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What Good Are Humans?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/15/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,335 times Debate No: 52536
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)




(I am con/against - human existance) We, being humans, have no real point to be on Earth. We've done nothing but destroy since we began evolving into the modern-day humans we are. Polluting, hunting animals into extinction and cutting down their natural habitats, reshaping land for only our selfish benifit. Many of those who are aware of these things happening do nothing to try and slow or reverse their effects, resulting in deaths of animals andhumans, as well as plant life.All first-worlders care about is watching their shows, reading their books, keeping their relationships, or doing stupid things to pass the time. Being entertained is all we live for. That and continuing our species. But, I suppose you could say even that is done for the fun of it.Humans in general can't even put aside the differences between them. Be it race, gender, sexual orientation, age, beliefs - you name it, there's a problem in relation to it.


I do agree that humans cause a lot of destruction on Earth. I am against it. We are - to our knowledge - the first species that would be able to change things for the better consciously, and we fail to live up to that possibility.

However, disagree that we have no point to be on Earth. For my argument, I will make a clear distinction between the benefit we achieve and the harm we cause. As long as we do SOME good on this planet, we have a point in being here, even if we make mistakes in the process and the net damage outweighs the net benefit.

There are two major points I see why humans have purpose on this planet.

1. Learning.
I say we are here to learn. Whoever learns is entitled to mistakes, but we have come a long way from mindlessly destroying other species.
We are the only species to try and preserve other species - even those we do not consume for food. Our advances in that regard are slow, and little, but still: we are the only ones who actively try to preserve parts of nature against NATURAL decay we did not cause. For instance, the spreading of the Sahara desert:
As the article says, there are old techniques against the spread of the desert being put to use again, so those techniques predate human influence on the world climate. Which means that even before destroying the planetary ecosystem, there were humans ACTIVELY preserving the planet.
That many humans are weak and d not live up to that potential does not mean they don't have value IN THEMSELVES. Just like water raining into a narrow rock crack only to dissipate again without ever having sustained life. Is the water worthless because of that? No, it just wasn't put to its best use in that instance.
Human value must not be measured by actual benefit, but by the question how aware they are of their potential.

And there are positively entire cultures who never destroyed the Earth on purpose:
"When all the trees have been cut down,
when all the animals have been hunted,
when all the waters are polluted,
when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money."
~ Cree Prophecy ~

So, these people have learnt the lesson to preserve the planet, and this is something no animal has ever achieved before. I say this is a great step forward for our planet. Are there people who have disregarded this wisdom and exploited nature anyway? Yes.
Would we punish a whole species for the mistakes of a minority?
Well, if we did, then we would have to eradicate ALL life on this planet. The first bacteria, for instance, were nothing but consumers. They carried life to the planet, yet they only did so to spread their own genes, rapidly mutating, diversifying.
Thus, viruses were created, too: ruthless parasites that serve no purpose, do not even procreate themselves. If we were to blame the mistakes of some on ALL, then we have to give the blame to the first bacteria who created a virus. Which means we have to eradicate all bacteria. Without those, however, life is impossible.
So, we cannot punish the entirety of a species for the mistakes of a few.
And we are talking about a few here, because over 99% of Earth's population are incapable of dumping radioactive waste into the oceans, of producing toxic chemicals, building even the smallest electronic device.
Not every culture does this, even. I don't see the Dogon of Mali or the Inuit produce toxic waste.
Which means the entire argument against humanity could rest ONLY on judgement over a minority of a few cultures. Not on humanity in general.
Because humanity in general has a purpose beyond the scope of my opponent.

2. Unearthing biomass

"A so-called fossil fuel, petroleum is believed by most scientists to be the transformed remains of long dead organisms. The majority of petroleum is thought to come from the fossils of plants and tiny marine organisms. Larger animals might contribute to the mix as well."

"It is generally accepted that most coals formed from plants that grew in and adjacent to swamps in warm, humid regions. Material derived from these plants accumulated in low-lying areas that remained wet most of the time and was converted to peat through the activity of microorganisms."

For all we know, Earth used to be a lush planet in the days of the dinosaurs. Plant and animal life was far richer than today. Then, some cataclysm happened, and life was buried in large quantities, converting to crude oil and coal.

Now, all life on our planet consists mainly of the elements carbon and hydrogen. Which means, the amount of life on a planet is a CONSTANT. It's called "biomatter" or "biomass".

All the biomatter contained in crude oil and coal was hidden for ages in the Earth's crust. Humans have unearthed and burnt a large part of it, which means it's now in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Earth's ecosystem will change through this. But it has evidently changed long before humans were there, because otherwise the dinosaurs would not have existed and died.
The large amount of carbon dioxide has led to a climate change that is likely to eradicate humans, as we are too many to be fed, and our conflicts and wars over food will eventually lead to human extinction. But life will go on.
It would be arrogant to assume that humans would be capable of destroying every last cell. Only one surviving algae would be enough to start evolution all over again.

Plants like algae feed on carbon dioxide, so we now have the potential to grow more plant life again, feeding humans and animals on this planet. Without the human curiosity and greed, all this rapped biomatter would never have been unearthed again. So humankind has been a necessary step in setting free a new chance at life on this planet.
And even if that is the only service we've eve done to this planet, it is something only humans could have achieved.

As for my opponent's arguments:
- No life form on this planet has ever behaved any different. All non-sentient life only exists for consumption and procreation. Because that are the two principles of life. If that was reason to be erased from the face of the Earth, ALL life would have to be eradicated, which is something my opponent accuses mankind of.
- Beavers and ants shape their habitat to their needs, too. Yet my opponent seems to believe that when humans do it, it's worse. But he delivers no moral grounds for it.
- Animals cannot put their differences aside, either. Again, there's no connection between any of this behaviour and a lack of reason for existence.
But my opponent will probably argue now that the other species have no right to exist, either, then, and thus claim that I have aided his case by proving that humans do not have a right to exist as life in general has no right to exist.

However, that is not what I'm saying: I say that all life has a right to exist simply because it exists. There is no judge to tell any life form what to do. And why is that? Because a judge must be neutral and may not have committed the same crime as the accused. So, any judge over our lives would have to be "not alive". Such judge has not been found yet, nor has any law been passed on which species has a right to live and which does not.

So, in conclusion: If we assume that it is a good thing to try and maintain planet Earth, humans are the only species to at least try. So, they have value for the planet.
If we assume that this is not enough, I still state that our combustion of fossil fuels has unearthed biomatter needed for the expansion of life on our planet. Singular species will die out. They would regardless of humans. It's basic evolution. So far, billions of species have perished in the course of Earth's history. Mankind will not be able to eradicate all life. We do know, for instance, that cockroaches are very likely to survive the human species. A giant catastrophe eradicated the dinosaurs, yet life went on. We have no reason to believe that humans will do any permanent harm to the planet. We are just the species that transformed fossil fuels to carbon dioxide to feed the plants.

And, as a last point, I want to turn my opponent's attention to the fact that there is at least one human he believes to be important enough to take this topic to this site and accuse mankind: himself. Does he thus not contradict himself? Is he not trying to make a point about humans doing nothing, yet he's here actively calling humanity out.
"All first-worlders care about is watching their shows, reading their books, keeping their relationships, or doing stupid things to pass the time."
My opponent has access to the Internet, making him part of the first world. So, either he concedes that this debate is a "stupid thing to pass the time" - which is basically a concession of the debate - or he contradicts himself, by trying to get a serious point across, proving that NOT ALL first-worlders are the way he describes them.

I'm looking forward to a response.

Debate Round No. 1


Firstly, I'd like to thank my opponent for accepting. This is my first debate out of school and I'm excited for the outcome. Also, apologies in advance for the less than formal format of my response.

Saying "we are here to learn" is but one opinion. There are many theories and perspectives based on why we are here (, but my argument is that we aren't here for any higher purpose at all. If we are here to learn, then why?- and what are we meant to be learning? Giving us a purpose just promotes more questions, to which we want the answers to, but cannot get them. If we cannot learn what our purpose is, doesn't that defeat the question itself? I'm not sure if I'm making myself particularly clear here, so I hope you understand the point I am trying to get across.

My opponent said "... all life has a right to exist simply because it exists." I say life is not a right, but something to be respected. There are people who take their own lives without a second thought because they are 'depressed' and think that there's nothing left for them (forgive me for being insensitive). In all cases, that's not true. YOU are in control, YOU make the decisions, and everything can be turned around if you really want it to. You just have to persevere. Another example, I've heard of cases where people (mainly stupid teenagers) participate actively in animal cruelty. They have no respect for the animal's life, and couldn't care less if said animal died as a result of its injuries. Simply Googling the phrase 'burning puppy alive' gains thousands of results in relation to it.

I'm not saying life should be eradicated, as my opponent suggested I did, but that it (life) is not necessary for time to carry on: 'but, to say that life, itself, has meaning, is a misuse of language, since any note of significance, or of consequence, is relevant only in life (to the living), so rendering the statement erroneous'. There is so much about the world and the universe that we do not know, but are we really here to discover that? What will happen if we do? Would it be simply too much for our small minds (in non-literal comparison) to comprehend? Just like when I try to imagine the edge of the universe, I can't, because it's too big to wrap my brain around as the possibilities are endless.

Yes, I do think this debate is a stupid thing to pass the time, but I am intrigued anyway. I stumbled upon this site a few days ago while I was sourcing information for an essay I had to do in school (again first world problems, it wouldn't be the end of the world if i hadn't done it - not even the end of my own life - but I did it anyway) and I decided to post my opinion and initiate this debate to observe the response I received. To be honest, I wasn't expecting an immediate response, and such a detailed one at that.

I personally would love to be able to do more for the world: aid those in need, go on litter pick-up runs, help raise awareness of third-world countries and people's carbon footprint ( But, I both don't have enough time on my hands and can't be bothered, adding me to the majority. My opponent could say that this debate in itself is raising awareness to some extent, but it's not going to inspire hundreds of people to go out and make a difference. And I admit, I contradict myself constantly. Sometimes without even knowing it. Sadly, it's a personality defect.


"Saying "we are here to learn" is but one opinion."
Well, that's the problem with philosophical debates, isn't it? We can not ever have proof in these debates, only deductions and opinions.

You are stating that we have no higher purpose here, but what higher purpose than "learning" can there be at all?
Learning means improving. There can be no doubt about that.
Improvement is an open ended process, innately to its nature:

2a : to enhance in value or quality : make better
: to increase the value of (land or property) by making it more useful for humans (as by cultivation or the erection of buildings)

: to grade and drain (a road) and apply surfacing material other than pavement
3 : to use to good purpose
1: to advance or make progress in what is desirable
2: to make useful additions or amendments
from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary

There is no necessary end to improvement, because we do not know how a "perfect" human would look like.
In that way, the fact that we do not know the ultimate answers CONSTITUTES the purpose of "learning", it does certainly not defeat the question.
Most of us know how to use door handles, lots of different ones. There is a definite end to the number of different door handles. Consequently, we do not see it as a great achievement to be able to open a door with the handle.
Knowing all mathematical formulas in existence is more of a task, and we deem it a greater achievement, mostly calling people who do this "math genius". People who try to achieve it are seen as determined and ambitious.
Learning all ways how to save the world must be even more complicated, yet you yourself have listed more activities in that regard than I did. And you admit it would be a higher purpose. If someone were to learn all these ways and actually save the planet, we would consider this person a legend. But you agree that even actively trying would be better than not trying it at all. So, improvement in this regard is possible: learning to get up ten minutes earlier and pick up litter on the way to school, for example. This is how we achieve improvement in certain, definite tasks.

Life as a whole, however, is infinite for all we know, and thus learning all there is about life is (almost) impossible. But striving towards that is an achievement in itself, just like trying to learn all mathematical formulas or trying to save the world.
Learning is the highest imaginable purpose, because there is infinitely much to learn.
It matters not to what end. It matters not how much there will be left to learn if we've learned our lesson of the day. Everything we learn makes us better, not worse.
So, the more we learn, the better we become. And no matter how worthless you consider human life, if we learn we MUST logically at some point arrive at some sort of value. Because if you take something worthless, and you make it just the tiniest bit better, it MUST now have some value.

So, as long as we learn whatever there is to learn, we are moving towards value, regardless of any predefined absolute measure for "value".
It's a logical necessity.

For argument's sake only: human existence has no value.
Something that improves gains in value.
Learning is improvement.
If humans learn, they improve, and gain value.

Learning is thus what gives humans value, even if they had none before.

Since we have already established that there have been entire cultures who did not commit the same mistakes you hold against humanity as a whole (which is where I believe you are wrong, due to a faulty generalization, a classic fallacy), it is clear that your reasoning as to WHY humanity allegedly has no value does not hold.

I agree, some people do not live up to their potential value. It is however not the exploitation of the planet which is their mistake and fault. ALL life depends on other life to perish in order to flourish.
Even plants. Without carbon dioxide, plants would perish. Carbon dioxide is generated by either burning or devouring plants, so even plants rely on the violent death of other plants.
The reason the few humans who are responsible for the pollution and destruction of our planet are to blame is that they have been repeatedly pointed to the harmful consequences of their greed and refuse to LEARN.

My argument of learning being the purpose in human life thus supersedes and contains your observations. You are right that humans exist who do as you say. And those can be considered to have less value.
But the consequence is that people who don't follow their lead must have value.

By your own reasoning, all people who don't "destroy [, ...] Polluting, hunting animals into extinction and cutting down their natural habitats, reshaping land for only ... selfish benifit [sic]" must then have value, if those are the reasons why humans are pointless to you.
And I agree, because these people learn and have learnt.

So, humanity is not as a whole worthless, pointless or whatever word you want to use.

You say: "life is [...] something to be respected. There are people who take their own lives without a second thought because they are 'depressed' and think that there's nothing left for them (forgive me for being insensitive). In all cases, that's not true. YOU are in control, YOU make the decisions, and everything can be turned around if you really want it to. You just have to persevere."

Well, this sounds a lot like moral imperatives. If there is a "true", then there is also "false". This implies a judgement. Judgment means that there is a moral standard. A moral standard implies a purpose.

So, what becomes evident from your own words is this: You do not believe humans don't have a point in being here, because you say that this is true "in all cases": "YOU are in control, YOU make the decisions"
This sounds like a perfect reason for existence, because you admit it would be wrong to kill oneself.
So, this is another one of your contradictions.

What you are basically proposing now comes down to this: "Those people who destroy the planet for profit have no point being on this planet."

Which means that people who act against it have a point, or definitely do not have "no point".

The same goes for animal cruelty. When I was a teenager, I never tortured animals. I take from your words that you don't, either.
You are different than those others. If they have no purpose and are different from you, then their behaviour does not reduce YOUR value.

"(life) is not necessary for time to carry on":
Time, without life, has no meaning. What does the passage of time do if all life is gone? Planets move,but nobody is there to tell.
You say life has such value that suicide is wrong in all cases. Yet you say life is unimportant for time to carry on. So, then why does it even matter if humans destroy the planet? I'm sorry, but I really have no idea what you're getting at any more.

If we're only talking about human life: Every species will eventually become extinct, as far as we know. Humanity will perish, too, but will not eradicate all life on the planet beforehand. Life will indeed carry on beyond humanity. But that means that humanity has to make their time on this planet count. Because we can not have a point on this planet when we've gone.

As to life having meaning: I have proved above that "learning" GENERATES meaning out of itself.
It is an inductive fallacy to assume that everything in existence must have had a beginning.
We can only say that everything we have - in our short existence - seen come and go has had a beginning.
Who says that the meaning of life could not precede life?

Let's have a look at an example: Why are things invented? Sometimes through accident, but often through planning: somebody realizes the value of something that is not yet there, and invents it. For example, the waffle iron. People used to bake pancakes, and had to turn them over. Someone realized that the baking time could be reduced by adding a second griddle from the top, and he built that. The value of this idea preceded its existence.

Who's to say this doesn't apply to life and its meaning, too?

As to the question what will happen if we ever uncover all there is to know: it will likely not happen. And it doesn't have to.
You know how people set their course for the stars? They will never reach them in their ships, but still the stars indicate the right way. If we set out to learn everything, it doesn't make any difference whether we achieve this feat: "The journey is the destination."

The edge of the universe? It's a matter of four-dimensional geometry. And not part of this debate, but basically the edge of the universe is most probably identical with its center, explaining why the universe doesn't need "space" if seen from the outside. As a model, consider the surface of a doughnut. Center and edge are the same thing. Now, my head didn't explode from this.

I took my time to reply to you because when I was your age - or a little younger - I had the exact same questions. Eventually, after a few ups and downs, these questions set me on my path. And I wanted to give you this: a message from someone who's been there before. It's this: "You will find your way. You are loved. Everything will be alright. Keep wondering!"

Contradiction is not a personality defect. It's human nature. It's what drives us towards learning. You realize a contradiction within yourself and try to get to the bottom of it, learning something new in the process.

You are absolutely right: your debate raises awareness. It will not affect hundreds of people.
Most likely, it will affect two: you and me. And that is more than enough.

When this is through, we'll both have learned something. I consider this a valuable experience, and in meeting an "echo" of my past I am now on a sort of spiritual journey: I realize the long way I've come, and that puts my whole adult life in a slightly different perspective: did I become the way my younger self would have expected? Did I live up to my duty to improve myself?

I thank you for that. You have made a real difference.
Debate Round No. 2


I forfeit. I don't even know what I'm trying to say anymore.
Thank you for this debate, nonetheless. I learned a bit from you, and you've altered my view on things by a few (or several) degrees, and the last few paragraphed you wrote made me smile.
My interpretation on what you were saying can be summarized as: "the meaning of life, is life itself"; which, in a way, is totally true.
That's all I have to say. Thanks again :)


I thank you, once more.
I return the compliment, I learned a little from you, too.

Beautiful summary, there.

And you're very, very welcome!

All that's left is to turn this over to the audience.

Take care, all!
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by idiots_everywhere 7 years ago
Sorry, that was my fault The_Scapegoat_bleats, I was still figuring out the site and had neglected to change that setting until I myself realized that I was registered as a male.
Posted by The_Scapegoat_bleats 7 years ago
My opponent has just changed their gender setting to "female". I apologize for addressing her as "him", but I DID check the profile before typing that, and it said "male".
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Seeginomikata 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Good debate. Pro arguments win because most of the debate was in the format of Con poses a question, pro answers. Pro answers were pretty solid.

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