Ideologies which go along with the status quo usually remain unquestioned, or only lightly questioned, even when they are blatantly irrational. Ideologies which go against the status quo are immediately seen as suspicious and must meet very high standards to be even potential discussion material.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that I classify antinatalism (as well as more or less everything else I write about on this blog) in the latter category. What that means, in practice, is that antinatalism is subjected (whether this is done consciously or, more likely, unconsciously) to standards to which mainstream ideologies would never be subjected.
A great example of that was given to me by reader Brian L. in a comment to my entry on the Non-Identity Problem:
Economists, ecologists, and others I can’t think of off the top of my head, talk about future people, their impact, and how they will be impacted. Yet no one calls them on a NIP. Why just us? Am I not understanding, or do I understand enough that I see through the NIP issue as a non-issue?
The Non-Identity Problem, if you don’t know about it, is an objection sometimes presented by opponents of antinatalism. It consists, to explain it simply, of denying reasoning based on future persons because it’s irrational to base your reasoning on things that don’t actually exist.
As I pointed out in my entry, the NIP not only doesn’t address most antinatalist arguments, but it’s also plainly wrong and contradicts basic intuitions. If one person is designing a product and another person find out that a flaw in the design would make it lethal to its user, it would be imbecilic for the natalist to come in and say that there’s no point in arguing about flaws because the product does not exist yet. This is not logic or philosophy that should be treated seriously, it’s a sad incapacity to understand cause and effect that should be treated with pity.
The NIP is imbecilic, but the point that Brian L. raises to great effect is that we don’t hear such nonsense applied to ideologies like economics or ecologists. There’s no lack of people ready to use any excuse to fight against ecological concerns, but somehow no one has stumbled upon the great argument “we can’t ever talk about the well-being of future generations because they don’t exist, and nothing that doesn’t exist is worth talking about.”
We also don’t hear such nonsense applied to scientific disciplines which predict the creation of novel entities, such as physics or biology. People don’t go up to physicists who make predictions of what will happen in a supercollider to say “well, the particles you’re talking about don’t exist yet, so there’s no point in talking about this, and you’re full of it.” That would just be silly.
Although they do tend to be rather stupid, it is highly likely that the natalists who use the NIP are intelligent enough to understand basic causality and induction, and their use of the argument is almost certainly disingenuous.
I think that in practice it becomes a variant of the “well, that’s life” argument. There’s no point in arguing about the interests of a non-existing person in not coming into existence, and when they do come into existence, then they have to take the bad along with the good. At least that’s the common way of reasoning about it.
As I pointed out in my refutation of the NIP, antinatalists are not concerning themselves with the interests of non-existing people, whatever that would mean. Another point I’ve made many times is that it makes no sense to treat the good and bad of life as if they canceled out or compensated for each other.
But more importantly, it shows how eager they are to escape the irrefutable conclusion that non-existence is better than existence. They have so little to argue against it that they’d rather just ignore it entirely. All the natalists I’ve seen argue, from the stupidest Youtube commenter to the sophisticated academics (e.g. David Wasserman in Debating Procreation, or stupidest man alive Bryan Caplan), can’t do anything but try to ignore the arguments as much as they possibly can and focus with laser precision on the ice creams, or even just on the illusion of ice creams (such as that provided by hedonic adaptation).
As I said in my reply to Brian L., they must reject antinatalist arguments at all costs, even at the cost of looking like complete morons, because it’s too painful for them to contemplate that the arguments might actually be right. Much like a religion addict, a drug addict, an alcoholic, or a politics addict, any excuse is good enough to rationalize getting their next fix. But at least you can get a sense of self-righteousness out of being a religion or politics addict; I don’t really see what being a natalism addict gets you, especially since virtually no one in the world disagrees with you. And it sure doesn’t beat drugs or alcohol.