If this case goes forward, it could potentially be a game-changer.
According to BBC [beeb]
Mumbai businessman Raphael Samuel told the BBC that it’s wrong to bring children into the world because they then have to put up with lifelong suffering.
Mr Samuel, of course, understands that our consent can’t be sought before we are born, but insists that “it was not our decision to be born”.
So as we didn’t ask to be born, we should be paid for the rest of our lives to live, he argues.
Mr Samuel’s belief is rooted in what’s called anti-natalism – a philosophy that argues that life is so full of misery that people should stop procreating immediately.
This, he says, would gradually phase out humanity from the Earth and that would also be so much better for the planet.
It does seem only reasonable: parents create children out of incompetence, laziness, or selfishness. They feel that their genes are so important that they’re willing to inflict life upon a person, creating them as a sort of monument to their own self-love.
I think Mr. Samuel is pursuing a weaker argument; by creating a child, the parents are dooming it to eventual death. If the worst-case scenarios of global climate change come true, people who create children today are delivering them into a world where they will face scarcity wars, anoxic annihilation, thermal brain-damage, and cognitive decline due to increased atmospheric CO2. I decided not to have children at an early age, mostly because I don’t like babies, but secondarily because I believed that we were on an unavoidable trajectory toward nuclear war. If a prospective parent was fairly sure that their child would die in a nuclear exchange or the aftermath, how could they morally create a new life, being fairly certain what was in store for it?
Consider this situation: some parents become pregnant, have amniocentisis and determine that the fetus will develop with spina bifida; their doctor recommends they consider terminating the pregnancy – and they do so. Many people would observe that situation and say “they had a difficult choice to make, and we respect their decision.” But the same decision applies: “Your child is going to die of something, perhaps something horrible like nuclear war or suffocation in an extinction event. 100% for sure and – unless they’re fortunate enough to die of an accidental opiate overdose – it’s going to be extremely unpleasant.”
Having kids is murdering them.
I don’t know if Mr. Samuel is really serious. I see this case as a sort of ‘reductio ad absurdum’ against conventional notions of responsibility and assessment of values. If we accept that people are responsible for the direct (and some indirect) consequences of their actions, then the existence of people is a consequence of parenting. And if we assess a person’s life as more or less satisfactory, then a moral system would require us to be able to assess the morality of making the decision to have a child, knowing in advance that the child might experience a more or less satisfactory life. Moral nihilists dodge having to resolve these problems by adopting the position that they are unconvinced that any of this ethics stuff makes any sense at all. Someone who pretends to be able to assess consequences as having moral value (i.e.: a typical consequentialist) does have to resolve this problem, because the consequences (guaranteed pain and death) for offspring are clear and unavoidable, as is the parents’ responsibility.
Disclaimer: this posting is not entirely serious. I’m just not sure where it’s not but please, when I run for Attorney General don’t say “Marcus advocated wiping out humanity!” Humanity’s doing a fine job of that already.