Category Archives: Antinatalism

Brian McLean: the asymmetry is false because the asymmetry is false.

Brian McLean, philosophy student, wrote a paper about antinatalism which Ohio State University put online. I think it’s an interesting rebuttal in its formulation, although it’s really nothing new at all. Actually, it’s very disappointing in terms of content. For one thing, he mostly concentrates on the Asymmetry, like most critics, which means that his criticism is overly narrow and does not pertain to most antinatalist arguments. For another, his arguments are pretty bad.

Like most academics critics, he at least understands the Asymmetry well enough to explain it correctly (which is more than I can say for most people). But then he says this:

But suppose we reject Prudential Asymmetry. Suppose the following is true, for any person:

The presence of pain is bad for that person
The presence of pleasure is good for that person

And:

The absence of pain is good for that person even if that person doesn’t exist.
The absence of pleasure is bad for that person even if that person doesn’t exist.

It’s worth noting that this view seems to be a commonplace one. We tend to think that, if we want to figure out whether existence is rationally preferable to non-existence, we need to look at the amount of pain and pleasure that would be contained within that person’s life. If the pains outweigh the pleasures, it’s bad for that person to come into existence; but if the pleasures outweigh the pains, it’s good for that person to come into existence.

This proves that he may understand the Asymmetry well enough to explain it, but not enough to do anything with that information. It is literally impossible for the absence of pleasure to be bad because there is nothing that “loses out.” To posit otherwise is to posit a world outside of our understanding.

Furthermore, he says that this is a “commonplace view,” but cites the belief that we should compare pain and pleasure in a life to evaluate it. This is a logical error. There is no direct logical connection between “the absence of pleasure is bad” and “we need to look at the pain and pleasure contained within a person’s life to evaluate it.” What he means to say, perhaps, is that if we hold to his symmetry, then we must look at the pain and pleasure within a person’s life to evaluate it. But this makes no sense because the Asymmetry is not about evaluating the quality of a life, after the fact, it is about putting a value-judgment on procreation, before the fact. It is also about comparing two states of affairs, not evaluating people. The best his new symmetry can do is conclude that procreation is morally ambiguous, but it tells us absolutely nothing about how to evaluate a person’s life.

Because his analogy does not hold, we have to conclude that his symmetry is completely unproven and is simply another tiresome argument from “well, you’re wrong therefore you’re wrong.”

McLean then elaborates on what he means by “looking at the amount of pain and pleasure”:

For instance, consider the concept of a disabler: the concept of a consideration that prevents another consideration from being a pro tanto moral reason for or against some action…

I propose that, in the procreative context, we understand the moral significance of pleasures that would be within a child’s life as disablers with respects to the moral reasons that would be generated by the pains that would be within the child’s life. For instance, suppose for simplicity that a child’s life simply contains one painful experience with an intensity of -80 hedons and a pleasant experience within an intensity of 90 hedons. Other things equal, with respect to the child’s interests, there are two morally relevant considerations:

(1) The child’s life would contain a pain with an intensity of -80 hedons.
(2) The child’s life would contain a pleasure with an intensity of 90 hedons.

(1), normally, would be a pro tanto moral reason against creating the child. But (2) prevents (1) from being a moral reason against creating the child. (1) is a moral reason against creating the child only in the absence of (2). This framework captures an intuitive idea. Provided that the pleasures that would be within the child’s life outweigh the pains that would be within the child’s life, there is no moral reason (grounded in the child’s interests) against creating the child. But the pleasures don’t themselves generate moral reasons to create a child; they simply counteract the moral force of the pains that would be within the child’s life. The language of disablers allows us to make this intuitive idea more precise.

I would contend that his “intuitive idea” is not intuitive at all. It only seems intuitive because he keeps the discussion at a highly abstract and imaginary level (there are no such thing as hedons, so this is quite open to imaginative interpretation). So let’s take a concrete case. Suppose that a football player is recruited by the NFL, wins many awards, lots of money, and then has a car crash and ends up paraplegic for the rest of his life. Since there’s no such thing as hedons, and any measurement would be nonsensical anyway, let’s posit that the hedon quantity is similar in both cases: +90 at the beginning, and then -80 due to the accident. Is it therefore intuitive to say that the football player had a “good life,” let alone a life worth creating?

The latter question is silly, since no life can be worth creating, as the Asymmetry demonstrates. But let us restrict ourselves to the question: is this a “good life”? I would contend that it is not. Others may disagree. However, it seems to me that the latter position is not intuitive at all, and that there’s plenty of grounds for disagreement. It is not a priori absurd to imagine people seriously arguing for both sides of the question with articulate and rational arguments.

So in my opinion, this attempt at a justification fails completely. However, what of the argument itself? Is (2) sufficient to reject (1) as a moral reason against creating the child? No, because pleasure and pain do not “cancel out.” This seems to be a sore point for a lot of people, so let me explain this further.

To take my example again, the experience of becoming paraplegic does not “cancel out” the experience of being a professional athlete and getting lots of admiration and money. Both of these events exist as series of memories with their own effects. The memories of being a professional football player may cause, for example, pride and a sense of identity. The memories of becoming paraplegic may cause trauma and despair. These effects do not cancel out either: one person can feel both happiness and trauma. I know this is very obvious, but it shows the silliness of the idea of “canceling out.” We do not experience pleasure and pain as sides of a see-saw which dictate a single quantitative evaluation. Both the positive and the negative experiences of our lives show us that there can be many evaluations of one’s life, which are equally valid.

In the end, no one outside yourself knows how good or bad your life has been, and only you can truly make any sort of evaluation of it. This means that any idea of evaluating someone else’s life and translating it into numbers is ultimately as invalid and counter-productive as the utilitarian belief that one can (numerically or not) compare the well-being of different people. The whole premise discussed by McLean is therefore ultimately futile.

Now, I have to repeat myself because McLean commits the same fallacy of equating the Asymmetry (or his symmetry) to the evaluation of a person’s life. Whether a person had a “good life” or not has no bearing whatsoever on whether that life was worth creating. In his book, Benatar does point out the difference between a life worth creating and a life worth continuing, but apparently McLean didn’t pay attention to that part. This is sloppy to say the least, and makes the entire line of reasoning irrelevant to the topic of antinatalism, since it is not contradictory at all to posit that all humans live “good lives” (which of course we know isn’t actually the case) and that no lives are worth starting.

Since McLean also addresses the duty argument, I will finish by pointing out that our duty to not harm people is not canceled out by helping people. To give an example I’ve used before, if a doctor saves a patient’s life, he does not thereby have the right to punch the patient in the face. Generally speaking, we have a duty to not harm, but we do not have a duty to help (or at least such a duty cannot be attributed to all people at all times, since most of us are not doctors, firefighters, etc). But even if we had a duty to help as well, there still would be no “canceling out.”

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.