November 26, 2023

No people, no suffering — antinatalism at its best

“The darkness grew apace; a cold wind began to blow in freshening gusts from the east, and the showering white flakes in the air increased in number. From the edge of the sea came a ripple and whisper. Beyond these lifeless sounds the world was silent. Silent? It would be hard to convey the stillness of it. All the sounds of man, the bleating of sheep, the cries of birds, the hum of insects, the stir that makes the background of our lives—all that was over. … I saw the black central shadow of the eclipse sweeping towards me. In another moment the pale stars alone were visible. All else was rayless obscurity. The sky was absolutely black.”

That’s H.G. Wells’s Time Traveller describing the world in 30,000,000 AD. A bit sombre, bleak even. But scoured, thankfully, clean of mankind.

The end of humanity is not such a bad outcome, write two Finnish bioethicists in an editorial about “antinatalism” in Bioethics, one of the world’s leading bioethics journals. “[B]y adopting antinatalism through voluntary human extinction, all of humanity’s problems could be solved,” they say.

Joona Räsänen and Matti Häyry believe that it is arguably “morally wrong to have children”. If there were no children, suffering would disappear in a few generations.

Severe problems such as climate change would find a resolution if humans ceased to exist, thus eliminating environmental destruction. It appears clear that numerous problems plaguing humanity—such as wars, famine, crime, discrimination, and cruel treatment of animals, to name a few—would vanish if humans would not exist. The adoption of antinatalism would, therefore, truly solve “everything.”

Humans are causing planetary destruction so great that it would be better if they ceased to exist, the two bioethicists contend. They quote a character from the popular TV show Real Detective:

“The honorable thing for our species to do is deny our programming. Stop reproducing. Walk hand in hand into extinction, one last midnight. Brothers and sisters opting out of a raw deal.”

Their arguments pop the balloon of élan vital. To put it concisely, life sucks:

Life, thus, bears a resemblance to a pyramid scheme, where new participants work for the well-being of the previous “victims” of the scheme, creating a vicious circle where new people must be “recruited” to benefit those already within the system. The game only exists as long as new players join, and the scheme ultimately ends badly for the latecomers, because it is not possible to recruit new members indefinitely. Nonetheless, there isn’t a finite maximum of potential humans to exist. Consequently, it seems that the pyramid scheme of life will likely go on approaching infinity, postponing the final suffering of the last generation by always creating the next generation. As one generation replaces another, suffering persists. In the meantime, humanity also inflicts suffering upon other species through direct killing and indirect environmental degradation.

Unlike most of the articles in Bioethics, Räsänen and Häyry’s editorial is open access. Perhaps the editors believe that their antinatalist views deserve to be given as much publicity as possible in the bioethical community.

But, as BioEdge’s editor wrote in another context: “isn’t a bioethicist who questions the value of human life itself like a physicist who denies the existence of cause and effect or a theologian who denies the existence of God? Without an unconditional commitment to the value of human life, a discipline like bioethics is in danger of losing its coherence.”