Sorry to be glum, but today’s world faces the possibility of a myriad of imminent disasters; first of all, there’s climate change, a looming promise of planet instability at best and inhabitability at worst; there’s potential for nuclear warfare; there’s overpopulation; there’s Donald Fucking Trump. In the face of such mounting horror, do you ever just feel like you wish you’d never been born?
Well, that’s what the antinatalists, a niche philosophical group with a significant internet presence, advocate for. Antinatalists assign a negative value to birth, asserting that the act of being born is a cruelty in and of itself. They believe that bringing children into this world, which is so full of hardship and suffering, is inherently unfair, and unjustifiable. Furthermore, they argue that the most ethical thing humans could do for our species is declare a moratorium on birth, effectively ensuring our own extinction.
This doesn’t mean that antinatalists believe that we should all go ahead and off ourselves, but their stance is still pretty steadfast: If it were up to them, it would be bye bye babies.
Although voluntary human extinction may sound extreme, antinatalists believe that ultimately, it would be a kindness to potential future generations to simply stop their journey before it starts. The argument is, essentially, that sentience will inevitably lead to suffering, and that knowingly inflicting suffering upon another human being is wrong.
For many who find their way to the movement, they felt disinclined to reproduce before stumbling across a group which defined and shared their feelings. Google searches and general inquiries led them to antinatalism, a community that consists of about 4,000 online subscribers.
One of the platforms where conversations occur on the topic is the Reddit forum /r/antinatalism, where users can post and respond to musings on the topic. The titles of the discussions range from inquisitive to condemnatory, with topics such as “No humans=no suffering,” “In our current times, people who pro-create are the most selfish ever existing. [sic],” and “How should society handle poor people who have already bred? [sic].”
An individual with the Nofapsamurai, author of the thread “No humans= no suffering” writes a short post, outlining what they believe to be a self-evident truth: that antinatalism is a surefire way to end suffering, and therefore a worthwhile endeavor, despite the fact that were it to be successful, positive human experience and emotions would also be lost in its wake.
Nofapsamurai writes, “No human also leads to no happiness but if you don’t have a body or brain to feel, you don’t need to be happy. No human is 100 percent no suffering which is good. I just don’t understand how the majority of people out there don’t understand this concept.”
In the “In our current times…” thread, Clubgirl37 pontificates on the necessary sacrifice that she believes antinatalists make. By choosing not to have children, Clubgirl37 asserts that antinatalists are foregoing the pleasure, comfort, and sense of purpose that starting a family can provide.
Clubgirl37 writes, “Basically, as an antinatalist you are missing out on all the benefits one enjoys by binding someone through blood relations into this existence.” She goes on to commend her fellow antinatalists for their altruism, while condemning “pro-natalists” (reproducing individuals). “Most people don’t want to walk this walk, because they’re TOO SELFISH. They will rather bind someone else into this existence regardless of the suffering this will inflict (again, obv they will never openly admit to this.) [sic]”
As much as some of the stances of antinatalists seem fairly harsh, in my opinion their doctrine isn’t altogether unfounded or unfamiliar. From an environmentalist perspective, my parents have always advocated to me the merits of replacement reproduction: a philosophy which argues that individuals should simply recreate themselves with their bloodline, so as to limit population growth. In other words, that responsible reproduction would be for each of the two parents to “replace” themselves with a child.
Personally, I’ve always imagined that I would have children. Barring fertility challenges, reproduction always seemed like a part of my life that would be a given. However, I have to admit that from an ethical standpoint it’s difficult to justify the act on moral grounds alone. I can surely assert that I would care for a child as best I could, but I cannot ensure that they would have a happy, full life. Furthermore, evolutionarily speaking, it is not necessary to the survival of the human race that I personally have children, so practically speaking, a pro-human argument is moot as well.
It’s true, the world is a fucking scary place. And bringing a child into it is a huge responsibility. Call me selfish, but fervent arguments of the antinatalists aside, I still one day would like a little snuggly baby to call my own. The optimist in me is still hoping that we get our shit together and avoid natural disaster, warfare, and unspeakable cruelty. I don’t think that we humans are going anywhere anytime too soon.