I was in a conversation last night where the question was asked if it’s not better to not have children. Somebody wrote a book (forgot the name and author but South African, I’ll try to get it) where it was stated, that a child that was never born would never know all the hardship and sorrow of life, and is that not then the moral choice when thinking about starting a family? This came a bit unexpected, so I was not prepared and could not really answer. Sleeping over it last night I think I agree with it. Your thoughts?
Book title and author: Better never to have been. David Benatar.
I agree, and I think this.
- Ethics dictate that it is wrong to knowingly cause the death of another person.
- Humans know that they are mortal.
- Therefore, it is unethical to have offspring.
Still, society generally views being alive as better than being dead. And so much so, that the fiction of eternal life is still one of the most popular products sold by big religion.
Also, most people (save adolescent teenagers, and those entrenched in some dark existential corners of philosophy) are glad that they were born, irrespective of how much hardship they endure. By arguing that such unfortunates would have been better off not having been born, is to deny the voice of the only person that really has a say in the matter - the person herself.
So the argument should probably be modified, although how to do that in terms of current ethics is not obvious to me.
Then there’s the old adage: 'Tis better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all". Replace “love” with “live”?
This is going to be one of those question posts…
A flipside argument is that in the big picture of things your ultimate goal in life is to be a vehicle for testing the suitability of your own DNA, and if you don’t procreate you lose the game of evolution. And if you truly believe your DNA is worth it you owe it to the world to keep the experiment that is your blueprint going in some way. Then again, your own proclivity against procreation could be a manifestation of your own broken DNA.
Then again, humans don’t evolve so much anymore as procreate indiscriminately and we protect our own weak so, that point may be moot. Our contributions to future humanity may be more in our thoughts, actions, writings, inter-actions, etc. at this point than the contents of our nuclei.
I don’t think it’s possible to act inhumanely towards hypothetical humans that don’t exist yet (like the Catholics insist one can do towards sperm), I think this is a case of counting one’s chickens… Moreover death as a finality does not preclude a life being worth lived in the inbetween in spite of it’s inevitable end.
A more pertinent question to me is, are we being immoral to future generations by over-populating the planet and creating an unsustainable future? Then again an economist could argue by having less children we’re creating unnecessary economic burden on future generations who will (ahem) “have to” “take care of” an aging population.
But don’t worry, it may be in the next 50 we “cure” old age and really complicate the issue: Then you could either be creating an insanely unsustainable future by breeding OR depriving a potential zygote of an eternity exploring the universe.
I have no children. But my brother has four, so that’s taken care of then.
A more pertinent question to me is, are we being immoral to future generations by over-populating the planet and creating an unsustainable future? Then again an economist could argue by having less children we're creating unnecessary economic burden on future generations who will (ahem) "have to" "take care of" an aging population.
If we live the right way, it is not necessary to take care of old people. They take care of themselves, for the most part. Of course, if we force them to retire at some age as determined by a bureaucrat, then we have a problem. But in nations where they now have negative population growth, that is a luxury they will not be able to afford, unless they make up for the shortfall via Syrian refugees.