On Thanos' snap and how it makes literally no sense
For my first post for this blog, I would like to look at Thanos' snap — his decision to kill half of everyone in the universe. His actions are definitely morally wrong, and I don't want to argue that point since I hold that its wrongness is self-evident. Rather, I want to criticize it on the basis that it makes literally no sense given Thanos' motives, and that the tacit acceptance of most people of Thanos' actions reveals a worrying support of eugenics, and a disturbing view of who is considered expendable or not.
First, I will start with Thanos' stated motives in the movie. He claims that he wants to remove half the universe's population because resources are low, and because people are consumers of resources. I think the moral theory that closest fits with his motivation is rule utilitarianism. I, unfortunately, am not an expert on rule utilitarianism, but I will do my best to summarize here. Utilitarianism, as a whole, is a set of philosophies that says that we ought to maximize utility. What exactly “maximize utility” means differs depending on the utilitarian you talk to, and for the purposes of this essay doesn't matter too much. The utilitarianism most people think of is act utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism says that we ought to maximize the utility of each and every one of our actions. Rule utilitarianism, on the other hand, says that we ought to follow rules that result in the best overall outcomes, even if the rule leads us to making less optimal choices in some scenarios. For example, for an act utilitarian, the decision to lie in a given scenario will depend entirely on the scenario at hand. A rule utilitarian, on the other hand, might follow the rule “Tell no lies” because it is the rule that results in the best situation overall, and not lie even in scenarios where it would be beneficial to do so. Thanos' decisions are rule utilitarian in the sense that he refuses to make decisions about whether individual people deserve to live or die. Rather, he makes a rule to kill half the people in the universe randomly, seemingly out of some desire for fairness.
The first point I would like to make is that Thanos' actions presuppose that people are purely consumers, and fails to consider that they are resources as well. I won't belabor this point since others have for me. I would just like to point out that killing half the people on earth would wreck our ability to manage the resources we currently have, and that a lot of stuff — food, houses, infrastructure etc — would go bad once we stopped being able to take care for it.
For the remaining part of this essay, I will proceed under the assumption that Thanos is right about people being solely consumers, and prove that his actions still make little sense.
Thanos' actions make no sense because his decision to kill half of humanity randomly is at odds with his desire to save resources. The given reason as to why he chooses randomly is given, both in universe and by the people I have talked to about this, is that choosing randomly makes this process more fair somehow. However, I would argue that Thanos is not very interested in fairness in the movie. Killing people just for taking up resources is, in itself, unfair. His decision to kill people, therefore, is a clear sign that he is prioritizing what he views as saving the universe over fairness. Therefore, it is unclear why he would attempt to be fair about who he decides to kill. If he's going to kill half of everyone in the universe and he's abandoned all pretense of fairness, why not kill the people who are most responsible for consuming resources?
In fact, I would like to go a step further, and claim that there is nothing fair about the way Thanos chose people to kill. As a rule, choosing randomly amongst the whole population places ensures you kill people who do not actually take up very many resources. It is no secret that some people in the world consume a lot more resources in the world than others. Someone who practices subsistence farming barely utilizes any of the worlds resources at all. On the other hand, someone like me ends up using a lot more. Thanos' rule is both unfair and poorly thought out because it ends up killing a lot of people who don't use a lot of resources, and leaves alive a bunch of people who do, and will likely continue using a lot of resources.
In fact, the only reason to kill people randomly is if you think that the people who use the most resources — rich people — are for some reason just as important to our survival as a species. Or in other words, that we, as a society, are willing to justify killing a whole lot of poor people just to keep a rich person alive and that we can't conceptualize of a life without that rich person. The decision to kill people randomly creates a false equivalence between every person. Framing Thanos' motivation as “humanity uses too many resources” distances us from the fact that it is individual people who use resources on a daily basis, and that they decide how many resources they use or not. Even if he's a rule utilitarian, Thanos' still gets to make better decisions.