Alexander McNabb, of The Right Stuff (a right-wing blog, obviously), has taken aim at me personally and antinatalists in general in his entry “Anti-natalism and VHEMT, the irresponsible philosophy.” His argument is that the antinatalist ideology suffers from short-sightedness, and is therefore irresponsible. But it is McNabb who is irresponsible, because he has obviously not taken the time to research antinatalism in any depth.
The first problem is that he believes antinatalism only advocates human extinction:
They never actually seem to be conscious of what happens AFTER humans voluntarily vanish from the planet, which seems strange since most of them have probably read Daniel Quinn’s “Ishmael” at least once. Essentially these childlike intellectually bankrupt nihilists just assume that with no humans, the earth goes back to being a verdant Eden-like paradise, free of the nastiness of homo sapiens putting down shopping malls and strip mining everything. The actual reality is, the earth will go back to remaining a paradise right up until the NEXT species in line achieves sentience…
But in fact antinatalists are adamant in stating that the problem is all suffering, not just human suffering. Of all the antinatalists I’ve talked to or read, there is only one ecological antinatalist that I know of, and that’s Nina Paley. She may be more famous than most of us, but that doesn’t make her our representative. No one else agrees with McNabb’s belief that antinatalists in general all share the same ecological aims.
In Better Never to Have Been, the seminal book on antinatalism, David Benatar concludes:
Although the end of humanity would greatly reduce the amount of harm, it would not end it all. The remaining sentient beings would continue to suffer and their coming into existence could still be a harm. This is one reason why the misanthropic arguments does not go as far as the arguments I have advanced in this book- arguments that arise not from antipathy towards the human species but rather from concern about harms to all sentient beings.
I do not expect critics like McNabb to read entire books on the subject, but I would expect him to be at least a little familiar with the most vocal proponents of antinatalism, such as Gary Mosher, who again and again discuss the fact that suffering affects all sentient life and who berate people who praise nature.
Here is McNabb’s other argument:
If, ethically speaking, anti-natalists were at all concerned with preventing suffering, they’d logically investigate two options: Find a way to destroy the entire planet so thoroughly life could never exist on it, or become transhumanists and take very seriously the idea of immortalizing and improving humans. By any logical calculation, the second option is more conducive to providing pleasure for all species, while the first one simply removes the possibility for suffering.
I would also expect him to understand the “logical calculation” of Benatar’s Asymmetry, which he obviously does not; if he did, he would realize quickly that transhumanism is not, and cannot, be better than extinction. Again, this seems more like ignorance of the subject than anything else.
And antinatalists do discuss “destroying the entire planet,” because it is the only feasible way to eliminate all suffering within humanity’s area of influence (not transhumanism, which is a red herring at best), so it is a natural point of discussion.
Now, I admit that I don’t discuss these topics on my blog, so if McNabb has gotten all his information from my blog and VHEMT, then he might get the impression that all we care about is human suffering. My blog concentrates on theoretical arguments, not on consequences or strategies, and VHEMT concentrates on ecological antinatalism. But this is a problem of research on his part, not an obligation on my part to educate him (and he didn’t even contact me to get more information, or even ask basic questions).
In short, anyone who seriously believes in anti-natalism is actually condoning the future suffering of new sentient species, and deserves to be dismissed as a shortsighted crank.
But anyone who seriously investigates antinatalism would not come to the weird conclusion that people who oppose the creation of suffering only care about human suffering. Even ecological antinatalists advocate human extinction so that animal life will be subject to less suffering, not for the sake of prejudice. Now, you might disagree with their conclusion, but you can’t pronounce them “shortsighted cranks” for it.
On the other hand, reading his other entries, it seems McNabb suffers from verbal diarrhea and a love of berating things he doesn’t understand. I think we can safely call him a hack.