When it comes to winning the antinatalism debate (which, if you look at any of them, the antinatalist always wins the debate), I’ve come up with a new strategy to shut down pretty much ever pronatalist argument and use that to further imply why antinatalism is true.
Situational antinatalism is simple and profound enough that pretty much everyone agrees with it. The only ones who I have found reject it are individuals who are suffering from the most severe forms of the most common mental illness on the planet (namely religion). Basically, almost everyone I’ve ever encountered can agree that there are certain life forms that would have been better off being spared existence. Those with extreme mental and/or physical disabilities, animals raised solely for meat or other animal byproducts, among others qualify as such. There’s effectively no argument that these individuals would have been better off being spared existence. I’ve not personally met anyone who will disagree with these (though, most of them in their hypocritical ways continue to consume meat and/or animal byproducts, go figure).
That said, it is very easy to see how situational antinatalism implies general antinatalism. Given the level of uncertainty about what kind of existence awaits a potential individual, it is always best not to procreate. Nobody knows if a new, pre-sentient individual will be one of the many individuals cursed with severe mental/physical handicap. Since it is pretty much universally agreed upon that such individuals would be better off never existing, and given the fact that there is a statistically significant chance that any new individual will be afflicted with such a malady, we see that the risk heavily outweighs any potential benefit.
In short, the element of uncertainty and risk is the nail in the coffin for the pronatalist argument. Note I did not even invoke the Benatarian asymmetry here. While an elegant and watertight argument in favor of antinatalism, it’s practically impossible to convince anyone of the truth value of it. That said, when I argue for antinatalism from this argument, very rarely does the other person walk away not agreeing with me. I’ve even managed to convince my own mother of it, who has since apologized to me for bringing me into existence. No joke. Go figure, one’s own offspring turning his own mother to antinatalism. I never thought I’d see the day.
When it comes to breeders, I somewhat understand why so many religious folk hold the defective defense that it’s morally acceptable: their vile, despicable gods command them to do it. When it comes to atheists, however, they have no sort of adequate defense whatsoever.
I still just really don’t understand how atheists (and that includes atheistic religions such as Buddhism) can justify reproduction. I’ve heard a number of defenses for it, all of which I find defective. Here are some common ones and my responses to them:
“It’s a natural desire.”
Response: So if I have a natural desire to kill people that makes it acceptable?
“With religious families having so many kids, somebody’s got to have atheist kids.”
Response: That’s rather narcissistic.
“With so many stupid people having kids, somebody’s got to have smart kids.”
Response: Sorry, but just because you’re smarter than average doesn’t mean your kid will be. Also, see above.
“Even atheists have to experience the love of a child.”
Response: So that’s a justification for imposing existence and the harms thereof on an individual who did not give his or her consent to being brought into the world? Just goes to show that having children is at least as, and probably a far more selfish choice than choosing not to have them.
“We’ll go extinct if someone doesn’t have children.”
Response: You can’t give any sort of justification for why that is an inherently bad thing. I know it might be an uncomfortable thought to you Pollyanna types, but we will go extinct one of these days, and long before the world as we know it comes to an end.
There are some others, but that’s the most common of the ones I hear. Concerning Buddhism and similar religions who believe in the ridiculous notion of reincarnation, I would argue that the only way to break the cycle (which is the end goal of Buddhism) is to stop having children and making souls be reborn. If we do that, such would effectively end the cycle of Samsara (rebirth) and force the final and end-goal state of Moksha (escape from Samsara).