Wesley J. Smith keeps his eyes on pernicious trends that degrade human dignity. Believing there is something exceptional about the human person and that we have a duty to protect and uphold that dignity, he writes a blog we host here on National Review Online, “Human Exceptionalism.” He’s also the author of a new e-book, The War on Humans, that makes the case that “anti-humanism has degraded environmentalist thinking and advocacy.” He talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about The War on Humans.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: You write about The Day the Earth Stood Still. What does this story tell us about our changing culture?
WESLEY J. SMITH: Movies offer a pretty good gestalt of our popular culture. Old films can show us where we used to be as a society, while current offerings often cast an accurate light on contemporary culture.
The Day the Earth Stood Still is an excellent example of both phenomena. There have been two versions of the movie telling nearly identical stories: The space alien Klaatu comes to Earth as an emissary from a great interstellar space community, and complications ensue.
But there is a crucial and illuminating difference between Klaatu’s mission in each of the two films. In 1951, a time when there was growing fear of nuclear conflagration, Klaatu comes to save us from our warlike ways. In the 2008 remake, starring Hollywood A-lister Keanu Reeves, Klaatu arrives on earth to commit total genocide to “save the planet.” In other words, all humans must die that the earth — which is strongly implied to be a living entity — might live. There is even a Noah’s ark kind of scene in which animals are removed in space ships to be returned upon our annihilation.
I think the dramatic difference in Klaatu’s missions from 1951 and 2008 vividly illustrates the disturbing misanthropic shift in Western thinking that I describe in The War on Humans.
LOPEZ: Who would have humans live at the mercy of nature? To what extent is “environmental anti-humanism” an actual threat to anyone?
SMITH: I think it is an overstatement to say that radical environmentalists want us all “at the mercy of nature.” But the movement does promote explicitly anti-human ideas – they believe we are the “cancer” on the planet.
There is also an implicit anti-humanism in the policy agendas of much of the modern movement. Some of the prescriptions to fight global warming, for example, would fundamentally erode affluence in the developed world, and keep the developing world mired in continuing destitution by preventing those societies from fully modernizing and exploiting their own resources. For example, some fight electrifying the African continent until it could be done entirely with renewables — which is a long way off. This desire to stifle growth in the West and delay true prosperity from breaking out in the world’s poorest areas is both anti-human and a threat to our welfare and thriving.