One-shotting Richard Dawkins; or, the major contradiction of humanism…

Karl, from the antinatalist blog Say No to Life, really blew the lid on this one. He has analyzed Richard Dawkins’s schizophrenic attitude towards life using quotes from two books he wrote. First, there is this quote from River Out of Eden:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.

Sounds like Dawkins sees life in a very realistic way1. He acknowledges that being alive leads to all sorts of harms as well as benefits, and that this distribution is not based on anything meaningful. So his attitude towards life should be pretty sober, right? Well…

From Unweaving the Rainbow:

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton.

We as individuals are still hugely blessed. Privileged, and not just privileged to enjoy our planet. More, we are granted the opportunity to understand why our eyes are open, and why they see what they do, in the short time before they close for ever.

What is the use of bringing a baby into the world if the only thing it does with its life is just work to go on living? If everything is judged by how ‘useful’ it is — useful for staying alive, that is — we are left facing a futile circularity. There must be some added value… Of course science pays its way; of course it is useful. But that is not all it is.

Just so you know I did not take these out of context, here is the chapter where these can be found. It’s pretty much all like this.

As Karl points out, Dawkins’ dispassionate, rational attitude has failed him, and this is nothing more than wish-fulfillment, completely contradicting his realistic assessment of the nature of life. According to Dawkins, we are lucky and hugely blessed to be part of a system which contains suffering beyond our ability to fathom; not only that, but one must surmise that we are also privileged by the fact that said suffering strikes in an incredible variety of forms which we all must escape, follows no rhyme or reason, and that we are ultimately incapable of eradicating it.

He keeps talking about the beauty and complexity of the natural world. It is quite true that the natural world is beautiful and complex, but the fact that something is beautiful and complex does not make participation in that thing a blessing or a privilege. Beauty is a purely automatic brain reaction, and complexity is irrelevant to the topic, as complex systems can be both desirable and undesirable (an elaborate and baroque mousetrap will no less kill the mouse than a simple one).

To point out evolution’s gross inefficiency and major shortcomings, and then to push the “life is wonderful” party line, is as asinine as “solving” the problem of poverty by putting out propaganda that being poor is wonderful. The poor person will starve whether ey believes being poor is wonderful or not. The objective fact of suffering cannot be made to disappear by praising it. A privileged shiny-eyed and shiny-white Western scientist may be able to close his eyes to the fact that most of human life has been, and still is, stressful and shitty at best, but this does not change the state of the average human being or of the average sentient lifeform on this planet.

If science has imparted anything to society, and if science is based on anything at all, it must be the need for unflinching honesty. But scientists who waddle into science education seem to regularly fail to apply unflinching honesty to the most profound issues of human life. I have discussed before how Dawkins and Sagan fail at rationally analyzing socio-political issues, but this is by far the most profound sort of dishonest they exhibit.

One gasps to hear scientists swooning over the universe or any part thereof like schoolgirls overheated by their first crush. (Albert Einstein, Karl Popper, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, many others.) From the studies of Krafft-Ebbing onward, we know that it is possible to become excited about anything—from shins to shoes.
The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, Thomas Ligotti

Dawkins is at least able to identify the fact that by far most [potential] people will never be born. But the bizarre thing is, he says we are the lucky and blessed ones. That’s a preposterous statement; how can it be a blessing to exist? Contrary to living people, non-existing people cannot suffer and have no frustrated desires. They also do not suffer from not witnessing the wonders of the universe which Dawkins harps upon. Sure, we are part of a select group of potential people who came into existence, but that’s no more “lucky” than to be part of the select group of people who have died from lightning strikes.

At least this much reasoning is readily available to anyone who’s willing to think about the issue for any length of time. So why does Dawkins fail to realize it? Most likely it is a refusal to think about the subject any further. David Benatar himself (author of the seminal book on antinatalism, Better Never to Have Been; please note that using Benatar quotes here does not mean I support Benatar as a philosopher) argued in 2008 that Dawkins not only fails to follow logic, but also fails to understand how evolution has bearing on the issue, something which, you’d think, Dawkins of all people would realize:

It is curious that Professor Dawkins seems so unaware of these optimistic biases, given their obvious evolutionary explanation. Those with the right dose of delusion are more likely to produce offspring, whereas those who see the human condition for what it is, are unlikely to want to reproduce it.

And furthermore:

Yet this secular equivalent of religious awe is no guarantor of life’s meaningfulness. It is no proof that a Godless world is a meaningful one. Just because the universe and human life lack the meaning that theists often say a God would bestow on them, does not mean that the void has to be filled by some secular alternative. It might simply be the case that our lives are pointless. To ward off this conclusion, Professor Dawkins makes the common suggestion that one’s life is ‘as meaningful, as full and as wonderful’ as one chooses to make it. But that assumes that subjective meaning is the only meaning our lives require. However, if that were the case, then a religious life could have immense meaning even when it is founded on delusions – because such lives too are ‘as meaningful, as full and as wonderful’ as the people living them choose to make them. It is one kind of delusion to think that one’s life has meaning because it fits in with God’s plan when, in fact, there is no God. It is another kind of delusion to think that one’s life has meaning because it fits in with one’s own plan when, in fact, one is mistaken that one’s own plan can endow (the right kind of) meaning.

If this whole issue was only relevant to Dawkins’ schizophrenic opinions, then it would not be that significant. But it’s not just Richard Dawkins, or a handful of scientists, who have to be taken to task here. If this issue is significant at all, it is as an attack against modernity as a whole, against humanism, against the search for meaning outside of God.

The last quote from Benatar may give you an idea of what I am alluding to. Up until now, we human beings have manufactured religion after religion in order to construct some kind of meaning to life, some kind of grand narrative that justifies our existence. This, as you know, was an utter, farcical, grand failure, a fact which we are only now slowly coming to terms with. Religion has been a laughable failure at providing even the merest little context for human life, and has only come up with atrocities, insanity, or ascetism.

And now, because of the theory of evolution, we are well aware of life as a meaningless, endless cycle of consumption, addiction, cannibalism2 and reproduction, perpetuating itself on a global scale. Unfortunately, it has been found impossible for human beings to simply accept that fact. As human beings, we crave narratives, we crave some understanding, any understanding. So when confronted with the lack of meaning in the universe, human beings looked to evolution for a new storyline. Instead of looking to learn from evolution, we have exploited evolution for our own comfort.

At first, it was all about man being the pinnacle of evolution, the top of the evolutionary ladder, the master of the world. Now that this myth has been dismissed as unscientific, we have switched to a more watered-down version, which is to say that since reproduction is what “drives” evolution, it must be that our purpose and the meaning of our lives is in reproduction. And so we have the myth of “living through our children,” “living through our legacy,” and so on. It’s only a skip and a hop from here to outright DNA-worship. Just as the religious holds on to the afterlife as the answer, the humanist (here defined as a person who holds humanity, instead of God, as the standard of value) looks to reproduction as the answer. As Benatar points out, both answers are on the same footing: if one is delusional, then both are. Both belief systems are motivated by the fear of suffering.

Saying that reproduction is the purpose of the human being is nonsense. Evolution is a purposeless, undirected process. Those little inanimate DNA molecules do not seek anything. The belief that evolution exists for the sake of, and is driven by, gene replication (and thus, reproduction) is a metaphor that helps understand how evolution works, but it is not a statement of fact. The simple fact is that evolution does not exist for the sake of anything, and it doesn’t pursue anything; it is no less mechanistic than the law of gravity, the laws of thermodynamics, or capillary action. Evolution does not give purpose to humans any more than gravity gives a purpose to the Sun or capillary action gives a purpose to straws.

Any argument that “we are genetically programmed/made to do X” cannot lead to the belief that X is the standard by which all humans should be measured. And I also have to mention that elevating reproduction as the purpose of human beings is extremely insulting to large segments of the population. It is basically stating that anyone who consciously refuses to reproduce is objectively useless, which is an open attack against equality. It is this kind of marginalization of conscientious objectors by humanists which, ironically, arms the Christians’ war against love and the war against abortion.

Humanists believe in human values, as opposed to religious values, as the standard of ethics. This is all well and fine, and I agree up to a point. But they fail to realize that human values ultimately cannot be an objective standard and thus are really no more valid than the alternatives, because they are rooted in the brain structures dictated by our DNA, which is the result of an unthinking, automatic process. Our addictions to sex or status are no more or less substantial than our addictions to totalizing beliefs like religion. Both are made of consumption, addiction, cannibalism, ego-worship and reproduction. The perceived necessity of perpetuating mankind or sentience or human values is a mental illusion. As long as we acknowledge this, we’re fine, but when we declare human values as the only thing that counts, we’ve fallen into the trap of thinking mere desires have objective meaning.

Do people find subjective meaning in reproduction? Sure, many people do. But people find subjective meaning in pretty much any complex activity or structure of thought, because the complexity means our brain can make associations from it to pretty much anything else. So what? That doesn’t make it special in any way. It’s just anti-scientific crap, we know better than that now, we know it has no basis in fact.

Although he is reductionist to a manic degree, Dawkins is too intelligent and too sophisticated to fall into that trap. Rather, he seems to take the stance that science itself justifies our coming into being, that our personal and collective discoveries about the universe make life worth living.

Again, it’s hard to see how science is special if the afterlife and reproduction are not. Of course we can find a lot of joy in science, just as people find joy in religious belief or in raising children. But what is the purpose of this discovery of the universe? To alleviate one’s boredom? To make us feel better about being finite, flawed creatures? To lead to better ways to cure disease? To harness technology that will make us transcend our humanity? But all of these are merely attempts at alleviating the harm of existence.

Even from a purely consequentialist standpoint, it is tremendously difficult to make the case that the joy of scientific discovery is worth the suffering its existence has caused. Some examples of these include the tremendous death tolls of World War 1 and 2, the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, biological weapons, industrial farming, booming population growth with the corresponding rise in suffering, and so on.3

Furthermore, any impulse for discovery must eventually lead us to discover and accept that human life is, like all forms of life on this planet, an endless cycle of consumption, addiction, cannibalism and reproduction for which no meaning or purpose has been found. So this proposed solution is ultimately self-defeating.

Dawkins wants life to have meaning so he can sell books, and he wants science to be that meaning because science is his job. It’s what he knows, and it sounds noble and grand, so why not say it’s the meaning of life? After all, purely intellectual pursuits are easy to rationalize as being above mere material concerns, and so people might not see it as being on the same level as consuming matter from other living things or tribes killing each other for resources. But those intellectual pursuits are no less part of the endless, meaningless cycle. In order to fulfill them, we consume resources, we feed our ego by gaining status and prestige, and we make children so we can indoctrinate them with the same system of thought.

And again, this is a very insulting statement for all those people whose lives are, or were, useless and futile according to Dawkins, because they do not acknowledge and follow his own personal purpose in life. Why does Dawkins think he has the right to tell other people what their purpose is? To be fair, this is only a side issue from the fact that he’s wrong, but it still demonstrates disrespect for one’s fellow human beings.

Dawkins accidentally gave us a very, very good question: “What is the use of bringing a baby into the world?” But “science” is not the answer to this question (and since most babies will not grow into science-loving adults, they are thereby, according to Dawkins, not worth bringing into the world, so perhaps Dawkins should be more accepting of antinatalism). Antinatalism (the teleological kind, anyway) merely backs the humble proposition that, because no answer has been found in two hundred thousand years, there probably isn’t any.

Let me be clear: we are not lucky for having been born. Existing is a regrettable fact4. However, having been born, we have all acquired a vested interest in our continued existence; as such, we have to make the best of it, hence Anarchism, atheism, chocolate chip cookies, the breeze on a hot summer day, the joy of discovery, and so on. I am not downplaying these things: they are very important to us, and for good reasons. The fatal mistake (no pun intended) is to confuse the palliative measures with the regrettable fact that they attempt to palliate. It’s as much a stupid mistake as confusing an aspirin pill with the concept of a headache.

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1 I have supported the position that cooperation, not competition, is the main guiding force of evolution, and the main human drive. However, most aspects of this force of cooperation (mutual defense, or finding food, for instance) would not even need to exist if the competition for resources did not exist. Nature at its foundation is all about being “red in tooth and claw,” and altruism in animals (including humans) is mainly a reaction to that fact.

2 To borrow a phrase from Gary Mosher, aka inmendham. This is not to say that we engage in literal cannibalism, but that we extract our well-being from hurting other living beings. For example, our artificially high standard of living in the Western world is predicated on the neo-liberalist oppression and exploitation of the rest of the world. Not only is the natural world a zero-sum “dog eat dog,” but we keep adding new political, economic and social zero-sum games on top of it.

3 I anticipate the partisans of science will raise a ruckus over this point, but it will do them no good to bring up overall desirable goods created by scientific research such as vaccines, sanitary principles, electricity, means of communication and travel, and so on; as I’ve explained before, we have a duty not to create harm, but we do not have a duty to create goods. My argument is not that science is overall bad, which I don’t think is true anyway, but rather that it does not justify natalism even at a consequentialist level.

In case this is not clear enough, let me spell this out further, taking the example of health care. Non-existent people do not need health care because they cannot get sick. Only existing people can suffer from sickness or accidents. So we cannot use health care as evidence that existence is superior to non-existence, since we can only, at the very best, “break even” by curing every sickness and accident caused by people existing. As for the negatives, well, non-existing people also cannot suffer from the various evils which were originated by scientific discovery, therefore these evils must be part of the equation. This is why the evils must be counted, but not the goods. Those who know Benatar’s asymmetry argument will easily recognize the structure of my explanation here.

It will also do the partisans no good to argue that the harm inflicted by these products of science was really inflicted by politicians or other unsavory characters, since all I am arguing is that they could not exist without the institution of science, nothing more.

4 For those morons amongst you who at this point want to fire off a comment telling me to kill myself: I already addressed that such an attack has nothing to do with antinatalism because antinatalism is against potential people coming to existence, not against existing people continuing to exist, and at least read the following sentence where I acknowledge that we, existing people, have a vested interest in pursuing the pleasures of life.

45 thoughts on “One-shotting Richard Dawkins; or, the major contradiction of humanism…

  1. Stacy July 1, 2011 at 17:19

    Very good essay. As much as I admire Richard Dawkins, I have never thought that science provides us with meaning or makes our existence worthwhile. If anything science has shown that we do not have a purpose, and that the natural way of things is massive suffering and constantly trying to satisfy our desires. Evolution is not directional, and does not serve any sort of purpose any more than certain chemicals combining together serve a purpose, as you pointed out in your essay. Unlike other species, we could use this knowledge in order to make the conscious decision to stop reproducing, since we know this could prevent massive future suffering at least of our species anyway, but most people do not arrive at that conclusion.

  2. estnihil July 1, 2011 at 19:33

    ‘we have all acquired a vested interest in our continued existence’
    I’m sorry if you’ve talked about this someplace else and I didn’t catch it, but I’d like to know what you mean by this. Do you mean that some people, you included of course, have an interest in staying alive after having lived for a period of time, or that all people, generally, should have an interest in staying alive once they’ve been alive for a period. I can agree with the former, but the latter seems strange considering that some people exist that naturally undergo such suffering that they do not wish to be alive at all.
    Great post by the way.

    • Francois Tremblay July 2, 2011 at 00:11

      “Do you mean that some people, you included of course, have an interest in staying alive after having lived for a period of time, or that all people, generally, should have an interest in staying alive once they’ve been alive for a period”

      The former. I am talking about the values, desires, goals, etc… that we accumulate throughout our lives. This accretion makes it very difficult for anyone to kill themselves, with or without cause. This is not to say that such accretion is objectively meaningful, of course…

  3. Jeremy Weiland July 3, 2011 at 22:37

    Great take down of Dawkins’ “finding meaning through science”. I’d go further and blame the mindset embodied by science for the disconnection that requires us to “find meaning” instead of simply perceiving or experiencing it in the moment. But I’m reading a lot of primitivist stuff lately and I’m still digesting that.

  4. Karl July 4, 2011 at 04:10

    Francois, great post and a great blog, which I only discovered this morning.. I’m baffled as to how I didn’t come across it before ( as with estnihil’s). Thanks for the link-in to my piece. I think you’ve gone much further in desimantling Dawkins’s Pollyannism than I did. Kudos!

    • Francois Tremblay July 4, 2011 at 04:15

      Nice to see you comment here. I follow your blog every day. Keep up the good work.

      “I think you’ve gone much further in desimantling Dawkins’s Pollyannism than I did.”

      That was my objective. But you were the first, so thank you for uncovering it in the detail you did.

  5. Karl July 5, 2011 at 05:54

    “Dismantling” even. God, my brain is going. Unintelligent design indeed:-)

  6. Natural Mystic July 6, 2011 at 13:40

    You write: That’s a preposterous statement; how can it be a blessing to exist? Contrary to living people, non-existing people cannot suffer and have no frustrated desires. They also do not suffer from not witnessing the wonders of the universe which Dawkins harps upon. Sure, we are part of a select group of potential people who came into existence, but that’s no more “lucky” than to be part of the select group of people who have died from lightning strikes.
    for someone who advocates some kind of cold unemotional. rational, scientific thinking you fail to see the word lucky as a mere expression of occurence in spite of overwhelming improbabilities. Also I don’t like how you call his views schizophrenic. Divergent, maybe… but from the excerpts that you put I don’t see the point you pontificate about for endless paragraphs. Surely you can make that point in a more concise manner. What he’s saying is totally justified. To see all the energy you put into this… and the way you just chase your own tail and seem mad at someone for not having exactly the same view as you. I’ve never heard so much talk about non-existing things. You make life futile with your words… what brings suffering into my existence is reading your text. Another scholar who thinks he’s got it all figured out…. is your beef with suffering? Man up and quit bitching!

    • Francois Tremblay July 6, 2011 at 14:03

      “Man up and quit bitching!”

      So your solution to the suffering of little children dying of leukemia or whopping cough around the world, or of an elephant breaking its leg and getting eaten by tigers, is for me to “man up” (whatever that means) and to quit complaining about suffering. That’s brillant, Einstein (not to mention sexist, but if suffering doesn’t even bother you, I guess sexism doesn’t either).

      You are a perfect demonstration of what’s wrong with Dawkinites. The ideology of “life is wonderful life is wonderful bla bla bla” is ultimately as cruel and vulgar as nature itself, because it treats the very real suffering of innocents as no big deal. People dying of degenerative diseases for years and years on end, having horrible pains, is nothing to you. We should all just shut up and accept that this needs to exist. Right?

      Wrong, you fucker, it doesn’t NEED to exist. None of this suffering needs to exist. And yet people like you will keep aiding and abetting it because you are too fucking dumb to realize that SUFFERING IS BAD.

      Get the fuck off my blog, you asshole.
      Get the fuck off my planet, you asshole.
      Get the fuck off my universe, you asshole.

  7. Black Order July 7, 2011 at 15:47

    My best guess is that you wouldn’t last very long in an anarchist society.

    • Francois Tremblay July 7, 2011 at 15:49

      I don’t dispute the point, but so what? Do you have any logical arguments to present or are you just here to throw some cyanide into the well? If it’s the latter, then who cares? Get a life.

  8. RC July 7, 2011 at 16:03

    Very interesting post… But aren’t you exaggerating? I mean, if life was all suffering, rational people would simply commit suicide. People would love death. Yet in reality, it is otherwise: very few people commit suicide, and people loathe death.
    While people certainly do experience suffering, they also experience joy, pleasure and happiness. How can you tell if, on balance, there is more of the bad than the good?

    • Francois Tremblay July 7, 2011 at 16:09

      I never said that “life is all suffering.” This is purely the fruit of your imagination. Just because I acknowledge and deal with the existence of suffering at an ethical level does not mean I think that’s all there is. Do you tell a person who talks about potato growth that they must believe that everything is made of potatoes?

      • RC July 7, 2011 at 22:29

        Sorry if I set up a (unintentional) straw-man of your position. Nevertheless, you seem to believe that the amount of suffering exceeds the amount of pleasure, joy and happiness. I, on the other hand, am not so sure. Besides, the amount of happiness/suffering is not the same for every being.
        My point is this: isn’t it better to reduce suffering by improving life, rather than preventing new life? Besides, even if humans stop procreating, then suffering will only end for them – animals will continue to suffer.

        • Francois Tremblay July 8, 2011 at 00:02

          Sorry, I seem to have replied without clicking on “Reply” on your comment. Please see my full reply below.

  9. Francois Tremblay July 8, 2011 at 00:01

    “Sorry if I set up a (unintentional) straw-man of your position.”
    Apology accepted.

    “Nevertheless, you seem to believe that the amount of suffering exceeds the amount of pleasure, joy and happiness.”
    Well, are you arguing with what Dawkins wrote? Do you disagree that “The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation.”?

    “My point is this: isn’t it better to reduce suffering by improving life, rather than preventing new life?”
    No. How can it be “better”? ANYTHING that reduces harm is good. Both improving life, and preventing new lives. But the only PERMANENT way to eliminate harm is to prevent new lives.

    “Besides, even if humans stop procreating, then suffering will only end for them – animals will continue to suffer.”
    Antinatalists do not want only human harm to cease. We want all harm to cease, and harm is a property of sapience. It was created by evolution. Are we in agreement on that?

    • RC July 8, 2011 at 07:12

      I fully sympathize with the antinatalists aim to eliminate all suffering. Don’t get me wrong here. However, I don’t know how one can rationally calculate that the bad outweighs the good in life. Is such a measurement even possible? I doubt that Dawkins knows the answer.

      Also: if humans stop procreating, they will ease to exist. But animals will continue to procreate and therefore, will continue to suffer. So to end all suffering, all life must end as well, right?

      • Francois Tremblay July 8, 2011 at 13:15

        “I fully sympathize with the antinatalists aim to eliminate all suffering. Don’t get me wrong here.”
        Then why not be an antinatalist then? :)

        “However, I don’t know how one can rationally calculate that the bad outweighs the good in life. Is such a measurement even possible?”
        I didn’t say we can calculate it. I don’t think any such utilitarian comparison is ever really possible. Antinatalism does not depend on good or bad outweighing the other.

        “Also: if humans stop procreating, they will ease to exist. But animals will continue to procreate and therefore, will continue to suffer. So to end all suffering, all life must end as well, right?”
        Yes, that’s right. And there’s no obvious solution for that (although ending all factory farming would be good). But every person who doesn’t procreate is a step in the right direction.

        • RC July 8, 2011 at 15:49

          In a small way I am an antinatalist, since I have no intention of having kids of my own (too much responsibility…) and feel huge pity for women who bear pregnancies and give birth, as that causes physical suffering.

          I also am strongly in favor of depopulation, as I am pretty much sure that that would increase the well-being of the living. A one-child-maximum policy (not necessarily enforced by coercion) seems quite right.

          However, human extinction is too much for me. You rightly acknowledge that it is impossible to weight the good against the bad in life. So how can you be sure that eliminating suffering is worth it, since simultaneously happiness, pleasure and joy would be eliminated as well?

          Also… Don’t you fear that if some people stop procreating, while others continue to do it, the world may become a right-wing hell in a few generations? Because the right loves to breed, and good luck convincing them to stop it.

  10. Francois Tremblay July 8, 2011 at 16:07

    “However, human extinction is too much for me.”
    Human extinction is not a premise, it’s a corollary. If you accept that procreation is wrong, which it is, then the only reasonable conclusion is that extinction is preferable. Right?

    “You rightly acknowledge that it is impossible to weight the good against the bad in life. So how can you be sure that eliminating suffering is worth it, since simultaneously happiness, pleasure and joy would be eliminated as well?”
    What of it? The pleasures, the joys, would not exist without the suffering. The positives are palliations of negatives. If you eliminate every single source of frustrated desires in a human being, you also eliminate all possibility of achievement or pleasure. The reason why food tastes good is because we need to eat and to know what to eat. Remove the need to eat and you’ve removed the pleasure.

    “Also… Don’t you fear that if some people stop procreating, while others continue to do it, the world may become a right-wing hell in a few generations?”
    That sounds like a variation on the “smart people need to breed” argument. If a person really was smart, they would realize how stupid this game is, and wouldn’t be playing it. So yes, obviously stupid people will keep breeding, and we need to put a stop to it by changing the rules of society.
    Gary has proposed a voucher system wherein one person would get a voucher for one child, and vouchers could be traded. That way we could at least maintain population stability. Then we can start reducing the number of vouchers as we go along. That’s just one idea.

    • RC July 8, 2011 at 16:23

      Sorry, I posted in the wrong place, see below.

  11. RC July 8, 2011 at 16:22

    OK, I understand your arguments, although I will, at least for now, remain in the “antinatist-light” camp (aiming for depopulation). My argument is that thanks to science and better institutions (i.e. economic system, laws etc.) the well-being of humans (and, to a lesser extent, animals) will improve. Who knows, maybe science will enable procreation to be painless in the near future…

    As for your argument, that stupid people will continue to breed… Well, I’m not sure all of them are stupid. Take Bryan Caplan, for instance. I disagree with his right-libertarianism, to put it mildly, but I don’t consider him to be an idiot (at least in the traditional meaning of the word). He openly advocates for breeding and even sees it as a “libertarian strategy”:

    http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2011/02/selfish_reasons_2.html

    • Francois Tremblay July 8, 2011 at 16:29

      “OK, I understand your arguments, although I will, at least for now, remain in the “antinatist-light” camp (aiming for depopulation). My argument is that thanks to science and better institutions (i.e. economic system, laws etc.) the well-being of humans (and, to a lesser extent, animals) will improve.”
      So what? How does that address the antinatalist arguments?

      “Who knows, maybe science will enable procreation to be painless in the near future…”
      Who cares if it’s painless?

      “As for your argument, that stupid people will continue to breed… Well, I’m not sure all of them are stupid. Take Bryan Caplan, for instance. I disagree with his right-libertarianism, to put it mildly, but I don’t consider him to be an idiot (at least in the traditional meaning of the word). He openly advocates for breeding and even sees it as a “libertarian strategy”:”
      Anyone who openly advocates for breeding is pure evil. There’s really not much else to say about it.

  12. Azarius July 12, 2011 at 21:37

    Thought-provoking post – I usually agree with you on many issues, but disagree on radical antinatalism.

    I may have misinterpreted your words, but it seems to me that this argument relies on the assumption that the seemingly inevitable existence of pain and misery is such an ethical “wrong” that its “value” transcends whatever “good” may arise from it. I do not think this is a rational assumption to make, inasmuch as rational reasoning can apply to good and evil. If the evil that us humans perceive – or, more accurately, “construct”, as pondering such abstractions appears to be a process of active creation of meaning rather than of “discovery” in the sense of “hard” science – can be given transcendent and absolute “value”, I don’t see why the good couldn’t, as both concepts are exclusively part of our subjective human experience.

    I would believe that this is what Dawkins does by assuming scientific knowledge as being fundamentally “good”, and which I do, and you would appear to do as well, by assuming “rationality” and/or “logical reasoning” (or the results thereof) as being fundamentally “good”. On a more metaphysical level, the (potentially infinite) ethical value of the moral construct claiming that breeding is wrong could paradoxically be used to justify the potential purpose of breeding, as other moral systems that claim to “transcend meaning” (or the lack thereof) may very well be found in the future if such a [human] future is given a chance to exist. Unless you are seeking to apply your beliefs as “only possible answer”, that is… which seems to contradict your claim that “life has no meaning”. Your negation of meaning purports to be meaningful.

    On a slightly different ground, the notion that imposing harm (or “good” or anything, for that matter, as I believe that “harm” is superfluous in your Prime Directive – I equate coercion with “evil” and actualization of free will with “good”) is inherently wrong is sound. The application of this axiom, even modified to fit my beliefs, to procreation does indeed call for a critical view of natalism. I understand that the fact that pain is inevitable during one’s life makes creating a new existence synonymous with coercion of a non-consenting individual, as with education. However, I would argue that the notion of freedom can only exist through its curtailment, and that this doesn’t make freedom any less valuable. It is not because we are bound to produce some coercion to have any freedom (e.g. even ignoring breeding, coercion of murderers or rapists) that freedom is not transcendentally valuable.

    The points above, as chaotic as may be my attempt at explaining them, would lead me to argue that breeding is per se ethically neutral, as is the existence of nature itself. That said, since you seem to accept the absolute necessity of ethics, and given that – for atheists at least – the very existence of ethical concepts depends from the existence (and symbolic reflexivity) of humans, you appear to agree with the core tenants of humanism, despite their “contradictions”. I would say that we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good; the impossibility of a perfect human world shouldn’t make us give up on creating a better world, or indeed on having a “world” altogether, which is what antinatalism suggests. Breeding may or may not help with making our world a better place.

    • Francois Tremblay July 12, 2011 at 22:02

      “I may have misinterpreted your words, but it seems to me that this argument relies on the assumption that the seemingly inevitable existence of pain and misery is such an ethical “wrong” that its “value” transcends whatever “good” may arise from it.”
      This is a little vague. Actually most of my entry was not about pain or misery, but about meaning. I do make the point that Dawkins is obviously wrong to say that we are better off existing, and I think that’s pretty obvious. Apart from that, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I acknowledge the existence of pain and the existence of pleasure.

      “If the evil that us humans perceive – or, more accurately, “construct”, as pondering such abstractions appears to be a process of active creation of meaning rather than of “discovery” in the sense of “hard” science – can be given transcendent and absolute “value”, I don’t see why the good couldn’t, as both concepts are exclusively part of our subjective human experience.”
      I don’t know what transcendent or absolute “value” you are talking about. I would say objective value which is “transcendent” to the different “meanings of life” that people construct for themselves, yes. Is that what you mean?

      “I would believe that this is what Dawkins does by assuming scientific knowledge as being fundamentally “good””
      That’s not what he said. He said scientific knowledge was the purpose or meaning of life. It’s not, and it’s not any more valid objectively than religion.

      “On a more metaphysical level, the (potentially infinite) ethical value of the moral construct claiming that breeding is wrong could paradoxically be used to justify the potential purpose of breeding, as other moral systems that claim to “transcend meaning” (or the lack thereof) may very well be found in the future if such a [human] future is given a chance to exist.”
      Sorry, but you don’t get to perform evil on the basis of a hypothesis of yours, on the basis of an unknown (just as I don’t accept arguments that evidence for God might exist somewhere in the universe that I don’t have access to- unknowns are not evidence). I really don’t care if you think we’ll some day find a meaning of life or not: just don’t bring other human lives into existence so they can do it for you. Find it yourself first, then try to convince us of it.

      “On a slightly different ground, the notion that imposing harm (or “good” or anything, for that matter, as I believe that “harm” is superfluous in your Prime Directive – I equate coercion with “evil” and actualization of free will with “good”) is inherently wrong is sound. The application of this axiom, even modified to fit my beliefs, to procreation does indeed call for a critical view of natalism.”
      Then I applaud your desire to examine that.

      “I understand that the fact that pain is inevitable during one’s life makes creating a new existence synonymous with coercion of a non-consenting individual, as with education. However, I would argue that the notion of freedom can only exist through its curtailment, and that this doesn’t make freedom any less valuable. It is not because we are bound to produce some coercion to have any freedom (e.g. even ignoring breeding, coercion of murderers or rapists) that freedom is not transcendentally valuable.”
      This is not an argument. You are only reiterating evidence against natalism and saying that it’s actually a point in your favor. You have to actually demonstrate that the evidence is actually evidence in your favor.

      “The points above, as chaotic as may be my attempt at explaining them, would lead me to argue that breeding is per se ethically neutral, as is the existence of nature itself.”
      Why do you think the existence of nature itself is ethically neutral?
      Let me give you an example. If you had some kind of control over the future of a barren planet, and could, by pressing a button, create life there, which would eventually become sentient and feel pain, would you do it? Would you feel indifferent about whether you push the button or not? Or would you think “Why the fuck would I start such a dumb, pointless game? How would it ever be worth the suffering that it will create?”

      “That said, since you seem to accept the absolute necessity of ethics, and given that – for atheists at least – the very existence of ethical concepts depends from the existence (and symbolic reflexivity) of humans, you appear to agree with the core tenants of humanism, despite their “contradictions”.”
      I agree with the core tenets as long as they are kept in their proper perspective, which they are not. There are, as I pointed out, innate limits in where humanism can take us.

      “I would say that we shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good; the impossibility of a perfect human world shouldn’t make us give up on creating a better world, or indeed on having a “world” altogether, which is what antinatalism suggests.”
      Define “perfect.” I mean, that’s a loaded term. I am not asking for any perfection. I know it’s not achievable. Antinatalism is a practical solution, not a demand for perfection or whatever you think it is.

      “Breeding may or may not help with making our world a better place.”

      Well, you got that half right. The thing is, there’s no justification of how breeding might make the world a better place. It’s just more pointless consumption, addiction, cannibalism and reproduction.

  13. Azarius July 12, 2011 at 23:11

    ***This is a little vague. Actually most of my entry was not about pain or misery, but about meaning.***

    I don’t understand why meaninglessness makes human life inherently not worth living, thus why I assumed underlying concepts concepts that have a more obvious ethical impact. In other words, a possible interpretation would be that “meaninglessness (as in ontological insecurity) causes “pain”.

    ***I acknowledge the existence of pain and the existence of pleasure.***

    Isn’t that a sufficient basis for meaning? From a hedonistic point of view such as mine, I would claim that it is.

    ***That’s not what he said. He said scientific knowledge was the purpose or meaning of life. It’s not, and it’s not any more valid objectively than religion.***

    He assumed that acting according to one’s purpose or meaning is ethical. This statement was implicit, not explicit. As for “objectivity”, this of course depends on your epistemological assumptions, but I’m reasonably sure scientific knowledge is at least more practical than religious knowledge, and as you appear to acknowledge that some rudiments of objectivity exist within practical knowledge (cf. “[a]ntinatalism is a practical solution …”), I’d say that this suffices to claim science is “more objective” than religion.

    ***Let me give you an example. If you had some kind of control over the future of a barren planet, and could, by pressing a button, create life there, which would eventually become sentient and feel pain, would you do it? Would you feel indifferent about whether you push the button or not? Or would you think “Why the fuck would I start such a dumb, pointless game? How would it ever be worth the suffering that it will create?***

    I am a human and abide by fundamentally human ethical principles which are unknown to “nature” outside of humans for all we know. The game is only a game within human minds, and is “dumb” only to a fraction of them. Claiming that nature behaves unethically is anthropomorphism writ large – that is, projecting meaning created by humans onto the rest the the universe in a judgmental rather than (purportedly) descriptive fashion.

    ***Define “perfect.” I mean, that’s a loaded term. I am not asking for any perfection. I know it’s not achievable. Antinatalism is a practical solution, not a demand for perfection or whatever you think it is.***

    Perfection would be the complete individual and collective actualization of free will. And I’m not asking for perfection either, I’m asking for improvement. I also consider perfection to be an unattainable ideal that is bound to forever only exist within our imagination – but that doesn’t make improvement something we shouldn’t be seeking. As I see it, radical antinatalism is neither a demand for improvement nor a solution, but rather a negation of the meaning of the quest for either – tantamount to giving up on actually solving anything.

    ***There are, as I pointed out, innate limits in where humanism can take us.***

    There are much greater limits as to where antinatalism can take us (oblivion), as far as I can see.

    ***The thing is, there’s no justification of how breeding might make the world a better place. It’s just more pointless consumption, addiction, cannibalism and reproduction.***

    You got part of that right. It is “more pointless consumption, addiction, cannibalism and reproduction”, but not JUST that. It’s also more love, cooperation, pleasure and truth. There might be no justification of why would breeding be *intrinsically* good, but neither is there any justification of why breeding would be *intrinsically* evil (putting aside overpopulation issues – I support population control measures such as the voucher system you mentioned in a comment above, simply without the decrease).
    Breeding simply allows “the world” to exist for us humans.

    • Francois Tremblay July 12, 2011 at 23:23

      “I don’t understand why meaninglessness makes human life inherently not worth living”
      I didn’t say it did. It does make lives not worth starting. But it does not make lives not worth living.

      “Isn’t that a sufficient basis for meaning? From a hedonistic point of view such as mine, I would claim that it is.”
      What “meaning of life” do you extract from those two facts? Don’t confuse ethics with meaning.

      “He assumed that acting according to one’s purpose or meaning is ethical. This statement was implicit, not explicit.”
      Then it’s too bad that no such meaning exists.

      “As for “objectivity”, this of course depends on your epistemological assumptions, but I’m reasonably sure scientific knowledge is at least more practical than religious knowledge, and as you appear to acknowledge that some rudiments of objectivity exist within practical knowledge (cf. “[a]ntinatalism is a practical solution …”), I’d say that this suffices to claim science is “more objective” than religion.”
      No, I don’t claim that it is more objective, in terms of being driven by the results of the evolutionary process. I don’t think that doing science is something superhuman.

      “I am a human and abide by fundamentally human ethical principles which are unknown to “nature” outside of humans for all we know. The game is only a game within human minds, and is “dumb” only to a fraction of them.”
      You didn’t answer my question. An argument from popularity is not an answer.

      “Claiming that nature behaves unethically is anthropomorphism writ large – that is, projecting meaning created by humans onto the rest the the universe in a judgmental rather than (purportedly) descriptive fashion.”
      Fine, then answer the question. Would YOU, a moral agent, do this?

      “Perfection would be the complete individual and collective actualization of free will.”
      What does that even mean? You’re talking about something more than fantasy or virtual reality here. You’re asking for contradictions to exist, because different people will inevitably have contradictory ideas about what reality should be like.

      “And I’m not asking for perfection either, I’m asking for improvement. I also consider perfection to be an unattainable ideal that is bound to forever only exist within our imagination – but that doesn’t make improvement something we shouldn’t be seeking.”
      I never said we shouldn’t. You do know I am an Anarchist, right? That has kinda been the focus on this blog for all the years I’ve been writing it. Antinatalism is a new thing for me.

      “As I see it, radical antinatalism is neither a demand for improvement nor a solution, but rather a negation of the meaning of the quest for either – tantamount to giving up on actually solving anything.”
      What do you mean? Antinatalism is the only permanent solution to the problem of suffering. What does it “give up”? What is this bizarre “giving up” rhetoric? I’ve heard it many times and I never understood what it meant. We are not “giving up” anything. We are addressing the issue and presenting the solution.

      “There are much greater limits as to where antinatalism can take us (oblivion), as far as I can see.”
      What do you believe are the limits of antinatalism?

      “You got part of that right. It is “more pointless consumption, addiction, cannibalism and reproduction”, but not JUST that. It’s also more love, cooperation, pleasure and truth.”
      Yes, so what? Love evolved because of reproduction. Cooperation evolved to help species defend themselves. Pleasure evolved as a response to needs, which cause suffering. Truth evolved as a consequence of sentience, which also makes harm possible.
      Again, the positives are not primary: they are secondary to the negatives. This is not to deny that the positives exist, but simply to point out the facts of life.

      “Breeding simply allows “the world” to exist for us humans.”
      The world already exists. It doesn’t need humans to exist.

  14. PixieDust July 13, 2011 at 03:34

    Eh, suffering seems worth it if it’s minor and rare and life is otherwise fantastic all the time.

    • Francois Tremblay July 13, 2011 at 03:41

      If the worse you could get in this universe is a paper cut, then I’d say, sure, reproduce as much as you want, the game is stupid and pointless but it’s (nearly) free. But you and I both know it’s not. Not anywhere fucking near that.

  15. Azarius July 13, 2011 at 11:36

    ***The world already exists. It doesn’t need humans to exist.***

    I have been unclear here. I distinguish between the “Universe”, which exists without humans, and the “universe” or “world” which exists only through its subjective assessment and transformation by humans or possibly other beings capable of symbolic (that is, semantic) reasoning. In short, the Universe is everything that *is* while the world is everything that *is known*.

    ***What “meaning of life” do you extract from those two facts? Don’t confuse ethics with meaning.***

    Ethics, as far as I’m concerned, are meaningful. There is no “confusion” here, merely the obvious tautological assumption that ethical meaning is meaningful. From a purely semantic point of view, anything known by humans has potential meaning. Meaning (in the sense of “purpose”) doesn’t need to be part of the Universe a priori, as we can construct human meaning according to ethics and epistemology. The Universe may be utterly pointless for all I care, as long as the semantic systems we construct allow for self-improvement of the (our) world.

    ***Fine, then answer the question. Would YOU, a moral agent, do this?***

    I would certainly do it differently, although I would rather have the world as it is than no world at all. The fact that I would rather have the world be something else than what it is is what drives me to try to change it. That, in turn, would be a good deal of the “meaning” of my life.

    ***You do know I am an Anarchist, right? That has kinda been the focus on this blog for all the years I’ve been writing it. Antinatalism is a new thing for me.***

    I do know you’re an anarchist, and mostly agree with you as an anarchist. I’ve been regularly reading your blog for a while, although certainly not as long as I would have liked to.

    ***You’re asking for contradictions to exist, because different people will inevitably have contradictory ideas about what reality should be like.***

    They will as certainly find some common ground as they will disagree on other aspects. This common ground is what allows collective improvements of life to occur.

    ***What do you mean? Antinatalism is the only permanent solution to the problem of suffering. What does it “give up”? What is this bizarre “giving up” rhetoric? I’ve heard it many times and I never understood what it meant. We are not “giving up” anything. We are addressing the issue and presenting the solution.***

    It “solves” the issues of human condition in the same way that committing suicide solves one’s cluster headaches (or “not being born”). Or throwing away my broken computer after thoroughly shredding it (or not buying it in the first place). Or deleting everything I wrote because I’m not – and will never be – completely satisfied about it (or never having started to write). It doesn’t address the issue, it attempts to transcend it through the acceptance of some odd form of nihilism.

    ***Again, the positives are not primary: they are secondary to the negatives. This is not to deny that the positives exist, but simply to point out the facts of life.***

    I don’t agree with your normative interpretation of the facts. That love has evolved because of reproduction is only wrong if you believe reproduction to be inherently evil. That cooperation evolved to help us defend ourselves is only wrong is you agree defense is wrong – and I don’t think it is, especially as “defending” ourselves against nature is not inherently harmful. Needs don’t cause suffering if they’re satisfied in an ethical manner; I personally don’t subjectively experience satisfaction as being an exceptional state. Sentience (or rather, I would argue, symbolic reasoning) may make harm possible, it also makes good possible. I don’t think the existence of harm is so wrong (i.e. has such a negative meaning) that it would make good insignificant (i.e. meaningless).

    ***If the worse you could get in this universe is a paper cut, then I’d say, sure, reproduce as much as you want, the game is stupid and pointless but it’s (nearly) free. But you and I both know it’s not. Not anywhere fucking near that.***

    This is the pain VS pleasure argument I was referring to in my first post. If we can say that the existence of “significant” (whatever that may mean) pain makes reproducing wrong, I believe we can also say that the existence of “significant” pleasure makes reproducing good. I would personally rather avoid the pitfalls of trans-situational “significance” in this case, which ultimately is part of what leads me to see breeding as ethically neutral.

    • Francois Tremblay July 13, 2011 at 13:34

      “I have been unclear here. I distinguish between the “Universe”, which exists without humans, and the “universe” or “world” which exists only through its subjective assessment and transformation by humans or possibly other beings capable of symbolic (that is, semantic) reasoning. In short, the Universe is everything that *is* while the world is everything that *is known*.”
      So what? This is just semantics. There is no need for humans to exist, or for sentience to exist. Nothing would be deprived by us not existing.

      “Ethics, as far as I’m concerned, are meaningful.”
      I didn’t say they were not meaningful. But being compassionate to other people is not the meaning of life. It is an attempt to palliate the sufferings of life.

      “I would certainly do it differently, although I would rather have the world as it is than no world at all.”
      Why? What need or value are you fulfilling by putting life on a barren world? Your desire to see something beautiful, which is a concept programmed by your DNA? Fine then, if that’s your reason, then admit that you are a DNA-worshipper and be done with it. There’s really no reason to not admit it.

      “I do know you’re an anarchist, and mostly agree with you as an anarchist.”
      So why are you accusing me of not wanting to improve the human condition? You know very well that’s bullshit.

      “They will as certainly find some common ground as they will disagree on other aspects. This common ground is what allows collective improvements of life to occur.”
      Not on the basis of complete and total free will, no. Like I said, that’s even more fantastic than fantasy. We should not attack people’s free will, but we can’t fulfill everone’s desires.

      “It “solves” the issues of human condition in the same way that committing suicide solves one’s cluster headaches (or “not being born”). Or throwing away my broken computer after thoroughly shredding it (or not buying it in the first place). Or deleting everything I wrote because I’m not – and will never be – completely satisfied about it (or never having started to write). It doesn’t address the issue, it attempts to transcend it through the acceptance of some odd form of nihilism.”
      First of all, you know very well I am not a nihilist, so there’s no point in even alluding to that. Secondly, it DOES address the issue of suffering in the world- bringing less life into the world entails less potential for suffering. Can you deny that factually, or are you just gonna keep saying it doesn’t solve anything? Thirdly, your analogies are false because they associate antinatalism with suicide. Antinatalism has nothing to do with suicide, with the exception that we support assisted suicide laws and we think it’s horrible that people are forced to live through debilitating diseases which inflict constant mental or physical suffering on them. But whether you agree or disagree on this point is irrelevant to antinatalism. Whether you think it’s ridiculous or not, not being born DOES ensure that one will never have headaches- or get tuberculosis, or leukemia, or AIDS, or be in a car accident, or work in grueling factories so privileged white people like you can have their computer peripherials or their cheap clothes.

      “I don’t agree with your normative interpretation of the facts. That love has evolved because of reproduction is only wrong if you believe reproduction to be inherently evil.”
      Who said it was “wrong”? You didn’t even address my point, you just accused me of saying everything you listed is “wrong.” But I NEVER SAID THAT! All I did was point out that these positives are secondary to the negatives they exist to palliate.
      This conversation is fast becoming useless, because you are evading every important point. Why are you doing that?

      “This is the pain VS pleasure argument I was referring to in my first post. If we can say that the existence of “significant” (whatever that may mean) pain makes reproducing wrong, I believe we can also say that the existence of “significant” pleasure makes reproducing good.”
      No it does not, because a potential person cannot be deprived of anything. I already pointed this out in my entry and in the past, so don’t pretend you didn’t realize that.

      “part of what leads me to see breeding as ethically neutral.”
      Anything that creates harm is not “ethically neutral.” DO NOT IMPOSE HARM. It’s not fucking complicated. Either you follow this principle, or you can’t sit here and talk to me about your ethics.

  16. Azarius July 13, 2011 at 19:31

    ***This conversation is fast becoming useless, because you are evading every important point. Why are you doing that?***

    I probably don’t consider the same things as “important” as you do. But, yes, this conversation is quickly becoming useless. You have simply convinced me that I see no reason whatsoever to be an antinatalist. All your points in favour of it seem to be grounded in a misanthropic and pessimistic attitude, which seems to create the very meaninglessness it purports to “discover”.

    ***Fine then, if that’s your reason, then admit that you are a DNA-worshipper and be done with it. There’s really no reason to not admit it.***

    Reducing humans to their DNA alone seems fallacious. If I “worship” anything, it would be human cognition, which may or may not be programmed into our DNA. I’d rather assume free will than determinism, and give some importance to both nature and nurture. And worship doesn’t quite seem to be representative of my attitude – unless you’re claiming I “worship” pleasure. That said, I will happily admit that I am a thought-worshiper if that helps to explain why I don’t think creating human life is unethical.

    If someone would be happy to have children – and I personally don’t believe I would – I see no valid reason to coerce this person into not having children. I’d see proper education as essential, however; I believe to have read somewhere that your past standpoint on the issue of breeding was that we should prioritize finding better ways to educate children over actually having children. I am quite close to this position, although I believe proper education methods to exist already.

  17. Kirk Neville October 6, 2011 at 12:53

    Azarius, Would you populate a barren planet with seven billion ecstatically happy people if you knew that by doing so one little boy would be slowly tortured to death?

  18. Kirk Neville October 6, 2011 at 12:57

    Francois,

    That’s a great essay. It would make great material for a youtube video! You have a gift for writing prose as well as a rational and intelligent mind.

    Derived Energy

    • Francois Tremblay October 6, 2011 at 13:02

      Thank you DE, I’m glad you liked it. I like your videos also. Please keep up the good work.

  19. Anthony November 19, 2011 at 03:51

    “…It is another kind of delusion to think that one’s life has meaning because it fits in with one’s own plan when, in fact, one is mistaken that one’s own plan can endow (the right kind of) meaning.” Somebody couldn’t be anymore wrong, yet the ideas of right and wrong in their totality seem merely subjective for the most part. It’s just like, how the only known meaning of our existence would be likely subjective, forever, for eternity. You see, if there were some objective purpose behind our existence, and we came to know and understand such purpose, the whole process of our existence could be bypassed, eventually — which seems self-defeating in itself. Considering that, I think it’s fair to assume our existence, or anything and everything for that matter, is meaningless; however, it’s all so beautiful because everything meaningful comes from the meaninglessness of everything.

  20. […] and the liberal worldview both hold that procreation is our inherent purpose. I have discussed in my entry debunking Richard Dawkins how science-minded people cling to the belief that procreation is a purpose given to us by […]

  21. […] have analyzed this bizarre set of beliefs in my entry debunking Richard Dawkins and my entry on the Ice Cream Argument. It is not really one single belief as much as a gradient of […]

  22. […] nature is beautiful, and nature is complex, but as I’ve pointed out before, beauty and complexity are not criteria we can use to evaluate a system. Beauty is an automatic […]

  23. […] in humans the purpose of procreation, and that anyone who refuses to procreate is aberrant. I have debunked such claims. But this time the argument is different: these psychs are not claiming that we must reproduce, but […]

  24. […] for myself, I did this analysis a while ago, talking specifically about […]

  25. tnt666 February 2, 2014 at 22:19

    It’s a common problem with gnu-atheists/Humanism. British Humanism, of which RD has been a leader for some time, is in fact simply that old yucky gang of WASPs (now god-less), For many decades, Humanism (which does not by definition imply anything about gods, only that humans come first), has been successfully riding on the coattails of various other philosophical trends. The atheist community is simply the most recent.
    I really miss the days of Madalyn O’hair, when atheists stood on their own, without that little Humanist bible manifesto and its adulation of human technology and destruction. All four horsemen are ridiculous in this regard.
    It reeks at the very foundations of Humanism. For if man created god in his image… and Humanists adulate man, well then we really aren’t moving ahead now are we? Of the big headed male atheist talking heads out there, the only one I can tolerate is PZ Myers… and not in too large doses.
    This is a huge philosophical challenge in Canada, for if one does an internet search for atheist groups across the country… one finds that they’re nearly actually all Humanist groups… people who’ve simply traded one religion for another. Even CFI are dominated by Humanists. There are religious Humanists, and there are religious Secular Humanists. Humanism is really an idea that is so distorted in order to appear “modern”, it’s depressing.

    • Francois Tremblay February 2, 2014 at 22:29

      Yes, this has annoyed me a great deal as well. I do my best to break from the humanist lock-step. Being an antinatalist, it’s not very hard. :)

  26. JJ April 12, 2014 at 22:57

    Perfect article. Thank you for thinking and being an empathetic human being.

  27. cyanidecupcake May 1, 2014 at 01:10

    I thought Dawkins was strange before, but his talk about the unborn (including the potential geniuses) and the privileged living makes him sound like natalists in that aspect; natalists who use lines like,”But you could be killing the next Stephen Hawking!” It’s uncanny. Funny how he’s selling books with this stuff, when I can hear the same things from Christians for FREE. No thanks, New Atheism!

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