at nearly the speed of light, destroying everything in sight. "Rather as a tiny ice crystal changes a large volume of super-cooled water into more ice crystals."
-annihilation by extra-terrestrials. If and when E.T. finds us, he/she/it might not be cuddly or even friendly; he/she/it might just be hungry.
-risks from philosophy. Suppose a fundamentalist U.S president or general wanted to hasten Judgement Day a wee bit by pressing a certain red button (see Dr Strangelove). Alternatively, someone in a position of power might, when looking at the prevalence of evil in the world, agree with Schopenhauer that "it would have been better if our planet had remained like the moon, a lifeless mass." So why not release a humanity-destroying plague (see Twelve Monkeys).
Leslie goes into much more depth concerning these threats, and isn't saying that any of them are inevitable. He is just saying that when we look at these areas of concern in the light of the 'Doomsday Argument' we should take their potential very seriously. We should be asking ourselves as individuals, as nations, and as a species, what we can do to lower their risk of occurring. Our survival is far from assured.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars READ HALF OF IT, April 13, 2012
By 
Yehezkel Dror (Jerusalem Israel) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction (Paperback)
This book is a strange mixture of four elements. The first presents main dangers to the survival of humanity, with preliminary references to the Carter "doomsday argument." The second deals with philosophical arguments on prolonging human history. The third takes up at greater length the doomsday argument. And the fourth suddenly jumps to a short excursus on nuclear deterrence.
The book up to page 153 is recommended to all who worry, with good causes, about the future of the human species. This part well presents main dangers facing the survival of humanity in the short and long term. Necessary measures needed for reducing the likelihood of termination of the human species are hinted at, including "politically incorrect" ones such as strong global governance (pp. 98, 146) with a huge police force (p. 106), limitations on science and technology (p. 90), and intrusive personal surveillance (p. 42). This is all the more noteworthy as most books dealing with dangers to humanity fail to draw realistic conclusions on what needs to be done.
The book fails to consider the main root cause of possible demise of humanity, namely the inadequacies of its moral, cognitive, emotional and institutional capacities, as limited by genetics and constrained cultural learning, for using well the unprecedented capabilities to shape its future supplied to the human species by science and technology.
Still, the cardinal message emanating from the first 153 pages is compelling: Extinction of humanity in the foreseeable future is a real possibility, but its likelihood can be much reduced if humanity adopts a range of countermeasures, including counter-conventional ones.
However I cannot in good conscience recommend the rest of the book. The philosophical position of the author in effect grants ontological standing to moral values, with some states of affairs being regarded as "in fact" good or bad. This misrepresents the very nature of values as depending ultimately on human choice, however influenced by genetics and environments, without which there cannot be deep moral responsibility.
The Carlson hypothesis, claiming that it is unlikely that we are born in the early history of humanity, to which much space is devoted, is a stimulating probabilistic speculation. But it is not sound, in part by ignoring that the chance of anyone of us being born at all is infinitesimal small. Indeed, all the probabilistic approach of the author permeating the book does not fit the fuzziness of the subject. Thus, stating that the probability of humanity being soon destroyed is 30 per cent (p.133) illustrates misplaced exactness. It would be much better to use an adjusted version of the scales of modal logic, such as "possible," likely," and "unlikely."
Discussing deterrence in one of my books (Israeli Statecraft, 2011, pp. 25-26, 182-183), let me limit my comment on the book's treatment of the subject to saying that this is much too serious an issue to be taken up apropos in the last few pages of the book).

Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars interesting read!, March 31, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction (Paperback)
I am not done with this book yet. It took me a while to get used to this author's style of writing, but I am hooked on it now. His theories are very compelling, and it really opens your brain to things that you never would think of. this book also provides very interesting facts to back up his theories. I would highly recommend this book!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars reader must accept idea of one's random place in time, May 1, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction (Paperback)
This is a fleshing out of the basic idea sketched by richard gott in the magazine "Nature" in 1993. If one accepts the idea that one's placement in time is random, as is one's place in space, the implication is that no one can legitimately claim that an extremely "long future" scenario for the human race (a la Star Trek) seems likely. The reason, simply put, is that that scenario would make one's present placement in time extremely special; in the first 0.000001 % of humans who will ever live. The copernican priniciple of non-specialness holds for both space and time, given their equivalence, united as spacetime.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hint: the end is surely scarier with books like this..., February 27, 2004
By 
This review is from: The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction (Paperback)
To begin with, if you tend on the masochistic side this book will definately serve ya well. No, not because of the subject matter, absolutely not. The fact that the probabilities we're heading into extinction are increasing daily is undeniable unless you've turned your brain off and that I'd be willing to believe after having lived 37 years and watched my fellow humans go on about their affairs they way they do.
No, that would not be why this book is actually a torture. After you're done with the first half of the book you might feel a little tired if not somewhat numb. You'll just be done with going over various disasters that are threatening us, most of which are self-caused: comets about to blast us to kingdome-come, nuclear wars intending to fry us ruthlessly into oblivion, diseases which either "jumped" out of labs or out of nature's arsenal, overpopulation and pollution and the combination of thse two, shortage of food, nanotechnology and the machines taking over (where's Arnie when ya need him) and so on and on.
Now this is all a reality most of us are too irresponsible to face up to, indeed, as a species we are what i call "perversely intelligent", that is, we have intellectual horsepower which is incredibly difficult to groom in a a truly meaningful way and we are thus subjects to dangers caused by that very intelligence.
Writting a book about this, should be, again perversely, highly entertaining. It would by default be humorous because how can you actually discuss so much shortshightedness, idiocy, and the impending doom as the direct product without seeing the humour in it? The author of this book can. He takes us through these fist chapters with a language so dry and lifeless you'd think the end is already behind us and books are now written by left-over survivor computers which were not programmed for humour.
Ah, but wait. You thought this is heavy, and if you havent quit by then (being possibly not the lion-hearted type) you're in for a major treatment that will suck out all your life force and leave you connected to another machine checking for a pulse:
the latter part of the book (its second half practically) is basically a ridiculous attempt to tie all this together with philosophy. Now philosophy, for the uninitiated, isnt supposed to be a life-threatening experience. Not really. Professor Leslie though, puts in a courageous effort to convince us of the opposite, and I'd be lying if i said he doesnt coming damn close.
Taking up highly insignificant theories few ever heard of, and elevating them to the holy grail of philosophy, the author transforms his book to a readscape as fertile as the Sahara. Hundreds of pages of pretentious pomp about not much really isnt what i associate with philosophy. Especially when it's coupled with aggresive arrogance : not too few times, the author basically praises himself after he argues on his own with his imaginary opponents in the philosophy field, beats them and then triumphantly announces his victory. That's downright pathetic and even if the philosophical quest in this book was enjoyable (far, very far from) this would still spoil it beyond recovery.
Look elsewhere. You dont need the suffering really. The author does convince us that the end is near (which isnt hard actually) but then, since it is, why make it all the more agonisingly painful by going through unbearable books such as this? Save the precious little time you have left.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars tedious rehashing of other's thoughts, bordering on irrel., March 8, 1999
By A Customer
Leslie may claim to be a philosopher, but he is an apocolist. He tediously rehashes almost every major thinkers thoughts and ideas concerning the mass destruction of the human race, brushing over many vital subjects, and subjecting the reader to in-depth analysis and over analysis of higholy improbable and highly theoretical situations whihc may or may not ever occurr. Not to mention that he takes as absolute a highly unregarded theory of ones place in time as being critical to how close one is to being in that population which is to be extincted. The title is highly misleading. Borrow it from the library and skim heavily, not too many salient points. For true enlightenment search the bibliography and pull up the origianl works and just cross reference them. This is nothing more than a compilation of other people's thoughts, with rarely one of Leslie's own.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction
The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction by John Leslie (Paperback - April 19, 1998)
$38.95 $34.01
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.