Category Archives: Antinatalism

12 questions for natalists and breeders.

Because the issues of antinatalism are not very well known yet, there aren’t a lot of “questions for” formats like there are for religion or politics. So I decided to make my own set of questions for natalists and breeders. Note that not all the questions will apply to both categories (a natalist might not personally want children, and a breeder might not be a natalist).

I am not trying to stump anyone (although as an antinatalist I do think that these questions should present difficulties to my opponents), but rather to communicate the gist of the antinatalist attitude towards natalist beliefs and breeding. Because natalists are typically unwilling to discuss issues, I would like to try to get some people’s interest with these questions and get a discussion going. You may even agree with some parts of my approach here; if so, that’s great!

Answer these questions on your blog if you find them interesting, and I’ll link back to you if you post the URL in the comments.


1. Do you think all, or even most, parents have the skills and attitude necessary to raise children in a non-damaging manner?

2. Do you believe children are entitled to the highest standard of health?
* If so, do you believe all, or even most, parents can provide such a standard, given all the things parents have no control over?
* If not, what right do you believe is more important than the child’s highest standard of health? Can you justify this importance?

3. What do you think about the idea of parenting permits? Why do you/do you not support this idea?
* Do you believe you should be allowed to have such a permit? If so, what are your qualifications?
Note this example of legal requirements for child care workers and businesses.

4. Why do you think this world is good enough to bring children in?
* What makes you think you have the right to take this decision for another human being?

5. Do you think it is moral for me to force someone to play Russian Roulette without their consent?
* If you do not, then why do you think people should be allowed to create a new life, subjecting it to an almost infinite number of risks, including fatal risks?
* If you do, can you justify it?
Note that arguing that inability to give consent is the same thing as giving consent will be rejected.

6. If you want to have a child, do you believe your children will not suffer from any medical defects, accidents, abuse or mental issues?
* If you do not, what makes you so certain of the future? Can you prove it?
* If you do, why are you bringing into the world a being which has a chance of living a life of suffering or despair?

7. For those who have children: how much time did you spend on thinking about your motivations to have a child?

8. Can you give one ethical reason (i.e. a reason which does not treat the child as a means to an end) for anyone to have children?
Note this list of already rejected reasons. If yours is on the list, then you have failed to answer.

9. Do you believe that the perpetuation of mankind has some kind of purpose?
* If so, can you make an argument for it that isn’t circular?
Note that I have already discussed the circular nature of teleological arguments for perpetuation.
* If not, why do you think we should do it anyway?

10. How do you justify supporting a process which, while painless for men, is painful, disfiguring and dangerous for women, often leading to psychological complications?
* If you believe the benefits of procreation are social in nature, how do you justify acquiring these benefits on the backs of women’s health and well-being? Isn’t it a little hypocrite to claim a benefit to society when women represent half of said society?

11. As far as I can tell, the main natalist arguments is that life has pleasures that are worth creating new human beings for, or that life as a whole is pleasant enough to bring new human beings into it. I don’t understand how the argument is supposed to work, though; there’s no logical connection between an observation about existing lives and a conclusion about potential lives. Can you explain why you think the argument makes logical sense?
* How does your argument jibe with the legal and ethical proposition that we don’t have any duty to provide pleasure, but that we do have a duty not to create suffering?

12. If you are a Christian, do you believe there’s a chance your child will go to Hell?
* If you do not, what makes you so certain of the future? Can you prove it?
* If you do, what would justify you bringing to life a being which may suffer eternally? No matter how much suffering we inflict on each other, human beings can only hurt each other in this life, not in eternity; bringing a child to life knowing the child may go to Hell makes you worse than any dictator or criminal that exists in this life.

Blood worship is pretty creepy.

Blood worship seems to persist even though we’re far from the mass sacrifices of “pre-Columbian” societies or the Igbo (although in both cases their European conquerors killed many more people than sacrifices would have). Granted, we are not yet over human sacrifice, but at least we hide it.

Blood consumption has been part of accusations against perceived enemies. Vampires are one obvious example. There is also blood libel: for centuries Jews were accused of kidnapping gentile children to bake with their blood or kill them to release their blood.

The origin of these accusations, in turn, lies in the belief that Jesus’ blood has special powers. Jesus’ blood “covers” our sins and cleans our conscience. Jesus enjoined his disciples to drink his blood. His blood is part of the ritual of transubstantiation. Catholics are especially interested in Jesus’ heart and blood, to nauseating levels.

The book of Revelation tells us that angels kill so many humans that the resulting blood covers a distance of more than 300 km (something like the distance between New York and Washington). Now imagine all that blood clotting and… yeah.

For a religion that’s supposed to be concerned with the immaterial and the supernatural, the afterlife, the spiritual matters, it seems rather strange for it to be so concerned with something as mundane as blood. Is it merely a prolongation of the Jewish concept of blood sacrifice, or are both the manifestation of some plague monster lying in the collective unconscious?

I have no qualifications in mythology or psychoanalysis, so I will refrain from making such analysis, although perhaps it’s worth noting that the concept of “blood memory” has been associated with the collective unconscious before.

The blood worship of Christianity is creepy, but many other beliefs about blood are creepy. Look how natalists harp on perpetuating the bloodline. Based on this belief, they insist in having children of their own instead of adopting one of the millions of desperate children in the world.

Do they literally believe in the importance of the blood itself? No, I obviously don’t think so, otherwise blood transfusions would be much more opposed than they are today. The bloodline is a metaphor for the extension of the self into one’s children, grandchildren, and so on. The parent is, in the sense of extension, the “consumer” of the blood, the life-force of the child: the life (and death, in those cases where a child dies) of the child glorifies the parent. That’s much creepier than any blood consumption.

From the consumption/extension end, we go to the complete opposite when we look at menstruation, which for millennia has been used as a reason to subjugate women. The Bible tells us that a menstruating woman is “unclean”:

Leviticus 15:19-24
And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean. And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even. And if it be on her bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth, when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even. And if any man lie with her at all, and her flowers be upon him, he shall be unclean seven days; and all the bed whereon he lieth shall be unclean.

Leviticus 15:28-30
But if she be cleansed of her issue, then she shall number to herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. And on the eighth day she shall take unto her two turtles, or two young pigeons, and bring them unto the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make an atonement for her before the LORD for the issue of her uncleanness.

So when women issue blood, it’s considered a sign of their unclean nature. But when Jesus does it, it’s a fucking sacrament. Go figure.

A little lexicon: childfree, antinatalist, efilist.

Antinatalism and childfreedom are two related ideologies which are seeing some development on the Internet and in the media. However, there seems to be some confusion as to the difference between the two ideologies.

As I’ve discussed before, antinatalism is an ethical position: as a principle, it states that procreation (that is to say, acts which bring about procreation) is wrong. A person can be an antinatalist and yet have had children in the past. The arguments used to justify antinatalism are ethical and logical in nature, and are not personal in nature.

Childfreedom, on the other hand, is a desire, the desire to have no children. This desire is necessarily frustrated if one already has a child, so a person cannot have children and be childfree. But on the other hand, one can be childfree and believe that procreation is a great thing, or that life is innately positive. In those cases, the decision to not have children is purely personal.

In practice, childfree people usually have both universal and personal reasons to not procreate. However, these universal reasons are also generally conditional, like “there are enough people on this planet” type arguments (presumably if there wasn’t enough people on this planet, it would be worth it to have children).

Efilism is a word made of the reverse of “life” and the suffix -ism. It was coined by Gary Mosher to designate his own personal ideology, which is more extensive than the rejection of procreation, as Gary advocates for the extinction of all sentient life. Efilism therefore incorporates both ethical principles (that procreation is bad) and values (the value of a world without sentient life).

In a similar fashion to the Non-Identity Problem, I imagine some may object that “a world without sentient life” cannot be a value because there would be no one left to value it.

But this is, like the Non-Identity Problem, a misunderstanding of what is being discussed. When we talk about valuing suicide, we are not saying the person will be alive to value their suicide; we are saying that the person prefers a state where they cease to exist. Likewise, one may prefer a state where the world contains no sentient life, while not being able to actually co-exist with it. We can also prefer completely imaginary states (such as a state where square-circles exist), in which case the value is simply pointless. But valuing a world without sentient life is not pointless, in that it enables us to make value-judgments about real things (e.g. anything that creates new life is undesirable).

I don’t want to communicate the impression that childfreedom, antinatalism and efilism exist on some gradient from moderate to extreme or anything like that. They are not the same kinds of things; childfreedom is a desire, antinatalism is an ethical principle, and efilism is one person’s ideology. A person can be childfree but not antinatalist or efilist, or antinatalist but not childfree or efilist. An efilist must be antinatalist, obviously.

There are also people who believe in population degrowth as public policy. There is no popular term for this as far as I know, and the term “degrowth” by itself denotes economic degrowth specifically.

Population degrowth is sometimes portrayed as a “reasonable” alternative to antinatalism. Actually it is not an alternative to antinatalism but rather a statement of public policy. An antinatalist may very well believe that it would be better on the whole to not restrict reproduction in any way (Benatar grapples with some of these defenses in Better Never To Have Been chapter 4).

Population degrowth is not on a gradient with antinatalism and natalism. Arguments for or against population degrowth show little overlap with arguments for antinatalism or natalism, although they may share a great deal with individual arguments for one’s childfreedom. In that way, one can argue that population degrowth is closer to being an extension of childfreedom, although a childfree person may be against population degrowth and vice-versa.

Frankly I am tired of people who say they are for population degrowth and who present this position as more “reasonable,” by which they really mean, “likely to be accepted by others.” I don’t give a shit what is more or less likely to be accepted by other people. The truth is the truth regardless of how likely it is to be accepted, and it’s our job to find it. So far none of these “reasonable” people have been successful in making any sort of cogent argument against antinatalism, let alone debunk any part of it. It may be “reasonable,” but it’s not the truth.

The “reasonable” position on the other side, the natalist side, is the “life is great” propaganda coming from a wide variety of people. These people tend to be anti-suicide and pro-nature, although they reject the Quiverfull claim that one should have as many children as possible. They laugh at such people and, if they were aware of antinatalism, would probably consider themselves a “middle ground.”

But there cannot be any “middle ground” between antinatalism and natalism. The question “is it acceptable to harm others without their consent” can only be answered “yes” or “no.” The question “is it justified to bring a human being into existence” can only be answered “yes” or “no.” The question “do you have the right to decide for another human being whether the world is good enough for them to come into existence” can only be answered “yes” or “no.” I don’t really see how there’s any middle ground possible here. Either procreation as an act is not wrong or it is wrong.

The concept of “agency” is inherently reactionary.

I have written an entry about the three categories of explanation of human behavior, which I called anti-causalism (human behavior is caused by “free will”), adaptationism (human behavior is genetic) and social constructionism (human behavior is motivated by social constructs). I make no secret that I find the last kind of explanation to be the most rational.

It may seem pointless to bring this up on an entry about “agency,” and yet I think it is very much relevant to the topic. For one thing, it tells us that an issue which seems as abstract as human action is actually very much an ideological issue, with ethical, political and religious implications. Therefore, any term used to explain decision-making is an ideological term, and must be analyzed as such.

The term “agency” is assumed to be a technical, neutral term; questioning its validity or neutrality is seen as laughable and non-credible. But what does it really mean to say that someone has agency?

Human agency is the capacity for human beings to make choices and to impose those choices on the world.

As I’ve discussed before, there is no such thing as “choice,” that is to say, selecting from different alternatives: because our minds are determined by the laws of nature, like any other entity that is part of nature, there can only be one alternative “selected.” We do not have the capacity to make “choices” or to “impose” them. The belief in “choice” is clearly anti-causal, and therefore betrays allegiance to anti-causalism.

The ability of people to change the institutions in which they live.

While an interesting definition, it tells us nothing about why individuals act. I do intend to discuss this issue later.

Agency- self-determination, volition, or free will; it is the power of individuals to act independently of the determining constraints of social structure.

In general, agency is contrasted with structure, agency being that part of human action which is not the result of the influence of social structures. But social constructionism is precisely the belief that our actions are the result of the influence of social structures; therefore by definition agency assumes the falsity of social constructionism.

It is impossible for any human being who lives in society to act “independently of the determining constraints of social structure.” Consider some of the social structures and social constructs which most preoccupy us: the family structure, religion, government, Patriarchy, the education system, the legal system, capitalism and class, race, gender, nationality, language, money. Can we honestly say that there is any human being living in a modern Western society whose actions are not affected by all of these things?

So I don’t believe there is such a thing as agency, because there is no such thing as “choice,” “free will” or some magical ability to change social structures; but besides that, my main point here is that the term “agency” is a Trojan horse smuggling anti-causalism into a discussion or debate, and no one’s the wiser because, like “choice,” which is part of everyday language, “agency” is part of everyday sociological language and few people think anything of it.

From a constructionist standpoint, the use of the word “agency” is nothing more than a roundabout way of blaming the victims. They do this by denying that the victims are actually victims, stating instead that they gain power (what kind of power? economic? social? relational?) from their own “choices.” Here is a typical academic example of such gymnastics (and again, just so you don’t think I’m cherry-picking the stupidest example, this is the very first result I got on a search for “prostitution agency sociology”):

Bell (1994) analyses the narratives of Pateman and MacKinnon and concludes that these writings and perspectives which became dominant in the 1980s, actually reproduce ‘the prostitute body’. Bell argues that this line of thinking which locates the prostitute as a powerless victim within a masculine discourse actually silences the voices of women, refuses to acknowledge women’s agency and results in the reproduction of ‘the prostitute body’. Equally, as Maher (2000: 1) notes, taking the position that woman who sell sex are only victims, powerless and not in control of their circumstances leaves women ‘devoid of choice, responsibility, or accountability’.

Consider carefully what is being said here. Stating that a prostitute is a victim of a structure of gendered exploitation “silences the voices of women.” Never mind that the anti-prostitution movement is made of women and bases its premises on the voices of ex-prostitutes as well as sociological studies of prostitutes.

Now consider the proposition that saying prostitutes are victims means they are “devoid of choice, responsibility or accountability.” Doesn’t that sound like people who say rape victims should be held accountable for what they did to provoke the crime? Obviously stating that a raped woman was “only a victim” leaves her “devoid of responsibility or accountability” because that’s precisely what it means to be a victim; victims by definition are not “responsible or accountable.”

The whole paragraph is completely vacuous, but counts on the reader’s (conscious or unconscious) bias against prostitutes to remind them that prostitutes are inherently wrong and responsible for their own degradation, all the while telling us that it’s the anti-prostitution advocates who are silencing prostitutes. This is a classic case of projection.

But the main “argument” (there is no real argument here) used against the anti-prostitution position is that it denies “agency” and “choice.” Because “agency” and “choice” are considered self-evident, anyone who argues for social constructionism can be denied on this basis. Not only that, but the mere use of those words is considered a valid argument in and of itself: anyone who denies “agency” must automatically be wrong, period. To them, it is such an absurd conclusion (or, most likely, they merely pretend that it is so absurd) that we must therefore deny the premises.

The end point of this complete reversal of victimhood lies in the term “sex work,” which seeks to normalize prostitution as “just another job” that we “choose” to perform. There lies a double fraud: first, it is predicated on the premise that capitalist work contracts are a “choice,” which in itself is a laughable conceit, and second, it is predicated on prostitution being a “job.” If our sole criterion for a “job” is work in exchange for money, then many slaves have slavery as a “job” and so do many prisoners have a “job” as prisoners, because both receive some money in exchange for their forced labor. But this is obviously nonsense.

Social constructionism states that the actions an individual takes are the result of how social structures mold the psyche and motivations of the individual. These social structures influence the individual through a wide variety of social constructs, which become part of how we explain facts.

The integration of gender explains why, for instance, we can understand when workers are exploited but “know” that prostitutes are personally responsible for being trafficked, beaten, filmed, addicted to drugs, raped and murdered; in the exact same way, integrating class means we “know” why poor people are lazy and undeserving, and integrating race means we “know” that black people are stupid and violent.

I have already discussed another major problem with “choice” as an argument: at best it can only mean that you believe you are in control of a situation. In that sense, the argument is now coherent but becomes trivial:

“Taking the position that woman who sell sex are only victims, powerless and not in control of their circumstances leaves women devoid of the belief that they are in control of their own life situation.”

Of course convincing people that they do not actually have power means they will lose the belief, or more accurately the delusion, that they have power. But this is true of any such delusion. People can also lose the delusion that their vote gives them power, or the delusion that religious belief gives them power. There is nothing strange about prostitution in that sense.

“Agency” is generally brought up in situations where it is inherently delusional; sociologists don’t waste time telling us about the agency of CEOs or presidents because that would be pointless. There is no point in talking about those people believing they have power, because they actually do have power; the whole victim/”choice” dance makes no sense in those cases. “Agency” is reactionary because it is always used to explain away the victims of whatever hierarchy (like gender) one wishes to support.

I said I would come back to the point about “agency” being “the ability of people to change the institutions in which they live.” Behind this definition lies the theory that we cannot be victims of social structures if we have the power (again, really a delusion that we have the power) to change them. If that’s true, then anything done to inferior by their superiors is, in a twisted way, the inferiors’ fault.

As perhaps a more extreme example of this argument, it was argued during the Gulf War (including by George Bush) that it was the Iraqi people’s responsibility to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Presumably the Iraqi people are at fault for getting bombed and killed by the American Army for not overthrowing Hussein (never mind that the Americans didn’t, either).

So again we’re talking about a purely reactionary strategy which aims to justify oppression through the delusion of power, but this time applied to entire groups of people. Because no individual has the power to “change the institutions in which they live,” this kind of “agency” applied to any individual must lead to the same conclusion: the victim is actually “responsible and accountable” for eir own oppression.

I do want to point out that this “ability to change” sort of definition is somewhat similar to how we define “free will,” a term which (contrasted with determinism) presumes that the human mind can somehow suspend causal laws. I can’t think of a greater “ability to change” than the ability to change the fabric of reality itself. In practice, “agency” is merely a non-religious, watered down version of “free will” which still permits people to blame victims while not relying on outdated pseudo-scientific beliefs.

The concept of “agency” is not just reactionary for the reasons I’ve mentioned, but it is also a powerful thought-stopper. It cuts short any examination of why things happen in society, and most importantly for a supposed decision-making process, any examination of why people do what they do.

Saying someone does X because of “her agency” or because “she chose it” doesn’t tell us anything more than saying “God did it” in answer to some natural event. Any worthwhile explanation has to be causal or it will inevitably serve as a thought-stopping mechanism, whether it’s believed honestly or not.

In the end, this sort of thought-stopping about human action reduces everything to atomistic individualism: as I noted in that entry, it reduces all analysis to the individual, sets up gender roles (in the case of prostitution) as the standard of evaluation, and classifies anti-prostitution efforts (and anti-oppression ideologies generally) as undesirable based on individualist beliefs (“you can’t tell other people what to do,” “you’re making people feel bad by telling them they’re being oppressed,” “you are responsible for everything that happens to you,” and so on endlessly).

Even though “agency” proponents usually claim to be left-leaning and even radical, they end up, through atomistic individualism, propping up the principles of the capitalism they are reacting to, and in most cases unwittingly supporting its structures. They poison the very well they’re gathering water from.

The Problem of Evil v the Problem of Suffering.

Using our cognitive limitations to explain away the existence of evil must logically lead to a complete collapse of the Christian worldview. From Philosophical Disquisitions.

Everyone who knows anything about Christian theology, or who has ever argued with Christians, knows about the Problem of Evil. The simplest argument goes like this:

1. If an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God exists, then evil cannot exist.
2. Evil exists.
3. There is no omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God.

This argument is logically airtight but conceptually complex, which makes it more vulnerable to attacks. There are a number of variants of the Problem of Evil which either nail down some specifically unexplainable kind of evil or deal with attacks by demonstrating that they also lead to contradictions.

As examples of the former, one can talk about “gratuitous evils” (such as a deer dying in a forest fire without any witnesses), unbelief, evil in the Bible, or poor design; as an example of the latter, the Moral Argument from Evil demonstrates that if the theodicies are true and all the evil that happens is justified, then there is no reason for Christians to try to intervene to stop evil, which is clearly absurd.

Even though the arguments are numerous and the approaches to the topic are many, the gist of it is simple: evil exists in this world, and we shouldn’t expect this to be true if this world was created by a just God.

Antinatalists have a similar argument, although again it takes different forms: for the sake of nomenclature, let’s call its general form the Problem of Suffering. We can express it like this:

1. Creating suffering is an evil act.
2. Procreation entails the creation of suffering.
3. Procreation is an evil act.

Variants of this argument include Benatar’s Asymmetry, the consent argument, anti-frustrationism, ecological arguments (e.g. VHEMT), and so on.

What is being argued here is not the non-existence of God, but rather the ethical status of procreation. Still, we can partially rephrase the Problem of Evil to show the obvious parallel:

1. Creating evil is itself an evil act.
2. God’s creative act included the creation of evil.
3. God’s creative act was an evil act.

You can probably guess the rest of the argument. The point here is that both arguments are about the creation of suffering and harm.

Obviously most atheists will accept the Problem of Evil but not the Problem of Suffering, since most atheists are not antinatalists. But why? I would say most atheists would accept human suffering as an evil, and that therefore they would consider the creation of suffering to be an evil act as well. And the premise that procreation entails suffering is equally obviously true. So there does not seem to be any substantial difference between the two arguments.

I anticipate certain objections. I think it is likely that people would answer, for example, that the parent does not create the evil itself but only the conditions for it. But this is equally true of God: I don’t think anyone claims that God literally created a forest fire or an HIV infection, that these are the result of natural law and human action subject to cause and effect, that God is only the most distal cause. The same is true of parents in relation to the suffering experienced by their children.

A further objection along these lines would be that parents, unlike God, are not omniscient, but I don’t really see the relevance in this case; parents are aware of the risks in having children, and therefore should naturally assume that they could happen to their children as well. Granted, breeders are not known for their sense of reality, but they don’t lack knowledge. They just don’t care. People who are committed to an indefensible course of action usually don’t care about the consequences, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it.

Natalists attempts to reframe the issue are about as successful as the theodicies to the Problem of Evil. In fact, we can see some obvious parallels between theodicies and reframings.

For example, natalists will argue that pleasure cannot exist without suffering, that they are both part of life and that therefore we must just passively accept people going around creating more and more suffering. This is very similar to the theodicy which states that good cannot exist without evil, and that therefore we must accept that God just had to create evil. But obviously atheists do not accept this rationalization.

Another rationalization holds that our lives contain more pleasure than suffering, and that therefore procreation is “worth it.” This is similar to the theodicy which states that suffering is necessary for some “greater good,” which in this case would be the pleasures in one’s life. Again, this theodicy is not accepted by atheists, so why should we accept it in the case of the Problem of Suffering?

I think we could go down the line of the theodicies and convert them easily into rationalizations of procreation. But since they are already unconvincing in their theodicy form, they don’t really matter either.

Some people try to argue that suffering is not really evil, and generally try to make a relativist argument. But this is no help here since relativism goes against the Problem of Evil as well: if there’s no such thing as objective moral standards, then there can be no universally observable concept of evil, and we can hardly fault God for the existence of something that doesn’t exist.

Compounding this fatal flaw is the fact that most, if not all, instances of evil in the Problem of Evil are also instances of suffering referred by the Problem of Suffering; if the latter are all invalid, then the Problem of Evil is rather trivialized, I would think (I could be wrong on this, but if anyone can name me an instance of evil from the Problem of Evil that does not generate suffering in some sentient life, I’d love to hear it).

The Problem of Evil has attained such a prominent place because it is so very obvious (which is also why it’s been discovered so early and why it’s been such a theological preoccupation). The Problem of Suffering is equally obvious and I’m sure it has popped up in the minds of a lot of people from all eras and places. For obvious reasons, it has never been fashionable enough to get its own name.

I don’t think the parallel between divine creation and breeding is particularly surprising. Breeders are by nature arrogant and authoritarian, and God has the arrogance and authoritarianism of the breeder times trillions. The idea that God is a substitute father figure is not by far new, but it seems to fit perfectly here, although it seems to me equally fruitful to look at the father as a mini-God. Do fathers not want to breed “in their own image” (the image of the “bloodline” or “genes”) and do they not seek to keep their children in naive ignorance like God does in the Garden of Eden myth?

The sum total of that human perversity we call “pedagogy” or “child-raising,” after all, consists of deciding what to do with one’s total control over another human being. It has nothing to do with love. This can also be said about most religions and cults; despite their self-serving rhetoric, they have little to do with love and a great deal to do with control over other human beings on all possible dynamics.

I’ve already written an entry in the past linking atheism to anarchism, which a lot of atheists resisted. So I want to reiterate here that I am not stating that atheists must become antinatalists or anything of the sort. What I am saying is that logically speaking the Problem of Evil should lead one to accept the Problem of Suffering and antinatalism in general, that there is a strong parallel in the arguments and objections. Whining that your poor fee fees have been hurt (like I’ve gotten by the shovelful after my atheism/anarchism entry) will be mocked mercilessly.

Determinism is not a thing you can trick.

Determinism is defeated again!

When we talk about determinism, there are some things that people say that don’t make much sense but are hard to understand. After a while, you start to get the idea that people operate under a strange mental model which leads to incorrect reasoning about determinism.

From what I can tell, there is this notion that determinism is an actual thing that can be defeated or broken if you “go against it.” They seem to think that determinism is something external to the individual that controls them and that they can challenge it for supremacy over their “choices.” They think determinism literally is Jasmine from the show Angel and that we could fight against her in some way. In short, they confuse the metaphor for the reality.

Determinism is not an actual thing that you can defeat, break, challenge, fight or trick. It’s a way to modelize reality. The same is true of free will. We do imagine free will as being a soul or a spark or some other concrete thing, but all that the term “free will” actually means is that we can make choices (that if you turned back the clock, you could end up doing something different). And all that “determinism” means is that you really can’t.

What we’re basically arguing about is what it means for a human being to do something. But the action exists whether you agree or disagree on what it means. The issue of meaning supervenes upon the issue of what is actually happening. The concept of choice is a superfluous, cancerous growth which sprouted off of our language. There really is no actual thing called a “choice,” whether you believe it exists or not: at best, it is only an interpretation of reality.

Just to be clear, I am not saying here that the determinism/free will issue is not important. Exposing the fallacies of free will proponents and demanding that society be structured in accordance with deterministic principles is very important (and will probably be one of the greatest human rights issues of the 21st century). But it’s important to keep in mind the level at which this debate is taking place, so people stop thinking determinism or free will are something more than just models of reality. Likewise, atheism and anarchism are just models of reality, but they are still important to the individual.

There is a common misconception that determinism is defined by being predictive. This leads both to the belief that determinism cannot be true if you can’t predict the future, and to the belief that you can “beat” determinism by refusing to follow the prediction. But determinism has nothing to do with predictions, except to imply as a corollary that they are not logically impossible.

Again, determinism and free will are not about what our actions will be but about what our actions mean. Determinism does imply that human exceptionalism is delusional, that blame is invalid, that revenge is pointless, that inequality and punishment are unjust. But it does not imply that we can predict, or even that our level of technology will ever be sufficient to do so (especially given the feedback loop problem). Determinism and free will are mental models of reality which are true or false regardless of the possibility of prediction. Indeed, any apparatus used to predict the future would itself exist within the framework of determinism or free will.

There is no way to “trick” determinism by “choosing” to do something else, because determinism does not have a “predicted future.” There is no way to “choose” something you won’t “choose.” Just to express this is to demonstrate why it is fallacious. Events unfold according to causal laws, and you can’t “break” causality.

So stating that “determinism means we can’t change the future” is true but irrelevant, since whatever happens will happen. There are no actions that are “supposed to happen” or actions that are “not supposed to happen”; “supposed to happen” implies a plan or expectation, and all that determinists expect is that future events will follow causally from past events. No event is dictated by some outside source.

The law of gravity provides a simpler but still relevant example. When we release a ball, we expect it to fall to the ground. This is due to the law of gravity as applied to the ball and the Earth. We expect that releasing the ball from being held up will cause it to travel towards the center of Earth’s gravitational field unless it is stopped by some other force (e.g. normal force, buoyancy, etc). If the ball stopped in mid-air for no apparent reason, we would not thereby deduce that the ball has “chosen” to stop. We would instead look for other deterministic causes such as an air vent, an invisible surface, or some property of the ball (perhaps it is filled with helium?).

Some may argue that the ball cannot “choose” but that humans can because they have brains. But there is nothing particular about brains that makes them immune to the laws of causality. Like everything else we see, they are made of matter and subject to material causes.

An error similar to the “cannot change the future” is to claim that determinists are fatalists, that they have no reason to do anything, or that social change is impossible. And yet this is clearly false. We live in a deterministic universe, and yet we do have reasons to act, social change is possible, and most of us are not fatalists. This is because under determinism nothing is “supposed to happen.”

Indeed, the belief in fatalism cannot be compatible with determinism, but can only be compatible with free will. This may seem like a surprising statement, but think about it: to be a fatalist means to exclude oneself from causality, and a person who believes that they are part of causality could never be a fatalist because they would clearly see that they themselves are part of the system which produces future events. What I say and do affects the people around me, which affects the people around them, and so on and so forth.

You might say this is just common sense. But from the free will perspective, the story changes; by definition free will describes the human being’s “choices” as being a break in causality. If this is true, then what I say and do may not affect anyone else at all, because that would be an instance of cause and effect. If other people’s decisions are not based on material causes, then they may not be based on anything I say or do. You might say that this is absurd, but this is a direct consequence of free will.

So just from a basic analysis, we can conclude that a belief in free will is logically more compatible with fatalism than a belief in determinism.

Again, I think the accusation of fatalism makes some sense if people are thinking of determinism as this thing that is guiding and dictating events from an outside perspective. It seems pretty similar to the belief in God, and Christians are subject to accusations of fatalism for the same reason. If God is somehow in control of everything, then how are we active agents of our own destiny? But the obvious difference is that determinism is not a being that controls everything for some mysterious purpose, it is not dictating anything, and there is no script somewhere in another dimension written by some eldritch abomination that says we are “supposed to” do this or that.

This whole concept of “tricking” determinism also reminds me of folkloric stories about the Devil. Quebec, as well as many other cultures, has a tradition of stories about people meeting and outwitting Satan, who is often portrayed as a bumbling fool. I can’t help but think that perhaps people instinctively think of determinism in an anthropomorphic way like they do the Devil.

“Maternal love” is a humbug.

We talk romantically about the love between parents and their children, especially when those children are at their youngest. We write books about it, write poems about it, make sculptures about it. We praise it as the greatest feeling that exists. I think it’s absolute bullshit. I think we made up this concept to bolster procreation.

I also think it is a very dangerous concept and that it brings a lot of suffering. Women are indoctrinated to believe that having children is the greatest thing they could possibly do, and that the bond between a mother and her child is the greatest bond that can exist. We have seen the disastrous results of this dogma; not only does it ruins women’s lives, but it also isolates them emotionally, so that they are unable to get help or support.

You have to differentiate between “maternal instinct” with “love.” Those are already two completely different things. While many mothers do have a maternal instinct, many others do not, as the stories demonstrate. This is what makes the difference between being a happy mother and going through a living Hell. The existence of the maternal instinct, of maternal bonding, is not in question. It is biologically necessary in order to keep women in bondage in a monogamous, patriarchal society.

In reference to women, but in a comment which can equally apply to the way we treat children in our society, Andrea Dworkin says in Intercourse:

Who can love something that is less than human unless love is domination per se?

Now think about this concept of maternal love. How can you love a baby? Not in the “I love disco” sort of way, but in an emotional connection between two people? How can there be an emotional connection when one of the two parties is barely a person? Love can only exist between equals; the concept of a grown person loving a baby is asinine.

No less a feminist thinker than Simone de Beauvoir opined as such:

There is no maternal instinct; rather motherhood makes women’s body to be ruined. Motherhood makes women’s soul to be lost. Pregnancy is a sad story that occurs in women between her and her tragic story. Fetus is a parasite that feeds on the mother’s body. A woman who gives up herself to the nature is like a plant and animal. If your wife is assumes this nature, she is like a plant and animal. She is Woman Incubator.

Women are indoctrinated to believe in “maternal love” in order to fulfill their gender role of being “nurturers” and of being the primary caretakers of children. The best way to force someone to remain with someone else (even with abuse) is through love and hope of change. There is always the factual hope that eventually the child will no longer be completely dependent on the parents. So women must hang on and raise the child, because no one else will.

Here’s another problem. The primary emotion of a parent is not love but fear: fear that their child will not turn out “right,” fear that other people will think their child is not “right,” fear that their child will not love them, fear that their child will not follow in their footsteps. Love and fear cannot co-exist.

Here’s another problem. Who knows if the maternal instinct really exists at all? After all, those mothers who confess to not having any maternal instinct also say that they lie about it to other women in order to not be ostracized. How do we know they’re not all lying? How could we tell, really? (when I say “we,” I naturally assume none of my readers are mothers, a pretty safe assumption since this is an antinatalist blog)

Alison made an interesting comment to me on this topic. She noted that the claims of a maternal instinct is very similar to the claims of people who are “born-again.” They are both strong emotional reactions following a traumatic event and a complete change in one’s life.

And yet we know from some atheist testimonies that some “born-again” experiences are faked or greatly exaggerated. What if they all are? How could we tell the difference? Once again, there is a strong incentive for “born-again” people to lie about what has actually happened to them.

I am not stating for a fact that no one has ever had a “maternal instinct” or a “born-again” experience. I am simply saying that we don’t really know one way or the other, and that the claims being made by the true believers are prima facie dubious.

The illusory desire for control.

From Everyday People.

I’ve written about why free will is philosophical and scientific nonsense. But there is a deeper problem with the concept of free will: it’s not even falsifiable.

If free will could be true, it would mean that we can “choose” between alternatives when confronted with a decision. In real life, we can’t prove this in any way because we can’t retake the same decision twice. Every decision is different, and we don’t have a time machine to go back to any decision we’ve taken in the past. So not only is free will not scientifically valid, but free will cannot possibly be scientifically valid!

Sure, one can still believe in free will even though it cannot be scientific. But the same can be said of other unfalsifiable belief systems like Creationism or astrology. So that’s not a particularly interesting question.

Here’s a more interesting question: why do they believe? The way they talk, I think the answer has to do with wanting to feel like you’re in control. They believe that without this belief in free will, humans must necessarily lose control over their morality and become depraved.

You will probably note that this is the exact same thing they say about atheists. I will address this later.

When I talk about “being in control,” I am referring mostly to two things: 1. understanding what’s going on and one’s role with a reassuring certainty and 2. being able to make choices based on these understandings (note: this is not the same thing as the control mentality I’ve discussed before, although obviously they are related). We’re talking here about control at any level: control over oneself, control over family, control over one’s environment, control over life, control over one’s future.

Take a simple example such as Christianity and the afterlife (which represents control over one’s future). The believer knows that there is a Heaven and a Hell, and that people go to either of them when they die. The believer’s duty is to believe in Jesus’ plan of salvation for them. By choosing to do so, one can ensure an afterlife in Heaven, with absolute certainty.

When faced with the rebuttal that ey might not actually go to Heaven, the believer has little response but to reiterate eir faith, because it is the faith that brings certainty. If one has faith, one will go to Heaven. The issue here is not to actually know anything but rather to live in the utmost confidence. Reliance on facts cannot bring certainty and therefore cannot fulfill the desired function of making one feel in control.

Perhaps the most recently famous case of an ideology which sells an extreme form of control is The Secret, which tells you that you can get whatever you wish for, if you wish for it the right way. Another such case is Scientology, which claims that at the highest levels you can achieve “cause over MEST” (mastery of matter, energy, space and time).

Of course such ideologies can never deliver what they sell. But it is also no coincidence that both ideologies are almost ridiculously optimistic, i.e. that suffering is secondary and that one can lead a charmed life, if one follows a certain method to the letter. Optimism, like positive thinking, always buckles under the weight of reality, and control provides the way to reassure oneself that everything is going according to one’s will.

Positive thinking is another ideology which relies heavily on control. I have previously highlighted the proto-fascistic language used to symbolize the amount of control a positive thinker must maintain. It requires the individual to repress natural urges and bottle emself up, a surefire recipe for loss of control and guilt.

Many conspiracy theories feed into this need also. It may seem strange to posit that believing that one is ruled by shadowy and omnipresent forces leads one to feel more in control, but it is the certainty involved in “knowing” the secret truth that is reassuring:

The power structure: government, academia, corporations… take your pick. Whatever flavor of paranoia you favor, it can fit into the widespread panic that shadowy elites are not just in control of your life but actively hiding the truth from you. Clearly, this reflects the complexity of modern society and the alienation many feel from the structures of power, which impact our lives from afar. Unable to understand how society actually functions, it becomes reduced to a conspiracy by powerful elites keeping us from our alien destiny. By revealing this truth, their power will evaporate and you, the powerless Everyman, can finally take your rightful place among the chosen. Yes, you, the lowly middle-class worker drone who hates big government and thinks that PhDs want to keep you oppressed, you too can commune with aliens and stick it to the Man.

Control implies reassurance through belief. In the case of failure of a traditional belief (such as the failure of Creationism), the one thing a control freak can never say is “I don’t know,” because this completely nullifies the effect of belief. Instead of saying “I don’t know,” the believer must either make up false data, or ignore the problem. In real life, individuals and groups will choose one or the other branch as the new tradition to follow (“theistic evolution” or “Intelligent Design”).

Coming back to the issue of depravity resulting from loss of control, I’ve mentioned that free will proponents and religious people share the belief that once you abandon their pet belief system you will lose control of yourself, murder, rape, steal, and so on (that is to say, you will no longer be a moral agent but be reduced to what they see as an animalistic state, even though other species can be moral agents too).

What’s interesting is that it seems to me that the believers implicitly prove that their supposed control is really entirely subjective. Some free will proponents argue that even if free will does not really exist, we must still promote it as a concept because otherwise people will go rampant. So they admit that it is the belief, not the fact of the matter, which retains control. Likewise, religious believers claim that atheists are evil even though [they also believe that] God exists. How is that possible unless it’s the belief that’s operating, not God?

Of course it seems obvious to us that control is subjective. The concept of losing control is hard for people to imagine, but it remains solely in the imagination. Despite the belief that people can “lose control” and become animalistic, there really is no such thing as a nihilist. There are people who claim to be nihilists, but as far as we can tell they behave more or less like everyone else.

The thing about deconversions to atheism and determinism is that they are not a loss of control but a loss of meaning. And a loss of meaning is always temporary, because the creation of meaning is second nature to human beings. We do it all the time whether deliberately or nilly-willy, and we even have whole masses of people whose job is solely to do this for others. It does not take long for a new atheist or determinist to realize the meaning vacuum, and then to start filling it up (so what happens after we die? how does the universe work?).

The human mind, like nature, abhors a vacuum. If nihilism actually means anything, its meaning must lie in that short, unstable period between abandoning one framework of meaning and replacing it with another or others. Such a state cannot be permanent.

I do want to make clear that I am talking here about illusory mental control which really refers to meaning. I am not talking about actual control over one’s bodily or mental functions. That’s an entirely different issue, and one which is genuinely worrisome and scary.

I think we can observe from true believers that control does not work. The more people obsess over being in control, the more that need controls them in turn. The attempt to control oneself leads to obsession which leads to compulsion. The supposed signs of “loss of control” are observed in all kinds of people, including true believers. All that is left is a hollow shell of the procedures which supposedly bring about control, such as religious rituals, self-censorship, aggressiveness and passive-aggressiveness, and childish dogmas.


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