One of my Antinatalist Antelopes, summarizing antinatalism in as short a fashion as possible.
A while ago I wrote a case for atheism, ostensibly to be made in fifteen minutes (although I didn’t time it, and interpret “fifteen minutes” as a relatively short period of time, meaning that the case must be short and to the point). I have not yet done the same with antinatalism.
First, I believe that people vastly exaggerate the counter-intuitiveness of antinatalism because they associate antinatalism with human extinction. I do agree that human extinction is not a comfortable proposition to consider, but the issue of human extinction is a practical one, not a theoretical one. As a matter of fact, antinatalism is an extremely small group which cannot influence whether people will keep breeding or not.
Antinatalism itself is nothing more or less than the proposition that procreation is ethically wrong. And that proposition, I think, is pretty intuitive; we are empathic and do, in general, wish to spare people from hardships. It’s just harder to do the math where potential lives are concerned, and things like the Non-Identity Problem do occlude our view of the problem.
No, I doubt that antinatalism is particularly unintuitive, but rather that people do not think, and often outright refuse to think, about their decision to have children. I don’t think most people actively reject antinatalism or actively support natalism, I think they just go along with the implicit indoctrination they’ve been given by their family and the society around them.
Explicit natalism is another story entirely. Those who adopt such a view are mostly religious fanatics who are motivated by fear and ignorance. The desire to breed is a symptom of the death culture, more specifically our dismal view of death and eternity; religion has bamboozled people, even seculars, into believing that having children extends our selves into eternity. The idea of extinction triggers not only the fear of one’s death (through the non-survival of one’s progeny) but also the fear of species death (or “losing the game”).
My case for antinatalism will follow the same general structure and shortness that I used for atheism, the main difference being that I don’t need to take a positive position because antinatalism already is a positive position. In this case, I intend to give a very, very brief overview of each branch of antinatalism (philanthropic, misanthropic, ecological and teleological) as well.
1. People’s reasons to breed are irrational.
If you stop and listen to the reasons people provide to have children, you will find uniformly that they are extremely bad. VHEMT provides a long list of the most used reasons. On the whole, they either reflect superstitious beliefs, laziness or fear. I have never heard any reason for breeding from an actual parent that wasn’t one of those things.
Now, I realize that this is not an argument in itself, but it casts a great deal of doubt on the ethical nature of procreation. Which leads us to our next point…
2. There can be no good reasons to create new human lives.
All the purposes we attribute to individuals or mankind as a whole are rationalizations entirely made up by humans to justify their actions, because only sentient beings can have needs and purposes. At best a given individual can exist in order to alleviate other individuals’ suffering, but there is no need for those other individuals to exist in the first place.
3. Procreation goes against our core social values.
All societies lay down a basis of mutual respect, consent, duty not to harm others, not subjecting people to unwanted risk, and so on, in order to protect people’s cooperative abilities. Procreation goes against these core values because it ignores consent issues, it normalizes the creation of harm, it normalizes exposing new human beings to the innumerable risks of existence, and so on.
By and large societies ignore these facts because of the Western familial hierarchies, where the father rules over the mother, who rules over her children. This means that the individuality, rights and needs of children are by and large ignored. We also completely deny the responsibility of parents when they bring damaged persons into this world, or when their children suffer through their negligence. But this is not fair or just. If you have any sense of justice, you should be repulsed by this attitude. And this is only one piece of evidence for my last point…
4. This world is not nearly as good as most Westerners would evaluate.
It may be argued that this proposition is inherently subjective and that only the person can judge whether the world is good enough for them. But this speaks precisely to the point that parents do make that decision for their children and think nothing of it.
There are people today who regret their existence. Antinatalists are one obvious such group. Some proportion of the million or so people who kill themselves every year may also be included. There are also plenty of people today who, while not regretting their existence, wish that the world was a lot, lot better than it is. All radicals I think would fit in this group, as well as many people who are on the fringe of political discourse, and probably a few believers in the mainstream as well. If a significant percentage of people agree on this, then we must concede that any child may grow up to agree as well.
Because of the optimistic bias in our brains, we tend to evaluate our lives as being far better than they actually are. Also, any Western-centric and human-centric analysis entirely omits the suffering we delegate onto the Third World and other species. It is easy to conclude that life is worth living when we force other living beings to suffer in our place, but this is a piss-poor excuse for an evaluation.
My point is that there are powerful counter-arguments to the general belief that the world is good enough to have children in.
5. So what is the alternative?
We need to stop this “perpetuation of the species” bullshit. There is no reason to perpetuate the species. It’s more important to take care of the people who are already alive than to make new ones. We need to take a greater perspective and work to reduce the suffering of all sentient life on this planet instead of bringing more suffering into it.