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The Case Against Having Children

— Filed under: People & Culture
Parents & child; with cheese

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Is it really right to bring children into this world? Wouldn't it just be better for everyone if we didn't have kids?

In a recent NYTimes blog posting entitled "Should This Be the Last Generation?", Peter Singer posits that we shouldn't give birth, for the sake of our unborn children - and for humanity.

With the state of the world as it is, with global calamity and resource shortage, and the chance of our children enjoying happy lives appearing quite slim, this argument seems to make a lot of sense. Our offspring would seem doomed to a quite miserable existence, of our own making.

Parents with child Statue, Hrobákova street, P...

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Singer suggests that "very few ask whether coming into existence is a good thing for the child itself". Indeed, with neverending reports of child abuse, one has to wonder whether we're actually bringing harm to the children we give birth to. We can't protect our children from every abuse, every pain. According to the Darkness to Light charity, 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18. For boys, the statistic is 1 in 6. How can we ensure our children won't suffer the same fate? We can't be with them all the time.

Another perspective is that we shouldn't have kids for the sake of humanity in general - that having children means that we increase the suffering of other children around the world. Every resource your child consumes means one less resource for a disadvantaged child. In this world of limited resources, doesn't that seem a bit selfish?

What are your thoughts on this issue? Sound off below - seize the skull!

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PenyuSepi's picture

Over population...?

Quote:

http://www.carlopelanda.com/econaut/Butler%20Richard%20on%20Population%2...

‘In 1984, it was proven by the economist Thomas Sowell that the entire world population (4.4 billion at the time) could live comfortably in the state of Texas. He wrote “Every human being on the face of the Earth could be housed in the state of Texas in one-story, single-family homes, each with a front and a back yard. A family of four would thus have 6,800 square feet- about the size of the typical middle-class American home with front and backyards.”(Carter 99) According to more recent research on the topic, all of the world’s 1997 population (5.84 billion) could fit on the small Island of Bali in Indonesia.(Stiefel 98)’
:)

Quote:
According to . . . FAO (www.fao.org/), there are about 800 million undernourished people in the world today. Yet there is enough grain to provide every human being on the planet with 3500 calories per day, which could, with other foods, provide at least 2 kg of food person per day, including 1135 g of grain, beans and nuts, and nearly another 450 g of meat, milk and eggs(1). We can feed everyone, we simply do not have a system for distributing food more equitably.
http://www9.ocn.ne.jp/~aslan/2050pfee.htm

Our world has plenty — the poor don't because the rich are hoarding it.

Bringing children into the world might guarantee them some suffering, but I don't think the suffering is because of them. In fact, I think there'd be a hell of a lot more suffering without them.

And to me, the greatest tragedy would be if these parents who have the capacity to care deeply about the world are the ones who decide not to raise children. Because then the next generation would be lacking these values, and there really would be no hope.

MrShaw's picture

To have, or not to have

Quote:
And to me, the greatest tragedy would be if these parents who have the capacity to care deeply about the world are the ones who decide not to raise children. Because then the next generation would be lacking these values, and there really would be no hope.

I can see exactly what you are saying with this, but what if it because those that care deeply about the world decide not to have children for those very reasons. Yes, the next generation would lack those values (and one weekend in any city centre in the UK would probably demonstrate that it is already upon us). Perhaps they might decide not to have children, and allow the downward spiral to continue. Would this be so wrong? To protect the potential children from this situation, by not having children?

Ethan's picture

are we not animals?

Are we not animals? Is not the goal of every other single animal on the planet to reproduce and carry on their genes to the next generation. Well if some "intellectual" thinks we should not have kids because they will not have perfect lives then that person is forgetting the whole purpose of life. Without children there is no future and there is no hope.

Life is a constant struggle and to decide not to continue your genes to the next generation because of some imaginary beliefs is really silly but I guess thats natural selection at work. I have 3 kids and plan to have as many as I can before I die. Nothing can surpass the joy of having your own children and guiding them into the future. I feel sorry for anyone who decides not to have children as they will miss out on some of life's most important experiences.
Or all the stupid people will have loads of kids and in a few thousand years life will be like that movie Idiocracy.

MrShaw's picture

To ape Ape's so to speak?

Yes we are Animals, and the only difference I guess we are further developed in terms of problem solving and language, and choice. We can choose not to have children, and in fact many people do. After all, its an opinion and choice. As is yours :) You are lucky to have children I am sure. It seems that the struggle life puts upon some is that if they want children, they can't have them, some people should not have children, and they do, and some people who can have children, choose not to. Oh how life does turn the screw.

Ethan's picture

Brave new world

I think sometimes in our modern world of computers, cell phones, and not being forced to struggle daily to survive we often forget what is really important. What is the point of being intelligent or rich if you cannot pass this down to the next generation. I remember as a child shortly after my dad died, a person told me he had died but lived on in myself and my siblings. I am a part of him as my children are a part of me. I will die to but part of me will live on in them. I see that everyday in them and how parts of their personality or traits remind me of my childhood. Sure they might have hard lives and encounter lots of obstacles but where there is life there is hope and a world without children is a world without hope.
It is an individuals choice to have children or not to but I could not imagine life without my children now that I have them and they have enriched my life in so many ways. Truly the greatest job is to be a parent.

kitkat29's picture

Yep, natural selection at

Yep, natural selection at work here.  Honestly, all these people sound so miserable and depressed with life, and view themselves as animals?  It is best if they don't continue their genes.

Please, all you people here who think no one should have kids anymore, do us all a favor and don't have kids, because this world would really suck with more of you "antinatalists" in it.

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

No worries

No worries here in NZ. We got 2 massive islands and humans are out-numbered by Sheep. No shortage of lamb chops. I also think we have a long way to go before its a danger to bring anyone else into t ting time to be alive.

timedesign's picture

it seems an odd thing not to

it seems an odd thing not to bring children in the world because they may get hurt. it's all part of the human experience. if you did'nt experience despair, how would you know joy?

MrShaw's picture

Despair, and how I do.

I have for a long time insisted that I would not have children. Partially due to selfish reasons in that I am happy with the way my life is, and I don't want to sacrifice it. Partially due to not wanting to pass on any faulty genes or twisted way of thinking, and partially due to a constant worry that I would be bringing a child into a society and world that is unforgiving. If I was to have children, I always wanted to bring them up somewhere like NZ, far away from the hustle and bustle of Metropolis, so that they could enjoy what nature has to offer them. It turns out all of these thoughts have been swept aside, because at the end of the day, when children do enter your life, you just get on with it and make do with what you have. I love the despair part......can I get my joy now? ;p

The_elusive_STEALTH's picture

Its really hard

Its really hard for me to not think about bringing children into this world. I did so about 17 months ago. Where i live I would like to think is relatively safe. It seems a distant world where children suffer although it does happen here but i guess compared to some places its a big difference. We have free health care, subsidized child care and if you can't afford to look after your children the government helps. I definitely count myself and my child lucky.

Tim Cooijmans's picture

Short reply: Joy is useless

Short reply: Joy is useless to those who are not yet born!

Long reply: In deciding whether to have a kid for the kid's sake, weighing the harms and the benefits, you should actually ignore the benefits. The benefits are not inherently beneficial; they merely satisfy needs. These needs are harms inflicted at the time of birth.

Note that I'm only talking about the kid's side of the story. Whether having a kid enriches the lives of the parents or other people is another story.

I know I sound like some boring academic; I'm not. It just takes clunky wording to convey this idea. In any case, I'm not doing it justice. There's a blog dedicated to discussing this idea at http://antinatalism.blogspot.com/ .

Ethan's picture

why is joy useless

Hey my entry is on the website, with some negative responses, wow I think you guys have been reading to much Camus and Neitzsche. That is a very nihilistic approach to life. I definately have not lived a typical middle class life by the way and have seen and experienced much pain and seen death in many forms. That website seems to argue it would be great if humans and all life went extinct because life is painful and meaningless anyhow. Please correct me if I have made the wrong assumption on this point.
However you state "The benefits are not inherently beneficial; they merely satisfy needs. These needs are harms inflicted at the time of birth." They are not needs but necessary inherited traits to ensure the continuation of ones genetic line. I choose to accept the truth that I am a mammal with an inbuilt desire to procreate and that life is a struggle so to me not even attempting to successfully create genetically viable offspring is an unacceptable option.

Sure my children or further descendents may face unimaginable horrors but all that would pale in significance to the horror of being relegated to the fate of the Neandertal. Mankind is the first species with the ability to spread life beyond this planet but if we choose a nihilistic approach to life and do not have children to build the future of man then we will suffer the fate of all extinct species sooner rather than later. How can this be a good thing or something we would even concieve of wanting to achieve. If we cease to struggle even through all the pain and misery the world can bring then yes life has no meaning.

Tim Cooijmans's picture

I apologize for the tone of

I apologize for the tone of the article that references this website on the blog that I linked. We see the same reactions to the idea of antinatalism all the time, and we get frustrated at how swiftly it is dismissed, often condescendingly.

Antinatalism is not nihilism; suffering has (negative) value to us. We want to abolish suffering. Life is full of suffering. To abolish suffering, we should end all life.

You see extinction as a bad thing. I don't understand why. Humanity will go extinct when the last of us dies. But it doesn't seem to be the dying individual that you're concerned with, because continuing our species will entail more individual deaths than going extinct would.

It puzzles me that you consciously acknowledge that life is struggle and then decide that not procreating is unacceptable to you. I, too, accept the truth that I am an animal that is built to procreate. But clearly I don't need to let that dictate my actions, especially when it leads to more suffering. Following evolution will lead us nowhere, at the expense of all of those people who come after us, until one day we go extinct involuntarily, most likely painfully.

You also state that all of your descendants' suffering would pale in significance to the horror of human extinction. My view is the other way around: all of that suffering dwarfs the horrors of human extinction, frustrated childwishes and other incidental sufferings. Think about it: by procreating, you continue your lineage, and your descendants will become practically infinite in number (something you seem well aware of). Each of these descendants has their little incidental sufferings, and they pile up indefinitely; does human extinction or frustrating your own personal childwish (if any) still seem so bad?

As far as I can tell, your argument in favor of procreation comes down to viewing struggle as heroic, or that struggling is somehow a good thing. This is a very subjective value judgment. We antinatalists, however, think our view is objectively true, and that refraining from procreation is objectively the right thing to do.

Winston Smith's picture

Suicide?

So then by your argument, shouldn't you kill yourself to end your suffering? I'm not suggesting you commit suicide, and I certainly hope you never do. I'm just saying that's seems to be the logical end of your argument.

Tim Cooijmans's picture

Antinatalism is the view that

Antinatalism is the view that it is wrong to create new lives. Existing lives may be worth continuing, for instance because they turned out alright, or because ending them would cause suffering in loved ones. And, of course, because it requires actually killing oneself.

(In my particular case, I'm not afraid of death itself; it's just the dying that bothers me. And besides, there's a bunch of things I still want to do before I die. :-)

Anonymous's picture

Yes, but doesn't there seem

Yes, but doesn't there seem to be a lot of despair?  I'm going through a hard time right now and I feel guilty for having a child in this world.  I was left by her father, etc.  Sometimes it just seems to be so much.

Winston Smith's picture

Guilt

I'm sorry that you've been having a hard time recently. Why do you feel guilty for having a child? Is it because they're not happy? Or because you're not able to give them everything you want to?

newintown's picture

have you lost your faith?

how could you be so sure that the new born babies would increase the suffering of other children around the world? at least one of them could be a great scientist or inventor that would make something that could change live (to be better) of millions people or maybe creatures in the world.
children who get abused, that doesn't mean they have miserable life. they still can continue their life in a good way. for example, like it or not, Oprah Winfrey she is one the victim. and look at her now, she has a good life, i think. got abused is only one of the bad things that could happen in your life, many people get bigger problem and they still survived.

Tim Cooijmans's picture

Quote: at least one of them

Quote:
at least one of them could be a great scientist or inventor that would make something that could change live (to be better) of millions people or maybe creatures in the world.

Similarly, at least one of them could be a great tyrant. For every Einstein, there is a Hitler.

Hewy's picture

Rights to have children.

Okay folks.

I'll cut to the chase, then probably meander a little bit and then leave you lot with something to think about. That seems to be my form.

Firstly, it is not everyone's right to have children. Simple fact. Not a right. It's a chemical re-action that most but sadly not all can conduct/perform.

Secondly, there are an absolute shit-load of orphans who require our attention and care.

Thirdly, there are not "too many" people out there. There are just too many neglected people out there.

Fourthly, capitalistic democracies will always have this imbalance, it is a bi-product of a promiscuous society lost of any moralistic or ethical indicators. When money is king fashion is it's henchman, telling people how to sell themselves by buying things which you are convinced will enhance your life and find you love.

Fifthly, it is impossible to find love as love finds you first. Current generations find the lines between love and lust more blurred than ever and don't have the where with all to distinguish between the 2 however as they can not differentiate between needs and wants. Little knowing that by choosing the path toward achieving a need you invariably allow the wants to take care of themselves and they often do.

So, If you do indeed feel the need to breed and your seed or your egg won't succeed try adopting a child. You can still have sex and enjoy your life. There is a taboo amongst people who believe that it would be impossible for them to connect with a child that is not "their own", well people, If you undergo IVF then technically the child as a result of that is not your own for the replacement vessel is from some bugger else.

Save the Children. The ones already here. Then think about your own.

Anonymous's picture

I like your comment.

I like your comment.

Anonymous's picture

See this article: Better not

kitkat29's picture

We are not animals, we are

We are not animals, we are human. Your train of thought is so plagued with negativity and error it is a bit mind boggling.

You're saying people in first world countries shouldn't have children because our kids will use up some kids resources from a third world country?  That is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard.  If I chose not to have kids, it doesn't mean I will be sending some unknown kid in another country money and food and clothing instead.

I really don't care if some kid I don't even know isn't getting enough food.  It's not my problem, it's th kids parents who didn't think twice about having unprotected sex.  I will not pay the price of some fools mistake.  My child will get everything I earn and give them.

Also, if no one had kids, who is going to take care of your selfish self when you're too old and decrepit to even wipe your own a$$?  Who's going to take you to the doctor?  Who's going to help you bathe?  Do you even stop to think about how the future would be without anyone being born ever again?  You would probably die a gross death without the help of future generations, as well as millions of others.

Chunk's picture

In one breath, you say

In one breath you say "I really don't care if some kid I don't even know isn't getting enough food.  It's not my problem" and then in the next breath you accuse the author of being selfish.  That's the pot calling the kettle black if ever I heard it.  Then later you make it clear that you're depending on the next generation for help, and yet you are completely unwilling to help anyone but yourself.  There's a word for that, it begins with s...

kitkat29 wrote:

It's not my problem, it's th kids parents who didn't think twice about having unprotected sex.  I will not pay the price of some fools mistake.

You misunderstand the problem.  Parents in third world countries don't have access to or education about birth control.  It's not a mistake, it's an advantage that you have over them.  And it's not an advantage that you have earned, it's just sheer luck that you were born into a first world country, with education and cheaply available birth control.

Karyn's picture

Are these the values that you

Are these the values that you teach your children?  Complete disregard for other children?  No sympathy for those less fortunate than yourself?  "Fuck the poor, they deserve it"?

Wow, I sincerely hope and pray that other, kinder parents will have more children, to balance out your children and the twisted morals they get from you.

A final thought: some day, when the stock market tanks and you lose your job, and your children aren't getting enough food, will you still think that it's because of some (you) "fool's mistakes"?  Or will your perspective conveniently change?

Hewy's picture

YOU...

...ARE ABOMINABLE!

Anonymous's picture

all this is beyond

all this is beyond my comprehension. whenever i'm asked for a reason why i don't have kids i ask for a reason to have one. so far nobody has been able to come up with an answer. i imagine people who have kids must do it because they are bored with their life. pretty selfish reason, as they put burden on the rest of society. there should be a luxury tax on kids. there is one on cars, and a car is more of an necessity these days than a child. there are enough people on this planet anyway. in fact, people are the worst thing that happened to it...