Monday, November 29, 2010

Agent Smith was Right

I am going to get philosophical on you today, so please bear with me.

One of the arguments against the childfree philosophy is this: "If everyone felt the way you do, the human race would die out."

True. And this is a bad thing, how?

Perhaps this makes me a nihilist, but unlike many people who operate on the assumption that it is of upmost importance that the human race continue in perpetuity, I do not share that assumption. Now, before anyone gets their knickers in a twist over this statement, let's take a rational look at what man has accomplished during his tenure on earth. Yes, he has made many advances and discoveries, but all of them have been in his own self-interest, not in the interest of the earth or its other inhabitants (unless you count advances he has made to undo his own damage). The planet and its inhabitants were just fine before man came along and didn't need any of his help. And to the larger universe, man is just a spect of dust, if that.

The problem with humankind is that our sense of self-importance is completely blown out of proportion. Just as we can bend over to look at an ant hill and marvel (and snicker) at the thousands of ants scurrying around with a great sense of purpose, so too are we just scurrying ants in the big picture. And like ants and all other living creatures, we eat, sleep and mindlessly breed, and then congratulate ourselves for doing so, as though it is some great, beneficial accomplishment.

The truth is that man is a scourge upon the earth. He has done more damage than good (again, unless you consider benefitting himself as a good, or undoing his own damage as a good). He has raped and polluted the earth, replicating himself and spreading like an agressive cancer. He abuses nature, animals, the environment and even others of his kind. Despite this, he is unwavering in his fundamental belief that replicating his kind is priority #1 and that people like me are deeply and fundamentally messed up.

Now, before anyone tosses the Bible at me and God's commandment to "be fruitful and multiply", you can spare yourself the effort. I believe in God, but not the manmade version most people believe in, and certainly not in the manmade writings that people pass off as the word of God.

The God I believe in would never order destructive beings like us to replicate uncontrollably, destroying all his other creations in the process.

20 comments:

Marie said...

I am 100% behind you (and Agent Smith) with this. Well put. I've had to argue this point before among fellow environmentalists. The best thing they can come up with is that environmentalists need to breed to pass on their ideals and earth-saving behavior! It's a flawed argument, as I'm sure you can tell.

Joy said...

Spot on article, as usual.

Tara said...

I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now and love your posts. This post perfectly expresses my feelings about people and their entitled worldview. Keep up the good work and look forward to your next post!

Christy said...

People who say things like that are narcissists. I hear it all the time. It would never occur to them that they aren't the end-all, be-all of the universe. They don't like to hear you question the value of mankind, because it would force them to do the same, and that would just blow their tiny little minds. These are the same people who truly believe their child will grow up to cure cancer or do something similar.

flamencokitty said...

Their "argument" also refers to a situation that probably will never, EVER happen. Never will 100% of all human beings on Earth at one time stop breeding. It's an irrelevant argument. I think it's more useful to talk about situations that are more likely to happen anyway. It's like when I tell people I'm vegetarian and they say, "Well what if you were stuck on a deserted island with no edible plants? Would you eat meat then?" I probably never will be stranded on a deserted island anyway! So why discuss it?

Spectra said...

I wonder if people realize just how overpopulated the world is at this point in time. Hundreds of thousands of people could choose to stop having kids and we still would barely make a dent in the population. While I do believe that at one point, it was beneficial for our race to reproduce, I believe that God allowed the advances of birth control for a good reason. He gave us brains and I believe He expects us to use them wisely. And to me, that does NOT mean having kids until your uterus falls out because apparently your DNA is so much better than everyone else's.

Diane said...

what flamenco kitty said!

Wix said...

The human species WILL go extinct, it's just a matter of when and why. If it isn't because we all stop procreating it will be for some other, likely far worse reason.

While I agree that we won't likely see a world in which 100% of people willfully stop breeding I do think a strong case can be made towards tending in that direction.
If anyone is interested in a more academic treatment of this issue I recommend: Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence, by David Benatar

Hilary said...

I'm with Flamenkitty--this will never, EVER happen. Ever. We could certainly use a reduction in the population (the CF and gays to the rescue!!!) Also, I read a statistic that is anthropologically interesting: in ANY culture, at ANY time, there are no less than 10% of the women who have never had children. There have certainly been times of more than 10%, but never LESS than 10% of the female population. The argument went on to point out that it's because the mothers and families NEED their kid-free aunts/ sisters/friends, etc. I don't hate kids, and I don't really berate people who want them-I just don't want them myself!

Dave said...

I usually leave it "Just don't want them..." when discussing with friends and family but the environmental aspect is a huge factor as well.

Even the most environmentally conscious, live off the grid, grow their own food, charge their Toyota Prius with solar panels they installed with home-fabricated hammer and nails person does more damage to the environment by having a single child than an SUV driving, travel to multiple countries every year by jet, set the thermostat to 80 in the winter person who chooses to remain childfree does.

Todd said...

In addition to all the suffering that humanity causes for other species, let's not forget that human beings suffer quite a lot themselves. Personally, my main reason for never having children- and believing that no one else should, either- is not man's deleterious effect on the natural environment, nor the desire to avoid the massive 18-plus-year headache that is childrearing, nor (especially) any sort of hatred of mankind in general. Rather, it's the simple fact that children- and all humans, and all sentient beings- inevitably suffer, and quite often their suffering is of such inconceivable magnitude that it makes me ill to think about it.

I, for one, refuse to continue passing on this curse. No descendant of mine will ever have to endure the cruelty of this world, because they will never be born.

Sea_creature said...

My sentiments EXACTLY. How arrogant of us to think that we are so important. Just look up at the sky... We are completely insignificant in the grand scheme.

I agree that we're going to die out, whether it be our own doing or not. The earth is going to sneeze us off one of these days so that it can get to 'healing'.

I also agree with Todd about human suffering. I've dealt with some horrible mental suffering over the years, yet I can't even fathom the horrors that some people have had to deal with. I would never want to watch my child suffer, it would probably break me.

lauracarroll said...

The Matrix is one of my favorite movies--the story and premise are perfect for the childfree..we choose not to blindly follow the "machine" but take our own human path in life...if you have not seen this movie, don't like sci fi etc..I'd say stil check it out! Laura, Families of Two, http://lauracarroll.com

C. M. Johnson said...

This blog is a very well-written one. Great choice of words, and I agree with everything you said. This blog puts my thoughts in words.

Wag the Dog said...

We're approaching population stability at 9 billion
thanks to fertility dropping to 2.1 children per woman worldwide. I'm sure that the childfree are having a positive effect on sustainability of the planet.

Feragoh said...

Interesting entry... I'm a life-long childfree person, and have been since before grade school. I've read your whole blog and thesis a few times and finally decided to chip in.

This entry falls in line with an existing group of people. We call ourselves VHEMT (Voluntary Human Extinction Movement). As a Childfree person I felt this group aligned with my values quite nicely. Granted, the objective is exceptionally unlikely to succeed, but the idea is one worth perpetuating so I'm sharing it with you all here.

If you're interested in learning more about the common ideas we share please feel free to visit the info site at:

www.vhemt.org

"May we live long and die out" :P

Maia said...

Even though I agree with the part that says that it's no argument to say that if everyone were childfree humanity wouldnt exist (because, I agree: really, who cares?), I think that the way you backed up that "I dont care" is a bit difficult to swallow.

I do agree with us blowing our appreciation of the human race out of proportion. But I cant live with the fact that the "we are destroying this planet" argument would also be an argument against the people who are already here. And that would be against a lot of what the childfree philosophy stands for, not? Living a fulfilling, peaceful life.

Or did I understand something wrong?

I think the real argument is in what you see as valuable. People could start to notice that the reason why an individual finds his/her life fulfilling doesnt have to match something that is valuable to the collective. And keeping the human race alive is a value of the collective but there's no logical necessity for the individual to adopt that value. It's even a well known fallacy to assume that something that holds true on the collective or individual level has to be true for the other level. This is specially true considering that the field in which what is valuable gets assigned is where the meaning of a life is found.

The collective cant pretend to tell me how to make my life valuable. There's an argument against me if what I find valuable harms concrete and given individuals. But the argument is not valid if people are talking about individuals that dont exist. I am not harming anything because it doesnt exist.

If it were valid to accept as morally wrong to harm things that have the possibility of existing, then our lives would be doomed because every time we make a decision we reject infinite possibilities. We would be bathing, sinking and drowning in guilt for all the hypotheticals we didnt allow to come to fruition. Jeebus, people should give us a break with this.

Temujin said...

I feel the same sentiment, but Agent Smith has some facts wrong, actually.

For one thing, there is no such thing as a "natural equilibrium" for mammals to return to, unless you consider extinction part of equilibrium. It's a very sweet, reassuring idea that the biological world is balanced, but that's mostly just human imagination at work. (Extinction has been the fate of 99% of all species, the sun won't last forever, and the earth has been without life for most of its existence. Hardly characteristics of long-term sustainable life.) There were lots of mammal species that went extinct even before humans existed.

There's some debate about whether viruses count as organisms, but certainly the plague bacillus is an organism -- doesn't the plague have as much right to exist as any other organism?

I don't want to fight pronatalist fantasies with other fantasies that may be just as inaccurate. It's a poor understanding of biology that's contributed to this mess in the first place!

Temujin said...

People are one step above viruses at least: viruses don't make movies and websites telling other viruses how bad viruses have been behaving and the world is better off with fewer viruses. We're a plague, but at least we feel guilty about being a plague sometimes....

Francois Tremblay said...

Have you heard about antinatalism? I definitely put you in that category, based on this entry. I am an antinatalist as well.