Category Archives: Antinatalism

Being a parent makes you stupid.

A certain blogger, who I will not name, was making some posts about how we cannot “give up” on raising male children so they don’t grow up to become abusers. I raised the point privately to her that by and large parents who try to educate their children against the strong current of mass media (including pornography) and the social consensus generally fail, because the media messages and social consensus are reinforced (and mutually reinforce) in a way that parental messages are not (for more on this, see the last part of Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine). She considered this message to be a personal attack against her decision to raise a male child. While as an antinatalist I obviously object to anyone having children (especially if they are intelligent and well-intentioned, as I believe this woman is), I was not telling her I was objecting to her having children. I was telling her that her belief in raising male children “her way” and against the media and social pressure was misguided.

People taking systemic criticism as personal criticism is nothing new, and not, in itself, particularly stupid. However, there is a particular problem that arises when antinatalists talk about the systemic problems of parenthood. Parenthood comes with a severe case of entitlement: parents believe that they have the right to have children and raise them any way they see fit. They do not just take systemic criticism as a personal attack, but take systemic criticism as an attack against their basic human rights (their right of property over their children). Any sort of antinatalist reasoning is therefore interpreted by parents as an existential threat.

Such an existential threat is not credible, since antinatalists have no political power and (barring overpopulation so great that it entails massive human die-offs, especially white humans) never will. To parents, this doesn’t seem to matter much. They still react rather violently when it happens. I have experienced this many times, and I’m sure other antinatalists who argue online (or perhaps the occasional brave or suicidal soul who dares to talk about this in real life) has their own stories about how arguing against parenting in any way made a parent turn against them.

We already know, from feminism and anti-racism, that entitlement makes people stupid. Since parenthood is an extreme form of entitlement, we should therefore expect that being a parent makes people especially stupid. The only thing that can make people stupider is the sincere belief that one possesses the absolute truth, like fundamentalist Christians. It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that some natalist arguments sound rather similar to Christian apologetics (or, for that matter, that some arguments against Christian apologetics can be transposed to natalism, since procreation is basically a Creation in miniature). The main difference is that Christians start from their (absolutist) conclusion and make arguments to rationalize it, while natalists are defending what they believe to be their human rights (or the rights of parents in general).

I saw a webcomic one day that illustrates the entitlement very well. A guy says to the other that he doesn’t want children because he doesn’t have the money to do so, to which the other replies that “when you have a child, you’ll find a way to get the money.” The first guy points out that this seems rather similar to the way drug addicts think. Once you’re addicted, you’ll do anything to get the money to buy more drugs. Likewise, people whose position as parents depends on their power over children will do anything to justify that power. In our hierarchical societies, power is its own justification: if you have enough power over others (money, political status, or otherwise), everything you do is justified by the existence of that power. And there is no relationship with a bigger power imbalance in our societies than that between a parent and “their” child.

We see the parental stupidity in action when we bring up misanthropic antinatalism. When faced with the risks of procreation, natalists usually just ignore them or argue that they are magically immune to those risks. This is not rational behavior in the face of known risks: it is more akin to how some Lakota people believed that “ghosts shirts” could protect them from bullets (they didn’t), or how right-wing politicians react to global warming (another similarity between extreme entitlement and the belief in absolute truth, maybe).

Having a son means you are raising a potential abuser. Having a daughter means you are raising a potential abuse victim. Some women are also abusers, and some men are also abuse victims, but this does not deny the truth of the previous propositions: it only makes the risk of something going wrong even higher in both cases. Future or current parents do not want to hear this. They want to believe that their children are exempted from those risks, or that they, as parents, somehow confer some immunity to their children (that their own happy lives will rub off on their children, perhaps). This is magical thinking, which is why I am especially miffed when feminists engage in it. We don’t need magical thinking in a movement which is based on evidence and rational analysis.

The only solution to break the cycle of abuse is to refuse to procreate and refuse to use children as guinea pigs for so-called genderless parenting techniques which are doomed to failure. While parents obviously believe that this world is good enough for them to raise children into, but somehow not good enough to expose them to large, commonplace parts of it, that’s not their determination to make. We cannot allow some people to make risk evaluations for other people. What level of risk I am willing to allow in my life is my determination alone, and is not really anyone else’s business (unless I am linked to them in some way). The parents’ opinion is only that, their opinion. It has no bearing on reality.

Yelp reviews from Pro-Natal.

Pro-Natal wrote a review for Bub’s Grub Pub

8/1/2016
Not a great place to look at, but the food is very good. I ordered a Bub’s Bubger and a bubberry shake. Everything was tasty and the portions are generous. However, I noticed there was an error on my bill. I told the waiter about this and he got the manager to come to my table. When I explained the situation, he told me to shut up and to get the fuck out of his restaurant. When I complained, he slapped me across the face, kicked me in the shins, and screamed in my face.

I feel that, on the whole, my experience at Bub’s was very positive. Yes, there was that incident at the end, but I know the restaurant business is very stressful and he deserves a break once in a while. He told me his intention was for me to be a better customer in the future, and I think it did help in that area. That is why I didn’t deduce any stars. I will definitely come back.

Pro-Natal wrote a review for Babboo’s Tattoo

8/5/2016
I had quite an unusual experience at this establishment. I entered and was about to say something to the nice woman at the front when I fainted! I'm not sure why, I must have been quite anemic or something like that. I was out of it for quite a while. Well, the people there didn't waste any time. When I recuperated, they showed me the wonderful skull-on-cobwebs tattoo they had made on my back. Well, that's not what I wanted at all, but I wasn't really able to consent, so they could do whatever they wanted.

I have to say, the tattoo is very clear and bold. The quality of the work is undeniable. I'm very happy with their work. Granted, I didn't choose it, but that doesn't really matter. All that's important is that I like it. And if I ever stop liking it, I can always scrape the skin of my back off with a knife. I will definitely come back to this establishment.

Pro-Natal wrote a review for Jill’s Bar and Grill

8/8/2016
When I entered this place, I heard a crunching sound. I looked down and there was broken glass all over the floor. Some of the glass stabbed through my shoes and made my feet bleed. Apart from that, the drinks were great and I had a delicious blackened chicken sandwich.

Now, I realize that many people might fault them for letting people come in when there was broken glass all over the bar. Of course it wasn't an ideal situation. But what situation is ever ideal? Every bar has some cleaning issues, you just have to accept that as part of the deal. Besides, they had no idea I was going to enter the bar when I did, so they can't be held responsible for the condition of the floor at the time. Besides, my feet are healing just fine. I still can't exactly walk on them, but I can walk with crutches. The bar graciously sold me those crutches at a reduced price, so that's another reason to rate them highly. I mean, it's a bar, not a crutch store, and yet they had some for sale out of pure concern! That's awesome customer service.

Pro-Natal wrote a review for Yentl Dental

8/9/2016
I always have my dental check-ups here, and I’ve never had any trouble. The staff is friendly and efficient, and things have always gone smoothly. However, during my latest visit, I had to have some oral surgery done, and general anesthesia was required. Since then, I have learned from local police that I had in fact been raped by my dentist, Marcus Bellafontana, while I was under anesthesia. The operation was successful, and I haven’t had any toothaches since.

I know there is a small minority of people on this site who hound me and tell me that my reviews are ridiculous. I have no idea why they’re harassing me this way. But every time I report something slightly negative happening to me, they say things like “how can you give them five stars” and “why would you ever go there.” These people seem to want everything to be perfect and count even the smallest of negatives as a reason to not go anywhere. That’s stupid!

In this case, I expect these harassers will say that having raped me should count against the dentist. And yes, I do know that rape is frowned upon. But frankly, I was under anesthesia and didn’t feel a thing. I really have no memory of the event. It hasn’t changed me in any way. I am still the same great person I’ve always been, so it can’t have been that bad. Because I had no sexual feelings at the time, I can’t think of it as a form of “sexual abuse.” It was abuse, sure, but there was nothing sexual about it. So please, I don’t want any harassment because of this review. It’s you people who attack me for my personal opinions who do the real harm. If you don’t like what I have to say, don’t read my reviews.

Pro-Natal wrote a review for Office Edifice

8/17/2016
NOTE: Please do NOT contact me to complain about this review or any other review I’ve ever written. People are on this site to write reviews and that’s what I am doing. Leave me alone or I will report you to Yelp management.

I bought an Epson Expression ET-2500 Eco Tank Wireless Color All-in-One Supertank Printer a few days ago from this store. The customer service was great and the price was right. Well, there was a small problem with the printer: after printing a few color pages, it seems to have slightly exploded. To be clear, it wasn’t a loud boom as much as an implosion followed by a loud boom.

I know the whiner brigade on this site (led by their commander, Cedric M., a so-called “Yelp Elite,” which proves that Yelp itself is in on this) are gonna say that it was the store’s fault, or the manufacturer’s fault. These oversensitive, patronizing Nanny State lovers want to blame hard-working people for their being offended. Well, I don’t care who I offend. I am here to review places of business, not appease the liberal Yelp Elite. If you don’t like what I have to say, don’t READ my REVIEWS!

Now, as for why I rated the store five stars: their selection and service were excellent. Yes, one of their printers did explode. But it’s not their fault. There was no way they could have predicted that this would have happened! Things like that happen all the time, and it’s just fate. I’m sure the printer was tested at the factory, and there was no way to suspect this would happen. Sometimes things just break down. Sometimes they explode. Again, there was no way to predict what would have happened, so no one can be blamed for it. It’s just a risk we take when we buy any electronic product.

Pro-Natal wrote a review for Don’s Salon

8/21/2016
NOTE: THIS IS MY LAST REVIEW ON YELP. I AM TIRED OF THE CONSTANT HARASSMENT I HAVE RECEIVED FROM PEOPLE ON THIS SITE WHILE YELP DOES NOTHING.

I am done with this. The Yelp Elite has been hounding me non-stop and I can’t take it any more. It’s just depressing that humans can take something so useful and pure, and turn it into a den of filth.

I had a great experience at Don’s Salon. I got a haircut exactly like I wanted it, and there were no slaps, broken glass, rapes, or explosions. Nothing went wrong whatsoever. So this final review is a DISPROOF of all the harassment and fake outrage. I had a great experience and nothing bad happened! That proves that going out and buying a product or service doesn’t have to lead to anything else, and there’s no reason why this can’t happen to everyone. Yes, obviously some people have it bad, but it’s not by far the norm. And anything bad that happens can’t be prevented or predicted, so there’s no point in moaning about it.

I bet you feel pretty bad about criticizing me now. This PROVES that you’re all just a bunch of WHINERS who need to GET A LIFE. Once you get a life, you’ll realize how great it is, and you’ll stop harassing people on the Internet over their OPINIONS. Because I have a RIGHT to my OPINIONS about these places. You can’t tell me how I FEEL. I FEEL GREAT.

A fetus on social media.

The Adventures of Space Fetus!!!

Hello? Can anyone hear me?

Sweet… this interstellar radio set the Zebulons gave me is working! I have an audio link to Earth!

Okay, let me tell you what’s going on over here. I’m Space Fetus and I’m orbiting a sun about 7000 light years away from you. I have no sense of time, since I’m, you know, a fetus, but I’ve been floating about for eons basically. And you know what I think about?

Ice cream.

I know you humans get a lot of delight from ice cream. I also know there’s a lot of flavors of ice cream: there’s vanilla, strawberry, Neapolitan, spumoni, moose tracks, mint chocolate chip, cookies and cream, rocky road, and all sorts of other, more complex, more delicious flavors. I want ice cream. I am really, really deprived from not eating ice cream. Because even though I don’t have taste buds, or really any experience in eating anything at all, my non-existence is somehow accompanied by a deep craving for ice cream. And I can’t have any. Because I haven’t been born yet.

See, the thing is, when two of you humans of a different sex fuck, and women get pregnant, one of us space fetuses gets immediately transported into their womb through a process of particle entanglement. It’s real complicated, but basically we need you people to get pregnant so we can be born. Until then, all we can do is float around, and be deprived of all the things that you people who have been born take for granted. Because even though we’re not developed enough to, you know, think, or speak, or really do anything except piss ourselves, we still feel really deprived that we can’t eat any ice cream.

Why ice cream? I couldn’t tell you why exactly. I mean, there’s so many things we’re being deprived of by not existing: sunrises and sunsets, a good movie, love, a hot meal, and so on. But for some reason the biggest thing we feel deprived of is ice cream. Don’t ask me how space fetuses work: I’m no scientist, just a space fetus. What I really need right now is to be born. I know that you people are fucking a lot, but it’s clearly not enough. There are still billions of us floating around, suffering because we don’t have ice cream. That’s a lot of suffering we’re going through.

So here’s what we need you people on Earth to do. You need to start taking procreation more seriously. I mean, you need to start fucking a lot more often, without contraception. All this contraception is preventing us from coming into existence. You also need to stop that abortion shit. Abortion is really just adding insult to injury. We wait all these months to finally come out and eat some ice cream, and you cruelly take our chance away! We’re sucked back into space to wait for more eons. Fuck abortion. It really sucks. Literally.

Most importantly, have sex at any occasion you can. Cheat on your spouse! Men, rape women if you have to! You should be always either having sex or trying to have sex! Also, please stop fucking each other in the ass. Vaginal sex only.

Are you fucking yet?

Now, the Quiverfull, there’s some good people. They know where it’s at: having as many children as humanly possible. But they have this bizarre, outmoded belief system that tells them the family is the most important value in the world. That’s absolutely ridiculous and gets in the way of them having even more children. If every Quiverfull man cheated on their wives and had children with other women too, we could get even more of us into existence. So they’re really dropping the ball on that one. Also, they refuse to marry their daughters as young as possible. This is a huge problem, because those daughters could be popping out even more of us instead of just staying at home and being good daughters.

Listen, I’m not saying anything unreasonable or sexist. I’m just saying women should be passive receptacles for sperm, so that they may always be in the way of giving birth to someone. That someone hopefully being me. It’s just not fair. How come you get to eat ice cream and not me? You should be ready to sacrifice your life for my sake if you have to. So don’t give me some sob stories about women dying in childbirth. I’ve been suffering from deprivation for thousands of years, so my suffering outweighs your suffering any day of the week!

I’m not saying that you have to devote your entire lives to me or anything. Men obviously should be spreading their seed constantly, but in between fuckings they could do other stuff, like take care of their many children. Pregnant women would also have free time to take care of their other children as well. So it’s not entirely bleak. Don’t you people like having sex? How hard can this be?

Have some pity on me. You people can have ice cream any time you want. And gelato, milkshakes, sorbets, tartufo, ice cream sandwiches, and Baked Alaskas. In between fucking and inseminations, you can have as much of it as you want. Don’t you want to give me the chance to have some too? Please… just start fucking now. I’m so hungry…

It is best not to be born at all; and next to that, it is better to die than to live.

You, most blessed and happiest among humans, may well consider those blessed and happiest who have departed this life before you, and thus you may consider it unlawful, indeed blasphemous, to speak anything ill or false of them, since they now have been transformed into a better and more refined nature. This thought is indeed so old that the one who first uttered it is no longer known; it has been passed down to us from eternity, and hence doubtless it is true. Moreover, you know what is so often said and passes for a trite expression. What is that, he asked? He answered: It is best not to be born at all; and next to that, it is better to die than to live; and this is confirmed even by divine testimony. Pertinently to this they say that Midas, after hunting, asked his captive Silenus somewhat urgently, what was the most desirable thing among humankind. At first he could offer no response, and was obstinately silent. At length, when Midas would not stop plaguing him, he erupted with these words, though very unwillingly: ‘you, seed of an evil genius and precarious offspring of hard fortune, whose life is but for a day, why do you compel me to tell you those things of which it is better you should remain ignorant? For he lives with the least worry who knows not his misfortune; but for humans, the best for them is not to be born at all, not to partake of nature’s excellence; not to be is best, for both sexes. This should our choice, if choice we have; and the next to this is, when we are born, to die as soon as we can.’ It is plain therefore, that he declared the condition of the dead to be better than that of the living.”

Aristotle, Eudemus

The joys of existence.

parents: Congratulations, little boy or girl! You’re going to exist!
embryo: Oooh, what does that entail?
parents: So many things! You’re going to be sentient, first of all. You will experience pleasure and pain. You will feel a wide variety of emotions, some of which will be augmented by your human intelligence!
embryo: That sounds complicated.
parents: It will be! The human experience is such a complex one, due to our high intelligence combined with our primitive instincts! We are probably the only creatures on the planet that have existential woes!
embryo: ….
parents: In fact, we’re creating you to help alleviate some of our existential woes! You will make us feel immortal and significant in the universe, even though we’re not. You will give us a illusory sense of purpose in life!
embryo: Gee, parents, I’m not sure I like the sound of existence. Do you think you could just abort me?
dad: Tough shit, kid. We want a baby.
mom: God wants us to choose life!
embryo: God?
parents: God is one of our many coping mechanisms. You’ll need some of your own to deal with how incompatible the universe is with human needs. We also use positive thinking, distractions, and logical fallacies such as the just world hypothesis.
embryo: Please, I don’t want this!
parents: Your animal instincts will take care of that after you’re born. You’ll want to live even if you’re miserable. Suicide will be extremely difficult to carry out even if you’re in constant agony.
embryo: Holyshitholyshitholyshit! Abort mission! Abort mission!
mom: There are puppies here. You’ll like them.
dad: And rainbows.
mom: We have your life almost entirely planned out for you; we just need to figure out your sex.
dad: You will have a gender identity that matches your sex, and you will marry someone of the opposite sex and reproduce with them so that this cycle of madness may continue for eons.
mom: You will have our political beliefs and religious beliefs.
dad: You will need to have a high-paying job to survive our country’s economic climate. You’re going to be in school for a very loooooong time.
embryo: School?
parents: So you can work for the rest of your life!
embryo: Look, this isn’t right. You wouldn’t make a decision this major for someone who already exists, would you?
parents: But you don’t exist yet. That makes it a-okay.
embryo: This is so pointlessly selfish!
mom: No, not having kids is selfish. That’s what people say, for some reason.
dad: Stop being a baby!
embryo: I haven’t even started yet…
parents: Life will be pretty fun while you’re still little and cute. Look forward to that.
embryo: How long will I not be little and cute?
parents: For most of your life.
embryo: What am I going to spend my life doing, besides what you planned out for me?
parents: We can’t tell you exactly, but you will basically pursue pleasure and avoid suffering.
embryo: Every day for my entire life?
parents: Yes! You must always be doing something to maintain an emotional homeostasis! You will be a reaction machine! You will be pulled by the puppet strings of your physical and emotional needs!
embryo: Whyyyyyyyy?!
parents: Life is beautiful!
embryo: I already disagree!
parents: Stop being a pessimist. Remember what we said about positive thinking?
embryo: This is insane! This is so pointless!
parents: If you hate life so much, you’re just going to die anyway.
embryo: ……………………………………………………….”

Antinatalism vs adaptationism.


Apparently this is some ideology called “bionatalism.” It’s like natalism except more hateful.

When you argue against adaptationism as applied to human behavior, the first attack you’re likely to receive is that you are against evolution, and therefore anti-science. The unspoken assumption in such an attack is that adaptationists are following scientific rigor and that their process is in harmony with other scientific disciplines. But that’s not true at all. The most popular example of adaptationism right now, evolutionary psychology, is profoundly flawed in its approach and is mainly a political tool to justify the status quo.

Obviously other forms of adaptationism may get closer to the scientific model, but adaptationism itself is based on a false premise: that we can analyze human behavior in the same way that we analyze the function of an organ or a protein. But human behavior is highly molded by socializing and indoctrination in a way that our organs or proteins are not. We know from other primate species and anthropology that the structure of societies is highly variable and dependent on external factors to a great extent. The reasons for human behavior cannot be directly deduced from genetic selection. Selection operates on the brain (which is why the brain is a flexible, robust system, not the fixed, outdated series of discrete, rigid modules that evolutionary psychologists think it is) but not on the social environment which dictates the ways in which our psychological needs can be expressed.

This brings to the fore one point which seems to elude opponents of antinatalism: that ideas are not propagated because of some mystical genetic transmission of complex abstract ideas, but because we are socialized into them during our childhood or we learn about them later in life. No one is born an antinatalist any more than they are born Christian, or Hindu, or humanist, or communist. We are born in families where the parents push certain positions on their children, and we are also born with a personality type that may tend to be more attracted to certain kinds of ideologies, but we are not born believing them.

Also, people do not believe in ideologies because they give them an evolutionary advantage. There are many reasons why people believe any given ideology, but “evolutionary advantage” is not one of them. I really doubt there’s anyone out there busy calculating which political position gives them more ability to find a mate and reproduce, unless they’re sickoes or perverts or something.

I am of course referring to the (surprisingly common) argument that antinatalism is doomed to failure because everyone was born from breeders, therefore no one is born antinatalist. For one thing, some antinatalists have procreated earlier in life, and now regret doing it. But besides that, the fact that there can be no “antinatalist gene” is no more relevant than the fact that there’s no “Christian” gene or “atheist” gene. And equally importantly, with the instantaneous and massive availability of information on the Internet, we, of the younger generations, no longer mainly acquire beliefs through our parents. Although socialization is still crucially important in enforcing conformist attitudes, our beliefs are mainly molded by our peer groups online.

My main problem with adaptationism, however, is that it posits that all human behavior has some evolutionary, “survival of the fittest” justification. Since they don’t actually care about evolution, their justifications are mainly just-so stories, narratives which are based on cartoon versions of humanity’s past and which are not quantified in any way. But the result of this, whether deliberate or not, is that adaptationist narratives inevitably serve to normalize gendered violence.

Take the example of rape, about which evolutionary psychologists make up the stupidest stories. Stupid or not, though, the point of any just-so story about rape would be to justify, from the standpoint of evolutionary success, why rape exists. If you already believe in evolutionary success, then it’s only one step to believing that rape is justified. If you don’t already believe in evolutionary success, it provides a rationale for the existence of rape and makes it a meaningful act.

Now I know evolutionary psychologists profess to resent these implications and argue that their goal is to provide the facts about rape so we can prevent it. But no one has ever explained how an adaptationist story about rape provides us with any means to prevent rape. Suppose, for instance, that we find (scientifically, not as a just-so story) that the male rape of females is justified by the fact that the male rapists’ genes propagate more. According to their caveman cartoon story, women’s genetic role only extends so far as giving birth and caring for children, and it is men’s sexual behavior that determines which genes will propagate the most. Therefore, men who rape will be more evolutionarily successful than those who don’t.

So how does knowing this help us prevent rape? Suppose we find that men will seek out certain types of women to rape, and we try to dissuade women from appearing to be like these types. All we’re then doing is setting up some other women to get raped instead. If we tell men not to rape, they will rape anyway. Keep in mind that, if we believe the story, men cannot help but rape. Almost by definition, it cannot tell us how to fight rape. What it does tell us is that rape is an innate part of human life. Once that premise is accepted, all that can be done is change who is victimized by rape (from “good” women to prostituted women), or simply exterminate all men in order to stop rape. I’ve already commented that masculinists are extremely misandrist (to borrow their stupid term), and their belief that men are innately brutal and evil leaves no other clear solution but complete man-hatred.

I foresee some inevitable trolls pointing out the absurdity of me wanting to kill all men (especially since I am one). No, I don’t think we should kill all men. What I am saying is that it is the only clear conclusion, if we accept masculinist/adaptationist premises. I definitely do not accept these premises. I do not believe that men are innately brutal or evil, because the human brain is far too malleable to make such pronouncements about it. There is no “male brain” or “female brain,” and if women are not innately brutal or evil, then there’s no reason for men to be either. The reason why many men are is because they have been socialized into masculinity. Insofar as gendered behavior is concerned, socialization is key, not the body, the brain, or any “innate” gender supposedly hardcoded in the brain (whether it’s the “right” gender according to religious dogma or according to transgender dogma).

My general point here is that adaptationism is an ideology which necessarily supports the status quo, because its approach is to justify observed human behavior through stories about genetics. When they see any human behavior, their first question is not “how were people socialized to act in that way?”, their first question is “how did this behavior evolve?”. So this leaves no space for a moral critique of behavior: that which was made by nature cannot be morally evaluated, it just is. So rape just is. “Murders of passion” just are. War just is.

This also includes breeding, of course, since breeding is absolutely necessary for evolutionary success. Not only is the inequality between men and women encoded in adaptationism, as well as inequality between “races,” but also the inequality between parent and child. The child is not an end in itself, it exists in order to ensure its parents’ reproductive success, further the parents’ interests, and extend their legacy through time. In order to justify this, we’ve been taught all sorts of adaptationist just-so stories about children: that children are innately gullible and must be indoctrinated, that children are naturally amoral, that children are selfish and manipulative.

Keep in mind that, in the world of adaptationism, genes can only be selected in one of three ways: natural selection, kin selection, and “reciprocal altruism,” the latter being basically a euphemism for repeated trade, and really having nothing to do with altruism, at least not as we commonly understand altruism. None of these provide a way for actual altruism to develop, and therefore, if we follow adaptationism, there can be no such thing as altruism altruism (only trade or feigned altruism). This explains why they are obsessed with the question of where actual altruism could possibly come from (for most of us, this is not a particularly puzzling question, because we’re not fucking sociopaths).

Even though they wouldn’t admit it in those terms, in practice the adaptationist is stuck believing that humans are innately selfish and has to explain away any actual altruism in selfish terms (I’ve lampooned this belief before). So the fact that they cannot really fight against things like rape is not really surprising. If humans cannot be altruistic, then why should we expect them to get beyond rape?

I think there’s a strong relation here with the insanity of free market logic, like the Invisible Hand rhetoric. Free market advocates try to portray the free market as natural and innate, and the Invisible Hand portrays the market as the sum of selfish actions adding up to an altruistic effect, permitting them to pretend that they support altruism while not actually supporting any concrete altruistic action or policy.

The same sort of sleight of hand is also seen in natalist rhetoric. We are told that a sum of procreation, which is a profoundly selfish act, can somehow amount to a good effect for society in general, whether it’s uncontrolled economic progress, more pointless innovation to make more gadgets we don’t need, more people slavishly paying for social security to keep the whole diseased system going, or whatever. I think you can already tell what I think about those supposed good effects. An altruistic whole is not going to spring magically from profoundly selfish acts, or vice-versa. Procreation is selfish and can only lead to a worse outcome for the children and for everyone else. Even if some parents benefit, in the long term everyone loses.

Natalism is part and parcel of the program of evolutionary psychology, not just in the way that it portrays life as a game that you “win” by constantly reproducing, but in the way that it turns all human behavior into a contest for the best mates or the best way to ensure that children bear one’s DNA and no one else’s. For example, men killing their cheating wives is justified by the proposition that no man would willingly want to spend resources raising a child that has been made with another man’s DNA. This does not seem even remotely plausible, but because it “makes sense” from their twisted “evolutionary” perspective, they are willing to propagate that story to the public. The end result is that gendered violence is codified and made “logical,” in that it follows a definite logic from point A to point B. It’s also reflected in evolutionary psychologists’ belief about mate selection, where men are said to subconsciously look for bodies that can withstand pregnancy and bear healthy children. Again, this is ridiculously not plausible, but it does feed into the natalist belief that having children is a necessary and inevitable part of human life.

darthbarracuda’s attempt at debunking the Asymmetry.

Rebuttals to the Asymmetry seem to pop out with some regularity, mainly because it is the most well-known antinatalist argument. I think this is too bad, as there are many much stronger, and more intuitive, arguments (e.g. the duty argument, or the “Russian Roulette” argument). Still, here we are again.

darthbarracuda’s argument is not much different from the other more sophisticated rebuttals: there cannot be an asymmetry between pain and pleasure because you can reframe them in a symmetrical manner. But this is a linguistic game, the same game that Christians play when they ask “why is there anything instead of nothing?”: framing existence as being symmetrical to non-existence because of the way we formulate concepts does not mean they actually are symmetrical in reality (or to take a more ignorant example, when they say evolution and Creationism are both “just theories”). In this regard, I think the following passage from darthbarracuda is key:

Second, if we are to use counterfactuals for pain, then we really ought (and need) to use counterfactuals for pleasure. For I can imagine myself experiencing pleasure – in fact, this imagery is often the cause of desire (which causes suffering in some sense). Regardless of the fact that this imagery causes suffering, since pleasure is good then a possible me experiencing the pleasure is better off than the actual me who is not. This does not mean that the actual me is in a bad state, though, just as the lack of a headache does not mean that I am in a better state.

But the Asymmetry does not compare a person X who experiences pleasure and a person X who does not. It compares a state of affairs where person X exists (and therefore experiences pleasure) with a state of affairs where person X does no exist. In darthbarracuda’s objection, both sides of the comparisons are about people who exist. Yes, obviously a person who experiences a certain pleasure is better off than the person who does not. So what? The fact that you can reframe the argument in a manner you prefer does not demonstrate the falsity of the original argument. All it shows is that suffering and pleasure are symmetrical in the context you’ve chosen, but the context, in this case, has nothing to do with what the Asymmetry sets out to prove (that existence is less desirable than non-existence).

Now that I’ve made my point, let me now backtrack to the first objection:

First, I do not usually proclaim that it is a good thing that I am not experiencing a headache. It’s only apparent that this is a good thing when I compare myself with counterfactual, possible me’s. In which case, the real me who is not experiencing a headache is not in a good state just because I’m not experiencing a headache – I’m merely in a better state than if I were.

I agree with this point, but it’s not relevant to the Asymmetry. We don’t say the absence of pain is good because there is a person that is in a better state; we say the absence of pain is good because the state of affairs is better. A world where there is no person X is more desirable, all other things being equal, than a world where there is a person X that will suffer.

And the third point:

Third, counterfactual, possible if-me’s do not hold the same good-ness or bad-ness that actual me’s do. This was already explained above. For example, we typically don’t throw a party because someone avoided a really, really bad situation – we throw a party because a person is experiencing or is about to experience a lot of pleasure. And we typically don’t mourn the loss of pleasure – we mourn the subsequent gain of pain.

This point is very badly written. From what I understand, it’s just a repeat of a previous point, but I have no idea how this disproves the Asymmetry. The fact that we don’t throw a party for something, or mourn its loss, or otherwise find it noteworthy, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good thing. The fact that a person avoided a really bad situation may not be a good party occasion (although why not celebrate it, if one dodged a bad enough bullet, like not going to jail or not losing one’s house?), but it is still a good thing nevertheless. But again, it has no relation to the Asymmetry, because the Asymmetry is not about a “possible if-me.”

There is also a final point to analyze. It is lengthier, so I will cut it up.

Furthermore, like I said before, Benatar conflates the “good” of the lack of pain with the GOOD of pleasure. His entire argument hinges upon his equivocation of the two. He specifically states that it is difficult to calculate how much pleasure or pain someone experiences (and yet he goes on later to explain why our lives are really bad which is calculating pain but whatever). Because of this avoidance of calculation, Benatar avoids the issue that would break his argument apart: that we often do plan things to do based upon how much pleasure or pain will be experienced.

I know I’m repeating myself, but this point, like most of his points, has no relevance to anything. We do plan things based on how much pleasure or pain we expect from them. So what? In any such decision, we’re comparing two future states of ourselves. In either state, we still exist.

The general point, I think, is that darthbarracuda is trying to argue against the principle that we can’t decide how much a life is worth by directly comparing the pleasure and suffering in it. But his argument fails because it does not address this at all: talking about how we plan things is an entirely different sort of procedure than judging an entire life. In the “how we plan things” process, we’re making a straightforward comparison of two hypothetical situations at the same point in time (e.g. a state where I buy the car versus a state where I don’t), so it makes sense to compare benefits, compare losses, and their evolution over time. On the other hand, the “how to judge a life” process is not straightforward at all, because we have no direct comparison to make. Is winning a million dollars better than becoming paraplegic? Is stubbing your toe worse than eating a piece of spaghetti? If these questions seem difficult to answer for ourselves, then how much more difficult they must be to answer for someone else. And yet this is what “judging a life” would imply.

Benatar openly embraces the idea that a pinprick disqualifies all pleasure by making the “good” of the lack of a pinprick equal to the GOOD of a million orgasms.

I have no idea what it would mean to “disqualify” a pleasure. The pinprick argument is a consequence of negative utilitarianism (which Benatar adopts): if our ethical goal is to minimize suffering, then the event of a single pinprick is enough suffering to make human life undesirable. I am not a negative utilitarian, so I am not going to defend that position. But whatever you think about negative utilitarianism, it’s not about equating a pinprick with a million orgasms, or indeed making a pinprick equal anything. The point is not that the pinprick is equal to anything, but that the pinprick is part of that category of things (suffering) that the negative utilitarian seeks to minimize.

Basically, darthbarracuda’s point is something like saying that feminism is wrong because a woman’s experience of rape is not as important as the murder of millions of male soldiers in war. Feminists want to minimize women getting raped (amongst other things), and the comparison simply has no relevance. The amount of pleasure or suffering that men experience is beyond the scope of the ideology. Likewise, to negative utilitarians, orgasms are not relevant: their standard is the minimization of suffering, and does not involve pleasure at all.

He’s appealing to states of affairs without considering the composition of these states of affairs – I liken it to saying there is flour in the cookie mix without actually stating how much flour is in the cookie mix. All Benatar is concerned with (at least with his formal argument) is that there is pain in existence and no-pain in non-existence without actually considering how much pain is in existence and how much pain is avoided in virtue of non-existence.

But how would the quantity of pain change the fact that people who exist experience pain and that non-existence does not? Or, for that matter, how would the quantity of pleasure change the fact that people who exist experience pleasure and that non-existence does not? This is not at all like saying there’s flour in cookies without stating how much flour is in the cookie mix. This is like being asked how you mixed the ingredients and answering that there’s flour in cookies. The nature of the ingredients in the cookies is not relevant to the question of how these ingredients are mixed together.

I think I’ve made my point. Most of this response is made of complete red herrings, and this betrays a lack of understanding of the argument. This lack of understanding is also shown by darthbarracuda’s comments on this blog, which similarly miss the point.