Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Confessions of an Antinatalist- Excerpt 3

Things are moving along with the book. Last minute jots and tittles, and so many thanks owed to eyes and minds superior to my own. As I write this, birds are singing their mating and killing songs just outside my window. And as seems always these days, the sound of sirens in the near distance. Life- a crisis in the making.

Here's a small blurb from the book-

You never know what life’s going to hand you. Things can
be going along well for awhile, then BAM! Life can seem so full
of promise sometimes, IF you’re born into the right culture, in
the right century, into a family with some means, and with a
little luck. But even luck often fails you, sometimes drastically.
I wish my children well. I wish all children well. So what?
When you get down to it, good intentions aren’t worth squat.
The best intentions do not in the least mitigate the harm we do,
inevitably, to the children we create. We know our children
will suffer and die. That makes all parents criminals in my book.
Every last one of us.


Anonymous said...

i am interested in your philosophy.what can i do to get people to follow it? do you go on speaking tours? have you convinced anyone not to have children? have you donated to family planning? please let me know. i would like to help.

your host said...


The best I can offer is that you come to understand the stakes. This is a knowledge available to anyone who can jump the hurdles of conditioning, and simply think things through to their conclusion. When you've reached that point, simply speak your mind. Start a blog. Talk with people you know. Some will hear.

Do I go on speaking tours? I'm afraid I'm not that much in demand as yet :) Anyway, I'm sort of a private person, and don't know how good I'd be at it.

Have I convinced anyone? My daughters, hopefully. There's a small handful of souls avoiding the beartrap right there. Perhaps others have listened. I hope so.

Anonymous said...

A question, do you speak about your experience with your children? How your conviction "changed" things? Being a parent and an antinatalist is pretty interesting. Can't wait for your book:)

your host said...


I do speak about my children a bit in the book. And though they basically know how I feel about things, I dread the time when they actually read it. I'm afraid that no matter how I qualify things, there'll be some feelings of rejection. The last thing in the world I want to do is to hurt them. But I've always tried to tell them the truth, so I guess I'll have to deal with the ramifications of that truth. Wish me luck.:)

The Plague Doctor said...

The World's Smartest Man, Christopher Michael Langan, (at least partially) agrees with anti-natalism:

"We like to think that it's our right to breed as incontinently as we want to and have as many kids with whoever we want to. Future generations will be saddled with the results of what we do...or don't do."
(Watch the entire Errol Morris interview, parts 1, 2, 3.)

He prefers anti-dysgenics as a solution instead of anti-natalism.

And just like the host of this blog, he has also worked in construction. I don't know how many construction workers are able to discuss complex abstract philosophy like Jim and Chris can, but somehow I suspect they are the exception.
Which makes me wonder to what extent the statement "I often find smart people with shit jobs make the kinds of complaints you do." is true.

your host said...

Plague Doctor (cool moniker, btw):

I'm not sure what kind of answer anti-dysgenics provides. We might cook up a relatively superior human being in the long run. Superior in today's context, that is; a context which would necessarily change along the way. New people, new problems is the way I see it. Then of course, our existential dilemma has many aspects which would go mostly unaffected by the mere presence of uber-folk. Lastly, what of the long journey 'there'...wherever 'there' happens to be...and what of the casualties along the way? Are the Chinamen who build the railroad still expendable, then?

As far as the 'shit jobs' business; well, I'd agree it's probably a factor in the equation. The question is, what's the value of the result? Do less than validating life experiences foment unjustified cynicism, or insight? Depends on the specifics, I suppose.

One comment on intelligence. I'm not too sure my beliefs in this area are the result of any kind of abnormally high intelligence, as they are the result of unusual life experience. Somehow my conditioning got broken, allowing me to extend the kind of basic logic we all use everyday, into an area that we are trained from birth not to look into too hard. Actually, I think lots of people feel the way I do, to some degree, but they're just not upfront to themselves about it. In other words, they're the same way I was, before I stopped being that way, and became somebody else. There's certainly no great mystery here. The arguments are all pretty simple.

The Plague Doctor said...

You'll get no argument from me. I am, among other things, currently chronically ill, in severe pain, broke, living with my mother and abandoned by all my fake friends; so I pretty much wish I had never been born, and see no reason to bestow the 'gift' of life on my potential children.

I recently found my philosophical home here (coming in from The View from Hell), and ironically reading this blog is one of the things keeping me alive (I am awaiting the release of your book).

My only problem with anti-natalism is the delusion that my person decision to not have children will make the world better of. It will not, when people liek Osama bin Laden "married four women and fathered roughly 25 or 26 children", and the murderer of one of my relatives has spawned bastard children left and right.

The only real solution I therefore endorse is omnicide/panthanatism. The former is actually a more achievable solution than anti-natalism, which involves simultaneous cooperation by everyone or a globally enforced prohibition. If, instead, every unhappy person donated $1 to the Omnicide Foundation, a Doomsday Device (or would that be Mercy Machine?) could be built within one or two generations.

The Plague Doctor said...

Some other issues:

1. Anti-natalism does not address the problem of animal suffering.
2. Anti-natalism increases suffering for those who desire children (indeed, infertility has been a reason why some people have killed themselves). The only reason birth control is widely used, is because it has not existed for that long; in the future, not having children will be as painful as suicide, as evolution will have selected those who have had an aversion to using birth control. Thus, there is only a short "window" of time in which anti-natalism might be implemented.
3. Personally speaking, anti-natalism leaves me personally without any ambitions to improve society (I used to have lots of goals, not anymore) and without hope for the future, making me hopeless, disillusioned, and disoriented.

CM said...

Plague Doctor, I actually agree that killing everyone would be achieved much easier than getting them to stop breeding (but the prospects are not good for either), and if it were possible to kill them instantly, painlessly, and, preferably, without the knowledge of those who would object, there would be absolutely no ethical problems with such a solution, in my opinion. One cannot be harmed after having stopped to exist, and as long as there are no symptoms of harm experienced during one's lifetime, I don't buy the whole idea that killing people is wrong for such nebulous reasons as that they might have an interest in continuing to exist. If they cease to exist, so does the interest, so who cares. That would take care of non-human suffering, as well. Some other blogger made a post suggesting that humanity should sterilize all wildlife on its way out, but that would be pretty hard to accomplish.

To address a couple more of your points: even aside from technological considerations, I don't think monetary donations would be enough to build such a device and activate it because you would need resources that are hard for members of the general public to obtain, and the people with the power to get them tend to not be unhappy people (or at least not dissatisfied with existence per se). Not to mention having to keep it all a secret from the majority of the population who would kill you in a much less pleasant way if they ever found out.

I don't necessarily agree with you about birth control; it has always existed in the form of sheepskin condoms, herbal emmenagogues and coitus interruptus. And if all else failed, there was always good old infanticide. So if the desire to breed or phobia of contraceptives were really some sort of genetic traits being selected for, we would not find ourselves now in a society
that has legal contraception and abortion (despite all the fundie opposition and assassinations); instead, the penalties for using birth control would be higher than ever.

Another thing to consider is that children in foster care are much more likely to get pregnant, give birth, or have unprotected sex than the general population, whereas adopted children don't seem to suffer from that problem to the same extent, even though the biological parents of both groups come from at-risk demographics. So I think it has much more to do with
nurture (or lack thereof) than nature. With that in mind, there is some hope, however small, that people are not inherently incapable of being dissuaded from breeding.

As far as hopelessness, disillusionment, and disorientation... well, that's kind of the point, isn't it? In any case, if you have no reason to believe that your decision not to breed will make the world better off, at least you can take solace in not making it it much worse (which is a lot more than can be said about most people).

Anonymous said...

CM, sorry but I am afraid of death as are most people and so I would not want that weapon used on me. Murder is morally wrong because the person murdered does not have a choice in the matter. It doesn't matter if the death is painless or instant; the murdered person didn't have a say in the matter and that is unfair. Do you understand? Suicide at least gives people control over when and how they will die.

Even though I am an antinatalist, I would prefer to have as much control over my life as I possibly can. If I want to die later on, I will end my life on MY terms.

Chip said...


Not to be a bully for nature, but I think it's likely that kids who grow up in foster care would prove to be genetically dissimilar in aggregate from those who are adopted. Remember that a significant percentage of adopted children come from young parents who, through presence of mind and/or family support, make the choice to put their children up for adoption, whereas children in foster care are almost always there due to neglect or abuse. Given our current understanding of human nature (See Rowe's "The Limits of Family Influence"), this is probably an indication of some marginal behavioral-genetic difference that, alas, could be sufficient to explain the disparity. If any of the remaining difference stems from cultural or parental influence, it is probably very slight.

CM said...

You may be right, Chip; I really don't think there are enough data to make any definitive pronouncements on way or the other. I found some stats (alas, from 1992) <a href=">here</a>,and the article says that 42% of all adoptions were stepparent adoptions - not really surprising (and I think we can disregard them for the purpose of this discussion), and 15% were foster care adoptions. Table 3 provides the breakdown of adoptions by type of agency (or independent), although it strikes me as very incomplete, and only a handful of states have data on all three types. It seems to vary greatly by state, too, but some states do seem to have greater or comparable numbers of children adopted from foster care by non-relatives than from independent sources or private agencies by the same. And as far as international adoption goes, children who are adopted from orphanages overseas are likely there due to abandonment, and it's hard to comment on the genetic makeup of their parents.

What I mostly had in mind is the fact that most people prefer adopting children under 5, and (perhaps as a consequence of that more than anything else) permanency requirements for younger children are more stringent and the state is willing to terminate parental rights sooner than with older children. I don't think it's terribly presumptive to think that a child who is adopted by a more or less functional family at a young age is going to be better adjusted than someone who had been abused for twice as long, and then bounced around from home to home where they are looked at as a source of income (there are some truly great foster parents, but definitely not enough to satisfy the demand).

I don't have any official stats on this, just anecdotal evidence, but it seems that a significant proportion of teenagers attract the attention of family courts by the combination of delinquency and the parents' inability to control them, rather than due to abuse or neglect (even though it's a virtual guarantee that they have been abused/neglected). It seems awful that even judges who are supposed to know better would use foster care as punishment, but then again, judges are people, and people are horrible. So this tendency could actually lend support to your position. But then again, abused children are more likely to be delinquent.

And then, of course, there is the whole epigenetic layer of things.

In any case, perhaps my hopefulness is just an expression of optimism bias. After all, there used to be a small movement that, for all intents and purposes, advocated antinatalism (through asserting celibacy as morally superior to sex). But it sure as hell is obvious that Xtians didn't rise to the power they hold today by following that little doctrine. In fact, their attitudes now are the exact opposite to what the inventor of their cult had intended.

The Plague Doctor said...

Jeeezus... the endoscopy showed a stomach inflammation (as I expected) of yet undetermined cause and a hiatal hernia -- and that at my age -- (probably due to the occasional projectile vomiting and chronic eructation in the past year); buying your book will have to wait a bit -- sorry --; I will be buying a bucketload of books about gastritis to educate myself (I am not counting on the hospital staff; well intentioned though they may be, they appear to know sh*t). Unless I happen to find a cure for what the hell is going on with me, it is likely I will be offing myself. (Sorry for hijacking this thread to rant a bit about myself.)