Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

To Procreate or Not to Procreate? It’s Not Even a Question

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2012 at 4:15 am

When I first set out to write this essay, I intended to give ethical arguments for and against having and raising one’s own biological children, which, we’ve been told, is an act and process that is an integral part of this crazy thing we call life. Notwithstanding, if we view having our own children from a purely ethical perspective, the answer is simple—there are no good reasons.

Before anyone begins throwing a fit about me making some sort of claim that no one should have children, I’m certainly not. You are someone’s child, and, more than likely, I’m sure you’ll say now that you don’t necessarily regret being born. If you have any children currently, I’m sure they’re great, and I’m sure they’re cute. They’ll be a great boon to society one day. But if you don’t have any children, and you’re thinking about it, think hard. Think about the fact that:

The world population is growing at a rate that the planet cannot support.

All of us already know that the world population growth is, simply put, unsustainable at its current rate.

By some accounts, world population could reach 10 billion in the year 2050, while the Earth’s carrying capacity is said to be between 4 billion and 11 billion. According to some experts, we may have already transcended the Earth’s carrying capacity. Considering that developed countries, especially America, produce some of the greatest amounts of waste per person in the world, deciding not to have children will do more to reduce your carbon footprint than any of the small steps you may currently take, like walking to work.

The “but my future child will be happy” argument doesn’t hold water.

In Peter Singer’s relatively recent New York Times op-ed, “Should this be the Last Generation?”, Singer cites one of philosopher David Benatar’s arguments about having children:

“To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her. Few of us would think it right to inflict severe suffering on an innocent child, even if that were the only way in which we could bring many other children into the world. Yet everyone will suffer to some extent, and if our species continues to reproduce, we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. Hence continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none.”

Essentially what Singer is trying to say is that non-existent persons, being infinitely many, cannot “know” what they are missing out on.

There’s nothing necessarily “natural” about having and raising kids.

One argument often invoked in the name of having children is the idea that it’s a “natural” part of the lifecycle, or it’s an experience that is part and parcel of our instincts and biology. Firstly, there are various “instincts” that, as human civilization has developed, we’ve suppressed. One could easily argue that it’s instinctual to hunt and gather our food, but modern technology has enabled us to slough off this part of our biology. In the same way, the facts of modern life have given us the opportunity to live a full life without having children. The advent of birth control has completely separated reproduction from our instinctual sex drive that often results in reproduction. As such, just with many parts that were once an

Having children won’t necessarily make you happier either.

Now we can always go the hedonistic route, and argue that raising children will bring us pleasure, and that, ergo, having children is the right thing to do. There are, again, a few problems with this argument. For one, it’s not even necessarily the case that having children will bring us pleasure, as noted in a recent New Yorker article, “The Case Against Kids.” A study conducted in 2006 showed that mothers cited having a more enjoyable time during activities like exercising, talking on the phone, and watching TV, as compared to spending time with their children. Spending time with children ranked only above doing housework in terms of enjoyment.

At the end of the day however, having children isn’t something we necessarily submit to reasoned analysis. Perhaps the nearly universal appeal is something akin to what Guardian columnist Charlie Booker noticed after having his first child:

“But only a cardboard man could fail to acknowledge that some things simply leave you feeling deeply, deeply happy. Call me dense or cold or both, but I wasn’t anticipating the wave of euphoria I’ve been experiencing. It’ll wear off, I’m sure, and these pages aren’t the place for it anyway, but yes: I understand why people have kids. Right now, at the moment, I ‘get’ babies.”


Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031