In my so-called controversial pieces at 3quarksdaily.com, where I defended antinatalism and progressive adoption, I challenged readers to offer compelling arguments for creating new people. Unfortunately, none have been forthcoming. I was called a racist, elitist, colonialist, etc., for defending my views that those who exist matter more than those who do not. People, I’ve discovered, are more willing to invest in children who do not (yet) exist over children who do; indeed they brush over existing children who require that same parental attention, love and care.
I have found no reason why we should procreate. I will briefly outline my argument again:
(1) There are no good ethical reasons to create a new child. It is impossible to create a child for the child’s own sake because the child does not yet exist. For something to matter to a being, that being must exist.
(2) All reasons offered in defence of procreation, such as seeing one’s bloodline continue, seeing one’s smile in another person’s face, etc., are all obtuse and out of sync with the massive, colossal act of creating life. There is nothing genetically special about you or I that requires the human species’ continual genetic investment. I think the species can survive without my smile on a little person’s face.
(3) What matters is not genetic but intellectual, emotional, physical, etc. These are properties we give and convey to non-closely related beings like lovers and friends, and even non-human animals. Adoptive parents give this to their children, like biological parents.
(4) Biology means nothing important: it’s simply description. Josef Fritzl was the father of his sex-slave but no one would think he treated her morally. It does not matter that one’s parents are related genetically – it is actually unimportant (until we come to kidney-donations, bone-marrow, and so on. But for now, we will ignore this more complicated ethical problem.) What matters is how they treat you, whether they were caring, decent, hard-working, just, fair, and so on. Biological parenthood is second to what we might call “real-world” parenthood – the loving, caring, etc. of children. “Real world” parenthood is incredibly important but does not require us to be biological parents. Indeed, as in the case of Fritzl, biological parenthood does not automatically mean real-world or good parenthood.
(5) We also know that adopted children are not lesser persons for being adopted; neither are relations between adoptive parents and children less meaningful because they are not closely genetically-related.
(6) People who say it’s hard to adopt and easier to breed make no argument. Of course it is. There are very good reasons why parental scouting is difficult: not everyone can be a parent. If this is insulting, get over yourself. We are talking about the dependency of children and their future, not something to stroke your ego. When you are rejected as an adoptive parent, you are rejected as a “real-world” parent. That is, even if the child was biologically-related to you, you would not make a good parent. Are adoptive measures foolproof? Of course not. But they at least get us to consider whether we would make good parents at all instead of having this automatic licence to breed.
However, today I want to make a further point.
(7) You fall into two camps: either (a) you would pass a kind of general acceptance from adoption-agencies (you are not mad, you have a stable income, have a partner and support basis for the child, a home, provisions, and so on) or (b) you would not pass acceptance (you are mad, too poor, unemployed or make too little money, live alone, or have too many children already that you can’t look after another).
If (a), then you should adopt. Adoption agencies in South Africa are overflowing with children that require real-world parents to love and care for them. Why create a child to love when there exist children to love in places desperately seeking good people, like most people I know?
If (b), then obviously we would not want that person to breed. It would bring more misery into the world by having another being suffer (notice, all beings are brought into existence without consent: the first major opposition to liberal thinking!)
No one falls in the middle. Either you would be accepted or you wouldn’t. Regardless of which, there is no licence to breed but if (a), there is a moral obligation to adopt.
Every instance of procreation prevents a child from being adopted who specifically requires it; it merely adds to the list of people living dejected, poverty-stricken lives, as seen in South Africa; or they end up in adoption-homes anyway. Alternatively, as I’ve suggested, if a child is raised in a wonderful home, a place has been taken away for an existing child who could’ve been taken out of their poverty-stricken or adoption-homes.
When people create children they discriminate based on genetics. This I termed genecism. I will illustrate this by highlighting what happens with regard to parenthood, then show the problematic move biological parents make.
(Good) parenthood works like this: I have a space in my life, which requires a child. I want to love, care, nurture and raise a wonderful person who I hope will be better than me, will struggle less but become better than I ever was. Or something sentimental along those lines. We can term this what I referred to above as “real world parenthood”. We can do this only for existing beings. How do we care for non-existent entities?1
However, biological parents then commit the fallacy of genecism: This space in my life can only be filled by a being closely-related to me. It must have my DNA.
A prejudice based on genetics: this is genecism. On what basis do we make such a grand claim? It seems to me entirely selfish, solipsistic, bigoted and arrogant to assume the species requires your DNA or purely genetic aspects of yourself for us to function.
The point is, the idea of fulfilling the space in one’s life with a child must be done with an existing being. The difference matters how this comes about: do we create a being to fulfil this or do we acknowledge that there are beings who do exist already, desperately in need of adopting and caring and love?
I have yet to meet acceptable counters to these. More importantly, I have yet to see why anyone would want there to be a counter argument. I am asking us to simply take care of existing children. If we can, we should. Most people after all want to be parents – the problem is they make the genecist fallacy, thinking the child must have his or her DNA. This is prejudice no better than racism, sexism or speciesism: we are discriminating along arbitrary lines. Are children who lack your DNA not worthy, deserving, and so on, of your real-world parenting? This is nonsense. These existing children would clearly benefit.
The problems I’ve had are the following. People dislike that:
- I think there is nothing special about being a human person that its cosmic significance must continue. That is, there is no reason to continue the species.
- I am countering the most powerful biological drive. Let’s not forget, we also murder and rape and torture from biology, just as we nurture and love and care. Biology is merely an uninteresting description in this discussion.
- I am telling people they themselves are not special. I do not think people realise how colossal a thing it is to create a new human person. To align your reason with doing something this colossal with something so miniscule – selfish motivators like smiles and chuckles and eyes – is nonsensical. We have been doing very well without your smile for billions of years, thank you.
We need to stop creating children and start looking after them. I’m all for parenting, but real-world parenting. Parenting requires beings who exist. Why create them when these beings already do?
1^Notice too that the application of real-world parenthood can be a property we apply to ourselves when looking after the elderly, too. Indeed, we can become real-world parents to our biological parents when their bodies begin shutting down.