I’ll restate the title of this post right here so I can really hit this opinion home; Thanos is the perfect villain.
- He wishes to wipe out half of all life in the universe.
- When he comes back a second time, he intends to wipe out all life in the universe.
- He does this to prevent overpopulation due to the fact that overpopulation and lack of resources are what destroyed his home planet.
- If the writers had or hadn’t read Robert Malthius (I don’t know if they did), they would realize that Thanos’ idea of overpopulation doesn’t fix the problem; in wiping out half of all life in the universe, he is only delaying the inevitable when populations reach the same levels they had decades into the future.
Wiping out half of all life in the universe doesn’t fix overpopulation, and it certainly doesn’t fix suffering either. What evidence supports this claim? The advancement of knowledge and technology in our world. Unlike, say, populations of deer or rabbits, which increases and decreases based on the availability of food and water, humans have exponentially advanced technology over the last 200 years. Alongside this exponential technological advancement has come an exponential increase in our population. In the year 1800, humanity finally hit 1 billion people. It took thousands of years to grow the population that much. Nowadays, we number around 7.3 billion people. and it has only taken 200 years from when we first hit 1 billion to reach 7.3 billion.
But this doesn’t necessarily mean that Thanos can’t accomplish his goal to prevent suffering due to overpopulation. If he wiped out the entirety of the universe’s life as he said he would in Avengers: Endgame, then he would have seen a change in suffering due to overpopulation stemming from starvation. However, this doesn’t fix the problem. Allow me to explain.
In his brief collection of short sayings, Heraclitus of Ephesus in Ancient Greece said that “When Homer said that he wished war might disappear from the lives of humans, he forgot that without opposition all things would cease to exist”. No matter how many times Thanos destroys all life in the universe, life will still come back and evolve in much the same ways it has here on Earth.
When people explain that they wished for the end of violence in human society and question the motives behind it, they fail to mention the fact that for several thousands of years of our existence we lived on the land itself, hunted and gathered our food, and slept and relaxed in caves. While life might have been simpler during these times, simplicity for the species has not driven us forward. It has been the complex discoveries and musings of individual men and women that have allowed us to get to where we are now in population and technological progress, not the end of war or violence.
(A bit of a digression…) And this doesn’t suggest that I support war. Like many others, I too want to see an end to senseless killing. But saying that we are an awful species on Earth conveniently forgets the fact that we initially had to kill animals and harvest plants to eat and survive. The fact that we are aware of our shortcomings as a species is the best we can do at this moment in time. Don’t expect the population to change because we all complain about it.
There is an equilibrium to find between loving the Earth we live on and inventing the tools and resources we need to survive on it, especially as our population grows. I want to say that humanity’s population growth, especially in terms of the last several millennia, has been very gradual up until those 200 years ago.
In fact, of my own theory, I would argue that it is our ingenuity and accumulation of knowledge that has led to our population growth as a species. And it will be our future innovations and inventions that allow us to survive and prevent catastrophes. Notice these patterns here…
- When humanity domesticates an animal, that animal’s numbers increase into the hundreds of millions, billions in the case of chickens and cows.
- It might be abusive to slaughter animals for meat to eat, but what else are we going to do? If we don’t harvest the food we have here on the planet, then everybody starves and famine ensues.
- If a large asteroid is years from slamming into the Earth, astrophysicists and engineers can design technology to prevent its collision.
- If you saw an incoming asteroid hundreds of years ago, as a human you were screwed if it was in your general vicinity.
Life in the universe can’t thrive if there is no life in the universe. Thanos makes the reasons to kill half of all life in the universe almost justifiable; that overpopulation will lead to suffering and life will starve and go extinct. However, his objective is flawed by his incorrect understanding of population growth and consumption. Because of this, he is the perfect villain; a flawed plan, willing to kill off half -then all- life in the universe and going to desperate measures to do so.