What is antinatalism and does it make sense?

3 min read


Antinatalism is a philosophical position that holds that procreation is immoral and that individuals should not have children, either for their own benefit or for the benefit of society. Antinatalists believe that life is suffering, and that procreation only adds to the amount of suffering in the world. They advocate for the promotion of voluntary childlessness and the ending of procreation in order to reduce the amount of suffering in the world. Antinatalists believe that the world would be a better place if there were fewer people living in it, and they advocate for policies that would reduce population growth and encourage childlessness. Antinatalism is often seen as a radical position and has been met with criticism from those who believe that procreation is a moral act, and that life has inherent value.

As an abstract argument, it is often strongly made that people do not factor in the evils of old age, which are nevertheless likely to befall everyone in some form. The judgment about the value of existence can only be made when this time has also been lived through consciously. This is however almost never the case, instead it is young, healthy people who express themselves positively about the life altogether and are thus also in the majority. If really old people, who de facto have more experience of life, were asked about this, the positive picture would possibly crack.

On the other hand, the argument could also be turned around. A pubescent antinatalist can hardly be taken seriously. This person cannot refer to his own experiential knowledge, whereas it would take an extensive philosophical investigation to objectively determine the value of life. In the end, however, one will still be caught in subjective views. For each person, the value of life is individual and changeable over a lifetime.

One often hears that antinatalism as a philosophical position would be a good countermeasure against the advancing climate change, when it is simplified to say that fewer people also produce fewer emissions. But is antinatalism actually a solution for climate change? Although antinatalism may reduce the population and thus lower emissions, it does not address the underlying causes of climate change. In order to effectively address climate change, there must be a shift towards clean energy sources, improved energy efficiency, and other solutions that reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere. Antinatalism is thus only symptom control.

Evidence shows, however, that birth rates can be reduced on average through education and sexual education. Education is particularly important for women, so that they can become independent of a classic role model in which they "only" fulfill the role of mother, while the man fills the role of provider. Basically, this is exactly what we see happening in Western countries, and it doesn't even require incentives or prohibitions on behalf of the state.

Perhaps there is a "NIMBY" (not in my backyard) problem, which can be verbalized as follows: I think it would be good if there were fewer people, but that does not influence my own decision to have children or not. Moreover, one should be careful who represents this position and whether this person merely wants to maintain the status quo and secretly actually only wants to express that poor people should not have (so many) children. This is also often accompanied by a subtle racism.

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