There is a common bromide, uttered by people in many different ideological positions, that says that we were “made” for procreation, and that therefore not having children goes against human nature.
Well, first of all, I don’t believe we were designed, so we were not “made” for anything. Even if we classify this as an unfortunate use of words (which, in some cases, it is, as I don’t think the secular proponents of this bromide actually mean it), it is also mysterious as to how 20% of the population somehow managed to defeat their own human nature by not having children. If 20% of the population can just not do something, then it is most likely not part of human nature. It may be widespread, but it is not “natural” in that sense. And if that’s the case, then the power of the argument is gone.
Clearly our human bodies make procreation possible, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. But there is a huge step from there to “we’re ‘made’ for procreation.” The latter implies not only a careful design, but also a clear orientation in the design, in that any other purpose in the design would disprove the claim. So the question becomes, do our sexual organs appear to have been designed solely for the intent of procreation? The answer to that question is a resounding no. Everything about how we get sexual pleasure (prostate orgasms, the efficacy of masturbation, the clitoris as center of female sexual pleasure, the fact that most women don’t orgasm from PIV) clearly points in one direction: we were made for sex, but not for procreation.
For most of Western history, sex and procreation were inextricably linked, since heterosexuality was the only accepted norm for marriages (which exist for the purpose of procreation, specifically to transform a woman and her future children into male property), and the technology to prevent pregnancies was not as developed as it is today. So if anyone had said that “we were made for procreation,” at any other time in history, they would have been at least credible. But saying this nowadays is just not credible. A human being can spend their entire life having sex without ever having children.
In fact, the more we have access to medical technology, the fewer children we have. Clearly another part of the human organism was not “made” for procreation, that part being the brain. Despite the fact that we could have many more children and have them live healthy lives (like Quiverfull families), we do the exact opposite. Whatever the reason for this, it clearly indicates that the more reproductive control we have, the fewer children we have.
Given how improbable this belief is, why do so many people believe it so firmly? The belief that we’re “made” for procreation goes hand in hand with natalist propaganda. It is always easier to get people to accept a belief system if you convince them that the belief system is the consequence of natural facts about humans. People accept gender and race more readily if they honestly believe that gender and race are consequences of human biology. After all, who can fight against biology?
One argument they give us is that procreation has been going on forever. That is certainly true, but procreation has not been going on forever because we’re “made” for it. Procreation has been going on forever because, as I already pointed out, sex and procreation were inextricably linked. This is no longer the case. We know now why children are born. We do not live in the ignorance of our ancestors.
Another reason, I think, why the belief persists is because of heteronormativity and the belief in marriage. We are all raised to believe that heterosexual relationships and marriage are a natural part of life, and that the purpose of marriage is for a man and a woman to make and raise children. This may be the case, but either way, it is not a natural or necessary part of life. Many people are not heterosexuals and many people are unmarried. This does not mean that people who are heterosexuals and married must have children. As an antinatalist, I don’t believe anyone should have children. But whatever your belief is on the natalist issue, having children is not an innate part of human nature.