- Hardcover: 328 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (April 12, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415140439
- ISBN-13: 978-0415140430
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,418,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The End of the World: The Science and Ethics of Human Extinction 1st Edition
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While the concept of "oneness" with nature is foreign to most western cultures, groups such as the Hindus and the Hopi Indians have long comprehended their role in an ever-cycling universe and the inevitable coming of the end of the world. As the earth reaches 8.64 billion years--the length of the Hindu's "creation-and-destruction" cycle--Professor John Leslie of the University of Guelph in Canada thinks that the end, at least for this course of humanity, is near. Impending threats to our survival include nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare; ozone depletion; the greenhouse effect; disease; natural disasters; and even the potential for accidental production of a new Big Bang. And while trying to forestall an apocalypse would be futile, Leslie promises it will all end quickly.
From Library Journal
Will the human race become extinct fairly shortly? Have the dangers been underestimated, and ought we to care? In seeking to answer these questions, Leslie (Universes, Routledge, 1990) examines many "doom soon" scenarios but specifically centers on mathematician Brandon Carter's "Doomsday Argument," which applies bayesian reasoning to the idea that the risk of human extinction has usually been underestimated. Leslie has built on Carter's Doomsday Argument, stating that it doesn't generate risk estimates but is rather an "argument for revising the...estimates that we generate when we consider various possible dangers." Even so, Leslie estimates that the entire human race has a 30 percent chance of annihilation by nuclear war, disease, or some other means in the next 500 years. This intriguing work may be of interest to philosophers, population studies scholars, biologists, and human ecologists and is recommended for academic libraries.?Susan Maret, Auraria Lib., Univ. of Colorado, Denver
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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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
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"!