Sunday, September 12, 2010

Personal Reasons

Note to those who just discovered this page:

I do NOT, repeat, do NOT support murder, genocide or any other kind of involuntary cessation of life on the grounds of preventing future suffering.  Even more important than the fact that it's practically impossible to fully and successfully accomplish, it violates the right of a person to exercise their freedom of choice to live if he or she wants to. I do not even advocate suicide on the grounds mentioned on this page either (although I do support legally-performed physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill in jurisdictions that permit doctors to engage in such practices).  Murder, genocide, and suicide causes horrid anguish for surviving loved ones and friends, therefore creating more of the very suffering that philanthropic antinatalism seeks to stop.  Philanthropic antinatalism's ultimate end motive is suffering prevention, NOT snuffing out already-existing life for that reason or for any other.  Voluntary non-procreation is simply a means to prevent that suffering, and indeed as far as we know the only remotely practical permanent solution (notwithstanding "magic wand" technologies like transhumanist ones, which I do touch on within this blog).



My basis for antinatalism is ultimately the philanthropic one, with teleological and pessimistic tendencies.  Philanthropically, even the best of lives have at least some non-trivial suffering and, worse, it's impossible to predict how any one life will turn out.  Also, from a theological perspective, I find procreation morally problematic because my offspring, had they come to exist, would have a very non-trivial probability of experiencing a hideous afterlife.   Teleologically, I find human reproduction ultimately pointless at best because humans or our final descendant species will become extinct anyway (due to the universe's "heat death", if nothing else). Pessimistic standpoint, I object too strongly to too many of the rules of "the game of life" and to human nature itself to believe our species deserves any more childbirths. The impossibility to consent to one's own birth, even in theory, gives especially strong relevance to these reasons. However, I do not agree with ecological antinatalism for at least three reasons: it assumes that it's ultimately impossible for humans to ever live in harmony with the environment, it under-emphasizes the ecological damage that animals themselves can cause even without human introduction into non-native habitats, and that animals would still suffer greatly if no humans exist.


My antinatalism is sourced in the following rationales: philanthropic, teleological, and pessimistic forms of antinatalism. Of these, the philanthropic is the most compelling, given one's inability to consent to enter into a world in which bad things - and for some people - the very bad can happen. This is especially true if death happens in the end anyway (both individual and species extinction).  Also, the demise of the universe as we know it will erase humanity's accomplishments, beneficiaries, and any memory or record thereof.   Even the bad things in life might be bearable were it within our power to consent to come into existence. However, this is precisely not the case.  Because we cannot know beforehand whether a person would actually have an enjoyable life (whether objectively or subjectively defined), giving birth to a child is gambling with the child's future at best and thoughtless torture at worst.

The teleological reasons are as follows: (a) that the universe's heat death will erase not only ourselves but all traces of our existence, thereby rendering all our accomplishments ultimately meaningless; (b) that our present sufferings serve no real purpose, except to those who benefit from our sufferings (who will in any case eventually cease to benefit from our sufferings after their death or after humanity's extinction, which also will render our sufferings ultimately pointless); (c) even assuming the validity of religious perspectives, a condemned person's life is purposeless even if their earthly life seemed full of purpose; .  However, these reasons are relevant only to the extent that one suffers from having no purpose or meaning in life. This renders the teleological arguments dependent on the philanthropic ones for their very relevance, if not truth. Nevertheless, teleological arguments can be powerful supplementary evidence for antinatalism if one assumes that nobody should impose pointless suffering on others without their consent, which many (if not most) philanthropic antinatalist believe.

My pessimistic antinatalism comes a large number of deep fundamental objections to human nature itself - to the point that I don't think humanity deserves my contribution of gametes.  Even if this is a subjective basis about human nature, it is also true that beliefs by others that human nature is good enough to be worth continuing are likewise subjective. Nevertheless, we live in a world that requires police, bodyguards, soldiers, and electronic security measures in order to have any security worth speaking of.  We also live in a world where dishonesty, corrpution, and other breaches of trust are always a probability without strong enforcement.  Even the planned evil or otherwise bad acts that are not committed are very likely aborted not due to one's conscience but fear of consequences if caught.  This alone renders the view that human nature is basically good is faith-based* at best, arbitrary at middling, and possibly outright wrong-headed at worst.  Given that human nature is as described (at the least), do we really need to keep creating more members of such a species? 

This is not misanthropy. This is a recognition that all these traits are so deeply engrained into human nature that we cannot even begin to eliminate them (although we can reduce them).  If I had pancreatic cancer, Alzheimer's, or some other condition leading a very low quality of life (extended physical disability, painful suffering, wasting away, etc), any decision to commit suicide would be because I don't see the situation improving - not because I despise myself.  The same essential reason goes for my decision to do my small part to end humanity.

Taken together --- the sheer inevitability of suffering in this world, the high likelihood of a terrible afterlife, my fundamental disagreements with human nature, plus the inevitability extinction of all life in this universe ---  all these factors prove to my satisfaction the soundness of antinatalism.

I do not find the ecological antinatalist arguments compelling because they (a) overlook that a much reduced human population with our technology level can be ecologically sustainable, (b) ignore that humans have at least as much right to exist as other lifeforms, (c) handwave away the fact that other species can and have disrupted ecosystems with no human involvement in the process whatsoever, even in recent times (d) apparently find irrelevant that, on a humanless earth, animals still would suffer greatly at the hands of other animals (especially predators), microbes, and natural disasters.

*"faith-based": not in a religious sense but in the sense that the notion "humans are too willfully immoral, unethical, cruel, exploitative, etc. to deserve to one more childbirth ever again" is a claim one either believes or doesn't.

Evaluations of Antinatalism Bases

Ecological Antinatalism

I cannot go along with ecological antinatalism, at least as advocated by Les Knight and VHEMT, for two core reasons: (a) humans have the same right to exist as other species and (b) a human-less world would do little or nothing to end animals' overall sufferings.

(a) I believe Homo sapiens sapiens has the same degree of right to exist that other species do. 

Not necessarily more of a right, but certainly no less of one. Despite our millenia away from the wilderness, we are just as much a part of nature as any other species. We're made of the same basic chemical elements and molecules, after all. True, out DNA is different from other species, but that's a distinction without a relevant difference. The fact remains that we and animals are still living things. This is particularly true for "higher" animals with a capacity to feel pain and emotions to an extent comparable to what humans can and do. Never mind that we're the current Alpha species of the planet.

Also unconvincing is claim that we humans need to go extinct because we're damaging the biosphere. We may have eaten animals and plants into near or actual extinction, but so did other animals. We may wreck our surroundings for other species, but so do other animals. Beavers building dams, for example, make it hard for other species in the immediate neighborhood who don't do well in wetlands. Elephants render a lot of Africa that would otherwise be fairly thick woodlands as mere savanna. Not much hope for forest-dwelling species in that biome.

Closely related to the above is the claim that humans ought to phase themselves out because we are a destructive invasive species in every land except East Africa, our ancestral home region (a perennial favorite of Knight, and presumably other VHEMTers, too). Our expansion out of East Africa 70,000 years ago at the latest brought about extinction of many animals, even with our most primitive technologies. If this reason justifies our extinction, then why can't we say the same be said about the North American species that invaded South America during "The Great American Interchange" three million years ago? After all, the former's invasion wiped most of what had been a unique fauna.*  Extinction is extinction, after all, no matter which species caused the extinction.

It does no good to counter with the claim that the North American invaders were non-human species, and therefore part of the "authentic" natural ecosystem. The invading animals did what any other animal would do in this situation: spread into any environment it could thrive in, even if at the expense of the previous inhabitant species. Therefore, claiming that humans deserve extinction on the grounds that we damage to the environment while simultaneously claiming that animals ought to get a free pass is a disproportion difficult to explain.

Admittedly, modern humans do have more capacity than our Stone Age ancestors did to be better stewards of the ecosystem, certainly more capacity than our current management of it indicates. Despite this, it's still a non sequitor to say that the only way to "save the planet" is to extinguish ourselves.  To repeat Jonathan Rauch, “[Our excessive use of resources and driving other species to extinction] argues for better conservation, or perhaps for fewer humans. It is not a compelling argument for no humans at all.”

From all this, I conclude that there's nothing ecologically wrong with modern humans on this planet, providing we keep our population at a sustainable size.  Nevertheless, antinatalism aside, I think our population is too large to be sustainable. Therefore, even were I not an antinatalist, I would still strongly support efforts to reduce the human birth rate over the next several generations until the human population drops to ecologically sustainable levels - ideally accomplished via non-conception, though as a practical matter I do have to accept voluntary abortion of fetus' as acceptable, however distasteful it may be.

*For at least dozens of millions of years before, South America was an "island continent" like today's Australia; only bigger and even more isolated.  Like Australia, it had many giant marsupials, both herbivores and carnivores. It even had two species of giant rodents at least the size of modern cattle. North American fauna, though still fairly isolated from the rest of the world, did benefit from occasional participation in the more competitive "Eur-Afr-Asian" zoological arena thanks to intermittent existence of the Beringia land bridge during ice ages.  That meant when the Central American land bridge was more or less fully formed by three million years ago, the South American fauna didn't have a chance.

(b) Human extinction would do little to reduce animals' sufferings as a whole.

This, of course, comes from the philanthropic component of my antinatalism, which is relevant if you consider ecological antinatalism as a form of philanthropy toward animals, or even plants as well. Regardless of whether the ecological form is actually an aspect of the philanthropic form, I believe the pain sensations of animals (particularly mammals, birds, and reptiles) are not substantially different from those of humans, given the apparent lack of substantial biochemical differences between the human and animal nervous systems.

Put the above notion together with the notion that humans do have a quasi-right not to suffer at the hands of other animals, then the same quasi-right goes for animals not to suffer at the hands of predators, diseases, thirst, starvation, and a whole host of other difficulties the wilderness throws at them.  Is it unrealistic to expect a lack of such things in the real world? Certainly.  Nevertheless, the lack of realism does not alter the fact that neurological organisms do suffer - which is the whole point behind VHEMT's "voluntary human extinction" belief system: so that animals will not suffer due to human degradation of the biosphere.  However, to repeat, animals will always suffer in some way, human involvement in it or not.  This is what renders the VHEMT basis for antinatalism incomplete at best and outright erroneous at worst.

If my assessments are correct, then the only consistent stand for ecological antinatalists is to call for a painless as possible elimination of all higher animal life along with humans, a hybrid ecological-philanthropic antinatalism, if you will. Even then, I don't support going this route on the grounds of its sheer impracticality, if nothing else. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, let's assume it is possible to eliminate all neurological life. In this scenario, I'd recommend we first extinguish the apex predators and the larger herbivores, preferably with as painless a poison as possible (no need to make animals suffer pain on the way to their death).  Extinguishing the predators with a nonpainful poison accomplishes two aims with minimal agony experienced by animals: a) prevents both predators and prey from dying of starvation and b) prevents prey from feeling the pain of being killed by the predators. Regarding point (a) too many herbivore prey animals leads to overgrazing, which leads to starvation and environmental degradation for other species further down the food chain. In short, without predators present, the herbivores overshoot their locale's "carrying capacity". Furthermore, concentrating initially on both large predators and large prey avoids a wholesale ecological collapse, for species at or near the top of the food chain are the least necessary species for the health of the biosphere as a whole, and thus eliminating them does the least damage to the ecosystem (at least in the short run).

Some will ask why not simply eliminate all life forms as quickly as possible, regardless of where they are on the food chain. After all, it'll eliminate much more life much more quickly.  The answer: while indiscriminate destruction of all animal life may kill off more species more quickly, it will do so in a very agonizing fashion. For example, eliminating all grasses on which all herbivores depend will dramatically increase starvation and sickness among both herbivores and the predators that depend on them. This probably will kill off many more species more quickly. Still, creating this obvious agony not only directly violates the core beliefs of philanthropic antinatalism: suffering prevention, which many philanthropic antinatalists definitely believe applies to animals as well, albeit to varying extents. Therefore, limiting extermination efforts to the species inhabiting the top of the food chain at the time will greatly reduce life's overall sufferings. After all the largest animals are eliminated, then we move progressively down the food chain and repeat the cycle: wash-rinse-repeat, so to speak.

To reiterate, I do not favor going this route. I only made this proposal for the sake of argument, based on the (erroneous, in my opinion) assumption that humans deserve extinction on ecological grounds, then following that assumption out to what I think is its logical conclusion.  This proposal is not a Reducto Ad Absurdum because, as stated earlier, if eliminating suffering is the ultimate end of ecological antinatalism, then to eliminate suffering, you have to eliminate all neurological life.  If we assume humans deserve self-omnicide on the grounds that environmental damage they create causes animals to suffer, then we have to eliminate all other animals that cause ecological damage that causes other animals to suffer as well.  It doesn't matter if these animals are generally considered part of the "authentic" ecosystem.  Furthermore, it's also based on the assumption that one should reduce harm to the minimum reasonable.

Despite the unrealism of the proposal, the base of the proposal - a hybrid ecological-philanthropic antinatalism stating that animals deserve relief from suffering just as much as humans do - is the only ecological form of antinatalism I could even approach agreeing with, even in principle. Benatar also seems to hint that we should take route, based on his belief that suffering is bad for all living things that have even a rudimentary nervous system*. However, he equally acknowledges the probability of this (or even mere voluntary cessation of all human breeding on any grounds) is zero for all practical purposes. 

*I focus on chordate life (particularly higher chordates) because I assume that if an organism cannot suffer, then there is little consequence as to whether it is subject to hostile conditions - except to the extent that a creature with high capacity for emotional or physical suffering depends on that other organism, whether directly or indirectly. In other words, I think things with neither consciousness nor capacity to feel anything (let alone pain) are little more than a glorified self-sustaining chemistry experiment, at least within the context of suffering prevention. The means that I don't find it necessarily to eliminate all life in order to eliminate suffering and certainly not any plant life at all, perhaps even insects can be left alone (notwithstanding the practical difficulties of eliminating even half of all insect species).

Second tier reason

Beyond the two primary reasons is a third , second-tier, reason I cannot agree with ecological antinalism.

Malthusian predictions, on which overpopulation arguments are inevitably based, have had poor track records of success. The closest instances I can think of where Malthus' assertion might have been right are the collapse of Easter Island, plus the Mayan and a few early Babylonian civilizations, and perhaps the Greenland Norse. They fell mainly because those civilizations didn't have the soil conservation techniques and technological efficiency we moderns enjoy, with all living in fragile environments besides (the Easter Islanders and Greenland Norse in particular).  Our own technologically advanced society, despite great environmental and human anguish,so far escaped their fates because human creativity and ingenuity have increased the food supply and the supply of usable resources faster than our population growth.

Nevertheless, there's undoubtedly a genuine point at which Malthus would prove correct, given that Planet Earth is a finite mass and therefore has finite resources. I would say that the earth's "Malthus Point" (point beyond which human's total activities render a collapse a real probability) is a function of a planet's population, technology potential (green vs polluting), and actual implementation of environmentally-friendly practices demanded by law and custom. Whether our global society is near, at, or beyond the true Malthusian point is difficult to say.  Therefore, extreme caution is prudent when basing any decision concerning any issue on this basis.

Even so, I do suspect we are approaching, if not already beyond, the planet's "Malthus Point", certainly we're at the point where we should all be quite concerned about our present society's matrix of "Malthus factors" and the degree of overall long-term harm they will eventually do. Hence, I would be "ecologically child-free" even were I not an antinatalist.

Tangent Commentary on Knight and VHEMT

First, despite my disagreement with the ecological antinatalists, I recognize them as allies in a common cause: the voluntary, non-violent, extermination of humanity via non-procreation consciously and deliberately chosen by each individual him or herself.  Although we want this outcome for strikingly different reasons, the desired end result is identical: humans will no longer degrade the biosphere, no longer suffer in any way, and no longer commit no wrongs toward their fellow human being.  With this said, I now begin the main thrust of the commentary.

All this is not to say Knight has no point in saying a bounce-back of human population from an almost-extinction, if it ever happens, will occur. I myself find it quite plausible. After all, maintaining memory of the reasons why (in this scenario) we chose human extinction in order to preserve the ecosystem would require a large body of verifiable historical texts and continuous preservation thereof. This kind of project requires at least a mid-Industrial Era level printing technology and education standards if people of later generations are to find those texts (and the antinatalists' reasons) credible.  Unfortunately, a much reduced human population will drastically reduce the ability of the few remaining humans to maintain the integrity and memory of those texts and reasons. The fewer people that exist, the harder it is to maintain technology, historical methodologies, and even the most rudimentary of civilizations worthy of the names.  Inevitably, Knight's reasons would be lost in the fog of time, which means that - given human nature in its uneducated state - procreation will eventually revive to its natural levels in spite of VHEMT warnings about it.

Still, this does not do anything to alter my disagreement with ecological antinatalism on core philosophical grounds.  As the rest of the series shows, there are many non-ecological reasons to voluntarily extinguish ourselves.

Philanthropic Antinatalism

My reasons in this category consist of practically every reason listed in Part II.  I would still find bringing children into this world pointless at best and cruel at worst. My reasons boil down to three basic matters:

1) Everybody dies 

Among the most unavoidable yet most debilitating of these rules is "Everybody Dies". No matter how much a now-deceased person enjoyed their life,  no matter how little objection they had to the rules of the Game of Life, death erased their memories. Therefore, from the deceased’s “perspective”, it's as though their life never existed in the first place (more about similar issues in “Teleological Antinatalism”). True, if there is a realm of wonderful afterlife, this could render moot these arguments. However, there's also a possibility of eternal damnation, as discussed in Part II (and again later in this Part), with all its associated difficulties.  Therefore, this doesn't provide an assured escape hatch any more than having a wonderful but finite living existence does.

Most people agree that, in normal circumstances, forcing someone into a situation likely to debilitate a person is a gross injustice. Likewise, given the above, I find it cruel to create a child who inevitably must confront the fact that they will die one day, no matter how good a life they will have (or worse, face an afterlife of damnation of some sort).  For these reasons, I believe a life that doesn't last literally forever is extremely unlikely to be worth creating in the first place.

It does no good to appeal to notions like living on through our children (which I don't believe we do in any case). The child is not his or her parents in any sense beyond the purely genetic one, ultimately the least important aspect of their identity. After all, they do not inherit the knowledge and experiences of their parents. The child is the child, with his or her own personality, memories, free will, and so forth.  While it's true that some personality and behaviorial traits are heritable, they often require a whole plethora of environmental and social circumstances to activate them.  This proves conclusively that parents do not really live on through their children, except perhaps in the poetic sense that the parents’ descendants remember that particular parent.  Therefore, we can safely dismiss this notion as more a product of wishful thinking than hard provable fact.

It’s also futile to counter with the common views that humanity must go on, we live on through our descendants, etc., even if we don’t really live on through our children.  Such arguments do nothing to defeat the claim that death renders childbirth morally debatable at best, but merely sidestep it. This claim cannot account for humanity's inevitable demise, as briefly touched on in Part II. Therefore, same arguments applying to individual death ultimately apply to humanity or our descendant species (if any) as well. 

2) The inevitable sufferings of this world. If, like me, you object to too many rules of the "sport" of life to actually like playing it (with death/extinction being the inevitable final outcome), then why should you force other humans not yet born to play it? Why subject someone to death, sickness, stress, and the drudgery of life if you can mitigate against it? That alone was enough to make me take a second look (and a third, fourth, etc.) before finally deciding not to have children. Furthermore, the rules of "Life" include not only the aforementioned unavoidable difficulties but human-caused avoidable difficulties as well - namely the worst aspects of human nature, with all its irrationality and disagreeability. This reason for non-procreation is one you either appreciate or you don't, so I'm not going to waste time justifying this one point. 

The only way I know of to completely and permanently eliminate our ability to suffer is to use transhumanist technologies (gene-engineering, neurological engineering, and brain-computer merges and/or uploads) to reprogram ourselves so that we lack emotions, a survival instinct, and nerve endings allowing for pain sensations.  This even includes eliminating our ability to feel boredom and existential pain,  which are really just two aspects of emotional pain.  However, taking this route will make us essentially glorified robots in the classical connotation of the word - a consciousness completely devoid of emotion or free will (perhaps any kind of will at all); operating only under the rules of logic and their programming.  Whether or not any one person actually wants to be such an entity is a different matter, but the vast majority of people will violently object to changing themselves in this way (though as always there will be at least a few exceptions to the rule, perhaps even yours truly should by some small chance the technology becomes available and I happen to have the means to gain access to it).  

3) Consent to be Born is Impossible. Suffering, individual death, species extinction, profound disagreement with "the rules of the game", and even human nature itself: All these hardships might be acceptable for all were we, in our pre-conceived state, able to make a fully informed and rational choice about whether to be born, plus have the power to exercise our free choice about the matter. However, this is impossible even in theory; which brings us to the next core reason to not have children: Consent versus Consequences. In this case, it's the lack of consent to be born weighed against substantively plausible consequences of being born.  Given that consent is a central part of civil liberties and human rights, I find it irresponsible to handwave away this core reason.

Before I directly discuss this, I’ll answer an objection that I know many readers have: "Forcing someone to perform an action doesn’t make it immoral. Sometimes other moral considerations override the individual's right to refuse to perform the action."


Coercion Into Existence: Justified or Not?

Most people will tell you they are glad to be alive, and in the vast majority of cases this is indeed the truth. However, this is a different matter from saying they chose to begin their life. If we define coercion as forcing someone into a situation without their consent, then procreation cannot help but be a coercion act. The person may feel effervescently grateful to be alive, but this is immaterial to the fact that they had no choice about coming into existence. For this reason, most people will usually say that bringing new lives into this world is, in normal circumstances, a good thing for the individual person. Some even say it's an obligation to humanity to bring them into the world. 

Unfortunately, not everyone coerced into existence agrees that their birth was an overall good thing, for they see conscious existence as irrelevant at best and highly disagreeable (to say the least) at worst. For this reason, and for others discussed later, none of this is as obviously true as it may seem on the surface.  This is especially true when we think about those who, for whatever reason, detest that they even came into existence, or at least see no point in their said existence

At this point, we can ask if legitimate coercion includes bringing new people into the world for the sake of continuing the human species or even the family line? That depends on whether there is an objective need to continue the human species in the first place. This particular aspect is addressed later in the Teleological Antinatalism discussion. However, asserting humanity needs to continue not only assumes there's a point in existence (on both the individual and species levels), it also assumes that it's a greater good to continue humanity than it is to spare a potential future existent person the trials and travails of life. From here, we can re-frame the issue "Which is better: to continue humanity even at the price of sometimes tremendous suffering for at least a small percentage of people, or to eliminate all suffering even at the price of humanity's extinction?" This relates directly to the issues of coercion and whether the non-existent can have at least some rights despite their non-existence.
 When Coercion is Morally Legitimate 

Everyone agrees that there are many situations in which it is definitely illegitimate to force someone to engage in actions against his or her will. Obvious cases are non-consensual actions of a sexual nature, exploitation of workers, violence (broadly defined) against others that is neither defensive nor legitimately retaliatory or preemptive, etc.  Other forms of illegitimate coercion are forcing people to carrying out others' wishes in dishonest or otherwise unethical ways. The vast majority of people do agree that non-defensive violence, exploitation, and dishonesty are outside the boundaries of acceptable human behavior.  Differences of opinion do occur about what constitutes such acts, but that some acts are illegitimate is something everyone barring moral nihilists agrees with.

By the same token, practically everyone else also agrees there are some situations that morally allow the coercion of others into perform certain actions. Examples include paying taxes, subpoenas to testify in court, draft in time of war or non-trivial threat thereof, and arguably military conscription.  Forcing everyone subject to such measures is legitimate because it can prevent a greater harm against others, against society, or if it is vitally necessary to maintain the greater good.  Forced testimony contributes to the greater good of justice being served. Likewise, forced military service contributes to the greater good of national security, and forced payment of money to the government (taxes) contributes to the greater good of allowing our governments to carry out their functions and duties. In all these cases, two factors legitimately override the individual's right to refuse participation if they don't want to - both involving already-existing people:

A duty to support or carry out actions critically important to the well-being of others or society. In this case, serving justice, defending one’s country, and supporting the governments' abilities to carry out functions vital for a reasonable stable and safe society.

When failure to perform the action harms or threatens to harm the vital interests of others or society, In this case, failure to perform the said actions makes it more difficult to secure justice, security, prosperity, and public services.  Even if there's "only" the threat of the dreaded occurrence, that person’s dereliction of duty is still increasing the probability of the unwanted event actually happening; namely by setting a long-run bad example that if left unpunished would tempt or encourage others to follow the derelict's example. This cannot help but hamper society’s future ability to defeat a harmful agent or its occurrence.

In none of the above cases do these involve non-existent people: past, present, or future. They can neither suffer harm, nor do harm; nor can they contribute to society. They also cannot exploit others, nor be exploited by them. Therefore, in the above circumstances, they cannot have either duties owed to us, nor can they owe us duties; including the duty to continue the human species. Some will object that, contrary to what I say, the future existent do have this duty, albeit an implied one. I address this one immediately below. Furthermore, I will argue shortly that we do owe the non-existent at least some number of duties despite their non-existence.

Duties of the Future Existent

Some will object that the future actual existent, at least, do owe the presently living at least one duty – to continue the human species, namely by procreating.  This is assumes the presently living have a right to force others to have children. Such social practices have become increasingly objectionable in light of the fact that in all but the most unenlightened societies it’s agreed that people should have the right to choose whether or not to be a parent. It also assumes the future existent have any obligations to the present existent, which is practically the same as saying that we presently existing people have duties to the deceased, notwithstanding laws that grant the deceased rights in regard to inheritance distributions, wills, and so forth. In short, the only duties the future existent will have are to the legitimate demands of their own future society.  Whether that duty includes procreation for the sake of continuing human existence further into the future is not necessarily obvious.

Therefore, the real questions are not whether we have a duty to bring future generations into existence, nor whether the future existent have duties to us to do the same.  The actual question is whether it’s more important to continue the human species or to respect the potential existents’ rights to not come into existence.

Do Non-Existing People Have Rights?

Some say “No” because nobody exists who could have rights (i.e. ability to have a just claim, ability to experience harm or benefit, etc). If this is true, then this practically assures that humanity’s right to continue existing outweighs the “right” (such as it is) of the potential person to remain nonexistent. If this, in turn, is true, then, in normal circumstances, creating a child without his or her consent becomes morally permissible, and even obligatory if we insist on humanity’s continuance.  However, the insistence that humanity continue existing presupposes that humanity ought to continue existing, meaning human extinction would be a bad thing. This is precisely the claim this blog challenges.  

Still others will assert “Yes, potential people can have rights”.   They point out that just because someone doesn’t exist does not mean they lack all rights, only ones that they cannot presently enjoy.  Nevertheless, future potential persons can be affected by the actions of those preceding them and plausibly predictable actions of the future. That means we can legitimately consider the effects of any future action on all potentially existing people, regardless of whether any particular potentially existent person actually comes into existence.   This traces ultimately back to the effects of the person’s birth itself.  Therefore, it does indeed make sense in many contexts to treat the not-yet-existing person as an actual existing one, or even obligatory to do so in some cases. This is particularly true if the potential entity would feel the consequences of our present actions. It also means the presently existing do indeed have duties to the future actual existent.

Evidence that the future existent have rights and that we have duties toward them are found in the constant calls by activists to “think of our grandchildren”. This implies that “our grandchildren” do have rights (e.g., a right to reduced global warming, a stable financial future, etc).  If we didn’t think they did, then it would make no sense to bring them into arguments about our society’s or the world’s long-term well-being. This fact, together with the above arguments, renders it safe to say that future existent people actually do have rights, even if they do not exist yet.  

The same arguments that apply to the future existent also apply to all potentially existent people, whether they will exist or not.  The key to realizing this is the fact that there is no guarantee that a future potential existent person has to (in the factual sense) come into existence, coupled with the fact that failure to bring a person into existence is nowhere considered a wrong in and of itself.  The door is now open to exploring the claim “Future people have a right not to be forced into existence”.

It is not at all controversial to say that there are some circumstances in which it is not moral to bring a person into existence.  The usual circumstances most people across all cultures would say are extreme cases: war zones, extreme poverty in which starvation is only a recession away (especially if adequate birth control is nevertheless available), a high likelihood of the child inheriting non-trivial genetic disorders, a highly violent and/or abusive social environment, and so forth.  This implies that bringing someone into existence is likely to harm them in some way, then it simply is not right to bring that person into existence.  It follows that we acknowledge that a potential non-existent person does have rights, for if we didn’t think they did then it would make no sense to consider the conditions or circumstances that the child will experience throughout their lives, perhaps even the rest of their lives.


Is Commencing a New Life Really Worth It?

There exists an all but infinite number of questions here, far too many to be treated in any depth in this blog.  I already addressed the aspect of extreme cases that only a few to the vanishing point would disagree with, so for this section I will assume the risks discussed are too great to justify bringing  these potential people into existence.  For this section, I will concentrate on less obviously harmful or hurtful conditions much more likely to be experienced by people in economically advanced nations, and even most of the more politically stable and higher tier developing nations.

In the end, it depends on two central issues (a) the person’s own self-assessment of his or her overall life and/or the nature of real-world living, and (b) whether a reasonable person would commence a new live given the totality of their own circumstances and/or those of the world.  The latter is not at all controversial, but the first might well be, given that most people do not regret being born despite all the inevitable hardships imposed upon them as a result of being born. 

Assessing One’s Quality of Life

If we take “quality of life” to mean “the person him or herself sees life as agreeable enough to be worth living”, whether their own personal life or the rules of the game of live and even human nature itself, then nobody has the right to assess for another their quality of life; only the person him or herself does.  To say otherwise is to open the door to assuming we have the right to determine whether the lives of any or all the following are worth living: those with birth defects, serious physical disabilities, victims of crime,  psychological trauma, or terminally ill people who want to end their lives before they become bedridden or in serious pain due to serious ailments. 

To be sure, others may supply information to the person germane to how they assess their own quality of life; but this is a different matter from having the right to decide for the person whether his or her own life was worth commencing or presently living.  This includes moral assessments of the real-world nature of living and human nature, independent of what other people may think about it. To deny this is to assume that the person in question has no opinions of any value to offer about this issue, a charge that nobody other than a licensed mental health professional has any business asserting. 

Even among people of the same ethnic or cultural group, income, education and occupational backgrounds, each person is different in their life experiences, desires, ideology, values, attitudes, philosophical beliefs, and even an ability to deal with aspects of reality they disagree with.  It’s also likely they experienced different memes, which heavily influences the above beliefs and life experiences, which in turn influences the kinds of memes they will be exposed to. Therefore it’s shortsighted to assume that everyone you run across will believe that the good experiences of life outweigh the inevitable bad things in it.

It doesn’t matter if we do a simply probability analysis, for even if only one person regrets being born enough to actually wish he or she had not existed, that’s still one person too many.  Everyday experience tells us it’s far more than just one out of the world’s current population.  Rather, we should be surprised if less than one percent of all people regret being born, even if they don’t publically admit it.  Therefore, just as some oppose the death penalty on the grounds that wrongful execution of even one person is one execution too many, one can just as intelligently oppose future births on the grounds that giving life to even one person who profoundly disagrees with the rules of living in this world is one such person too many. 

For those widely considered to be living a wretched life, consider homeless people. While the great mass of humanity may feel pity or compassion for a homeless person, almost everyone will say that the life of a homeless person is worth continuing.  Almost certainly they would prevent a homeless person from committing suicide if they were in a position to do so. Even in this case, the "pro-living" camp usually confuses two different issues: “What value does a homeless person’s life have?” and "Was it worth it for that homeless person to be born?”, no doubt because they fail to distinguish between two types of people: those who already exist and those who don’t exist but could potentially be so (whether past, present, or future).  If this is true for homeless people, then it also applies to all those with a higher quality of life. .
Saying that the good in one's life does outweigh the bad doesn't solve the issue, for there's no guarantee the yet-to-be-conceived person will, in fact, lead a good life.  Furthermore, even saying a person is leading a good life is not the same as the person actually leading a good life. Even if the person does lead an overall good life, at least by surface appearances, that does not prove the person actually is leading a good life.  In fact, to claim that someone’s life is good based on superficial appearances is to impose onto the person our opinion of what constitutes a good life.  Furthermore, it's a common confusion to assume that leading a good life by all surface appearances is the same as having a happy life.  It's perfectly possible to be successful in almost every way, even having a lot of joyful moments, yet still be unhappy with existing. After all, they may well object that it's unfair that their life will come to an end, the "rules of the game of life", or even to human nature itself.  In short, we cannot know if that person thinks life is truly worth living - let alone beginning - unless we get an explicit, answer from him or her.  Even if the person claims they were glad to be born, they may be lying due to fear of negative reactions to any reason they give. Therefore, we should be very careful about accepting at face value any assertions that they are living a good life.  

Mutual Benefit is a Prerequisite for Humanity's Right to Continue its Existence

If someone desires to have an item, then to legitimately obtain it he or she must offer something of equal value to it in exchange.  The reason this is standard practice is that it is wrong to obtain things from someone else without giving anything of comparable value in return, and a pre-agreement with the other person to make the trade besides (Of course, there are all kinds of economic and financial issues surrounding this one regarding fluctuations in the values of real estate, general investments, etc. and other issues determining value and price of a good, but for now let’s ignore that).

If we want humanity to continue after our deaths, we need to create more people who will live beyond our time. This necessarily taking potential people into account who, as discussed earlier, do have rights independent of their parents and the presently living; for they have a will and agency independent of those same people. From a moral perspective, this means we have to take into account that the person, once existing and developing his or her own opinions, does deserve adequate compensation for being forced into existence. It follows that that for our continuance to be rightful, it must be reasonable; that the created person be adequately compensated for the inevitable troubles he or she will experience in this world.
Unfortunately, the level of compensation required is question is impossible to answer because a preexisting person, by characteristic, cannot speak for itself. “adequate compensation” ultimately depends on each party agreeing upon what is considered “adequate”.  What determines an “adequate” compensation is as much about the kind of good as much as the amount of the good.
To illustrate, suppose Jane wants to sell her five year old car for $13,500 and that a buyer can offer her that same amount in either gold or scrap metal. It’s fairly plausible that Jane would accept gold, providing it had all the proper certifications. However, it’s easy to see how she would turn down $13,500 in equally properly certified scrap metal even if it is a fair trade by objective financial standards and rules of fair compensation.    Just as in this case, the person’s definition of “adequate compensation” depends ultimately upon the precise details of what items constitute adequate compensation, so what the person’s philosophy of what he or she thinks living ought to be like needs taking into account into any life cost/benefit calculation; particularly when it’s the born person who must bear the greatest brunt of the consequences of existing in this world.
The result is that it’s a mistake to assume “adequate compensation” by mainstream society’s or the parent’s standards equates with true happiness with the compensation. If this is generally agreed upon in the case of exchanging tangible goods and services, then it holds equally well for people who must live with the decision their parents made to bring them into this world.  So it is that societal definitions of “adequate compensation” to the child may well not be as obvious as it appears to be on the surface.
As with the above gold or scrap metal issue, people can only judge for themselves whether this world is worth living in, or even if their own life is worth living.  Therefore, regardless of the standards any one of us may use, regardless of any conclusion one of us has about whether human existence has a point or even is deserved, by giving birth to more humans we implicitly force upon them the attitude “This world is worth living in”.   In effect, the society in general and the parents in particular have a monopoly power over any power human where it determines the price/compensation calculus for that person.  For these reasons, it is ultimately arbitrary to say that the parent’s or society’s definition of “a life worth living” and “a world worth living in” satisfies the issue. It assumes complete foreknowledge and wisdom to determine how any person can possibly answer that question.  True, most people will agree that a real chance of severe heritable disease, low income, and so forth are acceptable reasons not to have children, but this situation involves too many different issues for it to be relevant for this example.
For these reasons, a mere vaguely defined “good (or at least adequate) life” is not sufficient compensation for the person forced into it, for this is a mere self-referential claim. This is saying a thing’s characteristic is sufficient justification for that characteristic. It’s claiming the “good” forced upon them is adequate compensation for the inevitable troubles the good causes. However, the problem is that we cannot predict how any one person will come to see the world, their life, or how their life will turn out. There is always the possibility, however small, the person will find either the world or the human nature itself too unpleasant to be worth living in or among, or that they will suffer some horrible mishap that has decades long, if not lifelong, consequences. Thus, contrary to popular opinion, life might not be its own reward after all. 
Further evidence that one can’t assume life itself is adequately self-compensatory is the fact that that life itself has a built-in bias. That bias is a loosely allied group of traits I call “the survival instincts”, the conscious and unconscious sentiments and reflexes that compel an organism to live and reproduce as long as it can. Organisms with these traits in abundance will have a better-than-dumb-luck chance of survival, which in turn had a better chance of surviving.  Therefore, one can argue that the claim "life is it's own reward" is the product of a systemic bias in human thinking.

This alone is enough make suspicious the claim that life provides its own objective value.  After all, humans have many other involuntary reflexes, yet we still don’t always condone the actions that cause that reflex.  For example, some rape victims report their body felt a certain pleasure at being stimulated by forced sexual intercourse, even if their mind and emotions did not want the sexual experience in those circumstances and/or with that person. Yet, the incongruence between the mind and the body renders forced intercourse a false pleasure at best. It is precisely for these reasons that rape is outside the scope of acceptable behavior. Masochists aside, a true pleasure requires both the mind and body to be in agreement. Therefore, true pleasures between two people require a meeting of the minds, though this is still a “necessary but insufficient condition.
Likewise, and for similar reasons, life itself is not necessarily its own reward any more than sex itself is such, even if the survival instincts themselves are involuntary reflexes (heroic sacrifices aside). Therefore, whenever someone saying that another, seemingly normal person’s life was worth commencing because it appears worth living, that person is merely projecting his or her assumptions about what constitutes legitimate sex onto another; particularly if the person doesn’t really know anything about how that person feels about being born.
The birthed person being forced into this world may feel good moments in his or her life, perhaps even overall pleasurable. Even so, it’s too soon to conclude that these pleasures will sufficiently compensate for their life’s bad points; for even a bad life is likely to have good moments. Furthermore, common experience tells us that many people relentlessly pursue pleasure in order to deal with the dissatisfactory aspects of their lives; in this case, pleasure is a coping mechanism, a therapeutic device – a salve to sooth the pain and drudgeries of our own lives. While it is oversimple to say that all pleasure is pursued to escape psychic pain, it does show that even miserable people will have pleasurable experiences. Therefore, life’s pleasures is not by itself proof of satisfactory compensation that a person ought to be glad to have been born.
To use a more concrete example most people have experienced, claiming that pleasure is something to live for is akin to claiming that anesthesia makes massive dental work a pleasant experience. The anesthesia gives a certain pleasure, but you’d rather not be put in a situation where you need it in the first place. Seen from this perspective, it’s difficult to claim that pleasures by themselves be considered adequate compensation for being forced into a world where so many unpleasant things can and often do happen to a person.   
Still, despite the lack of “mind meeting” between parents/society and the person birthed, most actual existent people do not feel violated by being born.  Presumably this is because the great majority of people consider their own lives worth living even if their lives are notably hard. Even so, there’s no guarantee the other person will have a satisfactory life.  In fact, even if he or she claims it is satisfactory, they may only be doing so in order to escape shame and ridicule associated with people willing to admit such things.  Therefore, it’s highly likely that there are many more people who wish they weren’t born than is commonly thought. Therefore, the question still remains: does humanity’s right to continue existing actually trump the potential individual’s right to not exist?  It’s hardly unreasonable to say that no mutual benefit exists when the person most affected does not gain satisfactory (i.e. worthwhile by his or her own reckoning) benefit from living.

The Potential Net Losses from Living vs. the Lack of Consent
            Opening Remarks

At this point, we come back to the issue of Consent versus Consequences, or more accurately, the lack of consent vs. the same. Here, we can ask what one can gain or lose from being born/living in this world that justifies the person’s lack of consent to it?
The issue is important even if one does not wish humans to go extinct. Regardless of whether one thinks their own life is or those of others in their social circle are worth living, there have been through all human history those who deeply object to either’s reality’s or human nature’s basic essential workings. Some even oppose them so stridently they consider life more a curse than a blessing.
Therefore, had their hypothetical pre-existing selves had all of the following: 
(a) full knowledge of what life and reality entails
(b) ablity to communicate those sentiments,
(c) ability to enforce their wishes,
then they would not have come into this world at all.  Therefore, we should at least admit that our right to procreate is objectively more restricted than commonly though, notwithstanding our deep biological drives to have children. The only way to fully deny this is to reject the idea that happiness is more important than mere living, which is a highly debatable topic in many aspects and contexts.  

The Individual

Returning to the “consciousness in limbo” scenario, the one in the limbo might well see many benefits of living in this world; namely pleasant sensations of all sorts they cannot experience while in their limbo state (good food and drink, fellowship with other humans, love, sex, sense of career fulfillment, community volunteering, etc). Yet, if they know the rules of the game of life and human nature just as well as an intelligent real-world adult human, then they also realize that these good sensations come with a price – inevitable unpleasant sensations, plus a real risk of long-term excruciating unpleasantness or outright pain – whether physical and psychological.

In the real world, of course, the nonexistent cannot be aware of or do anything because they don’t exist. Despite this, the cost-benefit vs non-consent is no less relevant to a potential person than it is to an actual existent one. This is because, as established earlier, potentially existent people do have rights. Among these rights is not being needlessly exposed to any harm whose plausibly potential consequences are not commensurate with the plausibly potential benefits. This, in turn, is true because it is ultimately the person him or herself who must endure the consequences of living in this world his or her parents thrusts upon the person, for reasons discussed earlier. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that only the person in question can make a cost-benefit calculation about whether living in this world is actually worthwhile experience. If the person decides life is not worth it, then we have no right to judge that person for coming to that conclusion, any more than that person has a right to judge other’s own cost-benefit calculation.

The Human Species

The benefits for the human species from continued existence are as follows: continued ability to enjoy progress, learn, experience and accomplish new things, and even (as far as most humans are concerned) continuing forward for its own sake. Other benefits exist as well, far too many to name in this space. No doubt these desires are sourced in our survival instincts and our desire to learn new truths. The desire to learn also helps us fight off boredom and/or stimulate our minds, So again, the survival instinct is partially responsible for our desire to learn, even if learning new things is a joy in and of itself. No doubt this helps us create a purpose to survive, which is vital for DNA molecules to reproduce and form new combinations via reproduction. Ultimately this seems to be the purpose biology dictates. Whether there’s any actual point in DNA molecules perpetuating themselves is another matter. Likewise for whether it’s really so bad if those molecules fail to do so.

Also there are losses for the human species too.  Aside from the normal pain and suffering of everyday life, there’s also the fact that we are designed to sometimes act in ways that go against our own conscience, or against rules of morality and ethics that everyone who’s not sociopathic holds to be true.  In addition, there’s a substantial risk of serious suffering – ill health, loss of physical or mental capacity, impoverishment. There’s also human-induced sufferings, whether committed willfully or through negligence. 

At the end though, our species or our descendant ones (if any) must go extinct eventually. This will certainly nullifies all our accomplishments and even our memories. In fact both are nullified because our memories cease at death and because we will not benefit from our accomplishments after death.  In short, we go back into the same realm of nonexistence we were in before our birth (barring religious beliefs, depending on the religion’s doctrine). Nothing about the universe will substantially change after we and/or our descendant species depart the scene.  The universe simply doesn’t care about such things (or indeed not care about anything at all). 

The Evaluation

In the end, the whole issue of whether creating a new human life is worthwhile centers on the following,

·         a) Whether it’s really worthwhile or meaningful to experience pleasure for a century, plus or minus a couple of decades; given those memories cease after our deaths (though this is moot if we do, in fact, have eternally existing souls). 
·         b) Whether those pleasure do override life’s inevitable hardships, perhaps especially the risks of suffering major traumatic hardships.
·         c) Whether general human tendencies and behaviors are sufficiently ethical, mindful, compassionate, empathetic, and generally mindful of others needs to render humanity worthy of continued existence. (also includes sufficiently lacking it the opposite traits – amorality, unethical, callousness, contemptuous, pettiness, triviality, aggressiveness, bigotries of all sorts, etc)

While the great majority of people will say life is indeed worth it in the great majority of circumstances, this still doesn’t change the fact that such evaluations are largely subjective in nature; by definition, evaluations one can make only for one’s self.  Still one fact that is decisively objective is that some people will indeed judge that life is not worth living, or at least not worth commencing; whether their own life or life in general.  The problem is that we cannot know how a person will actually judge whether life is worth living (irrespective of their own opinion of their own life).  Therefore, anyone consciously bringing a new child into this world or this universe, under these conditions, is taking a chance with the future well-being of that person; particularly if we cannot obtain that person’s permission to be born under these conditions.

This is especially true if one believes in eternal punishment; for if a reasonable person can believe that their children or other descendants for eternity will commit actions that the deity or other supreme spirit views as inexcusable upon their death, then the potential parents should realize that they can prevent their children’s or other descendant’s damnation by not giving birth to them in the first place. Why even think about committing an action that starts a chain of events which could well end up with their descendants spending a lifetime in eternal torment?  Would the pre-existent, could they speak with full knowledge in this matter, even consent to subject themselves to the possibility of this eternal torment when they could easily escape it by simply refusing to be born?

We can apply the same line of thought to non-religious aspects of the question. The only difference is that for non-believers, the stakes are not quite as high. Nevertheless, they are still high enough, and therefore non-believing adults should be mindful of the way the world and human nature tends to be before deciding to give birth to a child. What justifies continuing the chain of life? Why start a chain of events which could well end up with their descendants spending a lifetime of dissatisfaction?  Would the pre-existent, could they speak with full knowledge in this matter, even consent to subject themselves to this possibility when they could easily escape it by simply refusing to be born?

The Decision: The Potential Net Gains Are Not Proportionate to the Lack of Consent

Taking into account all the above, I say that it is never worth it to bring a child into this world, given both the nature of this world and of human behavior, plus the fact that nobody can consent to living in such a world.  Furthermore, because nobody cannot consent into existence, then we are obligated to provide a satisfactorily risk-free environment, similarly to how workplaces are obligated to provide a safe environment to their employee or school administrators a safe environment for their pupils. If a person objects to being born or finds life or human nature too amoral or immoral for their tastes, then it’s safe to say the person had every right not bot be born. As said before, we cannot know how any person will think about this until it’s too late.  By contrast, not bringing a person into this world or otherwise this existence avoids all the moral and ethical problems.  Therefore, I have to conclude that, on grounds of the inabilities to consent to being born and to know about what life in this world inevitably entails, that the morally optimum option (if not sole moral option) is to not have children at all, even if it means the extinction of humanity.

The Depression Charge

It’s common to assume that only depressed people would claim it’s better to not be born. This presumes that it’s impossible to come to the conclusion in any other way but through depression or some other mental illness, personality disorder, or some other psychological dysfunction.  However, there are other explanations that don’t necessarily involve any of the above.  Some may do a rough, instinctive, cost-benefit analysis of sorts, and conclude that the pleasant experiences simply are not worth dealing with the day-to-day world’s petty annoyances; especially if death wipes away all their memories. Hence, they come to see a finite existence as pointless; or even cruel, given that most people don’t want to die yet they must do so in the end. Beyond this, it doesn’t matter that the would-have-been person doesn’t exist, for as discussed earlier, a non-existent person is not in need of anything. By creating the person, you are creating needs and desires in them. In addition, some devoutly religious people may decide that the only way to prevent their children and subsequent generations ad infinitum from a highly unpleasant afterlife is not to have them in the first place (more about this later)

Therefore, even if the person’s antinatalist beliefs are sourced in depression, this does not render their claim false.  In fact, depending on how bad the depression is, this person may actually be an example of someone who actually would have been better off had he or she never been born. In this case, critics are using the very reason the person wishes to have remained unborn to dismiss the person claims. This is akin to dismissing an ethnic minority member’s reasons why we should consider racism wrong, or rape victim’s explanations of why rape wrong. 

Even if some did come to antinatalism via a major depression, that's totally irrelevant to the issue.  The person's mental state has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the claim. That's like saying atheism is a false belief system because a person, during their last days of their atheism, became severely depressed, cried out to God in desperation, then saw their depression lift soon after they dedicated their life to God, Jesus, the Buddha, or whoever.  Or, for the reverse direction, Christianity is a false belief system because a depressed Christian lost their faith in God, consciously abandoned any belief in religion, and saw their depression lift after they became atheist.  It’s hard to imagine that many people in this day and age would be swayed to one side or the other by either event. 

Likewise, our belief that the human race must continue no matter what can be considered a quasi-religion, even among atheists and other non-believers.   So if we shouldn't form beliefs about religion based merely on a former depressant's (de)conversion testimony, then we likewise shouldn't form beliefs about pro- or antinatalism based on one's depression (or recovery from thereof).

Beyond this, if there's even one example of depression being inadequate to prove the truth or falsity of a claim, then that automatically renders depression by itself an inadequate basis for believing any claim about any matter regarding the truth or falsity of a claim (more about this in the "Objections" section below).  The depressed person’s claim may well be false; it may also have been motivated or sourced in his or her depression. Even so, the reasons the claim’s falsity have nothing to do with their depression.

All this makes giving birth to people tantamount to forcing them into a type of existence they profoundly object to.  Unlike already existing people who do have duties to others, nor can the non-existent cannot harm others by dereliction of those duties; as discussed earlier. If this is the case, then one can argue that forcing a person to exist merely because humanity as a whole wishes to continue its existence amounts to exploitation at best and outright torture at worst; all done in the name of whatever motivation caused the parents to create that child. This remains true even when humanity's survival depends on it.

From all this, one can draw two analogies to bringing someone into existence without their consent: forcing someone into a signing a business or other legal contract under duress, and a financial planner investing a client's money into a company the client they objects to.  Few, if any, people will justify either of these actions even if the signer or client did benefit from it.  What makes such actions wrong even if a real benefit comes from it is consent, a vital part of the legal doctrine of "the meeting of the minds"; without which few, if any, legal agreements can be valid.  It doesn't matter if we neither understand nor even know their reasons for opposing entering such an agreement or investing their money in such a company. The fact remains that, for whatever reason, they don't want to do so; which by itself is enough of a reason not to force them into such actions or agreements. So it is with forcing someone into a realm of existence when they, had they been able to do so, refused to come into existence.

Even worse, consciously and deliberately having children often stems from ultimately selfish reasons: to feel "complete", to raise the person's social standing, as cannon fodder in "breeding wars", to support the parents when they get too old to work, or simply to create something which adults can love.  The sired person could not refuse or agree to such tasks or obligations before birth - or even in the years shortly after birth.  In short, having children for these reasons comes perilously close to exploitation of such children and in many cases actually crosses the line into it.

In other words, parents create a life without taking into account the non-trivial possibility that their child might not like this world the way it is, or even agree to live in this place.  In this case, the only morally acceptable option is to forgo having the child.  You'll spare them potentially up to 120-odd years of enduring this world, even if life does have its moments.  But are the moments worth it to the offspring? Unfortunately, there's no way to know until that person develops enough to thoroughly articulate whether he or she thinks so or not.  It is this impossibility of knowing what this person will eventually think that makes procreation an unjustified gamble. The child is the one who must live with the consequences of the parents' decision.

The only way to make the consent issue irrelevant to whether or not we should continue to create new people is:

(a) Have an absolutely painless world (however one defines painless), in other words the proverbial "Heaven on Earth (or "in this Cosmos") -- this removes suffering, and with it a demotivation to have children, or

(b) Have absolutely perfect knowledge of that child's future should it ever be born -- this gives us foreknowledge of whether we should bring the person into this world or not.

Because neither is realistic, then that renders procreation morally problematic, to say the least.  This is one of the ultimate core reasons I don’t find any justification in having children.

A (Minor) Chicken-and-Egg Issue

Regarding ethical reasons, I'm still fleshing this one out, particularly concerning the issue of non-consent and the unsatisfactory state of this world's affairs. Which is it :

(a) "The inability to consent to birth" that makes so relevant the issue of "the sufferings and unfairnesses in this world"?


(b) "The sufferings and unfairnesses of this world" that makes so relevant the issue of "the inability to consent to birth"?

As you can see, it's not obvious which claim is the right one. Regardless, either claim is sufficient to render procreation morally questionable. Therefore, the issue is more appropriate for academic parlor games than for real-world moral and ethical issues.

Antinatalism: Transhumanism and Cyronics Aspects

Anyone who thinks that we can live forever if we develop consciousness uploads into non-biologically-based androids a la transhumanism or cyronics will do well to read this summary of The Five Ages of the Universe. It basically state that one day, matter and energy will become so dilute as to render them "evaporated" out of existence, for all practical purposes. That definitely includes the matter making up our bodies, robots, androids and the hard drives hosting our uploaded consciousness.

As noted earlier, transforming ourselves so that we cannot feel pain would inevitably render us not human, but a mere android composed of DNA, and possibly little if any of that.  Regardless of what such "people" would consist of, without matter and energy in any half-way usable form, consciousness itself is not possible, not even for species with the most advanced technologies in life extension, gene engineering, and cyborgization. That makes any discussion about life extension via transhumanist technologies pointless - even if they can enhance our quality of life while we (or our posthuman descendants) exist. Therefore, even if transhumanist technologies do turn out to deliver even one hundred percent of what its promoters claim (which they almost certainly won't), I'd still see no point in procreation.

This is beside the fact that there are plenty of potential phenomena that, if developed or introduced via transhumanist technologies, would make life even worse than it is now. I could devote a whole separate blog to these phenomena alone, so I'll just ask you to use your imagination to come up with potential ways life could be worse if we did use genetic engineering, brain engineering, and computer technology to their full theoretical potentials. Therefore, transhumanist technologies are just as likely to be yet another Pandora's Box as they are to deliver great benefits for humanity (I'm not a Luddite or other kind of anti-technologist. I'm simply acknowledging the potential dangers of such technologies if used foolishly.).

All the above proves to my satisfaction that the best thing one can do, both rationally AND morally, is to simply live your life as you see fit, contribute what you can to society, and discover as many way's as possible to find sustainable happiness - without siring or giving birth to children.

Shortcomings of the Philanthropic Arguments

In truth, it's practically impossible for me to think of a decisive shortcoming of philanthropic antinatalist arguments. Even so,  certain traits of human nature render many core philanthropic rationales vulnerable to counterarguments that may be logically weak but rhetorically powerful, especially the ad hominem variety, but to others as well. This is because well-thought-out philanthropic antinatalist arguments challenge not only the in-born survival instinct we all possess but also the very rationales of those instincts themselves. After all, the instincts are deeply coded into our genes and brain architecture. This forces us to counter these counterattacks with deeper arguments showing that philanthropic antinatalism is stronger than it appears on the surface.

Our best counters are most likely ones based on two notions (a) the human survival instinct clouds and biases our judgments and (b) surrendering to our inevitable demise due to the winding down of the universe does not equal a lack of pride, self-respect, etc.

The ethical arguments are likely immune to charges of bitterness and misanthropy, yet easily open rhetorically to a "cowardice" charge, though I can say:

"Taking on an occupying invader in a guerilla war is one thing. Making a moral stand against the crowd is another thing. Fighting a losing battle against the very large-scale flow of the universe? That's not bravery - that's insanity! How we will benefit from it?"

Fortunately, Johnathan Rauch supplies an implicit way out of this in his article Sui Genocide, though he draws from this fact a slightly different conclusion than I did as to why the human race must go extinct - namely that it's more dignified to "leave the scene" at a time we choose, rather than "ignobily" fight a futile fight against mother nature. Furthermore, he says that voluntary extinction would be "the ultimate triumph of the human spirit" over the "slavery" of ourselves to our DNA-based animal instincts.

Though Rauch's reasoning is ultimately based as much on mainstream (and hence quite arbitrary) concepts of "dignity" and "self-respect" as any pronatalist charge of cowardice and ignobility toward us, it does have high rhetorical value and (more importantly) doesn't leave itself as open to the usual counterattacks as the others listed (though this is only relative, of course. Hence the "as").   Certainly it doesn't easily lend itself to charges of "bitterness", misanthropy (the hard and/or non-genteel kind), "irrational fear", etc. Even better, it actually portrays voluntary human extinction (not just of the VHEMT sort) in positively noble ways.

Still, even this counter-rhetoric remains open to an "Argument from Ignorance" charge (i.e., assuming that because something isn't known to be true, it must be false). An opponent can then counter with, "How do you know it will be a losing battle?" and "How do you know that science can't find a way to stop at least our section of the universe from winding down?".  At this point, about all we can do is to say such responses are mere speculation. Admittedly, this is not much better a position than we are in, as even if our views are in line with current astrophysics theory, current being our critics' point.

On the other hand, our critics must demonstrate ways to (a) eternally escape death by aging, accident, or other physical/natural causes, (b) survive the universe's "heat death" and (if proven true) proton decay, and (c) eliminate all misery.  Any transhumanist or cyronics advocate determined to demonstrate all three to my satisfaction has a gigantically difficult task on his or her hands.

Commentary on Chip Smith's Antinatalism

In Part II, I brought up in brief Chip Smith's main reason for antinatalism: That procreation is essentially murder or negligent homicide.  I do see (and agree with) his point about forcing people into existence who don't want to die. Nevertheless, if I may argue a technicality, I can't quite bring myself to call it equivalent to these crimes, even in an abstract sense.

To me, involuntary cessation of life necessitates (but doesn't define) that the murdered person had, for one reason or another, not wanted to die.  More specifically, the person believed that life is worth living even if the person knows that he or she must leave this world eventually. Hence, it would be involuntary cessation of life only if a reasonable person would believe that this person's life would have otherwise continued its normal and expected course - extrapolating "normal and expected course" from the few moments before the fatal agent robbed the person of his or her life. Hence, I disagree that parents effectively commit murder merely by bringing forth children, for death from natural causes is not such an involuntary cessation of life.

Still, to repeat, I certainly agree with Smith's broader point of forcing into a temporally finite existence a person who is extremely likely not to like the notion that he or she will die one day; namely that such an existence is cruel. Therefore, my disagreement with Smith is a mere minor detail in the core substance of the matter: that people are better off not being born.

Teleological Antinatalism

I find teleological arguments very powerful as supporting evidence for antinatalism but not as stand-alone reasons to refuse procreation. Their strong point comes from asking why we should bother having children at all, especially in light of the universe’s inevitable demise. After all, as time and entropy slowly but surely erase the universe as we presently know it, they also erase any traces of our accomplishments, any possibility of future beneficiaries, and even any memory thereof (the same logic also applies to any other species – including any extraterrestrial ones out there). The corollary to this is whether humanity has any real purpose (hence the term "teleological antinatalism"). 

Suppose every living thing in the universe disappeared right now. In this case, nobody would benefit from our company, or knowledge, or accomplishments. In fact, nobody would remember us at all.  In this scenario, it’s difficult to see how our extinction would matter at all, for a thing or event can matter only to things that have self-awareness. We can see this more easily if we pretend that human extinction happened 200 years ago. In this case, because we in the present would not be around in the first place, we likewise would not remember or appreciate those people.  The same thing is true for the non-existent 400 years from now if we go extinct 200 years from now – or even a billion years.  Therefore, it makes no difference when our extinction will occur – after we are gone, there will be nobody to appreciate or benefit, or even know, about us, our attributes, or our accomplishments.  We would simply be nonexistent, just as surely as dinosaurs and wooly mammoths are.

From here we can ask what purpose will having a “next generation” ultimately serves if all living things will go extinct anyway, even humans? More specifically we can ask what need is there to continue the human species in the first place. I conclude that continuance of the human species is a need only to the extent that we feel it is a need, regardless of how rational or irrational our desires of it are. Doubtlessly, this "need" exists because our DNA, with its instructions for our brains' designs, infuses our very instincts with the notion "We have to live and our species has to live on!".   From here, it's easy to see how our practically maniacal desire for humanity to desire its continued existence reveals more about how easily our rational, sober side can be overthrown by our DNA and its accompanying blueprints for our brain architecture than it does the actual truth-value of the statement “humanity must continue to exist”. This suggests (but not proves) that procreation might well be an ultimately pointless act.

Some may share the opinion of Michael Huang of The Space Review, who challenged two rationales for voluntary human extinction in his 2006 article “Destroy All Humans!”. In it, he critiques two rationales given for voluntary human extinction: the ecological and what this blog calls the teleological. Regarding the latter form, Huang addresses the rationale of Rauch's article "Sui Genocide", written anonymously for The Economist, Dec. 19, 1998-Jan. 1, 1999 edition.  Though Rauch disagreed with Knight and VHEMT, he did propose a form of teleological antinatalism, explained earlier in this blog: It’s more dignified for humanity to choose it's own time to die off than to let nature choose the time for us. Huang counters with,

The Economist’s argument is that humanity is going to die anyway, so we might as well die painlessly by our own hand rather than wait for a painful, natural death—euthanasia, but for the species and not the individual. Regardless of one’s position on euthanasia, committing voluntary extinction—when the death of the universe is so far in the future—is analogous to a 10-year-old committing suicide to avoid dying at 100. A waste of life and time.

If we continue into the future, all the way to the inevitable death of the universe, then what are we continuing forward for?  If to show that we can accomplish increasingly greater things, then this smacks of egotism or vanity - same for having a "legacy".  If to give life to those who will exist in the future (i.e., sustain the species), then we’re back to all the other issues surrounding bringing new people into this world (or universe), with their accompanying moral and ethical issues. In either case, Huang's counter ultimately amounts to claiming "humans need to continue existing in order to keep existing in the future"- a claim ultimately faith-based (in the non-religious sense) at best and mere tautological at worst.

However, all the above teleological arguments seems too weak to stand on its own; for if it didn't matter that all life in this universe went extinct, then it likewise wouldn't matter if we continued living. The same holds for any memory of us, including our accomplishments. Therefore, it’s difficult to see how antinatalism can make any sense if based on humanity's ultimate purposelessness alone. In fact, pronatalist might rightly respond “Go ahead and have kids anyway, since it doesn’t matter if we lack purpose and if we go extinct anyway”.

This is not to say teleological antinatalism is a hopeless position, but it is to say that the teleological reasons cannot stand on their own where it concerns actual antinatalism. However, it is sensible to say that it's highly undesirable to have a purposeless existence.  Put this way, the issue is not so much purposelessness itself as it is the suffering from that purposelessness (whether real or merely a sense thereof). Most people find purposelessness – real or perceived - an undesirable state of affairs, and usually painfully so. It follows that teleological arguments for antinatalism (but not individual non-procreation itself) are ultimately, by definition, philanthropic ones.   Therefore, teleological antinatalism depends on the philanthropic form for its very relevance, if not truth.  In short, teleological antinatalism is best considered a subset of the philanthropic form.
So no, as far as I can see, the teleological arguments cannot stand on their own as a sound basis for antinatalism. They can only used as supplementary evidence for bolstering more solid bases for antinatalism – namely any of the philanthropic ones, although misanthropic ones may be strong enough to bolster them. Teleological arguments are particularly well suited for supplying philanthropic antinatalism with arguments about life’s trials and travails, our own personal deaths, or humanity (or descendant species') ultimate extinction due to the entropic “heat death” of the universe (if not by earlier means); and - arguably the most important one - our inability to consent to come into a world that operates under such rules in the first place.

Of course, it’s perfectly possible for any one person to refuse procreation on teleological grounds alone.  However, this sentiment is totally different from saying its better for humanity to go extinct altogether. Therefore, this sentiment strikes me as more fitting for a conventional child-free lifestyle choice than actual antinatalism; for such people certainly won’t necessarily object to to humanity's continued existence, feel that a meaningless existence is an awful state of affairs, or even necessarily see human nature itself as so egregiously disagreeable or evil that they don't deserve to continue to exist.

Therefore, I think anyone claiming the antinatalist label who objects to procreation merely on teleological bases is either (a) not so much antinatalist as conventionally childfree or (b) overlooking how hurtful are a sense of purposelessness or life's inevitable demise.

Religious Aspects of Teleological Antinatalism

For certain theists, their religion supplies the answer “What is my purpose in this world?” The answer, of course, is "To honor and serve Our Creator". This answer indeed satisfies theists; absolutely conclusive from a theistic viewpoint, in fact; but there's a big catch in it – the threat of eternal damnation for those who choose not to serve Him (speaking from an Abrahamic perspective, and perhaps others as well).  The problem is that the new people created are at least fairly likely to live their lives in ways that do not honor their Creator, whether through conscious and deliberate disobedience or through careless indifference to the Creator's commands.  Therefore, that person has a very good chance of leading a life that will end in eternal torment.  Because we can't force our children to choose to obey the Creator, it follows we can't control where they will spend their afterlife.  Therefore, the only way to guarantee they will not end up in eternal anguish and torment is not to give birth to them in the first place.

As for oft-repeated calling of God that we “be fruitful and multiply”, this isn’t a religion blog, so I’ll just say that there are plenty of verses where none other than Jesus himself directly implies that it’s better for some people to have never been born, plus one Old Testament verse that states barren women who enter His grace receive a gift greater than children. That alone is enough to prove to my satisfaction that antinatalism and Abrahamic beliefs are not mutually exclusive.

When considering the probability that any one descendant has a high probability of experiencing a horrid afterlife, then it's practically a moral responsibility NOT to have children.  While some descendants would have ended up in Heaven, they would not be deprived of anything if they didn't exist. At the same time, if others who won't ever exist would have ended up in Hell (or any other form of hideous afterlife), then ovbviously those people would have been better off never existing. Therefore, if anything, Abrahamics are on even safer ground when they say “other moral considerations may override any other reason for me to have children, even if those other reasons are genuinely good and moral”.

Pessimistic Antinatalism
Beyond what I wrote in Part II, I can’t say much else, except:

(a) I think humans tend to be too selfish, aggressive, hyper-competitive, narrow-minded, dishonest, deceptive - and sometimes even too violent, cruel and abusive - to deserve another childbirth. In other words, the Reptilian Complex of the human brain is too strong in humans to allow them to truly be called a civilized creature; particularly given our proven ability to comprehend morality, ethics, suffering, compassion, and general right and wrong.   Because humans far too often choose the wrong over the right, they do not deserve to procreate.

(b)You either agree with the above or you don’t.


Why Not Commit Suicide? The reason is simple: Philanthropic antinatalism is ultimately about suffering prevention and suffering alleviation. An antinatalist's suicide causes untold grief and anguish for family and friends left behind.  This is especially true when undoubtedly the overwhelming vast majority (most often all) friends and family members either cannot or will not even begin to understand the antinatalists position, let alone that it seeks to prevent future suffering. Therefore it creates more of the very same suffering that antinatalism seeks to prevent.

Antinatalism is a Coward's Way Out.   Actually, the opposite is true.  Beyond the fact that it takes courage to express ideas that are highly controversial, not to mention hugely unpopular, most of us had internalized pronatalist beliefs before we concluded antinatalism is ultimately the only way to prevent future suffering.  In fact, if anyone is being cowardly (and I'm not saying they actually are) it's the pronatalists who respond to us with little but name-calling, degrading, and general contempt.  At least we had the courage to open our minds to the notion that life itself might not be worth starting.  Believe me, honest embracing of antinatalism usually requires a lot of preliminary deprogramming, soul-searching, and reprogramming. Ditto for seeing reality for what it really is, as opposed for what we want it to be.  Don't even ask about how ego-shattering it is. Closely related to this is the next objection.

It's absurd to call for human extinction before the universe finally becomes unable to support life. As Jonathan Rauch stated, it's more worthy for the human species choose its painless end on our own timetable, rather than have the universe impose that time on us - likely painfully. To paraphrase him, all other species keep marching mindlessly forward like robots; only humans can make the conscious and deliberate choice to free themselves from the shackles of their own DNA Double Helix.

You sound like a misanthrope. Therefore, you're not being objective. You just want to convince people not to have children because you don't like the way human beings are.  Firstly, as I said earlier, I'm not so lacking in compassion for others that I want to see fellow human beings suffer. Even were I the most hardened misanthrope, distaste for humanity is ultimately not the issue.  The issue is facts, mediated by logic and reason.

Nevertheless, even without the misanthropic elements, there are still plenty of other solid reasons to think it good if all conscious life went extinct.  In fact, 99% of this blog is devoted to non-misanthropic bases for antinatalism.  What response do you have to give to that 99%, the part that doesn't even remotely touch on the question of how moral or not human nature is.  Until you can demonstrate either (a) that antinatalism is either false or insufficiently proven, and (b) show exactly how my Soft Genteel pessimissm hopelessly biases my thinking - complete with the logic and evidence sufficiently supporting your accusation, I will summarily dismiss any appeals to any supposed misanthropy as mere armchair psychoanalytic personal attacks, as opposed to a real substantive response worthy of my attention.

Antinatalism is Nihilistic. Again, philanthropic antinatalism is the exact opposite. The same goes for ecological antinatalism.  Both start from values like generosity, compassion, and suffering alleviation - whether toward people or (especially for the latter form) pandas.  You may disagree with the conclusions we draw from generosity, compassion, and other altruisms, but it ought to be undeniable that we derive our antinatalist beliefs from the very same set of values all civilized peoples hold dear.

You're suffering from depression (and related mental issues). Discussed in detail earlier.


Even without the death issue, there's still the trials and travails present in this world. If I may get a bit sci-fi about it, suppose someone invented a time machine and carried a video history of our world to, say, 1510 AD West Africa. The time traveler shows a village what would happen over the next 500 years to both their region and the territory that would eventually become  The United States. Their descendants remaining in Africa would remain (relatively) free, but those taken abroad would suffer for centuries from slavery and another century of being second-class citizens with little more status than slaves. Yet in the end, the slaves descendants would be among the richest of their descendants because they live in a nation of unbelievable wealth and unbelievable power. They would enormously influence the world's culture (especially its music).

Now, asks our time traveler to the African village - would you like your descendants to be part of this rich dynamic world of the future, for the price of the most degratory enslavement and general treatment for the first 500 years?

The only morally defensible answer I can see is "No". Even their descendants 500 years forward (i.e., currently living African-Americans) did end up reasonably well compared to those staying in Africa, the fact remains there will be about 20 generations of people suffering mightily for the benefit of very distant descendants. To appeal to their sense of things being much better for their descendants is futile, for is a "temporary situation" lasting the slave's entire lives any better than permanent misery? What immediate benefit do their enslaved and segregated first 20 generations get in the meantime, aside from some pie-in-the-sky hope that the American branch of their 20th-generation descentants will have it better than their corresponding descendants remaining in Africa? Would it be fair to the African slaves in America in the meantime? Is this not "robbing Peter to pay Paul"?

The story above may be sci-fi, but the substance of it is real. We are living in that way right now - namely by having children on the hope that "It'll get better one day". Yet, in the end, we will eventually die in one way or another, even if some future longevity treatment allow our descendants to live for dozens of trillions of years. In the meantime, our earlier, not-so-fortunate descendants will have to live with the knowledge that their (presumably happy) lives will eventually come to an end - even if that descendant is an African-American.


Anonymous said...

Very nicely expressed and argued. Enjoyed reading this

Anonymous said...

Very thorough treatment, thanks for writing this!

Not that any woman would ever be interested in me, but one reason I'd never bring someone into this world has also to do with intelligence. I believe it is highly heritable, and I've got an IQ of 68 (Stanford-Binet): basically, I am mentally retarded. The chance of my child having to live with a below average intelligence just seems extra nightmarish to me. It is really a big burden I have to carry: not being able to figure things out, unable to understand mathematics or expressing one's views adequately and so on. Not nice.

P.S.: Pardon my english, it is awful owing to (a it not being my mother tongue and (b my low intelligence, of course.

Anonymous said...

Life is only temporary. More than that, life is just a condition that parasitizes other lives for its own sustenance. If you eat the meat of a goat, and it becomes your body, is the goat dead or alive? Are you?

The ridiculous binary construct of death versus life is used to blur people's minds so they cannot think about the essential issues of power and rights. DOES anyone have the right to force another person to endure life? I would say no, and I conducted my reproductive life in line with that.

All the joys I've experienced in my life cannot overtake the horrors of my origins, or the fact that having known those, I cannot un-know them. And compared to most humans who ever lived, I had an extraordinarily good life, even with the dreadful experiences I had in my first two decades of life in a brutal family, community, and nation.

The only good I have managed to do is provide tiny corners where a few small creatures have found respite from the hideous cruelties humans inflict on all other species. I have tried to give them a little breather, where their innocence of evil can be spared the knowledge of it.

In my view humans are a cancer on the planet, a metastasizing plague that consumes more and more of other lives and gives less and less back. Our planet took 4 and a half billion years to get to the point where we evolved...and we have taken mere thousands to become an Extinction Level Event. I used to think it didn't have to be this way...but now I think that our rapacity, destruction, cruelty, and sheer evil are engraved so deeply in our cultural DNA (not our evolutionary DNA, which is still Pleistocene) that we cannot be anything else. The whole of human culture--across all cultures--now exists to keep human ego (and its invention of superheroes in the sky) in charge.

Just 70,000 years ago, the eruption of Mt. Toba knocked human breeding females back to about 1,000 members. It took just 70,000 years for our numbers to reach 1 billion...and another 100 for that to become 7 billion.

Kel Thuz said...

To use force in order to coerce innocent people to pay taxes or draft them into military against their will is immensely immoral, and there is no justification for it - no "greater good" and no obligation nor duty for an individual to take part in this collective insanity we call "the state" or "the nation". That's why libertarian non-aggression philosophy is very in tune with antinatalism.

Unknown said...


While the political view part is interesting, I can't say I entirely agree with it (I'm more "liberal" than a real "libertarian" per the four-category political quizes).

At any rate, antinatalists have people from all over the conventional ideological spectrum - there's the anarchist Francois Tremblay, to those I suspect are moderate US Republicans to me (generally a conventional US-defiinition "liberal"). There are even Christian Antinatalists, believe it or not.

Unknown said...

There are also zeitgeisters like me :) Being an antinatalist first an foremost, i eschew any political system completely short of an apolitical revolutionary system like the venus project

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Though stimulating, this thesis suffers from conflation of humans with animals. In particular, insufficient consideration is given to various attributes which are natural, in the sense that they evolved, but are nonetheless unique to humans.

"The paradox of human naturalness could possibly be resolved by arguing that sentience is not intelligence but the ability to feel pain and pleasure. What distinguishes humans from other primates is the existential suffering that results from self-knowledge, particularly fear of death. Since humans have such capacity for suffering, we should have equally developed empathy, but instead we succumb to corruption, creating hellish conditions for humans and nonhumans alike. Thus despite our naturalness, humans can and should be blamed for wrecking the planet, precisely because we're capable of feeling remorse for having done so. If we're unable to reform ourselves, as seems increasingly to be the case, we should have the decency to step aside and give other organisms a chance. Apes might re-evolve back into us, but they might not, and either way it won't be our fault."

From "Antihumanism",

Anonymous said...


tranquil senescence said...

[quote]I think humans tend to be too selfish, aggressive, hyper-competitive, narrow-minded, dishonest, deceptive - and sometimes even too violent, cruel and abusive - to deserve another childbirth. In other words, the Reptilian Complex of the human brain is too strong in humans to allow them to truly be called a civilized creature; particularly given our proven ability to comprehend morality, ethics, suffering, compassion, and general right and wrong. Because humans far too often choose the wrong over the right, they do not deserve to procreate.[/quote]

Yet you are an anarchist (like me). As anarchists we (should) understand that this is not due to "human nature" in a vacuum -- an immutable biological law -- but because structures of dominance are in place, and under them, people are conditioned to desire to compete ferociously with one another with the undermining belief that (1) resources are scarce and (2) prestige in a dominance hierarchy is to be valued.

The views of the antinatalist (not all antinatalists, but the kind who are vocal about their views and try to persuade others) to the question of life tend to be very short-sighted. In my experience, they persist under the delusion that they are seeing Life from a bird's eye perspective, even though they are looking at it through some pretty dirty Neo-Darwinian glasses of endless competition and misery. It is rarely 'Life' and its complexity that is addressed soberly, free of suspicious value judgments.

Far from the 'view from above' that is presented, as a social species, it seems undeniable that antinatalist convictions are bred (no pun intended) by one's disdain towards current human social organization, the resulting alienation from living in such structures and an inability to gratify oneself adequately in one's environment. It would be interesting to see to what degree this philosophy would exist in a post-scarcity anarchist utopia (which would still have its fair share of natural misery). My guess is, it would be almost non-existent.

CK said...

Antinatalism goes against a fundamental part of my beliefs: Our lives are are meant to contribute to spiritual growth. What we learn in a lifetime is meant to be applied in future ones.

Is there an end goal? To become more advanced. That is a fundamental thing to all things in existence. To evolve. To die out is to spoil any potential to evolve. What if you humanity all agreed that we needed to be extinct, with the guidelines of antinatalism... then it turned out we were wrong?

I also believe that we actually do consent to being born. We enter a life to learn lessons and correct past mistakes.

To me, antinatalism is fundamentally flawed. Seeing as this comes down to personal belief (and experience), you'll either take my word for it or not. Don't think that I haven't thought about these things for a long time. My own experience has caused me to believe what I do.

Life is tough. That is completely natural. If you have decided that it was never worth living and that everyone should agree with you, keep on trucking... or you could admit that you need to upend the fundamentals of your belief system and view other perspectives. You might have been wrong.

Not even mentioning that attempting to improve nature isn't always the best thing. You could be ruining a fundamental that was actually in your favour.

Many antinatalists fall into the same trap as others who think they've concluded that their system is final and cannot be argued against. Even I don't settle completely with my beliefs. There is always room for new knowledge. If you're a true seeker, you won't settle, even after investing lots of thought.