Thanos: “Titan [Thanos’s home planet] was like most planets. Too many mouths, not enough to go around. And when we faced extinction, I offered a solution.”
Dr. Stephen Strange: “Genocide?”
Thanos: “At random. Dispassionate, fair. The rich and poor alike. And they called me a madman. And what I predicted, came to pass.”
“Pianka then began laying out his concerns about how human overpopulation is ruining the Earth. He presented a doomsday scenario in which he claimed that the sharp increase in human population since the beginning of the industrial age is devastating the planet. He warned that quick steps must be taken to restore the planet before it’s too late …
“Professor Pianka said the Earth as we know it will not survive without drastic measures. Then, and without presenting any data to justify this number, he asserted that the only feasible solution to saving the Earth is to reduce the population to 10 percent of the present number.
“He then showed solutions for reducing the world’s population in the form of a slide depicting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. War and famine would not do, he explained. Instead, disease offered the most efficient and fastest way to kill the billions that must soon die if the population crisis is to be solved.
“Pianka then displayed a slide showing rows of human skulls, one of which had red lights flashing from its eye sockets.
“AIDS is not an efficient killer, he explained, because it is too slow. His favorite candidate for eliminating 90 percent of the world’s population is airborne Ebola (Ebola Reston), because it is both highly lethal and it kills in days, instead of years. However, Professor Pianka did not mention that Ebola victims die a slow and torturous death as the virus initiates a cascade of biological calamities inside the victim that eventually liquefy the internal organs.
“After praising the Ebola virus for its efficiency at killing, Pianka paused, leaned over the lectern, looked at us and carefully said, ‘We’ve got airborne 90 percent mortality in humans. Killing humans. Think about that.’” [Emphasis added.]
“We’re no better than bacteria … Things are gonna get better after the collapse because we won’t be able to decimate the Earth so much … And, I actually think the world will be much better when there’s only 10 or 20 percent of us left.”
Of course, most of us, scientists and scholars included, would be appalled at the idea of Ebola wiping out most people on the planet. That’s why Thanos is a villain, after all. Marvel is obviously banking on the fact that our sympathies rest with Captain America, who says: “We don’t trade lives.” It’s good to see that America still symbolizes a philosophy of individual worth against a utilitarian menace, regardless of what a few academics may say.
But in ways large and small, Thanos’ deadly calculus seeps into the prevailing culture. Our friend Wesley Smith tirelessly documents the “culture of death” around the world. Most recently he wrote about the death of Alfie Evans, a victim of the belief that a life of suffering is decidedly not better than having no life at all. It is the same mindset that brings us euthanasia and abortion, policies that often receive the popular support denied to extremists like Pianka.
This anti-human ideology is advanced by the “technocracy,” as Wesley puts it, something that C.S. Lewis warned about in “The Abolition of Man.” The “simple calculus” of resources versus suffering and an ideologue who believes he has both the will and the right to carry out a solution would be a catastrophic combination. And unlike the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it doesn’t require a great suspension of disbelief to see how it could happen, though maybe on smaller scales. The question is whether we, as a society, can agree that these “solutions” are not worth the price.
Rachel Lynn Aldrich is the Special Projects Coordinator at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture and a graduate from Patrick Henry College.