Antinatalist Jim Crawford has posted a follow-up to his prior challenge.
1. To recap, why should I take the time to even discuss a dead-end like antinatalism? Because, as I’ve said before, it’s an object lesson in atheism taken to its logical extreme.
2. I notice that Jim ignores many of my counterarguments to his previous post. And some of the arguments in his follow-up post (e.g. on risk assessment) rehash objections he already raised in the previous post, to which I responded.
Now maybe he thinks my response was inadequate or irrelevant, but if so, he doesn’t say why. Therefore, those counterarguments win by default.
3. By way of preliminaries, I’d like to comment on the paradox of antinatalism. If you don’t think life’s worthwhile, then why do you think it’s worthwhile to argue for the worthlessness of life? Why pour all that ingenuity and eloquence into the proposition that life is worthless, or worse than worthless?
Take a policeman who tries to talk a suicidal teenager out of jumping from a bridge. Because the policeman values his own life, because he thinks life is worth it, he also thinks the teenager has everything to lose by taking his own life. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? Given the operating assumptions.
But does that make sense in reverse? Even if you’re miserable, why feel the need to convince others that they should be as miserable as you are? Antinatalism is a circular two-step program:
i) Persuade happy people to be miserable
In order to:
ii) Persuade them not to bring other happy people into being
But why is there a duty to make happy people miserable? Why is it so urgent to convince them that they should despise life?
It makes sense to disillusion people if you have something better to offer then, but if your battle cry is Life Sucks! Spread the Word!–then that’s not much of a cause to rally around.
iii) An antinatalist might counter that many people are already miserable. But that’s not enough for antinatalism. For the human race to go extinct, antinatalism must make enough converts to bring global procreation irreversibly below the necessary replacement rate.
4. Is it wrong to gamble with someone else’s life? Well, that sounds ruthless in the abstract, but it all depends on the concrete illustration.
Take an ER physician. He gambles with the lives of patients everyday. He tries to save their lives. Give them a second chance. Another shot at life.
Sometimes he has to make quality-of-life decisions. What about amputation? What if the patient will be brain-damaged to some degree? And he must often make life-and-death decisions for the patient without informed consent.
He’s gambling with their lives, but he’s doing so for their benefit, not his own.
Of course, he could be wrong about their prospects for happiness. By saving them, maybe they will be worse off in the long run. Even if they make a full recovering, maybe they will later endure some devastating personal tragedy, unforeseen by the ER physician. So is that worth the risk?
There’s no value-free answer to that question, for this is one of those dividing lines where Christians and antinatalists lack common ground. Given his philosophy, an antinatalist might well believe it’s always best to let someone die of his injuries. He got lucky to die young. He’s better off dead. So are we all.
5. Nonexistence can be a deprivation.
i) To never exist in the first place can be a deprivation.
To lose something and know you lost it is a deprivation. To miss out and know you missed out is a deprivation.
But it’s also a deprivation to miss out and not even know what you’re missing. That’s a different kind of deprivation, but it’s still a deprivation.
ii) This doesn’t mean we’re wronging nonentities by choosing not to bring them into being. But they still lose out. At least some of they had something to gain by existence. So that’s a loss to them even if they’re oblivious to the loss. And there’s something poignant about the fact that they will never know any better.
Again, that doesn’t mean we’re doing an injustice to nonentities. But there is a cost to that cost/benefit analysis. The difference between existence and nonexistence isn’t indifferent or inconsequential. It’s not a harmless outcome.
iii) BTW, as a Calvinist, I don’t think there will be any missing persons when the eschatological tally is made. Everyone God intended to live will live.
So it’s not as if Christians have an obligation to conceive as many children as they can. And even if (arguendo) they did have such an obligation, they have other obligations as well. Taking one obligation to a logical extreme can conflict with other obligations. Not all obligations are equally obligatory. Not all obligations are maximal.
In the providence of God, it’s not as if there were human beings who were meant to exist, supposed to exist, but were cheated out of existence because many Christians practice contraception. (I’m not talking about abortion, which takes a life.)
6. There’s such a thing as mutual enjoyment. Mutual fulfillment. Mutual edification.
Generally speaking, parents enjoy kids and kids enjoy parents. Indeed, parents who don’t get something out of parenting are apt to be bad parents. So it’s a false dichotomy to classify that transaction as “exploitation.” Human beings were divinely designed to want each other and need each other.
It’s no more exploitive than pair-bonding between men and women. Many pleasures are shared pleasures.
Of course, since the antinatalist sees every aspect of human life through his jaundiced prism, it’s hard to come up with examples he will accept. If he had a life-affirming ethic, he wouldn’t be an antinatalist.