The Burden of Proof
Interesting discussion with my sister.
It’s no secret I’m morally opposed to the creation of new life. Everyone who knows me and even most who don’t know me but have read my letters to the editor and such know that. The way I see it it’s better to never exist at all than to exist and have any part of that existence, however small, be unpleasant (for the record: I also disagree with Tennyson, I believe it’s better never to have loved at all).
That’s when it occurred to me, however, that the burden of proof doesn’t lie with me or any of the other antinatalist philosophers or lay people. The burden of proof lies upon the pronatalist camp. It’s not up to us to definitively prove that non-existence is better than existence, but rather it is their task to definitively prove that it is better to exist and therefore justify the imposition of life upon another new living being (life is an imposition since we were given no choice in the matter).
Alas, that is a burden of proof that is impossible to meet. Simply being Pollyanna-ish and saying “well I’m glad to be alive” doesn’t cut it. That’s not definitive proof. That’s emotional appeal. There are just as many (if not more) people out there who don’t particularly enjoy being alive, and further even if you do enjoy being alive that’s no guarantee your offspring will.
It seems to me the safest course of action is not to impose life upon any new beings. Non-existence can’t possibly be bad. At worst non-existence has a completely neutral value. On the other hand, existence can’t be definitely proven to have any sort of positive value.