Meanwhile, I see you've been criticized by a fellow bioethicist, one Wesley J. Smith. Here's the text in full. And now, in the spirit of fairness, I'd like to turn the tables on one who I understand is more often than not hostile to Professor Singer and his 'existential nihilism'. Here goes-
At the New York Times blog, Peter Singer favorably discusses a book that I haven’t read–Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence–that illuminates the profound danger of Singer’s utilitarian philosophy and the growing nihilism among the intellectual set.
Ouch! More 'profound danger' emerging from the 'intellectual set'. And indeed, what could be more dangerous than preventing a childbirth, or even a passel of 'em? Or ALL of them, as a matter of discussion. Why, just think what peril human non-existence would pose to...to...to...hmm, not exactly sure WHO would be in peril, but most certainly it would be perilous!
That’s pretty simplistic. People don’t sit back and coolly make utilitarian decisions. We are more vibrant than that, for good and ill, more messy.
And this is a good thing, why? Seems like this statement would apply equally well to a father who fritters away his childrens' futures on cocaine addiction, or even to a serial killer, for crissake! Oh yeah, you DID include that '...and ill' part, didn't you? Then what the hell is the point you're trying to make? That people tend not to think things through? Not exactly a ringing endorsement for future parenthood, is it?
Moreover, people who don’t want children that will experience difficulties often make that decision because of the problems it will create in their own lives, a value system promoted by the popular culture–hence the ubiquitous practice of eugenic abortion, and in the Netherlands, infanticide–both of which practices are supported enthusiastically by Singer.
It may well be that many people choose not to have children out of selfishness, although I think you're painting with a conveniently broad brush. My attitude to this is a big, fat SO WHAT? At least it's not selfishness at the expense of someone else, which is ALWAYS the case when someone chooses to have a child. Or did you think you were doing somebody a favor, foisting suffering and ultimate death on the non-existent? And don't give me that crap about most of them not regretting their own existence. That's an attitude which develops AFTER the deed is done, often on the basis of some pretty fucking faulty self-evaluation, as Professor Benatar points out in his book. Oh yeah, you didn't read it, did you?
Reducing childbearing to crass utilitarian measurements and projections of suffering, thus, leads to justifying killing as an answer thereto, illustrating the oppression unleashed by the avoid suffering at all costs attitudes so prevalent today.
By crass, I'll just assume you mean 'considered'. As for the rest...meh. Any philosophy can be shown to 'justify' killing, from fascism to buddhism, to...gasp!...theism. As far as 'oppression unleashed by the avoid suffering at all costs attitudes', how about the oppression unleashed by the 'fuck everybody else's suffering as long as I get what I want' crowd? Including, of course, all those who are willing to expose a child to the risk of horrible suffering, and sure death, simply because they want a real live babydoll to play with who'll eventually grow up and take care of them when they're old. Oh, and who'll fight their wars for them, of course.
Singer takes this mindset to the next logical step, sympathizing with the view that we should become extinct as a way of avoiding suffering...
Since you're aware that Singer doesn't actually embrace human extinction, I'll assume by 'sympathizing' you mean 'doesn't automatically dismiss', and leave it at that.
This is nihilism on stilts and it is polluting the West’s self confidence and belief in universal human equality like the BP oil well is polluting the Caribbean. Only the resulting mess isn’t measured in polluted beaches and dead birds, but existential despair that destroys human lives.
Disillusionment's a bitch, ain't it? Oh, and all those dead birds? That's the way of all flesh, Mr. Smith. Including the human kind. We're all destroyed eventually, one by one or in bunches. The difference between you and Dr. Benatar is that he wants to put an end to the destruction, once and for all, while you and your ilk hand out fertility charms in the midst of the black death, and sing kum ba yah.
After seeming to embrace the concept of human extinction, Singer takes a step back:
We have to “justify” continuing the species? Good grief. Under the influence of anti-human advocates like Peter Singer, we have gone in the West from seeking to “secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity,” to seriously questioning whether there should be any posterity at all. This is not healthy. But it is the natural consequence of rejecting human exceptionalism.
And what do you base your notions of human exceptionalism on, sir? The superstitious scribblings of primitive desert wanderers, perhaps? I'll tell you what I base mine on: Depth of consciousness. Empathy. Sensitivity to suffering, both immediately physical, as well as abstract. The ability to reason, to contemplate the existential dilemma all humans face. And finally, on the possibility to take matters into our own hands, to summon up the courage to do what no other animal on Earth understands the need to do. To end it, here. To end human suffering and death. Of course, our posterity won't be around to shout accolades as the last of us goes down into the dust, which makes the act all the more selfless. Antinatalism is kind. Antinatalism is good. Antinatalism is right.