Here’s a quandary into which I have thunk myself:

Starting from the antinatalist proposition that to inflict life on another human being is a cruel and unconscionable act*, it follows that the crueler and/or more careless a person is, the more children he is likely to produce. A person who voluntarily produces zero children is therefore less nasty than the mean.

Now. To be realistic—which is where we claim antinatalism comes from, yes?—there is ZERO likelihood that the species will ever go peacefully. (Short of social measures that would make people scream all kinds of bloody murder anyway.) I’ve heard antinatalists yellin’ that our philosophy is going to save the world… no. I’m sorry. We may be right, but what does that matter? We’re freaks. I don’t mean that in the derogatory sense, I mean that in the sense that we don’t happen very often. Most people are thoughtless and cruel. (Most of the time, when not making a conscious decision like this, I am too, out of instinct.)

Therefore, if people who are thoughtful enough to not breed keep on not doing so, and people who are thoughtless enough to keep poppin’ ’em out continue to do as they are inclined, this will have a concrete effect on human evolution: if there’s a genetic profile that leads one to susceptibility to antinatalist ideas, it will become scarcer and scarcer. The race will get crueler and more thoughtless. Life will be more swamped with unnecessary, human-created misery with each generation; if genocide or physical torture aren’t constant, petty bureaucrats will be ten times as sadistic.

Therefore: Does the refusal of people who are inclined not to breed for moral reasons to buck their inclinations and reproduce their genetic stock in fact create more net suffering? I may pat myself on the back for keeping my unborn children safe where they belong, but I’m leaving the souls of my ilk in a position to be more and more nightmarishly outnumbered. So… maybe I should have a kid and then apologize to it? Or murder it if it’s too unhappy? Can’t come up with a good answer here, folks.

I’m afraid dysgenics is going to win. Even if I decided to let my own flesh and blood step into the meat grinder, on the average, getting people who are disinclined to inflict life to breed is no more realistic than the idea of getting people inclined to multiply mindlessly to knock it off. And although I agree in the abstract that overall suffering should be reduced, I could not stomach watching my own flesh and blood suffer through even a trial as mundane as junior high, especially knowing she’ll be related to me, with all the nerdliness that entails—and knowing it was all my fault.

You too?

So, again, things are just going to get worse.


*If you’re unfamiliar with this debate, Google “antinatalist.”


  1. Epikoros

    If you inflicted the suffering of being alive on your own child in order to reduce (possibly) the sufferings of others in the future, she could justifiably ask, "Why me? Why does my suffering count for less than those others? Sacrifice yourself for the future if you want, but you're not entitled to sacrifice me."

  2. Epikoros

    Oh, I forgot to mention that I'm enjoying The Talkative Corpse. Good work. It's the best characterization of American wage slavery I've read.

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  3. Anonymous

    "I could not stomach watching my own flesh and blood suffer through even a trial as mundane as junior high." Recently I passed a school bus, and remembered how much I hated riding that fucking thing. Sure, it was cool when I was 6 or 7, by the time I was 11 or 12 I resented the fact that I had to ride in that giant yellow death trap! It was hot as fuck in the warmer months, dust flying in through the open windows. bouncing off the seat with all but the smallest bumps. Of course the fun doesn't end there, the giant yellow deathtrap is driving you to the most hideous place man has ever devised, school! I realized that I would NEVER want my child to go through that.

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    Ann Sterzinger

    Thanks, Epikoros! I ah, I'm always afraid I was too angry when I wrote that book, the first half anyway.
    Anonymous: My school was within walking distance, well for me anyway (I've aways been a big walker). I would dawdle on the way there because I hated it there, and I would dawdle on the way home because I hated it there too. Huh… No wonder I like walking so much.

  5. Karl

    No point in producing footsoldiers for a war that cannot be won. Just retire with as much grace as possible when the time comes and at least console yourself with the knowledge that you resisted mass pressure to continue the species.

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  6. Unknown

    And it it gets worse, Ann. What proof is there of any kind of "antinatalist" gene? Our own parents certainly weren't disinclined to reproduce. In fact, my own father recently said he would have liked another child if his financial situation had been a bit better at the time. My sister has two kids. If Ann Sterzinger and Tom Ligotti had a child, it could be the cell of another Duggar family for all we know. Take as much peace as you can in keeping your own unborn children safe.

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      Ann Sterzinger

      There is no proof, well pointed out, but there's no proof that I'm going to die of a heart attack either; that doesn't stop me worrying about it! That's why this is a quandary into which I have thunk myself, not one into which I have researched myself.

  7. Mr. Mean-Spirited

    Becoming an antinatalist out of misanthropic inclinations might well have its faults, but at least it does not result in logical contradictions. Opposition to breeding should come about through purely selfish motivations; having a personal dislike for children is the best reason to ridicule procreation. What difference does it make if the human race experiences ever greater misery in the future – as long as you are able to amuse yourself while living childfree in the here and now?

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  8. Anonymous

    We can't control what everybody else does, only what we do. We keep our hands clean. We live by example. What kind of example is an antinatalist who proceeds to bear children? No one will take antinatalism seriously if we don't practice what we preach. And as things get worse and worse for humanity, they will look to us. We might not be around but they'll look at what we've left behind, the things we've written. I honestly don't care a whit for humanity and their inevitable self-destruction, so I don't care about the future of the race. The only "race" I care about are animals. I know I'm doing them as much good as I possibly can by practicing vegan and not bearing children.

  9. metamorphhh

    I approach the problem the same way I would if I were communicating my concerns about slavery. My ideal would be that people listening to me would eventually agree with my position. You know, out of conscience. Barring that, I would hope for some political pressure/shenanigans from enlightened individuals at the top of the societal food chain. Revolution, I think they call it. As a last resort, there's Herbert's 'White Plague' scenario, to wit, a mad scientist with an axe to grind and (perhaps) too much time on his hands. Maybe a mini-singularity, or some sort of sterilization virus. I fully realize that all of this is ultimately a shot in the dark, but I also believe that it's a shot worth taking.

    1. Bazompora

      I would add, Crawford, that as power becomes concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer, it isn't impossible that some day the red button is assembled in the palm of a disillusioned heir of the rulers of the world. To increase the odds of their acquaintance with life's malignancy and the fact that the only meaningful change is to bring about the end of life, its meaninglessness and recidivous cyclical nature.
      Is this being hopeful? Only if there is a safer bet, I would say.

  10. Anonymous

    If someone did indeed want to prevent human suffering, they would destroy the world already. If you aren't striving to do just that, you are in effect allowing the suffering of billions to continue. #quandry #toosimple #betchuwont:P

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