The Guardian has a lengthy article about a movement that, it says, is “gaining mainstream popularity.” Anti-natalism is the belief that human life is objectively worthless and pointless. As The Guardian explains, anti-natalists contend that human reproduction causes unjustified harm to human society (which shouldn’t exist to begin with, by this way of thinking) and the planet. Furthermore, parents are guilty of a moral crime by imposing existence on children who have not consented to their existence.
One man has even tried to exact revenge on his parents for forcing life upon him:
In February, a 27-year-old Indian man named Raphael Samuel announced plans for an unusual lawsuit. He was going to sue his parents for begetting him. “It was not our decision to be born,” he told the BBC. “Human existence is totally pointless.”
… Samuel subscribes to a philosophy called anti-natalism. The basic tenet of anti-natalism is simple but, for most of us, profoundly counterintuitive: that life, even under the best of circumstances, is not a gift or a miracle, but rather a harm and an imposition. According to this logic, the question of whether to have a child is not just a personal choice but an ethical one and the correct answer is always no.
Paradoxically, anti-natalists often claim that their belief in the worthlessness of human life is motivated by compassion for human life:
While [South African philosopher David Benatar] also sought to discourage reproduction, his ideas grew out of different premises. The objective of anti-natalism, as Benatar sees it, is to reduce human suffering. Since life inevitably involves some amount of suffering, bringing another person into the world introduces the guarantee of some harm. He argued that “the quality of even the best lives is very bad — and considerably worse than most people recognize it to be. Although it is obviously too late to prevent our own existence, it is not too late to prevent the existence of future possible people.”
In another paradox, anti-natalists wish to protect humanity from harm by ensuring its obliteration:
Dana Wells, the Dallas-based YouTuber, felt validated by Benatar’s work. About five years ago, she reunited with her biological brother (she was adopted), and he grilled her about why she didn’t have children. Feeling annoyed after their meeting, she searched online for books — “I’m a reader. I’m a nerd,” she says — in hopes of finding out about others who didn’t want kids.
For the first time, she encountered the terms “childfree” and “anti-natalism.” She began “to see that this life game is an imposition.” For her, it was simple: “Living things can be harmed. Non-living things cannot be harmed.”
On one level, this all seems like depression and self-loathing dressed up as a philosophical system. But it can’t be a valid philosophical system because it contradicts itself at every turn. For one thing, anti-natalists undermine their own position simply by sticking around to articulate it. If you really think that life is not only pointless but also harmful, and that non-existence is preferable to existence, then the obvious question is why you yourself have chosen to continue existing. A skeptic might suspect that even you recognize, deep down, that life is worth living. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be living it anymore.
Also, terms like “better” or “preferable” or “harmful” or “bad” are all meaningless in a vacuum. David Benatar wrote a book called “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.” But better to whom? For whom? It couldn’t be better for me if I don’t exist because if I don’t exist, then there is no me to reap the benefit. The term “for me” does not apply if I do not exist. And it can’t be better for society if humans don’t exist because without humans there is no society to enjoy their absence. Even the fate of the planet itself is arguably meaningless without conscious beings around to care about it. Does it matter if a planet 15 trillion miles away from the nearest intelligent civilization explodes? Why? An entire galaxy could cease to exist and I’m not sure why it would really matter if no conscious beings are affected by it. You cannot argue that Situation B would be “better” than Situation A if there isn’t anyone around in Situation B to profit from the improvement. If there is no one, then it is literally better for no one. Which is just another way of saying that it’s not better.
Third point: The idea of “existence without consent” is incoherent. In fact, you do have a say in whether you exist or not. The only way to fully remove consent from someone is to never bring him or her into existence to begin with.
The anti-natalists clearly have some bugs to work out. But the incoherence of their position does not mean that their position should be ignored. It should concern, though not surprise us, that modern culture has given rise to such a movement. Concern us because it indicates that our culture is losing its will to live; not surprise us because the rejection of inherent human worth has been the cornerstone of mainstream leftism for decades now.
Indeed, the pro-abortion position rests squarely on the premise that life has no inherent value. “Clump of cells,” they call it in the womb. But if I am inherently a valueless chunk of matter at conception and for nine months thereafter, I must logically continue to be a valueless chunk of matter for the rest of my life. I might be able to make myself useful for a time, but I am only useful to other chunks of useless matter. There is nothing about my innate nature, nothing at the core of my being, that gives me value. If there was, I would have had that value from the moment I was a being, from the moment of conception. By rejecting my value then, we reject it in principle. I am just a parasite and my birth is merely the spread of an infestation. The anti-natalists see this implication and embrace it. At least they’re honest.