My increasing material nihilism has resulted in predictable existential nihilistic philosophies. The fun part is that there superficially clear contradictions between what I enjoy materially & what I think existentially. There’s a part of Cities in Flight by James Blish, where he describes humans as “local anomalies in the second law of thermodynamics” which, for years, I thought was a pretty exceptional way to describe the uniqueness & importance of humanity. However, the more I observe humanity, the more misanthropic I become. I guess we are unique & important, but in vice, not virtue. We’re less anomalous, but rather more efficient at contributing to the entropy of a system. Earth was doing fine until colonialism & the industrial revolution basically trashed the place in a couple hundred years.
How do humans make the universe a better place? This is a fundamentally flawed qualitative question, philosophically (what is ‘better’?), but nevertheless quickly gets to the point of contention. The typical mitigation offered to balance the entropy we constantly impose upon the material world is our achievements of conscience. Our work in philosophy, art, literature, music, science. The results of our sentience, sapience, and sagacity are all of these great things!
This is an almost tautological selfish fallacy. We aren’t bad because we do good things. But the good things we do can only be appreciated by other humans (who might not!), while the bad things we do affect our entire world. The passenger pigeon will not feel transcendent when it hears music because 1) as far as we know, critters can’t experience that emotion and 2) we killed them all. Polar bears will be extinct in my lifetime because of human-driven climate change. Do the sum of the achievements of humanity balance the harm we do? I’d rather have polar bears than poetry. Even our achievements are an increase in entropy.
Why do anything, then? It doesn’t matter either way, really. Whatever you do is going to end up dust. An ethical nihilist, I guess, would be someone who attempts to limit the entropy they add to a system, even though they know it’s a futile task.