Guest BloggersParenting

Proud to Be Childfree by Risa Beckwith

This essay was originally posted on Skepchick back when we were a humble monthly e-zine. I’ll be periodically re-posting the articles that were on the original site so that they can find a new audience.

Proud to Be Childfree

Risa Beckwith
Originally posted April 2006

“Not all who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien

One fine spring day, my father and I were driving somewhere, exactly where I do not remember. I was excited about my upcoming high school graduation. I had thrown my hat in the ring to be one of the commencement speakers, but sadly, it was not to be. I was discussing my glumness at this apparent rejection with my father, and he was attempting to ameliorate my adolescent angst by telling me that speaking at graduation was, ultimately, a popularity contest. He said to me: “You know, at my high school graduation, there was a girl who spoke for the class. She told everyone that the world was such a bad place that she could never bring children into it. I always wanted to look her up and see if she had kids now. I bet she does.” His face then contorted in anger. “What an obnoxious bitch.”

I was stunned. My father never swore in front of me.

Let me say, first, that I am not a big fan of commencement speeches — by either class members or invited speakers — that center around how the graduating class is inheriting a world that is basically a big ball of shit. I think that kind of sentiment is unnecessary and casts a pall on a day that is supposed to be celebratory.

That was nearly 20 years ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. This exchange was my initiation into the cult of assumptions that is our pro-natalist culture.

I got the sense that my father was reacting less to the fact that it was a ball-of-shit speech, and more to the fact that this girl announced to everyone present that she did not plan on having children. My puzzlement at my father’s over the top reaction that this girl did not want to bring children into a world that she perceived as negative and hostile, remains. Why did he care what she thought or what she did? If she didn’t want children, so what?

childfreeI am sure I do not have to explain what it is like to grow up different. Many of us, as skeptics, have gotten into a fistfight with the status quo in one way or another, whether that be through religious differences within our community, scientific literacy gaps, or through our charming, geeky, and misaligned social priorities. I am also certain that I do not have to explain to some of the women how sometimes the skeptic worldview comes into conflict with the stereotypical essence of womanhood, which apparently somehow has been codified as “warm, fuzzy, emotional, and collaborative.” Act with your heart, not your head, women!

What is the main difference between women and men, even if you’re a skeptic? The obvious answer is that if you are a man, I have a uterus and you do not. I can think like a man (whatever that means), get a job in a male dominated field, and play a “male” sport, but I will never, ever, have a penis. That means that people expect a certain mindset from me. Uteruses are meant to be used, right? An empty uterus is a sad uterus!

Freud once said, “Anatomy is destiny.” While many of my contemporaries, as “more enlightened” individuals, insist that this phrase is one of many stupid things that Freud said, I am not so convinced. I do believe I am somewhat in control of my destiny, but destiny is something that requires the input of the community unless one is stranded on a deserted island. Mozart was born with talent, and even had a father who recognized and promoted his talent. But where would Mozart be if he were born now? Would he be a brilliant hip-hop artist? Or would he be composing movie preview music? Would he be drowning his sorrows in a bottle of gin and cursing Internet music pirates?

Therefore, regardless of how enlightened some individual people are, if your cross-section in time is not in alignment with you, your anatomy can indeed be your destiny. Specifically, if I had been born in my great-grandmother’s time in the Russian Jewish ghetto, I may have been disallowed to learn to read. Typically, only boys were sent to school, and girls generally were taught to keep house. There I would have been, a woman born to love learning but who was denied the chance to learn anything except how much childbirth hurts and how to make a good kreplach. I would have been dependent on the men in the family to allow me to learn to read and write. They might have tsked at me and worried that such bad habits or desires would make it harder to marry me off. Biology = destiny.

Even today, though, the community at large seems to believe that since I am a woman, I love babies, want lots of children, and that I am dying to hear about other people’s children. When someone brings pictures of their babies into work, I am supposed to squeal. I don’t quite have the squeal down. It is a bit higher pitched than what I am used to. Apparently, the appropriate noise is something like “SQUEEEEE,” but since I can’t get the line right, I have taken to hiding in the bathroom during picture presentation so I don’t embarrass myself by my obvious non-reaction or get “that look.” Swimming against the current is extremely tiring and occasionally very uncomfortable.

So here’s the reality: I am childfree. That means that I have no children…by choice.

Those of us who identify as childfree use this term instead of ‘childless’ – because ‘childless’ implies there is a lack of something in our lives. People without ferrets wouldn’t identify themselves as ‘ferretless.’

Childfree does not mean that I hate children. I like older children. I just don’t want any of my own. Very smart people look at me like I have two heads if I ever say that I don’t really like babies, so I rarely bring it up anymore. Saying that I don’t like cats but I don’t kill cats either also does not help. This discussion about whether or not I want children invariably leads to what is known in the childfree community as “bingoing.” This is mostly a verb (“I got bingoed”), but it can also be used as a noun (“Another bingo today”).

Below are the common childfree bingos and my responses. I hope you haven’t been on the bingoing end. If you have been, email me for the repentance formula.

1. “You’ll change your mind.” I am nearly 35 years old. I’m pretty sure that 1) I know my own mind at this point, and 2) Don’t you think that if I wanted children, it would have happened by now? Other CFers prefer to say: “When did you know you wanted children? You’ll change your mind.”

2. “Just wait until your biological clock starts ticking.” I think mine is busted. I don’t hear it. At all. Other CFers resent the implication they are nothing but the sum of their hormones and answer this question accordingly.

3. “Your dogs are child substitutes.” No, they’re dogs. I am not going to drive them into therapy if I say in a baby voice, “Dog #1, you’re just the stupidest dog ever! Yes! Ever ever! And, Dog #2, you eat poo! You are so gross! You’re the grossest thing ever!” Instead of developing parent-induced Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, they wag at me and get wound up. They cheerfully sleep in their crates at night. I can’t be sure, but I have heard that Child Protective Services doesn’t like it when you keep your kids in a crate.

4. “You’ll regret it.” Here’s where being familiar with the psychological literature helps. Actually, studies have found that childfree couples are extremely happy and do not regret their decision, as long as they agree on being childfree. The sum happiness of many couples goes down when there are children in the house and doesn’t rise again until after the children leave. Besides, I would rather regret not having children than regret having them.

5. “You’re selfish.” So you had your kids solely because you wanted to benefit society and not because you wanted them? How sad.

6. “You’re not truly an adult until you have children.” Part of being an adult means taking a realistic appraisal of your abilities, wishes, dreams,
and talents. Adults think through decisions before they make them and they do not do things just because they are “supposedta.”

7. “Who is going to take care of you when you’re old?” If you’re having kids for social insurance, I think you’ll be disappointed. Such elder worship is not the culture of the USA. We throw away our elderly just like we throw away razor blades.

8. “You must hate children.” No. Some childfree hate children, just like some of us hate peas. I like children. I work with them. Therefore, I know how hard it is to be a good parent. I like children enough that I would not want to give them a mother or father who doesn’t really want them.

9. “What if your mother said that?” Then you’d be standing here talking to yourself. That would have been her right.

10. “You’re just doing this so you can live high on the hog/buy that Porsche.” You obviously haven’t seen the new Porsche Cayman, otherwise you would understand my viewpoint better. Seriously, though, why is it wrong to take into account finances anyway? If I can’t afford it, why do you want me to have children I can’t afford? Telling me “you’ll find the money” is not a logical strategy. Sure, I could find the money for something I really wanted to do. I could work two jobs. But money is a limited resource. It goes to things that are important to me. If my relationship is of #1 importance, and my relationship is strengthened traveling to the Great Wall of China, I’m investing in my relationship. Besides, how am I more materialistic than parents who buy Dolce & Gabanna outfits and Chanel diaper bags for their children?

The bottom line is that there are unspoken societal expectations for women. We are “supposed” to think in a certain way. I have tried to explain some of the estrangement that goes on when you are a woman who loves learning more than babies. Why do people keep trying to convince those of us who are childfree that we are wrong about a decision we have considered at length? A lot of us don’t buy the argument that it is because such people are “concerned about us” and want us to experience something beautiful. If being a parent is one of your sparkling talents, that’s beautiful. This is your time, your society.

As for me, I’ll throw some books in my backseat, pop my Mozart CD into my Porsche, drive to Napa Valley, sip some wine at Opus One, and wholeheartedly atone for the ball-of-shit speech I just gave.

Dr. Risa Beckwith is a reproductive justice advocate with a Master’s in Public Health.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

Related Articles

194 Comments

  1. “Besides, I would rather regret not having children than regret having them.”

    I could not possibly agree more.

    Because I like kids and I’m good with them, one that I get even from my friends who know I don’t want a child of my own is “But you’d be such a good mother.” Amazing how one can tell that from watching me with a kid for five minutes, versus living in my head for 36 years.

    There are times it’s almost a relief to have my disability as a plausible excuse for why we’re not having kids, because no one ever argues with that one.

  2. Brava! Indeed, many, many, more people on earth could stand to gave a critical eye to their parenting abilities before they procreate.

    I must strongly disagree with one point you make, though.

    Eating poo is pretty gross. You’ve got a psycho dog.

  3. I’ve been quietly reading this blog for a couple of months, but for this essay I just had to finally register to comment.

    Thank you so much for posting it.

    I don’t want to have children, nor do I like having them around when office-mommies decide to bring their wondrous creations to work, and it’s HARD to confess that to people. It’s even hard being 100% sure that this is what I really want, because hey – if everyone’s doing it, who am I to argue?

    It’s pieces like this that strengthen and reassure me that I’m not a heartless, defective woman, and that I’m actually among a rather good crowd.

    Thank you.

  4. I decided at age 12 to not have children. I am now 51 and never regretted it.

    It’s also the reason I never married. Every man I ever got involved with could not understand that just because my mom had 7 kids did not mean I wanted to have even one – much less the 4 or 5 they wanted.

    Forget it , Blue Balls! Go grow your own uterus and leave mine alone.

  5. Men get hit with the “biological clock” argument in reverse – we’re constantly being told that we *could* have children when we’re 70 without any thought to just how dreadful the experience of looking after an infant would be at that age. Or having a father too old to pick you up.

  6. As a happy parent, I have one thing to say to you….good for you!

    Not everyone likes kids and if you don’t, then you are smart not to have any!

    Although your DNA will be greatly missed when the “Idiocracy” comes to pass.

    Could you maybe freeze an egg?

  7. I think Dr. Beckwith may be leaping to some conclusions here.

    Let me start by saying that I totally support anyone’s decision to drop out of the gene pool. And if people want to be proud of dropping out of the gene pool, that’s okay too.

    And yes, occasionally the child-bound look upon the child-free with some serious hate. Having kids is hard, and they don’t have to deal with it. But if I had known how hard it would be when I started, I’d have done it anyway, because it is totally worth it. If you don’t have kids, you don’t know, and you can’t know, and if you stay child-free, you’ll never know.

    I’m not sure what emotion you get when you mix envy with pity, but I don’t blame anyone for finding it offensive. So I understand Dr. Beckwith’s distaste for discussing the subject with child-bound people.

    She’s wrong about one thing, though. Her father was likely reacting to the asinine idea that the world has to be some sort of wondrous paradise in order for responsible people to have children. The valedictorian was making an implied criticism of other people who had children, as if they were being irresponsible. That is obnoxious, and bitchy, and of course completely ignores the actual state of the world. There has probably never been a better time to have children in the history of our species. If present trends continue, kids today will live longer, suffer less deprivation, be confronted with less personal violence, and know more about the universe than kids of any previous generation.

    There are those who pretend to know that current trends won’t or can’t continue, as if they have the magic crystal ball of future technological achievement. I find that obnoxious as well, and not even remotely skeptical. Possibly her father was reacting to that sort of smugness more than the idea that someone might not want children.

    I also think that she is taking refuge in the wrong literature. I find it odd that people think that studies of early middle aged couples are relevant to the question of lifetime happiness. I would much more interested in studies of people in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties to see how overall life satisfaction and happiness indexes against living grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

  8. @Sulis: A lovely article. As a guy, I haven’t been warned about my biological clock (maybe it’s somewhere in the Fallopian tubes?), but I’ve heard all of the others, including argumentum ad Idiocracy.

    I’ve never been comfortable with the term “childfree”, though. It strikes me as a euphemism tailor-made for the treadmill. The objection to “childless” could also apply to “atheist,” and rebranding attempts on that front (esp. “bright”) fail.

    But that’s a quibble. I enjoyed this article, and am glad Rebecca put it front and center.

  9. Good read.

    My husband and I are “childfree”. It’s a disappointment to our parents, but realistically, I don’t know our marriage would survive kids.

    Love my husband, but he is an unmitigated workaholic – work ALWAYS comes first (even though he’s “made it out”, he’s still working to “escape” his family’s rural lifestyle – when he’s over-working, I remind him that no one is going to forcibly make him go back). While this is something I’ve come to accept and manage, I don’t know that it would be for a child.

    And, as I get older, I’m finding I have crap genetics. Diseases and disorders have been diagnosed in my 30’s, and there are plenty of immediate relations with really bad cancers and congenital heart disease. I’m not sure these are things I’d want to pass on to a child, and I know those things would impact my parenting abilities. Because, you know, I’m so selfish, wanting my potential child to be as healthy as possible and have a healthy mother.

    When people start telling me I *have* to have kids, I look them in the eye and seriously say that if they feel that strongly about my husband and I procreating, then I’m sure we can set up some sort of financial fund to which they’ll be contributing, and of course, they’ll be on tap for babysitting. Shuts ’em down, cold.

  10. @Chasmosaur:

    With you on the “crap genetics” thing. From time to time, I have met people who insist I need to have children because my brains are too important not to pass on. “OK,” say I, “maybe the ability to do calculus is nice, but what about the diabetes and the crippling mental illness?”

    Besides, in the time I’m not spending trying to raise another human being, I can teach what I’ve learned so that many children who are already here can live up to more of their potential. It’ll all work out.

  11. @Chasmosaur@Blake Stacey: With you on the “crap genetics” thing:

    I know! Because medical science is a really static field. And I’d rather not exist than be a depressive with increased odds of cancer.

    Seriously, no one in the world has perfect genetics. Everyone has some chance of passing on something. If you want to stop your genes where they are at, fine. But the idea that you are doing it to spare your possible children a less than perfect life is sort of incoherent.

  12. When someone tells me they don’t want kids, I assume that, um, they don’t want kids – and totally understand. I have 3. None planned. Can’t imagine life without them, you really can’t go back in time that way, love them to pieces, but had absolutely no intention of being a mother. And wow, is it ever a mess of work, not to mention guilt. It is expensive. And wonderful. And there is no reason everyone has to want or do it.

  13. Assuming that your DNA hasn’t crippled you to the point where you couldn’t be a competent parent, the problem of crap genetics can be circumvented by adoption. I suspect a significant fraction of the propensity for intelligence (certainly not all) is carried outside the genes, so it may be possible to pass on “that great brain” to an adopted child.

    Of course all that assumes that you want children and are capable of caring for them. All one has to do is to turn on an episode of the TV show “Cops” to understand that there are plenty of people who thought they wanted children who aren’t capable of caring for them. Ideally both the desire and the capability are in place before the rain coat comes off daddy’s johnson.

    Myself I am child free at 44. My wife is severely mentally ill, so I still get a healthy dose of having parental responsibility without the benefit of being able to commune with all the other people my age at work who spend their watercooler time talking to each other about day care and schools. I have to admit that I feel a little left out, but OTOH, I am struggling with depression myself, so I am glad I didn’t pull the trigger on the kid thing. Having grown up in a household where both parents were crippled by mental illness, I’ve decided not to perpetuate the child abuse/neglect.

    Don’t get me wrong, however, I am still glad my parents made the utterly stupid decision to have me. I suppose I would not have known any different if they hadn’t, but I am glad to be alive (well…not every day, but more often than not).

    BCT

  14. I have repeatedly told the Offspring that he’s damned lucky he doesn’t have any of my genes. [Well, OK, the genes that gave me great skin would have been a Good Thing. My other Good Gene was brains, but he’s got them in spades all on his own.]

    I have any number of friends who’ve chosen not to have kids; IMO, it’s their business, not mine. OTOH, I know people who felt pressured into having them – a friend’s neighbour once asked me why we were adopting when I was so lucky not to “have to have” children. [Yeah, but if one wants to raise a child or two, it’s just as depressing/annoying when one cannot.]

    I hope that I cured a few busybodies who asked why my ex and I hadn’t procreated after a few years of marriage: I told them in great detail about our reproductive problems, with graphic descriptions of that ovary-and-sigmoid-colon-adhered-to-the-pelvic-wall, what my uterus looked like when I demanded that the surgeon show it to me, ad nauseum. I hope that deterred them from asking other couples the same thing.

  15. I am a father of three, and I too get offended when people throw such insulting comments at people for their life choices. I wish more people would think carefully before having children. For some reason there are many people that feel they have the right to comment and criticize on others lives (parents get this a lot on the “right” way to raise their own kids). Thanks for the great article

  16. @sethmanapio:

    I’m not going to do something which is likely both to lessen the precarious quality of my own life and to increase the chance of someone else suffering on the off chance that future medicine might make their life less than miserable.

    We do not owe an obligation to our genes. We might describe them in metaphorical, behaviouristic terms as “selfish” or “driven to reproduce themselves”, but we — the emergent entities of trillions of cells, not a few of the molecular sequences inside those cells — are the ones with desires and aspirations. DNA is not, in Sidney Coleman’s phrase, a structure capable of experiencing joy. DNA feels no pain.

  17. @Sulis: another bingo: “what are you afraid of?”
    gah!

    i think a lot of this just comes of people really not understanding. for a lot of the people i encounter, having kids was never really examined critically: it was just done, as you said, because you’re supposedta, and to come across someone who has chosen to go against that throws a wrench into their whole conception of reality. i think it makes them very uncomfortable.

  18. No kids=no additional ecological footprint. Population control is THE most important thing we can do in the way of slowing the pace of humanity’s devastation of the environment. Sure, one person (well, two people) can’t make a huge difference by thinking this way, but the fact is, if we all keep churning out babies like it’s not an issue, we’re going to create a lot more problems for ourselves in the not-so-distant future. People look at me like I’m crazy when I say this.

  19. @Carr2d2: A lot of people are egocentric to the point that anything you do is really a commentary on what they do. If you don’t want to be a parent, it’s obviously because you believe that no one should be a parent. Clearly, you think all your friends are stupid, since diversity is a thing to be avoided.

  20. Good essay and I certainly appreciate the points made. I suppose that having kids has been so typical for so long that being untypical has always led to others wanting some kind of explanation. And a thoughtful decision about not parenting is always better than an unthinking decision to parent. I’ve enjoyed having kids and they seem to have survived their soft, privileged, carefree middle class upbringing. I am however greatly anticipating being child free in a few years.

  21. @Blake Stacey: We do not owe an obligation to our genes.

    ——–

    No, you don’t. No one ever said you did. You are welcome to climb out of the gene pool any time you want, and you don’t owe anyone, including me, an explanation of why. What I did say was: “the idea that you are doing it to spare your possible children a less than perfect life is sort of incoherent.”

    And it is.

  22. @Mint Classic: People look at me like I’m crazy when I say this.

    ——-

    That’s because you are crazy, if by “crazy” you just mean “irrational”. If you live in the U.S., we do not have an overpopulation problem and our population growth is quite modest. In fact, if we all died tomorrow, the long term effect on population growth would be essentially nil.

    You perceive a sustainability problem, and you are correct in that. But your actions and prescription are absolutely unrelated to that problem.

  23. @sethmanapio:

    No, there are no perfect genetics (except perhaps for my late grandmother – she was slim, barely exercised, smoked like a chimney, ate like a truck driver and drank like a fish the whole of her 97 year old life, when she died peacefully in her sleep with very few health issues along the way….she was, though, an aberration in her family).

    However, with the crap I’ve got, the immediate impact is for high-risk pregnancies that could result in injury to me and/or a deformation to a child I carried. I think that’s something to take seriously when you decide to reproduce. I know medicine isn’t static, but certain things they realistically won’t find cures for in my lifetime or the lifetime of any potential child.

    I’m not saying “I’m not perfect, therefore, no children.” I’m saying that I’d rather not subject a child to my genetic-based diseases and the constant round of doctor visits for the rest of my life that they entail.

  24. Great essay. Personally I think childbearing is something best done by people who are enthusiastic about parenting.

    I don’t have kids yet, though I plan on starting fairly soon, but looking at friends who do
    have children I’m aware of what the trade-offs and difficulties are. I think they’re worth it, but i can see how others might think they’re not.

  25. Fantastic article. Thank you for reposting. My husband and I are childfree for a variety of reasons. I am also of the mindset that one of the benefits is the ability to invest in our relationship. Cheers!

  26. @sethmanapio:

    While I agree that having children is a crapshoot even for the most seemingly “fit” among us, I do believe that there may be some situations where the odds of a decent outcome are so poor that going forward with conception is irresponsible. For instance, I believe that had my wife and I chosen to have children, there is a very strong possibility that our offspring would have suffered from crippling mental health problems. I’ve watched my sister suffer and my wife suffer for years with mental health problems. In my wife’s case, the problems are crippling. My mother and my brother each committed suicide and my dad died of alcholism. I myself suffer from anxiety and depression. It is pervasive in my family. My wife’s family tree is similarly riddled with alcoholism and mental illness.

    At some point it seems to me that you cross a threshold where you say, perhaps it is better to adopt (in the case where you are well enough to actually care for the children), or perhaps not have children at all.

    So please tell me, what is incoherent about my line of thinking?

    BCT

  27. I wish more people took a critical approach to having children. The ‘supposedta’ thinking is very prevalent and almost universally unquestioned.

    Personally, I’ve concluded that I find it unethical to bring children into a world where the ones already in it are so inadequately cared for. Why create another life when you can give the same love, wisdom and support to one that would otherwise go desperately wanting? Moreover, if you have your own you’ve created another competitor for the same resources so many are lacking.

    In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I’m ever economically capable, I’ll feel morally obligated to adopt.

  28. @Billy Clyde Tuggle: So please tell me, what is incoherent about my line of thinking?

    ———–

    It’s incoherent to say that you want to spare an non-existent child the possibility of a life like the one you apparently value.

    If you just think that it would exceed your own personal resources to raise a child, that’s coherent thinking.

  29. @lukeradl: Personally, I’ve concluded that I find it unethical to bring children into a world where the ones already in it are so inadequately cared for.

    ————–

    See, this is what actually pisses people with children off, when the child-free start being sanctimonious about their decisions. It also doesn’t make any sense… why should I feel obligated to sacrifice my genetic line in order to perpetuate the genetic line of someone else?

    Seriously… you’re saying that I should be morally obligated to make my decisions about procreation based on others people’s incompetence and lousy decision making. That is the exact opposite of ethical, you’re punishing me for other people’s actions.

  30. There is nothing irrational or incoherent about not wanting to pass on bad genes. It shows someone took the time to understand where their problems/disease/condition came from and made the conscious decision to not pass those things on. Those same reasons are part of my decision to not have kids – along with the fact I didn’t really like them.

    I applaud those who made the choice to not have kids. I applaud those who did choose to have kids. I applaud those who did not think they had a choice and took responsibility to raise their kids the best they could. I applaud those who chose to give to kids by means of education, companionship, and adoption.

  31. @sethmanapio: See, this is what actually pisses people with children off, when the child-free start being sanctimonious about their decisions.

    Try not to be a spokesman for all of us who have raised children. Frankly, anyone can have any opinion they want about making children and that is just fine.

    “why should I feel obligated to sacrifice my genetic line in order to perpetuate the genetic line of someone else?”

    And you’re pissed off about someone being sanctimonious?

  32. It is nice to see such a coherent explanation of why someone might not want to have kids.

    I still haven’t fully decided whether I want kids. I have decided I do not want biological children. Even though there may not be an overpopulation problem here in the US it doesn’t hurt to address the issue here. I have enough adopted friends to have plenty of experiences that show me that adoptive parents can be every bit as loving as biological parents.

    Many people can’t seem to wrap their heads around why I wouldn’t want to make babies.

  33. @glassdirigible: I can tell you from experience. We raised two boys, one biological and one adopted. People used to admire our “twins” and, when told that one was adopted, would fail to guess which was which about 50% of the time. They were and are simply “our boys” now 45 years later.

    “Many people can’t seem to wrap their heads around why I wouldn’t want to make babies.”

    Frankly, it’s none of their damned business.

  34. @sethmanapio:
    It’s not irrational. Numbers of people isn’t so much of an issue as is consumption of stuff. People in the US consume more, and have a much larger carbon footprint, than people in most other parts of the world. Therefore, a person in the US deciding not to reproduce (or to have only one or two children) is more beneficial to the overall whole than someone in a poorer part of the world doing the same.

    I’m fine with being a genetic failure. If I chose to parent, I think I’d be a pretty good one. I’ve long said that if I get an overwhelming urge to parent I’d become a foster parent. FSM knows there’s a need for it. But for now, I’m happy. Not being a parent allows me to spend more time with volunteer work and devote more energy to teaching. I love it. I think I’m making much more of a positive impact on the world doing what I am now than if I put all this into parenting.

  35. I couldn’t agree more.When I tell someone that I can’t see myself as mother (nor do I want to be one for thet matter ) I recieve a blank stare and the usual response is – “You have not met the man for you yet” .But there is a big difference in my case – I hate children.And not exactly the babies.Probably I could stand them except for the whining and crying of course,which sometimes could scratch on my nerves.I hate the teenagers.

  36. @CatFurniture: Therefore, a person in the US deciding not to reproduce (or to have only one or two children) is more beneficial to the overall whole than someone in a poorer part of the world doing the same.

    ————-

    Oh, BS. Rational would be–if you thought carbon neutrality was important–becoming carbon neutral. Having kids is not a barrier to that goal on any way.

  37. @OnlyCheryl: There is nothing irrational or incoherent about not wanting to pass on bad genes.

    ——–

    It’s completely incoherent. You can’t say that you’re life is worth living, to you, but that it wouldn’t be worth living to some hypothetical person who may or may not have the same problems but will certainly be living in a time with superior medical technology.

    Look, if you don’t want kids that’s fine with me. I don’t care, and I don’t think you “should” have them. But if you’re going to justify that decision to me, why not just be honest and say that you plain didn’t want to? Why make incoherent excuses, as if you were obligated to. Just own the decision.

  38. I’m a happy though currently somewhat overloaded parent. I can see why people, especially women, are not keen to take on a life-long burden just because their genes are supposed to insist on reproduction.
    But what puzzles me is the “I don’t really like children” argument. In my eyes, children are just people who happen to be young. Some I like, some I don’t. It would sound funny to state that “I don’t want to engage in a long-term relationship, since that would mean growing old together, and I don’t really like old people”.

  39. @glassdirigible: It is nice to see such a coherent explanation of why someone might not want to have kids.

    ———

    Where? The main article doesn’t seem to contain any explanation of why the author doesn’t want kids. It’s pure defense, and has nothing to do with the subject of the speech her father was supposedly criticizing.

    That speech was not about the speaker having children: it was a criticism of other people having children. That’s the “ball of shit” that her father was criticizing.

  40. @sethmanapio: “why should I feel obligated to sacrifice my genetic line in order to perpetuate the genetic line of someone else?”

    Why is the future of your genetic line so important? Surely that only really matters to your genes. If you found out that your kids weren’t actually yours would that make them less special? Probably not.

    As there are kids that are not being looked after properly in the world, I do think that not enough people are considering adoption instead of procreation. It’s not about rewarding the irresponsible behaviour of the parents, it’s about reducing the amount of suffering. Why should those children be damned because of their parents? And would they not make equally lovable sons/daughters? (This does not mean that I think there is some sort of moral prerogative binding on anyone with the means to raise a child.)

  41. @Amy: I am totally with you about the relationship aspect. I got married two years ago, and we work hard on our relationship (especially with my health issues and TWO losses of income last year). I can’t say I’m not a little curious what a kid made up of both of us would be like. But all my “domestic” desires (and my limited energy) are focused on our marriage, and we both find that very, very rewarding.

  42. @sethmanapio: “Why should these kids without parents be more important to me than my own potential children?”

    That’s just unfathomable to me. @Shadow Of A Doubt is spot on. There are already children in the world you could be devoting your love and resources to who will otherwise be doomed to their lot. You don’t even have to take the argument to “kids be starvin!” In 2006, 510,000 kids were in the foster care sytem in the US (http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/foster.cfm#one). These children are less deserving of your love because they don’t have *your* genes?

    What’s so great about *your* genes that preserving them is more important than reducing human suffering?

    (Oh, and, come on. There’s so little genetic diversity in humans and *your* combination would be utterly scrambled in a few generation anyway. You share 99% of your genes with anyone you would adopt. Not close enough for you?)

  43. I think I am in virtually complete agreement with sethmanapio.

    For those who say there are plenty of children already and not enough foster parents for them, why aren’t you volunteering? Why aren’t you donating $$$ if you don’t have the time? Why is your decision to be a non-parent and spend your time doing non-parenting things ok but someone else’s decision to be a parent and spend time doing parenting-type things with children of their choosing not ok?

    If those already existing children are not sufficiently important for you to take care of them, by your own admission they are not important. Why do you fault sethmanpio for not doing something that you are unwilling to do?

    Our greatest resource is people. Educated, rational, thinking, people. Raising the next generation of educated, rational, thinking people is the most important task of this generation. It is only educated, rational, thinking people that will solve the problems that the world is experiencing. I think that if there were more people like me, the world would be a better place and the problems that the world is experiencing would have a greater chance of being solved satisfactorily.

  44. My husband and I adopted a little boy from Ethiopia last year. My husband and I did it because we wanted to be parents. We didn’t do it out of a “moral obligation” to a child that might not have made it otherwise, that was an added benefit to becoming the parents of an amazing little boy. I get a bit touchy when strangers tell me what a “good person” I am and how “lucky” he is. We wanted to be parents and he needed parents. I also get a bit touchy when people ask why we didn’t have “kids of our own” or adopt domestically. That is what is called “None of your damn business!”. I don’t question people with bio kids why they had each one and why they didn’t adopt instead. None of my business!!

    We extended my son’s life expectancy from about age 52 (for men in Ethiopia) to about 79 (for men in Canada). That will increase his “carbon footprint”, as kids who starve to death before age 5 don’t use much of the earth’s resources. However, I don’t give a damn about a small increase in his footprint because it means he can go to school, get proper medical treatment, have enough food in his belly and fulfill all of his potential, and I get to love him and teach him and be his mom.
    That said, parenting is hard work, and transracial adoptive parenting has an added level of difficulty–not just dealing with ignorant strangers!

    People who have no children by choice should be applauded, not reviled. Adoption out of a sense of moral obligation to the world’s orphans and abandoned children isn’t enough. You have to want to love and parent these children, not just “rescue” them.

  45. @daedalus2u: I think the rainforest is important too, but I’m not down in Brazil chaining myself to a tree. It’s not because I don’t care, but because there are better ways for me, personally, to make a difference. I don’t have the financial (or mental) stability to raise a kid, so a foster parent I am not.

  46. @sethmanapio:

    It’s incoherent to say that you want to spare an non-existent child the possibility of a life like the one you apparently value.

    Well, yes, I do value my life, Sethmanapio. I don’t have much choice, however. It is the only life I have. Much of it has been very painful and difficult. Not in the sense of physical deprivation, of course. In that sense I had it very easy (midwest/middle class “candy land” as a colleague of mine used to call it). It was the mental/emotional difficulty. Having a knawing sense that something was wrong, but not knowing exactly what, nor how to fix it. The inability to remember and concentrate. The inability to feel positive emotions when in the presence of other human beings. The inability to form healthy relationships or trust anyone. I could go on.

    Yes, I have managed to carve out a life and overcome many of these difficulties. And, yes, I am happy to be alive (most of the time). And no, I don’t want children. I’ve made the decision that given my circumstances and my tempermant, I am not prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to be a good parent. Even if I was prepared to try, I am not sure I am capable of it. My mother tried and had multiple nervous breakdowns. She finally decided that gassing herself in the back of her Plymouth was the way to go. In making this decision, I realize that I am losing out on the rewards of parenting.

    But I digress. The real heart of the issue here isn’t whether or not I want to have children. Clearly I don’t, but let’s say for argument sake that I did want children. Furthermore, let’s say that I was fully capable of providing a good home for said children. Now, faced with these circumstances, I have two choices, I could adopt my children and then go on to experience all the trials and tribulations (and rewards) of parenting, or I could procreate with my wife despite the genetic risks and walk that path wherever it would lead.

    My question for you, Sethmanapio, is whether there is any threshold of genetic risk above which you would concede that it is better (for the sake of the as yet non-existent child) to adopt rather than procreate?

    Perhaps this is another way of asking the philosophical question is it better to live a life in misery or to have never come into existence at all?

  47. Thanks for re-posting this! My husband and I, too, are childfree, but luckily we don’t get much crap from anyone about our decision, and never have. Actually, I get more shit about not learning to drive a standard than we ever did about not having children.
    Every so often, someone will still be surprised that we aren’t having children, but it’s just not relevant to our interests. Not like pizza is.

  48. Frisby, that is the implication of the sanctimonious. They are not using their time and resources raising orphan children, but they bemoan the creation of new children that someone else is willing to spend the time and resources to raise.

  49. @daedalus2u: Frisby, that is the implication of the sanctimonious. They are not using their time and resources raising orphan children, but they bemoan the creation of new children that someone else is willing to spend the time and resources to raise.

    You know, I don’t say it often, but when I do say it, I mean it:

    lol wut

  50. I’m psychic!

    @daedalus2u at 10:31 p.m.: “Frisby, that is the implication of the sanctimonious. They are not using their time and resources raising orphan children, but they bemoan the creation of new children that someone else is willing to spend the time and resources to raise.”

    Me, nine hours earlier: “A lot of people are egocentric to the point that anything you do is really a commentary on what they do. If you don’t want to be a parent, it’s obviously because you believe that no one should be a parent. Clearly, you think all your friends are stupid, since diversity is a thing to be avoided.”

  51. @lukeradl: There are already children in the world you could be devoting your love and resources to who will otherwise be doomed to their lot

    ———

    See. There you go, exactly as Daedulus said, and in direct contrast to the frisbee and zen monkey’s dismissal: the implication is that I should have allowed someone else to dictate my reproductive decisions with their own.

    That’s just slavery, dude.

  52. @Billy Clyde Tuggle: My question for you, Sethmanapio, is whether there is any threshold of genetic risk above which you would concede that it is better (for the sake of the as yet non-existent child) to adopt rather than procreate?

    ———

    Possibly. I don’t know. But the crippling mental illness of someone who considers themselves fit to teach children ain’t even close.

  53. @Shadow Of A Doubt: t is an eminently sensible idea to consider the world’s problems in terms of the entire world instead of keeping score for each part of the whole

    ———

    But it’s more sensible to take actions that actually have any effect whatsoever, and not having kids in this country doesn’t make any progress towards the stated goal.

  54. @lukeradl: These children are less deserving of your love because they don’t have *your* genes?

    ————

    Yes. My kids are special to me because they are my kids. The differences may be minor, but they are there, and I value them. And whether you fathom it or not, you do not have a superior moral position. Those children you mention are our collective responsibility, but I am not obligated to put them before my own children anymore than you are obligated to put them before whatever it is you spend your money and time on rather than adopting another child.

    I may adopt a child, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll love that child just as much as I love my current kids. I’m a loving guy. But that’s a choice to do something, not a moral obligation.

  55. @sethmanapio:

    Possibly. I don’t know. But the crippling mental illness of someone who considers themselves fit to teach children ain’t even close

    I am curious why you say that?

    Maybe it is just me misunderstanding, but it seems like you are saying that if I value my life and am grateful for it despite the hardships, then I should have no qualms about inflicting those same hardships on potential offspring.

    Doesn’t that presume that there is something cruel about depriving non-existent potential offspring of existence? I should hardly think so. You can’t cause harm or pain to the non-existent. You have to bring them into existence first. Until then you are completely powerless to hurt them.

    Maybe I will get a bumper sticker “Save the Non-Existent Children” or “Stop the Abuse of Non-Existent Children”.

    BCT

  56. I agree with daedalus2u that overpopulation is not a concern. I have seen some of the modelling (like the Club of Rome work) that portends doom and its utterly worthless. It doesn’t account for the negative feedbacks implicit in price mechanisms that would prevent population growth from spiralling out of control in the way they predict it will.

    They also fail to account for the fact that (as daedalus2u points out) more people means more researcher means faster technological growth. People aren’t the problem, people are the solution.

    Having said that, I don’t have kids and I doubt I ever will. I’m all for more children in the abstract, but on a personal level I can’t stand the little buggers.

    When it comes to which choice others make, its up to them and I don’t mind either way. I don’t think you should have children unless you can support them, but apart from that, if you think you’re worthy to be a parent, who am I to disagree?

  57. My mom has finally given up on convincing me to have kids. I think this was a combination of
    A: Seeing me interact with a baby and realizing I had no aptitude for it. Seriously I treat babies like puppies, I’m told that’s not a good strategy.
    B: My brother and his wife just had a baby and plan on more. My brother is far more maternal than I am and I was very proud seeing the photos of him giving his son his very first bath.

    My grandmother however (who had 15 children) when I told her I didn’t want chidlren responded with: “Good idea”. I love my grandmother.

    I don’t hate children, however I don’t like them much. Babies in particular I’m just not fond of, once they’re old enough to have a reasonable conversation I warm up to them a little more. It’ll be very cool when my nephew is older to show him Saturn through the telescope the first time. However givig him back to his parents after a few hours is perfectly okay with me.

  58. @sethmanapio:
    See. There you go, exactly as Daedulus said, and in direct contrast to the frisbee and zen monkey’s dismissal: the implication is that I should have allowed someone else to dictate my reproductive decisions with their own.

    Yet you will dismiss someone else’s motivations not to have children of their own as “incoherent”. Your motivations to have genetically related kids rather than already existing kids who don’t have parents is just as incoherent and illogical.

    Why are you capable of seeing the non-logical emotional factors at play in your own choice to have kids, and not be willing to allow people who decide not to have kids to make decisions that don’t seem logical to you?

    I don’t think the rationale “I don’t want to subject another human being to the kind of crap I had to endure” is irrational.
    Perhaps you feel that statement is wrong. Perhaps you have to think it’s wrong in order to justify your own descision as being the right one.

    For what it’s worth, I think a lot of parents (but by no means all) might have done well to give the descision some more thought. A lot of kids grow up with a lot of crap precisely because their parents never even considered the implications of “doing what everyone else is doing”.

    And for what it’s worth, I’m child-free at the moment (but not by choice). And if I do find the right person, I will opt to have a genetically related child (and haven’t given much thought to what to do if that doesn’t work out as I’ll deal with that if the problem presents itself). But I’m fully aware of the selfishness of that choice. And I won’t attempt to defend it rationally, as it’s not a stance I arriced at rationally.

  59. Some people are cranky and need more turkey.

    Having said that–as a scientist, the population issue is one of resources and consumption.

    IF we want to have a quality of life similar to the middle class in the us–then we need to have fewer people, consuming less stuff.

    http://www.esa.org/science_resources/publications/human_population&consumption.php

    “There is general agreement throughout the scientific community that growth of the human population, and the resultant increase in consumption, is exerting an unsustainable amount of pressure on global systems. Ecologists are accustomed to identifying natural constraints to growth; however, issues of consumption become much more complicated. ”

    http://www.esa.org/pao/economic_activities.php

    “The changes that have been made to ecosystems have contributed to substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development, but these gains have been achieved at growing costs in the form of the degradation of many ecosystem services, increased risks of nonlinear changes, and the exacerbation of poverty for some groups of people. These problems, unless addressed, will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.”

  60. Thanks to this thread and one other, I’m learning who the trolls are. I’ll never understand why how I choose to live my life, for whatever my reasons, can be taken so personally by a total stranger.

    @TracyKing – I never had that 60-year-old-me moment. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I could have and what I wanted in my life. I even tried to convince myself at one time that kids would be a good idea. But all arguments still ended with it not being a good idea for me. Be sure of what you want in life, not what others say you should want; they are just being obnoxious. As the saying goes, it’s your life and you only get one chance at it – make it a good one. Make it good for you and you will have no regrets. If something happens that you find yourself in a position of being a part of a kid’s life, that’s the best thing you can ever teach them.

  61. @sethmanapio: I don’t really follow how a non-existent person is equivalent in any way to a living, feeling one. That is a nonsense argument.

    The real issue is the children in care. They would be better off with foster parents, and the obvious choice for these fosterers are people who want to become parents anyway. That is why I wish more prospective parents would consider adoption. I don’t see what’s controversial about that.

    The conclusion I draw is that it would be comparatively more selfish for me to have genetic offspring rather than to adopt. But it wouldn’t be a terrible evil inflicted upon humanity (hopefully!).

    (And it doesn’t matter what country babies are born in. One more demand on the world’s resources still increases the total demand, regardless of what your neighbours are doing. So I don’t think it’s illogical for people to consider the population problem in their decision.)

  62. sethmanapi: “See, this is what actually pisses people with children off, when the child-free start being sanctimonious about their decisions. It also doesn’t make any sense… why should I feel obligated to sacrifice my genetic line in order to perpetuate the genetic line of someone else?”

    It’s kind of jarring that you make your decisions about whom to care for in such explicitly Darwinian terms. But the argument is that we have obligations to help existent children, whereas we have no obligations to help potential children who don’t and never will exist. Therefore, by choosing to adopt a child rather than create one, you’re satisfying your obligations to existent children without flouting obligations to merely potential children. (Whereas if you choose to have kids rather than adopt, you’re flouting obligations to existent children without satisfying obligations to potential children.)

    Also, your description of kids in need of adoption as “other people’s mistakes” and therefore not owed anything by you is extremely ignorant. There are many children in need of adoption through no one’s fault, such as orphans. As for those born into families too poor to adequately care for them, unless you think poor kids are less entitled to live happy lives than rich ones, then it seems obvious we have some duties to help them.

  63. My favorite Bingo:

    9. “What if your mother said that?”

    I love it because I can honestly respond, “My mother did say that. Unfortunately, she was a teenager in an era when contraception and abortion were not readily available, so here I am!”

    When my childfree path became apparent in my mid-thirties, she said to me, “I would be the happiest woman in the world to never be a grandmother.” A trifle weird, but I think that was her way of blessing my choices.

  64. @Billy Clyde Tuggle: Maybe it is just me misunderstanding, but it seems like you are saying that if I value my life and am grateful for it despite the hardships, then I should have no qualms about inflicting those same hardships on potential offspring.

    ———-

    Yes. That is what I am saying. And no, it does not mean that there is anything cruel about not having said offspring. I said the position was incoherent, not immoral, cruel, or evil.

    If your life is worth living, than another being with your problems and situation would also have a life worth living, therefore, arguing that it would be better for such a life not to exist at all is not a coherent argument.

  65. @exarch: Yet you will dismiss someone else’s motivations not to have children of their own as “incoherent”.

    ———

    Yes. I’m not sure how that is related in any way to insisting that they make a different choice, or that they are morally obligated to make a different choice. I fully support people’s right not to have children, I think it is totally okay not to have children, and I really don’t care if you have children, adopt children, or remain “childfree”. You don’t owe me an explanation at all.

    But if you offer one that is incoherent, it’s incoherent. That doesn’t mean that you are morally obligated to make a different decision, it just means that they justification you gave for doing so does not make any sense.

  66. @bug_girl:
    Respectfully, physical scientists lack the necessary skills to properly evaluate these questions. This is a matter of resources and consumption, in short a matter of supply and demand. And this problem looks very different from an economist’s perspective.

    As far as population growth goes, there are three kinds of countries.

    1) Rich countries have a stable population, except for immigration. As countries get richer their population growth slows to replacement rate or less, so no problem there.

    2) Poor countries can’t have meaningful population growth because they generally have a large a population as their weak economies can sustain. This is bad, but doesn’t cause population growth.

    3) the third group is where the action is. Countries that are no longer poor and can grow, but aren’t rich enough to have changed their reproductive preferences. China and India are both in this category and that’s why the world’s population is growing so fast. But this group can only continue to grow if they have sufficient resources and that means on of two things. Either productivity rises enough to allow these countries to grow under the existing resource constraints or it doesn’t, in which case they will slide back down into poor country status as resource constraints bite.

    Overpopulation cannot happen other than through a massive, negative permanent productivity shock.

  67. @Shadow Of A Doubt: That is why I wish more prospective parents would consider adoption. I don’t see what’s controversial about that.

    ———-

    There is nothing controversial about that. But that is not what was being argued. What was being argued is that I am morally obligated to adopt rather than have biological children. That is not an ethically supportable position.

  68. @sporefrog: Well, I don’t fathom how a bunch of people with no adopted children of their own feel perfectly justified in claiming that, first, my children shouldn’t exist, and second, I’m an evil person for not adopting some other children instead.

    That’s some serious chutzpah. It’s ethically unsupportable, hypocritical, and vaguely obscene.

  69. @OnlyCheryl: I’ll never understand why how I choose to live my life, for whatever my reasons, can be taken so personally by a total stranger.

    ———-

    You clearly haven’t read this thread. No one in this thread has made any value judgements at all, at any point, in any way, about your decision not to have children. Every person who has expressed an opinion about child-free living totally supports your right to make that life choice for yourself.

    Speaking for myself, I don’t take this decision of yours personally in any way. I can think of few things in the world that effect me less than whether strangers don’t reproduce.

    If you read closer, you will find that the only criticisms about people’s actual choices have come from the child-free criticizing the child-bound, not the other way around.

  70. @mg50: As for those born into families too poor to adequately care for them, unless you think poor kids are less entitled to live happy lives than rich ones, then it seems obvious we have some duties to help them.

    ———–

    Again: this is not the argument that was made. The argument was not “We, as a society, should help orphans in some way.” the argument was that it is “unethical to bring children into a world where the ones already in it are so inadequately cared for”.

    And I find that to be a ball of shit argument. It is perfectly ethical for me to make the decision to reproduce, provided I can care for my offspring, regardless of whether other people have had offspring they cannot or will not care for.

    If this is not true, than the very concept of reproductive rights loses all meaning.

  71. sethmanapio: “Again: this is not the argument that was made. The argument was not “We, as a society, should help orphans in some way.” the argument was that it is “unethical to bring children into a world where the ones already in it are so inadequately cared for”. ”

    Unhappy children are entitled to live happy lives; you are in a position to give unhappy children happy lives through adoption; by doing so, your life would not be significantly worse or even different relative to your current preferences than it would be by having biological children; by foregoing biological reproduction, you are not harming your potential biological children since they’ll never exist. Therefore, you should adopt instead of having biological children. That seems like a pretty sensible argument which also doesn’t apply to people who strongly prefer not to have any children.

  72. @mg50: Unhappy children are entitled to live happy lives… That seems like a pretty sensible argument which also doesn’t apply to people who strongly prefer not to have any children.

    ——–

    Really? How does your preference for not having children enter into this? They are ENTITLED to happy lives, therefore you are OBLIGATED to provide them with one. It seems to me that you are obligated to either adopt as many children as you can possibly afford or to pay me child support to adopt these children on your behalf.

    By the way, if you are willing to commit in writing and for a reasonable sum to pay such child support, I will adopt a child on your behalf, thus allowing you to discharge this important social obligation without becoming a parent yourself. I like being a dad, and I would gladly welcome another child into my home. I might do it anyway after I finish my degree, but it would be much easier to do if the groceries were paid for.

    But that aside, I find this argument to be quite weak. My stated preference was not to raise children, it was to have offspring. You see the difference between having offspring and raising children as negligible, but this does not reflect the fact that raising children is the sacrifice and having offspring is the reward. If I make the same sacrifice for a different reward, my life is significantly different and my preferences are not reflected. Also, your position does not reflect the reality that raising adopted children presents a different set of challenges than raising biological children. So again, your pretense that my life would not be different is in direct defiance of observation.

    In other words, if you believe that I personally have an ethical obligation to raise an adopted child, despite my preferring to raise my own child, you have an ethical obligation to raise an adopted child, despite your preference not to raise your own child. You can’t pretend that babies are swappable clones just because you want to make a point.

  73. @mg50: Also, reproductive rights have nothing to do with this. No one is denying anyone’s right to have children, even if they think we have ethical duties not to have them.

    ——–

    Yes, but if I am ethically obligated not to have children because of some external factor involving other people, you are arguing that my reproductive decisions do not ethically belong to me. The idea of reproductive rights is founded on the idea that my reproductive decisions DO belong to me.

  74. sethmanapio: “Really? How does your preference for not having children enter into this? They are ENTITLED to happy lives, therefore you are OBLIGATED to provide them with one.”

    No, that doesn’t follow. Entitlement means that society/societies in general have an obligation to collaboratively perform some action, not that individuals do. However, I would say that if someone is deeply entitled to X and you were going to give X away anyway and you’re not obligated to give X away to someone else, then you’re obligated to give X to the entitled person.

    I don’t have to give Katrina victims new houses. But if I decide to give my house to someone who doesn’t need it and to whom I don’t owe anything instead of a homeless Katrina victim who does both need and deserve a home, then I’d say yes, I’ve acted wrongly.

    sethmanapio: “But that aside, I find this argument to be quite weak. My stated preference was not to raise children, it was to have offspring. You see the difference between having offspring and raising children as negligible, but this does not reflect the fact that raising children is the sacrifice and having offspring is the reward. If I make the same sacrifice for a different reward, my life is significantly different and my preferences are not reflected.”

    Yes, but that seems highly unlikely to be your actual preference. How often are you at the sperm bank? The potential rewards are immense (precious offspring!) and the sacrifices nil (no childrearing required).

    Earlier you stated: “Having kids is hard, and they don’t have to deal with it. But if I had known how hard it would be when I started, I’d have done it anyway, because it is totally worth it. If you don’t have kids, you don’t know, and you can’t know, and if you stay child-free, you’ll never know.” That made it sound like there was something inherently valuable for you about rearing children – something that no non-parent could truly grasp. Now you’re saying it turns out that the value simply consists in having your genes passed on to another generation. This is very easy to grasp, and very easy for non-parents to decline.

    sethmanapio: “Also, your position does not reflect the reality that raising adopted children presents a different set of challenges than raising biological children.”

    That’s true. But I don’t see any evidence that the difference in challenges make the experience significantly worse in any way for the parents; and I can at least imagine that in some ways, they make it better.

  75. sethmanapio: “Yes, but if I am ethically obligated not to have children because of some external factor involving other people, you are arguing that my reproductive decisions do not ethically belong to me. The idea of reproductive rights is founded on the idea that my reproductive decisions DO belong to me.”

    It depends on what you mean by “ethically belong.” The decision to reproduce belongs to me insofar as no one has the right to interfere with my decision, whatever that decision may be. It may not “ethically belong” to me insofar as some of my decisions may be moral or immoral. Reproductive rights are founded on the former sense of “belong,” not the latter. And it’s only the latter sense of “belong” that’s being challenged here – unless you think people don’t have the right to do anything immoral.

  76. @mg50: However, I would say that if someone is deeply entitled to X and you were going to give X away anyway and you’re not obligated to give X away to someone else, then you’re obligated to give X to the entitled person.

    ——–

    Of course, you haven’t begun to make a case that anyone is entitled to X. X is not “a home”, in this case, it is “a place in my home. Also, I am not merely giving X away, I am willing to trade X for Y, and you are arguing that I therefore am obligated to trade it for Z. This does not follow.

    But if we assume that it does follow, then you are also ethically obligated to give “X”–by your definition, a happy life–to the people who are entitled to it. This is because your resources are going to be “given away” anyway, in the form of goods and services that you desire. The people who make the goods and services that you would prefer to purchase are not entitled to your resources, therefore, you are ethically obligated to use those resources to provide a happy life for children who are entitled to them. You cannot obligate me and spare yourself, the ethics simply do not work.

    Raising biological children is a different experience than raising adopted children. I do not require it to be worse to make the rock solid, iron clad, reality based case that it is different. Therefore my life as an adoptive parent would be substantively different and your point falls: unless you are willing to obligate yourself in the same way you obligate me.

    The fact that you believe you can intellectual identify the source of someone’s joy is not the same as saying that you know what it feels like. I understand the source of an athletes joy in winning an Olympic gold medal, but I do not know what the experience feels like.

  77. @mg50: The decision to reproduce belongs to me insofar as no one has the right to interfere with my decision, whatever that decision may be

    ———

    Alright. I’ll buy that argument. This is not a rights argument.

    Your position is still bad. Perhaps an analogy will help clear this up:

    Cookie company A supports scientific research that will decrease the incidence of genetic disease, but only for children as yet unborn.

    Cookie company B supports charities for foster children.

    I prefer the cookies of cookie company A. You think I’m obligated to buy the other cookies, since I’m buying cookies anyway. My personal preferences are ethically negated because I like cookies.

    You, however, don’t eat cookies, you prefer candy bars. So you don’t feel obligated to give to the charities that cookie company B supports. Your personal preferences are a concern, because you eat candy bars.

    You argue that my desire for cookies dictates the ethics of this situation, but it does not. After all, I don’t have a desire for the cookies you want me to buy. It is only in your mind that the cookies of companies A and B are equivalent. I see a profound difference between them. Similarly, it is only in your mind that the money you spend on candy bars is different than the money I spend on cookies. This is just money, spent as we prefer to spend it. If the charity is entitled to my money regardless of my preferences, they are entitled to your money regardless of yours.

    So your case depends on making two things that are not the same the same, and two things that are not different different. And the reason for this, apparently, is that you wish to place me under a special ethical obligation while sparing yourself from the same ethical obligation.

    To make matters even more bizarre, you have claimed that the charity is merely “entitled” to our collective money–and they are already receiving my tax dollars and yours. So you want to place me under an additional obligation despite the fact that I am already discharging the obligation that you believe we share!

  78. Seth, I really feel like you have some strong reactions to people’s posts sometimes, and then you spend the next many long posts constructing a straw man that really, from an honest observer’s standpoint, was not what you were originally arguing about.

    Or, it’s possible that you just weren’t as clear as you could have been with some of your original posts (and nobody ever is all the time). But you’ve said a lot of things in your last post that frankly don’t jive with my reading of this discussion from the beginning. But anyway, here are some things that seem out of line or don’t make sense to me.

    @sethmanapio: “Let me start by saying that I totally support anyone’s decision to drop out of the gene pool. And if people want to be proud of dropping out of the gene pool, that’s okay too.”

    This might just be a different connotation of “dropping out of the gene pool,” but honestly, it seems like a clear, snarky, jab at the “child-free” to say something like that… “if you want to be proud of dropping out of the gene pool…” [then go ahead]

    Then you make the statement about the original article author’s father and her misunderstanding of his position:

    Her quote: “My puzzlement at my father’s over the top reaction that this girl did not want to bring children into a world that she perceived as negative and hostile, remains.”

    Your quote: “Her father was likely reacting to the asinine idea that the world has to be some sort of wondrous paradise in order for responsible people to have children. The valedictorian was making an implied criticism of other people who had children, as if they were being irresponsible.”

    So no, her interpretation is the same as your interpretation, and what you say her implication is is subjective, and in my opinion wrong. The second half of her quote about her father was that he said he bets she has children now, then called her a bitch. Sounds to me like he’s calling her a bitch because she’s probably hypocritical.

    Then, you call everyone who thinks about population and resource sustainability obnoxious:

    “There are those who pretend to know that current trends won’t or can’t continue, as if they have the magic crystal ball of future technological achievement. I find that obnoxious as well, and not even remotely skeptical.”

    I mean, leaving aside comprehensive research on the matter, I don’t think it’s obnoxious or overly naive to consider the effects of increases in population size on the longevity of our resources, on the average quality of life for the world, and on humanity’s ability to solve all of these problems technologically before they become bigger problems.

    It’s a dead-in-the-water argument to say that limiting our reproduction is unnecessary in a developed society because we don’t have an overpopulation problem.

    We don’t have an overpopulation problem in the United States because educated people have decided not to have so many of them

    I’ll only take one more of your original posts:

    “If you want to stop your genes where they are at, fine. But the idea that you are doing it to spare your possible children a less than perfect life is sort of incoherent.”

    Humongous straw man. Both people you were responding to listed poor genetics in addition to many, many other reasons. I agree with you that it’s unnecessary to choose not to have children because you have a few bad genetic predispositions.

    I don’t think they said that.

    Chasmosaur said she wants to be healthy enough to raise her children, and if she’s sick it might get in the way. And she said her husband works all the time and couldn’t provide for them without a serious lifestyle change. Only on top of all that did she say that it’s another contributing factor that her children might have higher risks of heritable diseases.

    Also, I don’t understand why you keep talking about genes. You’re not really necessarily passing on “your genes” when you have a child. You’re passing on a mixture of alleles from your spouse’s genes and your genes that have recombined in a bunch of different ways and have been subject to several hundred mutations. Within a few generations, anything that made those genes “yours” will have been diluted and only small traces left.

    But who cares about our genes? They’ve been good at getting us this far, because that’s what they do, but I have no particular attachment to many of my genes. This is like the naturopaths who claim that anything natural is better. With oncoming biotechnology, we’ll have the opportunity to change our genes in myriad ways. I, for one, welcome this change.

    If someone makes the argument that it’s unethical to bring more children into the world while so many are poorly cared for right now, I find that to be a totally reasonable position.

    Scenario 1: you have a 2 biological children and another 2 children suffers miserably elsewhere

    Total worldwide suffering unchanged.

    Scenario 2: you have 1 biological child and adopt one otherwise destitute child.

    Total worldwide suffering: -1 suffering child

    Scenario 3: you have zero biological children and adopt one otherwise destitute child.

    total worldwide suffering: -2 suffering children.

    If you don’t agree that less suffering is more ethical, than sure, but to turn it into a genetic argument is, in my view, incoherent. Your genes don’t think, feel, or care. Complex, brainy organisms like humans do.

    But anyway, it’d take me 50 pages to dig up all the other (more recent) reasons why I don’t understand where you’re coming from and why I think you’re being unreasonable or doing that which you accuse others of doing, but that’ll have to do for now.

  79. @OnlyCheryl: I’ve been posting here for a long time and did not notice any trolls or troll type of activity previous to your comment. This place, if it is anything at all, is a place of generally amicable and often strenuous disagreement. Disagreement is a fine thing.

  80. @sporefrog: So no, her interpretation is the same as your interpretation

    ——–

    If you want to same something like this, it should follow two sentences that contain the same interpretation, not two sentences that contain different interpretations.

    After that, your arguments about “total worldwide suffering” are laughable. You can’t compare things that are different and pretend they are the same, and you can’t make up numbers to quantify human suffering as if your simplistic arithmetic is relevant to complex situations.

    Furthermore, I am not having children, or raising children, in order to reduce worldwide suffering. That is not my stated goal or reason to have children, any more than it is your stated goal or reason to construct red herring arguments on skepchick.org.

    It is therefore no more reasonable to claim that I am ethically obligated to adopt rather than reproduce than it is to say that you are morally obligated to either adopt yourself or pay me child support to adopt on your behalf, based on the fact that you spend money on things.

    To continue, saying that it is incoherent to think about genetics when making reproductive choices is truly bizarre . It is as if you do not understand what genes are or what reproduction is.

    Let us add to this that you are simply wrong about genes. We can trace Genghis Khan’s direct decedents to this day. So unless “few” is “enough time to colonize the stars”, you are just flat wrong about that.

    To say that my desire to pass on my genes–which are the result of several billion years of evolutionary success–is akin to saying that anything natural is better is no more than a strawman. I did not say that my genes were better, superior, greater, or more valuable in general. I also didn’t make a comment on genetic therapy or modification of any kind. I expressed a personal desire to pass on my genes to the next generation. I don’t require you to share that feeling in any way.

    Finally, no, I did not construct a strawman. I said that a reason given for not wanting children was incoherent. I did not say that their other reasons were bad, in fact, I said that their other reasons were perfectly fine. I did not claim that it was the only argument presented, and I did not say that the incoherency of this one aspect of their overall position impacted the position itself. I said that the justification of “poor genetics” is incoherent in the context it was given.

    An example of a strawman (for illustrative purposes) can be found in your post, when you say that I “call everyone who thinks about population and resource sustainability obnoxious”. I made no such statement. I stated that I find the position that there are no possible solutions to population and resource sustainability obnoxious. The way a straw man works is that the constructor (in this case, you) reworks the original argument to create a different argument, as you did there.

    Sporefrog, my interpretation of our exchanges is different than yours. It seems to me that you start by making a lot of assumptions about what I should be thinking, based upon the pigeon hole you’ve stuck me in. Then, you get confused because I say things that meet your prior assumptions. Then you go back and try to reconstruct and reinterpret everything I say to fit it into your pigeonhole.

    This is the exact opposite of what an “honest observer” would do.

  81. sethmanapio: “Of course, you haven’t begun to make a case that anyone is entitled to X. X is not “a home”, in this case, it is “a place in my home. Also, I am not merely giving X away, I am willing to trade X for Y, and you are arguing that I therefore am obligated to trade it for Z. This does not follow.”

    In this case, X is “a reasonably happy living situation with reasonable prospects for the future.” You’re also reading too much into my use of the phrase “giving away.” If you’re providing X (for whatever trade-off), then you should provide it to someone entitled to X if doing so wouldn’t significantly interfere with your plans and if you’re not already obligated to provide X to someone else. This is a very modest principle. Of course, I know you object that having biological children is an essential part of your own plan; but this is something I find unlikely given some of your other words in this thread.

    sethmanapio: “But if we assume that it does follow, then you are also ethically obligated to give “X”–by your definition, a happy life–to the people who are entitled to it. This is because your resources are going to be “given away” anyway, in the form of goods and services that you desire.”

    Assuming my plans are hugely incompatible with my having any kids or living a Spartan lifestyle in which the majority of my resources go to needy kids, then no, my principle doesn’t commit me to transferring all my resources to them. Still, you’re correct that my principle does apply to my life in some cases. If buying something is compatible with my projects, I should always buy it from a seller who uses the money to help needy children before buying it from a random seller who keeps all the profit for himself.

    sethmanapio: “Raising biological children is a different experience than raising adopted children. I do not require it to be worse to make the rock solid, iron clad, reality based case that it is different. Therefore my life as an adoptive parent would be substantively different and your point falls: unless you are willing to obligate yourself in the same way you obligate me.”

    My point required the difference to be “significant.” Giving away a house to a poor and homeless Katrina victim might certainly be a different experience than giving it away to some rich dude who already has a dozen houses; I may, for example, have to contend with unhappy neighbors who want the neighborhood to stay above a certain income level. But I don’t think this difference is really enough to justify my neglecting the Katrina victim. In what ways do you imagine the experience (rather than the reward) of raising an adopted child are so astronomically far-removed from the experience of raising a biological child?

    sethmanapio: “The fact that you believe you can intellectual identify the source of someone’s joy is not the same as saying that you know what it feels like. I understand the source of an athletes joy in winning an Olympic gold medal, but I do not know what the experience feels like.”

    I agree. But if having offspring (as opposed to just having grown children who love you as their parent and who will continue to perpetuate the traditions and ideals you instilled in them) is the great reward you have in mind, I’m pretty sure I can grasp what that’s like. Indeed, I can potentially get the experience just by going to a sperm bank.

  82. sethmanapio: “I prefer the cookies of cookie company A. You think I’m obligated to buy the other cookies, since I’m buying cookies anyway. My personal preferences are ethically negated because I like cookies.”

    Actually, I wouldn’t say that. Recall that I said we don’t have obligations to people who don’t and will never exist. Unborn children with genetic diseases definitely will exist, and I definitely think we have some obligations toward their future well-being.

    sethmanapio: “You argue that my desire for cookies dictates the ethics of this situation, but it does not. After all, I don’t have a desire for the cookies you want me to buy. It is only in your mind that the cookies of companies A and B are equivalent. I see a profound difference between them. Similarly, it is only in your mind that the money you spend on candy bars is different than the money I spend on cookies. This is just money, spent as we prefer to spend it. If the charity is entitled to my money regardless of my preferences, they are entitled to your money regardless of yours.”

    Of course, in this case I’d largely agree with you., but that’s only because you’re using such a trivial example. Even if I prefer candy bars to cookies, the difference probably isn’t going to be very important to me. My general preference for sugary junk food (which underlies my desire for candy bars) is still ultimately going to be met by cookies, even if to a slightly lesser extent. I would say the situation is more comparable to one in which you prefer cookie A to cookie B and I’m diabetic and extremely poor. My condition prohibits me from flourishing very well if I spend too much money on cookies (which I can’t even eat); whereas you’re going to do virtually just as well on cookie A and would not be deviating significantly from your buying habits by doing so. In this case, I’d definitely be comfortable saying you have a special obligation to buy cookie A that I lack.

  83. Whoops. I got the lettering confused in that last post. The final sentences should read: “whereas you’re going to do virtually just as well on cookie B and would not be deviating significantly from your buying habits by doing so. In this case, I’d definitely be comfortable saying you have a special obligation to buy cookie B that I lack.”

  84. @mg50: Assuming my plans are hugely incompatible with my having any kids or living a Spartan lifestyle in which the majority of my resources go to needy kids, then no, my principle doesn’t commit me to transferring all my resources to them.

    —-

    As I said, you wish to commit me to an ethical obligation that you wish to exempt yourself from, based entirely on your perception of what my preferences are, and without any regard for my actual preferences. But when I pull the same trick, you claim that because your preferences are different than the ones that I think you ought to have, you claim that your preferences are more important.

    It’s a pure double standard.

  85. @mg50:

    —-

    You haven’t substantially added to the discussion or addressed my point, so I’m just going to repost with a really minor change:

    You argue that my desire for cookies dictates the ethics of this situation, but it does not. After all, I don’t have a desire for the cookies you want me to buy. It is only in your mind that the cookies of companies A and B are equivalent. I see a profound difference between them. Similarly, it is only in your mind that the money you spend on candy bars [or any material object of any kind] is different than the money I spend on cookies. This is just money, spent as we prefer to spend it. If the charity is entitled to my money regardless of my preferences, they are entitled to your money regardless of yours.

    So your case depends on making two things that are not the same the same, and two things that are not different different. And the reason for this, apparently, is that you wish to place me under a special ethical obligation while sparing yourself from the same ethical obligation.

  86. @mg50: Recall that I said we don’t have obligations to people who don’t and will never exist.

    —–

    In which case, your entire case collapses. My biological children will definitely exist if I choose to have them (and in fact, they do exist) and therefore they are not people who don’t and never will exist.

    Of course, you are arguing that they “shouldn’t” exist (which is some hardcore hubris). But that would also be true of the unborn children with genetic diseases, who should not (according to you) exist until all foster babies have the good homes that you are completely unwilling to make any sacrifices to provide them with.

  87. sethmanapio: “As I said, you wish to commit me to an ethical obligation that you wish to exempt yourself from, based entirely on your perception of what my preferences are, and without any regard for my actual preferences. But when I pull the same trick, you claim that because your preferences are different than the ones that I think you ought to have, you claim that your preferences are more important.”

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I’ve never claimed my preferences are more important than yours (and don’t even know what that means). I’ve claimed that my projects are different from yours in such a way to exempt me from a certain obligation you possess. In doing so, I’ve had to disagree with you about what the goals of your actual projects are, or at least how heavily you actually weigh certain of your goals. This was based on a guess that you don’t go to sperm banks nearly as often as the overriding preference for offspring simpliciter would mandate, as well as a charitable interpretation of your earlier post on the unfathomable value parenthood.

    sethmanapio: “You haven’t substantially added to the discussion or addressed my point,”

    Thanks a lot!

    sethmanapio: “You argue that my desire for cookies dictates the ethics of this situation, but it does not. After all, I don’t have a desire for the cookies you want me to buy.”

    If you truly get something profoundly different out of cookie B, then no, I don’t think you’re obliged to buy cookie B over cookie A. (At least, the principle under discussion doesn’t oblige you to.) But this is unrealistic. Realistically, both of us will like cookie B just fine, and neither of our life projects will be significantly impacted for the worse if we buy cookie B. Therefore you’re correct: my principle realistically obligates both of us to buy cookie B (instead of cookie A for you and instead of candy bars for me). I’m perfectly fine biting the bullet here. But in other situations – like the cookie vs. poverty+diabetes case, or as I argue the adoption case – my principle doesn’t commit me to the symmetry of our obligations. For in those cases, our life projects would be impacted much differently by the same choices: yours very little, and mine a lot.

  88. sethmanapio: “In which case, your entire case collapses. My biological children will definitely exist if I choose to have them (and in fact, they do exist) and therefore they are not people who don’t and never will exist. ”

    They definitely will exist if you choose to have them. But since you have no obligation to choose to have them, and since they’ll presumably only exist if you do make that choice affirmatively, you have no obligation to them while you’re still in the process of choosing. Which is all I need for my point to go through.

    sethmanapio: “But that would also be true of the unborn children with genetic diseases, who should not (according to you) exist until all foster babies have the good homes that you are completely unwilling to make any sacrifices to provide them with.”

    There is no inconsistency here. (BTW, I do think I’m obligated to help needy children, just not to give them an enormous portion of my resources.)

  89. @mg50: I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I’ve never claimed my preferences are more important than yours (and don’t even know what that means).

    ——–

    Yes, you have. Repeatedly. I say that I prefer to have biological children and put my resources into them. You say that my preferences are unimportant in this case, and that I am ethically obligated to put my resources into adopted children. You, on the other hand, are not obligated to put your resources (at least, not any significant portion of them) into these same children, because you prefer to spend your resources on something else.

    Thus, you claim that your preferences are valid, and mine are not. You want me to be obligated to perform a social service that you wish to exempt yourself from performing, because in your opinion, my life choices are not important enough or distinct enough to exempt me, while yours are.

    This is clearly bullshit. Your opinion about the merits or distinction of the choices I actually make versus the choices you wish me to make is not any more relevant to the issue than my opinion about yours. If in my opinion, your life projects will not be significantly altered by paying child support for an adopted child, you must either accept that as true or accept that your opinion about alterations to my life projects is irrelevant.

    The inconsistency of your opinion does not stop at the special pleading you make for lifestyle choices. It continues with the unborn, unconceived children with genetic defects. If these children should not exist, it is just as unethical to spend resources on them as it is to spend resources on biological children. So either the charity itself is an unethical project, or it is ethical to have children. You have to choose one.

    If you choose (as you did) to say that we both are obligated to buy a cookie we do not want because of the charitable contributions of the cookie maker, you cannot then turn around and say that this principle changes when you expand it to other things. This is a completely arbitrary decision on your part, you have no basis on which to draw a line and say that this choice has no impact and this choice has great impact. Again, we come to a point where your only argument is that you do not want to spend the resources to give a foster child a home. Somehow, we are supposed to accept that this desire on your part is an ethical choice, but if I make the exact same choice, it magically and arbitrarily becomes unethical. This would be fine if you had any reasoning behind it other than the assertion that my life preferences are less important than your life preferences, which is not a defensible ethical position at all.

  90. sethmanapio: “Yes, you have. Repeatedly. I say that I prefer to have biological children and put my resources into them. You say that my preferences are unimportant in this case, and that I am ethically obligated to put my resources into adopted children. You, on the other hand, are not obligated to put your resources (at least, not any significant portion of them) into these same children, because you prefer to spend your resources on something else.”

    Saying that preference A does not suffice to make a moral difference in a certain case, but preference B does suffice, does not make B “more important” or “more valid” than A. Please stop trying to muddy the waters here. Preferences are preferences; I don’t have to maintain that any are “better” than any others, just that some are occasionally more salient than others when deciding what to do. Which is hardly controversial.

    Reading the rest of your post, it’s pretty clear that you haven’t really understood anything I’ve been saying. I’ve been at pains to point out how my position doesn’t lead to an inconsistency, and you keep repeating your same reasons for thinking that it does. So I’m going to try giving you my answer one more time, and only one more time. Here we go: If your projects are really all about having offspring rather than having children, then you, like me, are not obligated to adopt. However, I don’t believe your projects really are about having offspring rather than having children, even though you’re now saying otherwise. This is not to say I think your stated preference for offspring is “less important” in some capacity; it’s just to say that I think you’re probably overestimating how genuinely important it is to your experiences of parenthood than you yourself believe. (Which is why, e.g., you’d still love your kids even if you found out they’re not biologically yours.) And if having biological children really isn’t such a significantly goal of your parenting project, then you are obligated to adopt according to my principle. Whereas I am not obligated to adopt because having any kids is deeply incompatible with my projects. Got it? There’s zero inconsistency here. At worst, I’m simply mistaken about how important having genetic offspring at bottom is to you. I acknowledge that’s certainly possible.

    sethmanapio: “It continues with the unborn, unconceived children with genetic defects. If these children should not exist, it is just as unethical to spend resources on them as it is to spend resources on biological children. So either the charity itself is an unethical project, or it is ethical to have children. You have to choose one.”

    No. First off, there’s a difference between saying a child “shouldn’t exist” and saying a child shouldn’t be created. We both think 13-year-old girls shouldn’t have babies; but this is not to say we think the beloved children of women who had kids way too early “shouldn’t exist.” Once babies exist, I totally support their continued existence and well-being. Before they exist, however, many of them I would prefer not to be created. Blurring this distinction through the ambiguous locution “shouldn’t exist” is a purely rhetorical move on your part.

    Second, there’s nothing inconsistent about having obligations to care for future children who shouldn’t be created. That they shouldn’t be created constitutes a failure on the part of the parents who create them, not on the children. However, I have to accept the fact that parents are going to (perhaps) wrongfully create children no matter what I do, so I have to plan to care for those future generations accordingly. Again, 13-year-old girls shouldn’t have babies (though perhaps not for moral reasons), but it would be reprehensible of me to take steps to ensure that if they do have babies, they’ll suffer from horrible birth defects.

  91. @mg50: And if having biological children really isn’t such a significantly goal of your parenting project, then you are obligated to adopt according to my principle. Whereas I am not obligated to adopt because having any kids is deeply incompatible with my projects. Got it?

    ——–

    So your new principle appears to be this: if I am perfectly willing to adopt children rather than having biological children, and I definitely intend to do one or the other, I should choose adoption. If, however, I prefer to have biological children (which I did) than I am not ethically bound in any way to adopt children. And of course, if I don’t want to have children at all, I’m not ethically bound to do anything at all.

    I fail to see how this is any different than the statement: “You should have biological children, adopt children, or not have children at all exactly as you please.”

    If that’s your position, we have no disagreement.

    This position is, however, in direct contrast to your previous position:

    Unhappy children are entitled to live happy lives; you are in a position to give unhappy children happy lives through adoption; by doing so, your life would not be significantly worse or even different relative to your current preferences than it would be by having biological children; by foregoing biological reproduction, you are not harming your potential biological children since they’ll never exist. Therefore, you should adopt instead of having biological children.

    Notice how this older position ignores my preference for biological children as completely irrelevant.

    So while your new position–that I am not ethically bound in any way to adopt children unless I want to–is self-consistent, it is no longer consistent with your former position, which was not self-consistent.

    Of course, if you think that your opinion about what my life goals “really” entail is in some way valid, then you are being utterly inconsistent: you cannot claim that your opinions about my life goals are valid, and my opinions about yours are not. Therefore, if I am ethically obligated to adopt based on your opinions about my life goals, you are ethically obligated to pay child support based on my opinions about your life goals. If I think it would enrich your life and would not interfere significantly in your life projects, you are ethically obligated to do it.

    If you aren’t willing to accept that as a principle, you have no case to make about my life goals. Whatever your opinion might be, I am not ethically obligated to follow it: rather, I am ethically obligated to follow my own.

    And if you now think that my own opinions dictate whether I “should” have adopted children, we’ve been arguing, literally, about nothing at all.

  92. Look, for clarity of discussion let’s call the following the “Entitlement Principle,” or just “EP:” If (1) someone is entitled to X, (2) you are providing X anyway, (3) providing X to the entitled person rather than someone else wouldn’t significantly interfere with your projects and (4) you’re not obligated to provide X to anyone else, then (5) you are obligated to provide X to the entitled person.

    My position is and has always been that EP is true. EP clearly does not obligate me to adopt, since raising children grossly interferes with my life projects: (3) is false for me where X is taken to be “a reasonably happy living situation with reasonable prospects for the future” and the entitled parties are taken to be underprivileged children. The question is whether EP obligates you to adopt. Clearly, (1), (2) and (4) are all true for you. So the remaining question is whether (3) applies to you. You say it doesn’t, because your entire child-rearing project is directed toward having offspring, not having children simpliciter. I say it does, because you’re likely overestimating how important having offspring really is to you or your projects given some other facts about you. These are: A. you wrote that parenting has an intangible value for you that non-parents cannot grasp; B. you appear not to be going in and out of sperm banks all the time despite the enormous offspring-versus-sacrifice ratio of donating sperm; C. you’d presumably still love and care for your kids if you found out they weren’t biologically yours.

    I hope this clears things up for you. As you can see, nothing I’ve said implies that you’re obligated to do anything just because of what I think. Rather, you’re obligated to do things because of a bunch of probably true facts about yourself which I also happen to believe are probably true.

  93. @mg50: Rather, you’re obligated to do things because of a bunch of probably true facts about yourself which I also happen to believe are probably true.

    ————-

    Yes, this clears things up. You want me to have a social obligation that you want to exempt yourself from, because you have an arbitrary value system that allows you to assign the people that my resources “should” go to, and to assign a satisfaction level to my life that is acceptable to you, but that prevents me from doing the same for either myself or for you.

    And you support this arbitrary value system with a non-sequitor and a pair of red herrings that you label A, B, and C.

    It isn’t that I don’t understand your position. It’s that your position is just indefensible. I’m sorry, but it is. Seriously: when I say to you that I think that based on some stuff you’ve said, you’d be just as happy, and in fact happier, and closer to your “real” life goals by paying me child support than you are by doing whatever you do, you rightly reject my claim. But somehow, you think you can turn this around because you think that my “real” goals would be just as well served if I did what you think I should do. It’s ridiculous.

  94. @sethmanapio: “Well, I don’t fathom how a bunch of people with no adopted children of their own feel perfectly justified in claiming that, first, my children shouldn’t exist, and second, I’m an evil person for not adopting some other children instead.”

    I vote that the Strawman O’ The Week. Nobody here has (or ever would) say any such thing, and it’s sheer nonsense to mischaracterise the argument as such. Indeed I stated clearly that it would not be a “terrible evil” to have biological children. There is no point in us posting if all we are supposed to do is hideously misrepresent what others are saying, and then get righteously indignant about what is not being debated.

    @sethmanapio: Here you agree with the first part of a previous post:
    “I wish more prospective parents would consider adoption”,
    but then notably fail to address the conclusion I drew:
    “it would be comparatively more selfish for me to have genetic offspring rather than to adopt”.
    I stand by that, although I concede “less thoughtful” might be more appropriate in certain situations. Do you disagree?
    @lukeradl originally used “unethical”, you interpreted this as “moral obligation” and that was later used by @mg50. I don’t know whether this represents a serious difference of opinion between the three of us, or is just a semantic one, but I have not said anyone has a moral obligation to adopt. If you are inclined to respond to me you might bear that in mind.

    @sethmanapio: “It is perfectly ethical for me to make the decision to reproduce, provided I can care for my offspring”.
    I think @mg50 was correct when they explained that we can make ethical judgements about actions others have a right to do. You actually admit this tacitly in the above quote because you imply that it is unethical to reproduce if you do not have the resources to look after a child, but I doubt you believe they don’t have that right.
    It is ethical for me to give money to charity; I am not obligated to do so. It is presumably more ethical to give 20% of my income to charity than it is to give 10%, but it is not evil (or unethical I would argue) to only give 10%. Naturally we all only make some ethical decisions as well as plenty of “selfish” ones and that is neither to condemn nor approve any individual cases. (Really any luxury item we buy for ourselves is “selfish” since it is neither necessary nor altruistic.) That would be my motivation for calling adoption, in general, more ethical than procreation; and why I used “more selfish” in the previous paragraph.

    In summary I think my position is largely the same as @mg50: “If (1) someone is entitled to X, (2) you are providing [or using] X anyway, (3) providing X to the entitled person rather than someone else wouldn’t significantly interfere with your projects and (4) you’re not obligated to provide X to anyone else, then (5) [it is more ethical] to provide X to the entitled person”,
    but with the edits indicated (and I don’t think I need point 3, which I see instead as offering an easy way for everybody to be more ethical – and therefore is more realistic for real-world applications). So it is more ethical for me to adopt than it is for me to buy a Ferrari or whatever. And it is also more ethical for me to adopt rather than have biological children.

    (Aside: It might be argued that it is ethical to have more children in general because of an ageing population but that is another debate.)

    Well what was my original post substantially aimed at? Not actually a detailed ethical discussion! Simply put, there is an acknowledged problem of children with no proper homes or families. A fairly pain-free solution, it seems to me, is for more people who are considering having children anyway to adopt. It was commented that too many people have kids without thinking about it; I believe that too many also pay little thought to the possibility of adopting instead. I recognise that I could have been more explicit, and apologise for not being so.

    @sethmanapio: And finally, your argument about your genes lasting until we reach the stars IS flawed. Unless you have a huge number of offspring so that intermarriage is quite likely after only a very few number of generations; your family has a propensity for intermarriage; or you have an unusually huge number of fantastic genes, then your similarity to your progeny compared with any random will drop by 1/2 each generation. After 10 generations, or say 300 years, that becomes just 1/10 of a percent more similar than our random. So to all intents and purposes you are just as genetically related to me and anyone else on the planet as you will be to any of your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren living in 2309.

    If you read all that then I thank you for indulging me!

  95. @Shadow Of A Doubt: I vote that the Strawman O’ The Week. Nobody here has (or ever would) say any such thing, and it’s sheer nonsense to mischaracterise the argument as such.

    ————–

    That isn’t true at all. The very first comment I was replying to stated “Personally, I’ve concluded that I find it unethical to bring children into a world where the ones already in it are so inadequately cared for.”

    mg50 wrote that “we have obligations to help existent children, whereas we have no obligations to help potential children who don’t and never will exist.”

    That is, I should have made the decision not to have children, and my children, ethically speaking, should not exist.

    My main problem with “your” side in this debate is your unwillingness to own the information content of your position.

    My main issue with mg50 is that he wants to make an ethical judgment about my decisions, but he doesn’t accord me the right to make exactly the same ethical judgments about his position. He can try to rephrase that as many ways as he wants, but that is the foundation of his ethical case.

    As for the entitlement argument, it rests on a boatload of assumptions. 1 assumes without support that people are entitled to X. 2 makes the false statement that I am “providing X anyway” in a way that is meaningfully different than a childless person. Cash is fungible, so this is in fact an arbitrary distinction. 4 ignores the possibility that I am entitled to Y, that is, having children of my own, and that would cancel the supposed, unsupported, entitlement claim in 1 and therefore 5 is left as a mere assertion, bereft of support.

    Finally, your math is too simple. The point with GK was that his genetics have persisted far past the date you project, and if my genes are successful, there is literally no way to project how long they will persist or to what degree I will have long term reproductive success. Perhaps I will not have many children, but my children will. Perhaps they will live for 200 years themselves. Perhaps my grandchildren will themselves travel to the stars (thus becoming much more substantial portions of their local breeding populations). Maybe I have some unknown resistance to a pathogen lacking in 99.44% of the population, and so my grandchildren survive the great dying of 2083. Maybe every male on earth will go infertile with the exception of my son, and he’ll become every male ancestor for the eastern seaboard. Maybe my daughter will, for weird reasons that we don’t currently understand, become a mitochondrial eve for some new iteration of humanity. You cannot predict these things, and neither can I.

    So, no, my argument is not flawed. It’s just that you suffer from a tragic lack of imagination.

    To recap: people made exactly the statement that you claim they didn’t make, the entitlement argument is total garbage from top to bottom, and you can’t predict the future.

    The main problem is that you are comparing apples to oranges. Biological parenthood is not the same as adoptive parenthood. I make no value judgements about one being better than the other, or more ethical, I merely point out that they are not the same. So there isn’t really an ethical case to be made that generally states that people “ought” to choose one over the other, in conjunction with the other, or to choose neither. It’s simply a matter of what people want to do.

  96. @mg50: No, dude, I’m pretty sure it’s that you don’t understand my position. I give up.

    ———

    Well, if your position is not that I am ethically obligated to raise foster children that you are ethically permitted to ignore, and if your support for that is not the completely arbitrary opinion that it would be within my “life projects” but not within yours, than you spent an awful lot of time defending, defining, and supporting a position that you don’t actually hold.

    What a waste.

  97. @sethmanapio: “As for the entitlement argument, it rests on a boatload of assumptions. 1 assumes without support that people are entitled to X. 2 makes the false statement that I am “providing X anyway” in a way that is meaningfully different than a childless person. Cash is fungible, so this is in fact an arbitrary distinction. 4 ignores the possibility that I am entitled to Y, that is, having children of my own, and that would cancel the supposed, unsupported, entitlement claim in 1 and therefore 5 is left as a mere assertion, bereft of support.”

    1 in this case is the entitlement of children to a good home. Surely not in dispute.

    2 doesn’t in fact exempt me as you think I am claiming. Surprisingly enough I think adopting a child is usually more ethical than buying Neverland… or a car, or a giant cookie mountain for that matter. But in reality if I have no interest in raising a kid I’m very unlikely to adopt anyway just because I think it is a good thing to do. So in practice the argument’s only likely to have meaningful applications to people looking to start a family.
    I just don’t buy your argument that there is somehow a massive difference between raising an adopted child vs raising a biological child. And if propogating your genes really was your priority you would, like Genghis Khan, be attempting to have hundreds or even thousands of offspring: its certainly not important to most parents.

    Having a right to a child doesn’t affect the ethical considerations of doing so: 4 stands.

    So it is perfectly legitimate to make ethical statements about parenting and, more specifically, about adoption.

  98. @Shadow Of A Doubt: 1 in this case is the entitlement of children to a good home. Surely not in dispute.

    ——-

    Actually, yes, this is in dispute. You in fact dispute it yourself, by thinking that the argument magically passes you by because it only has “meaningful applications to people looking to start a family”. This is clearly bull. If they are entitled to my resources, they are entitled to yours, and you owe child support whether you want to start a family or not. In claiming that only certain people are obligated, you manage to destroy two of your four pillars in one sentence. I didn’t claim that there were “massive” differences between biological and adoptive parenthood, just that I have a competing entitlement. Now you have to make the case (which you don’t) that I have to give up my entitlement to a family in order to provide someone else with an entitlement to my stuff. And you have to do it in the logically impossible way that gets you out of paying child support to someone that is willing to adopt but lacks resources. Since you can’t, the entitlement argument is revealed to boil down to this: you want me to be ethically obligated to do something that you do not feel ethically obligated to do yourself, for no good reason.

    I savor the absurdity of this thread, you know… it starts with someone bitching that people think she “ought” to want children… but what we find when people actually start talking about how they feel about procreation, not one person has claimed that child-free people ought to have, or ought to want to have, children. Instead, we have this astronomically convoluted argument, coming from at least three people, that I shouldn’t have had children!

  99. I’ll recap with my own observations:

    If I ever do have children, I would like them to be my own, biological descendants.
    I know that this is a selfish descision, I know it’s ethically more responsible to help an orphaned or disadvantaged child to a home. As others have said, from a purely investment vs. reward point of view regarding raising children, there’s really not that much difference between your own child and a foster child. The difference is strictly emotional, and so any objections sethmanapio (and I myself as well) might have are emotional and therefore not objective or particularly rational.

    The difference is that for some reason Seth is fighting tooth and nail not to have to admit that his descision was an emotional, irrational one.
    It is.
    Ethically speaking, it makes more sense to help out existing children who need a home rather than ignoring those children and making some of your own who will then compete with those foster kids for the same resources.

    Rationally, there’s also no difference between my two year old car which I bought brandnew, and a previously owned vehicle of the same age and model. Yet emotionally my own car will have more value to me than someone else’s. If I crashed my car, I’d opt to buy a new one rather than a used one of the same age. It’s not a rational value judgement. But at least I’m willing to admit to the fact it’s not rational. In fact, the two cars are, for all intents and purposes, identical to a third party who doesn’t have the emotional attachment to either vehicle like I do. So from their point of view, my choice to put additional strain on the environment and resources by buying a new car rather than recycling a used one is less ethical. And it is.

    And like others have said, if the continuation of your genetic material is that important to you, the sperm banks would have a significant stock of your genetic material. Clearly, it’s not just about progeny, but also about raising/educating them yourself.

  100. sethmanapio: “That isn’t true at all. The very first comment I was replying to stated “Personally, I’ve concluded that I find it unethical to bring children into a world where the ones already in it are so inadequately cared for.”

    mg50 wrote that “we have obligations to help existent children, whereas we have no obligations to help potential children who don’t and never will exist.”

    That is, I should have made the decision not to have children, and my children, ethically speaking, should not exist.”

    First, I already explained to you why it’s so misleading to describe people as saying that your children “shouldn’t exist.” Second, no one has called you an evil person at all. Even though I do tentatively think it’s unethical for most prospective parents not to adopt, that hardly makes them horrible human beings if they do so. We all do some morally questionable things, and besides, we live in a culture in which the morality of procreation isn’t really questioned. It’s not something I’d really hold against anyone, nor would anyone else commenting here to the best of my knowledge. So yes, you’re getting mad at a big straw man.

  101. @exarch: The difference is that for some reason Seth is fighting tooth and nail not to have to admit that his descision was an emotional, irrational one.

    ——-

    No, I’m not. I’m pointing out that those who say that it was an unethical one have no case.*

    I am not ethically or even rationally required to ignore my emotional wants or needs. As I have pointed out before, acting as if you do not have emotions is not skepticism, it’s pointless self-flagellation. I’m not a member of some kind of sick anti-realist cult of denial, I’m a critical thinker.

    And critically speaking, this argument is nonsensical. If the physical needs of foster children are the only issue, we could just put them in camps or something and make sure they were fed. But you apparently think that they need a “good” home, that is, one where their emotional needs are tended to. So your idea of ethics and rational decision making seems to be that my emotional health has no ethical value and ought to be sacrificed in order to tend to the emotional health of others. This is clearly not ethical at all.

    But even if we accepted this bizarre and horrible definition of “ethics”, your argument remains exactly the same: you want me to be compelled to do something that you are exempt from. You assume that because I was willing to raise my biological children, I had some ‘extra’ ethical compulsion to raise foster children that you don’t have.

    But this is clearly nonsensical as well. Neither of us expressed a willingness to spend large amounts of resources on foster children. Therefore, we are both in exactly the same ethical position in relation to those foster children.

    The fact that you don’t want to be a parent is, according to you, a meaningless emotional decision that has no bearing on the ethical question. Whether you desire it or not, you are ethically required to spend the resources on foster children. If you “rationally” do not think you can do so as a parent, you owe child support to those of us who can.

    And finally, yes, others have brought up the red herring issue of sperm banks. This is equivalent, as an argument, of saying that I am not particularly interested in building wealth because I do not buy lottery tickets. It’s just another absurdity.

    * for those who might be wondering this is yet another straw man. In fact, this entire discussion has been a virtual clinic on logical fallacies. Straw men, red herrings, non-sequitors, fallacious comparison, fallacious quantification, special pleading… these guys are really bringing out the entire toolbox.

  102. @mg50: First, I already explained to you why it’s so misleading to describe people as saying that your children “shouldn’t exist.”

    ——

    Look, if you don’t want to follow your reasoning to it’s logical conclusion, that’s not my fault. I’m just pointing out the information content of your position.

    If I “should”, ethically, have made the decision not to have my children, then my children “should” not have been born. If they “should” not have been born, than they “should” not exist. This is not the same as saying they do not currently have the right to exist, of course.

    I will agree, however, that my use of the word “evil” is hyperbole. I’ll substitue “unethical”.

    It’s still bullshit. There was nothing immoral in my decision to have my children, and I am offended that you think there was. I find your position asinine, illogical, and ethically absurd.

  103. Playing the lottery never got everyone rich, it got that one lucky person rich. All in all, you’re pretty much always spending more than you gain, so it’s not a good strategy for getting rich.

    If you want to have lots of biologically related offspring, then the sperm bank IS the best place. It’s not like you’re assured your contribution will be used, but when it is, you get to have offspring and you don’t even have to pay for them or go through the hassle of raising them.

    If however, your wish is to experience the hassle of raising children, then on a strictly rational basis, there is no difference between your own offspring and those of someone else. The fact they’re not genetic relatives doesn’t make much difference, except on a subjective, emotional level.

    To repeat once more, you accuse others of saying that whatever justifications they bring up to convince themselves that the choice they made is good is “inconsistent”, your own choice to have children is just as inconsistent and laced with emotion. I was merely trying to point out that this pot/kettle situation is not going to be resolved by introducing ever sillier straw men of restrictions of liberties.

    Nobody is saying you’re a selfish dick for having your own kids instead of adopting, likewise, you shouldn’t be saying people are misguided for deciding they don’t feel comfortable raising children in the world as it currently is. It’s a valid reason, among many different reasons not to have kids. Just because they don’t ring true to you doesn’t mean it can’t be or isn’t a good reason to decide not to have kids. And as the people who’ve listed it as one of their reasons have all confirmed, it definitely wasn’t their only reason either.

  104. @sethmanapio:

    The only one throwing around the word “immoral” is you. I don’t think anyone even seriously used the word “unethical”. Perhaps “less ethical”, or adoption as “more ethical” has been put forward. And you can’t deny it is more ethical to adopt than to have your own children. But it’s also more ethical to give $20 to charity than it is to donate $10.

    But that, by no means, says that not adopting and having your own children is “unethical” or even “immoral” or “evil”. All words I think you yourself introduced to mischaracterize the position of mg50 et al.

  105. sethmanapio: “Look, if you don’t want to follow your reasoning to it’s logical conclusion, that’s not my fault. I’m just pointing out the information content of your position.”

    I already explained to you how the phrase “shouldn’t exist” erroneously suggests “shouldn’t continue to exist” when in my case I only mean “shouldn’t have been created.” One’s obligations before one’s kids exist are different from one’s obligations after one’s kids exist. Believing your children shouldn’t have been created is no more problematic than believing the children of a woman who chose to become a mother at age 13 shouldn’t have been created (because 13-year-olds obviously shouldn’t have babies). It’s only offensive if you deliberately try to read too much into it.

    sethmanapio: “It’s still bullshit. There was nothing immoral in my decision to have my children, and I am offended that you think there was. I find your position asinine, illogical, and ethically absurd.”

    Oh yeah?!

    exarch: “The only one throwing around the word “immoral” is you. I don’t think anyone even seriously used the word “unethical””

    Actually, I was arguing (tentatively) for the immorality of not adopting in many cases.

  106. Exarch’s World:
    @exarch: don’t think anyone even seriously used the word “unethical”.

    Reality:
    @lukeradl: Personally, I’ve concluded that I find it unethical to bring children into a world where the ones already in it are so inadequately cared for.

    @sporefrog: If someone makes the argument that it’s unethical to bring more children into the world while so many are poorly cared for right now, I find that to be a totally reasonable position.

  107. @exarch: If you want to have lots of biologically related offspring, then the sperm bank IS the best place. It’s not like you’re assured your contribution will be used

    ———

    I’m not sure you understand what a lottery is. A lottery is when you gamble on an outcome. A sperm bank is a gamble on an outcome. You are describing a gamble. It is just silly to claim that a sperm bank is different from a lottery and then admit that it’s a gamble.

    I can, actually, argue that it is more ethical to have my own children than it is to adopt children. That’s what I’ve been doing, showing that the argument that it is unethical to have children rather than adopt is total bullshit. And I’ve done such a good job that you are now trying to claim I’m making some other argument entirely.

  108. @mg50: I already explained to you how the phrase “shouldn’t exist” erroneously suggests “shouldn’t continue to exist” when in my case I only mean “shouldn’t have been created.”

    ——–

    I didn’t say that you want my children dead, I said that your position is that they should not exist at all, which is precisely your position. And I’m pointing out that this is an offensive thing to say. You are saying that the value that my children bring to the world is negative, that the world would be a better place if they had never been born. Your example is just as bad: I don’t find it “obvious” that all thirteen year olds should not have children. That is a highly personal issue that it is presumptious–and offensive–to make blanket statements about.

    And yes, for all the reasons I’ve listed: The internal inconsistency, the lack of an ethical or logical foundation, the special pleading, the presumptions about my internal state, and the basic offensiveness of judging the value of other peoples lives; I find your argument to be asinine, illogical, and ethically absurd.

  109. @exarch: on a strictly rational basis, there is no difference between your own offspring and those of someone else. The fact they’re not genetic relatives doesn’t make much difference, except on a subjective, emotional level.

    ——————

    This is a red herring. I never claimed that people should not make decisions based on their perceptions of their own personal happiness. I have in fact said that this is a perfectly reasonable basis on which to make decisions. And as I already pointed out, I’m not ethically or rationally obligated to be a robot and ignore my own emotions when I make decisions.

    And I have not used the word “irrational” in this entire thread until now. This is a word that you yourself introduced in order to mischaracterize my argument.

  110. sethmanapio: “I didn’t say that you want my children dead, I said that your position is that they should not exist at all, which is precisely your position. And I’m pointing out that this is an offensive thing to say.”

    Oh, okay. I assume you won’t be discouraging any 13-year-old daughter of yours not to get pregnant. After all, if you do so and she gets pregnant anyway, that’d mean you want your own grandchild not to exist! How monstrous!

    sethmanapio: “Your example is just as bad: I don’t find it “obvious” that all thirteen year olds should not have children. That is a highly personal issue that it is presumptious–and offensive–to make blanket statements about.”

    My blanket statement was blanketed merely for convenience. Do you think you’re not in a position to judge whether any 13-year-olds who immediately want children whatsoever should wait until they’re older? This seems unlikely.

    sethmanapio: “You are saying that the value that my children bring to the world is negative, that the world would be a better place if they had never been born.”

    Incorrect. First, that you oughtn’t perform X does not entail that X has negative value to the world at large. If I promise to give a hundred dollars to a charity, but then spend the hundred dollars on ice cream for myself, then I’ve just done something wrong (break my promise to a charity) that has positive value (a temporary increase in my well-being). Your kids’ existence is definitely of positive value. Second, it’s not the case that a world without them is better than a world with them simply because they wouldn’t exist in that world. The world without would instead be better because you performed a more upright action of adoption. You seem to be unwilling to draw this distinction for some reason.

    sethmanapio: “And yes, for all the reasons I’ve listed: The internal inconsistency, the lack of an ethical or logical foundation, the special pleading, the presumptions about my internal state, and the basic offensiveness of judging the value of other peoples lives; I find your argument to be asinine, illogical, and ethically absurd.”

    I think you’ve been letting your indignation get the better of you throughout this thread.

  111. Actually, let me revise that last point. I’m not committed to saying anything about whether a world without your children would be better than a world with one. For all I know, your biological children might go on to cure cancer, whereas your potential adopted children might have become genocidal dictators. Clearly in this case the world in which your biological children exist is the better world. All I’m committed to saying is what I’ve been saying all along: that you would’ve been more ethical in a world where you adopted than in a world where you didn’t. And this has nothing at all to do with the overall goodness of any world.

  112. @mg50: All I’m committed to saying is what I’ve been saying all along: that you would’ve been more ethical in a world where you adopted than in a world where you didn’t.

    ——

    You’re still committed to saying this? Amazing.

    Does this mean that you agree that you would be more ethical if you chose to pay me child support in order to facilitate that adoption? Or are you still drawing an arbitrary distinction between the ethical use of my resources and the ethical use of yours?

    I mean, you’d still be fundamentally wrong, but at least you’d be self-consistent.

  113. @Shadow Of A Doubt: There is no point in us posting if all we are supposed to do is hideously misrepresent what others are saying, and then get righteously indignant about what is not being debated.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    @sethmanapio:

    @exarch: don’t think anyone even seriously used the word “unethical”.

    @sporefrog: If someone makes the argument that it’s unethical to bring more children into the world while so many are poorly cared for right now, I find that to be a totally reasonable position.

    It’s just incredible how so many people can read something different ways. NO SETH, I’m not saying that it’s immoral to have children, I’m saying I understand the position of people who say that it is more ethical to adopt children than it is to not do so,

    /If you define ethical as leading to reduced suffering of other people/

    So no, I’m not calling you immoral. Obviously, you have great emotional attachment to the idea of having your own children with your genes and thus it would be logical for you to say that you should act however you prefer. By all means, place your own wellbeing above those of people you’ve never met.

    All I’ve said is that I personally find that to be bizarre.

    I think a good argument could be made that somebody who, as Exarch says, only wants to experience raising a child, without a care for what nucleotide sequence it has, would increase the average quality of life of the world if they chose to adopt.

  114. @mg50: Oh, okay. I assume you won’t be discouraging any 13-year-old daughter of yours not to get pregnant.
    ———

    This doesn’t follow. Saying that her children ethically should not exist, or ethically should not be brought into being, is not the same as saying that from a practical standpoint, as a matter of her overall life goals and her own choices, it would be smarter to avoid pregnancy.

    See, this is the core of our disagreement. You think that my reproductive decisions (and my resource allocation decisions) are ethically bound in some way by things that are external to me and my situation, like the existence of adoptable children. I don’t agree with you. I think that my reproductive decisions–and everyone elses–are matters of choice that are not ethically bound by the existence of adoptable children.

    This difference between us fundamentally alters our ethical viewpoints on the very existence of children. My worry for my daughter would not be ethical, but practical, and is utterly unrelated to the existence of the baby. Your worry is only about the existence of this new, unethically concieved, human being.

  115. sethmanapio: “You’re still committed to saying this? Amazing.

    Does this mean that you agree that you would be more ethical if you chose to pay me child support in order to facilitate that adoption? Or are you still drawing an arbitrary distinction between the ethical use of my resources and the ethical use of yours?

    I mean, you’d still be fundamentally wrong, but at least you’d be self-consistent.”

    Not going through this again with you. I’ve already given it my best shot.

  116. I think a good argument could be made that somebody who, as Exarch says, only wants to experience raising a child, without a care for what nucleotide sequence it has, would increase the average quality of life of the world if they chose to adopt.
    ——————-

    As I said sometime back, @sethmanapio: “I fail to see how this is any different than the statement: “You should have biological children, adopt children, or not have children at all exactly as you please.”

    If that’s your position, we have no disagreement.

  117. @mg50: Not going through this again with you. I’ve already given it my best shot.

    ——–

    Yes, I know. And despite the fact that you were unable to make a decent case for placing me under a special obligation that you escape, vis-a-vis foster children and their support, you maintain the position. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

  118. sethmanapio: “This doesn’t follow. Saying that her children ethically should not exist, or ethically should not be brought into being, is not the same as saying that from a practical standpoint, as a matter of her overall life goals and her own choices, it would be smarter to avoid pregnancy.”

    What’s the relevant ethical difference? In both situations, you would be telling her that her children should not exist!!!!1 In the one case, it’s because conscientiousness demands it; in the other, it’s because simple prudence does. The moral of the story still holds. That my analogy was, in fact, an analogy and not a perfect duplicate of the case hardly seems interesting.

    Just admit what I’m saying isn’t as offensive or cold-hearted toward your children as you initially thought. C’mon.

  119. Let us add to this that you are simply wrong about genes. We can trace Genghis Khan’s direct decedents to this day. So unless “few” is “enough time to colonize the stars”, you are just flat wrong about that.

    Actually, we can trace people who were related to many of the people alive in the Mongolian area around 1,000 AD, thus making Genghis Kahn a likely common ancestor of many lineages. My point is about the amount of DNA shared by one’s offspring. This study was done using haplogroups which consist of single nucleotide polymorphisms on only the y-chromosome that are thought to have originated in the mongolian region.

    http://web.unife.it/progetti/genetica/Giorgio/PDFfiles/ajhg2003.pdf

    This means my point still correctly stands: they don’t share large portions of Kahn’s distinctive DNA differences (of the 1% or so he might differ from you or me in terms of genetic material, an estimated 4% similarity) . Assuming you’d like to reproduce with many hundreds and thousands of women, then yes you might exact a similar change.

    For a few children? No, your DNA (which is mostly the same anyway) will be mutated, recombined, and mixed and matched within a few generations. 50% alone is transmitted per generation (50% —> 25% —> 12.5% –>6.25% –> 3.125 % –> 1.57% –> .78%), and this says nothing about millions of genetic interactions all of which affect gene expression, or about DNA deletion/insertion/duplication.

  120. The masochist in me has been following this thread for days now…

    @sethmanapio: “Does this mean that you agree that you would be more ethical if you chose to pay me child support in order to facilitate that adoption? Or are you still drawing an arbitrary distinction between the ethical use of my resources and the ethical use of yours?”

    What you’re saying is, “I’ll raise my own child on my own dime, or I’ll raise someone else’s on yours.” That doesn’t really make any sense. The argument here isn’t, “everyone is obligated to adopt children.” It’s that if you’re already planning to commit your resources to raising a child, it’s more ethical to take in a child who really needs that support instead of creating the need and then putting your resources toward that. No one is arguing that you are obligated to raise an adopted child in addition to your biological children. That would be idiotic.

    I’d go into greater detail, but it seems you’ve been too busy using words like “bullshit” and “asinine” and generally being dismissive to really hear any of what’s been said here anyway. Which is unfortunate, because there is (was?) an interesting discussion to be had here.

  121. Seth you’ve constantly conflated “adoption is more ethical than having your own kid” with “adoption is an ethical obligation” and “having your own kid is immoral and consequently the majority of people with families are evil, no-good scum “. The three are not the same. I am arguing for the first position, and I believe the others are too.

    People who have biological children are not immoral. I have never said that.

    I have no problem with the existence of your children and have not come close to doing so.

    I am not obligating you, or anyone else, to adopt. I have already made that clear several times.

    I understand that chucking university and spending my life raising foster kids would be more ethical than continuing with my studies. I have articulated this principle before.

    I agree that paying you cash support to foster a kid you wouldn’t otherwise foster would be more ethical than spending it on myself. (If I could find someone who wanted children but didn’t have the resources to raise one – even better!)

    I also think it is more ethical to adopt rather than to have biological children.

    Could my position be clearer?

    Yet you continue to ignore it, whether you’re changing your mind to deny that children have any right to a good home; or pretending that nobody is allowed to make ethical comments about any reproductive decisions; or declaring that people are wishing your kids out of existence; or arguing that because you have a right to a biological child it MUST be ethically equivalent to adopting a child instead; or that it’s tremendously important that scientists find your Y chromosome in 10% of living humans in 1000 years time; or that it’s all a big, red herring.

    We live in a world where people would rather go through multiple cycles of IVF rather than adopt. I think that indicates that not enough people even consider it and believe that is an indictment of society. Not because of some deep philosophical reason: because of the large numbers of children who continue to grow up in care.

  122. @Mint Classic: “No one is arguing that you are obligated to raise an adopted child in addition to your biological children. That would be idiotic.”

    Taking us back to the original point that since you’re having kids anyway it doesn’t need a massive sacrifice to adopt instead. Hence why we have focused on that situation.

  123. @Shadow Of A Doubt: I agree that paying you cash support to foster a kid you wouldn’t otherwise foster would be more ethical than spending it on myself.

    ——-

    Okay. That’s at least consistent. It’s completely wrongheaded, but it is at least consistent.

    I actually disagree with your idea that “ethical” is equivalent to “self-sacrificing.” But at least one of you now has expressed an actual principle! Bravo!

  124. @mg50: In both situations, you would be telling her that her children should not exist!!!!

    ——–

    No, I’m not. I’m saying that it would be smarter to delay getting pregnant until some future date. You are saying that she should never get pregnant. These are not the same statement in any way.

  125. @Mint Classic: It’s that if you’re already planning to commit your resources to raising a child, it’s more ethical to take in a child who really needs that support instead of creating the need and then putting your resources toward that.

    ——–

    I know what the argument is. I just don’t agree that it is a logical argument. To demonstrate this, I point out the following: Being a biological parent is not the same thing as being an adoptive parent. What is being argued is that they are so similar that one can be substituted for the other. However, this is an arbitrary measure of sameness that you are creating, not an actual fact. If you read what mg50 says, you see that he makes many claims about what he thinks is actually important to me, basically claiming that biological parenthood is not important enough to me to warrant the choice over adoption.

    This argument is made based on the idea that foster children are entitled to good homes, that is, they have a right to the resources of other people.

    So, take these two principles together, and you see that the argument is: I am ethically compelled to adopt rather than raise biological children because strangers think I shouldn’t mind doing so.

    Therefore, I substitute the following: you are ethically compelled to pay me child support for an adopted child rather than buying a new car because I think that you shouldn’t mind doing so.

    Shadow of a Doubt recognizes that if the principles are as mg50 has expressed them, the second claim is as valid as the first. If you disagree with the second claim, you cannot claim logical consistency if you agree with the first.

    Since mg50 recognizes only the first claim, his argument is simply a case of obligating me (ethically) and exempting himself, based on a completely arbitrary metric. And yes, after a couple of days, I’m willing to call bullshit on that. Not because I’m not listening, but because I am listening very closely.

  126. @Shadow Of A Doubt: Yet you continue to ignore it, whether you’re changing your mind to deny that children have any right to a good home;

    ——-

    I’m sorry, but I’m not “changing my mind” about that at all. For one thing, I didn’t say that children did not have a right to a good home, I said they were not entitled to one at the exclusion of other considerations. Specifically, they are not entitled to a place in my home, regardless of whether I choose to have children or not. I believe that we, as a society, have an obligation to care for these children, but that no unwilling person is ethically obligated to raise a foster child or bear the entire financial burden of raising a foster child.

    You should realize that each person on “your” side of the argument is making a different case and using different reasoning. So when you say that “no one” has said something, or that you never said something, you are sometimes referring to my refutations of things that other people said, which are different than the things that you said.

    However, I find it disingenous that you believe that you have stated that the argument applies to you, when previously you claimed that it could only practically be applied to other people who also weren’t interested in adopting children. I think that’s a bit of hair-splitting, but what the heck. We’ll take it as read that you think that your ethical obligation (or whatever you want to call it) to spend resources on foster children is equivalent to mine.

    In that case, there is no relationship between whether I have children or not and the ethical situation. Since we both share the same ethical position, and one of has kids and the other doesn’t, it makes no more sense to say that it is “more ethical” to adopt children rather than having children than to say that it is “more ethical” to spend money on child support rather than on any non-neccessity. My position as a parent or prospective parent is completely irrellevant, except to the extent that, unlike you, I have people who depend on me for food and shelter.

    Now, frankly, I find this perspective on ethics appalling. It suggests that the sacrifice of one’s own happiness is the height of ethics, and I don’t see that as a valid ethical principle. But if your position truly is that it is unethical to buy a new car, or a house or a stereo or college tuition or anything beyond the neccessities so long as one single foster child needs to be put into a good home (presumably, people with foster children are allowed to purchase homes through some ethical alchemy), I can only shake my head and move on. I disagree, vehemently, with this description of ethics, but since it no longer targets one group of people and exempts other groups of people, it doesn’t actually offend me.

  127. @sporefrog: No, your DNA (which is mostly the same anyway) will be mutated, recombined, and mixed and matched within a few generations.

    ————-

    Finally, your math is too simple. The point with GK was that his genetics have persisted far past the date you project, and if my genes are successful, there is literally no way to project how long they will persist or to what degree I will have long term reproductive success. Perhaps I will not have many children, but my children will. Perhaps they will live for 200 years themselves. Perhaps my grandchildren will themselves travel to the stars (thus becoming much more substantial portions of their local breeding populations). Maybe I have some unknown resistance to a pathogen lacking in 99.44% of the population, and so my grandchildren survive the great dying of 2083. Maybe every male on earth will go infertile with the exception of my son, and he’ll become every male ancestor for the eastern seaboard. Maybe my daughter will, for weird reasons that we don’t currently understand, become a mitochondrial eve for some new iteration of humanity. You cannot predict these things, and neither can I.

    So, no, my argument is not flawed. It’s just that you suffer from a tragic lack of imagination.

    Besides, the argument that my happiness shouldn’t be affected by something, because in your judgement, it isn’t important enough to be affected by it, seems to be a one way street. For example, I think that since your new car, house, computer, etc. is a passing, temporary thing, that you shouldn’t value it and should instead adopt children. But somehow, unlike shadow of a doubt, you seem to be uncomfortable eating that frog.

  128. Newbie to this site, and this is a great article to read to be introduced to this place.

    I will admit that when I was younger, fresh out of high school and therefore still a kid, I may have committed some of those bingoes to people who are childfree. But not because I was being a jerk, but because I was still deeply sucked into the whole mindset that an empty uterus is an unhappy one. The first couple I met who had decided wholeheartedly to be childfree shocked me, and I may have given them a ‘look’ without meaning to. I feel crappy about it, but what’s done is done.

    Now that I’m an adult, especially a parent, I fully understand people who decide to be childfree. I don’t regret my son at all, but raising him has been tough, tougher than I ever thought, and no one who doesn’t want to go through this particular challenge should be forced to.

    I can only hope that in time (hopefully sooner rather than later) our society will stop with the bingoes to childfree people, and embrace them as normal people who simply don’t want to give birth to and raise their own kids, yet many times contribute much to children’s lives, and to life as a whole.

  129. sethmanapio: “No, I’m not. I’m saying that it would be smarter to delay getting pregnant until some future date. You are saying that she should never get pregnant. These are not the same statement in any way.”

    Do you think “doing X will grossly interfere with your own interests, whereas doing Y will accommodate your interests while eventually resulting in the same goods as X” constitutes a reason to think “You should not do X?” If so, then your statement here rationally entails that you believe most 13-year-old girls shouldn’t (under ordinary circumstances) have babies – which implies in turn there are plenty of well-loved children on this planet whom you think, horror of horrors, shouldn’t have been created. If not, on the other hand, I honestly have no idea what to say to you.

    Still have no idea why you think “If you wanted to be moral, you shouldn’t have had kids” is so much more offensive than “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had kids.”

  130. (By the way, it’s easy to argue that 13-year-old girls are morally obligated not to reproduce at that age in most circumstances, since usually if they wait to have children, those children will be much more likely to lead much better childhoods. So all of this is actually moot.)

  131. @sethmanapio: “Therefore, I substitute the following: you are ethically compelled to pay me child support for an adopted child rather than buying a new car because I think that you shouldn’t mind doing so.”

    DOES NOT LOGICALLY FOLLOW. Gahhhhh!! Come on, man, seriously. I get where you’re coming from, but that is not a valid comparison by any stretch of the imagination. If you think it is, that is solid proof that you’re not absorbing the meat of what we’re arguing, in spite of your claims to the contrary.

    I resign.

  132. @mg50: Do you think “doing X will grossly interfere with your own interests, whereas doing Y will accommodate your interests while eventually resulting in the same goods as X” constitutes a reason to think “You should not do X?”
    ———

    No, I do not think that strategic superiority connotes ethical superiority.

  133. @Mint Classic: DOES NOT LOGICALLY FOLLOW. Gahhhhh!! Come on, man, seriously. I get where you’re coming from, but that is not a valid comparison by any stretch of the imagination.

    ————-

    I do “absorb the meat” of what you are saying. You are saying that it is “more ethical” to adopt than it is to have planned biological children. That position is only self-consistent if you accept that it is also more ethical to pay child support to an adoptive couple than it is to buy a new car.

    I understand that you want there to be something about choosing to have biological children that changes the ethical situation, but this desire requires that you draw fallacious comparisons.

    It is only in your mind that adoptive children hold an equivalent position in my life goals and life satisfaction as biological children. This is an imaginary equivalence that you are making up. So if you can create an equivalence based on what you think should effect my happiness, rather than what I think will effect my happiness, I can do the same for your life choices and substitute child support for a nicer apartment, newer car, etc. You would be just as well off with a lousy apartment, cheap car, etc., so since you are going to spend the resources anyway, it is ethically better to spend them on foster children.

    You can only logically deny this by pretending that two things that are not identical are identical, and that two things that are identical are not. Resources are fungible, children are not. Your argument treats children as fungible and resources as not.

  134. @sethmanapio:
    I’m not sure you understand what a lottery is. A lottery is when you gamble on an outcome. A sperm bank is a gamble on an outcome. You are describing a gamble. It is just silly to claim that a sperm bank is different from a lottery and then admit that it’s a gamble.

    It’s not a gamble if you don’t stand to lose anything. If there’s no risk, all you’re doing is giving it a try. How can it be a gamble if you can’t lose anything? No guarantee for success is almost the exact opposite of “playing the lottery” hoping for a desirable outcome. So this entirer argument is just a semantic game on your part.

    @sethmanapio:
    No, I’m not. I’m saying that it would be smarter to delay getting pregnant until some future date. You are saying that she should never get pregnant. These are not the same statement in any way.

    Not quite. The child she might have when she’s 13 will be lost forever if she doesn’t get pregnant. Both the egg and the sperm will go to waste and never be used. The child she might have when she’s 18 can exist whether she had the first child or not. In other words, you really ARE telling her that this specific potential child should never exist.

    But hey, you were busy arguing semantics, not technicalities, so we’ll ignore this fact for now …

    @sethmanapio:
    I know what the argument is. I just don’t agree that it is a logical argument. To demonstrate this, I point out the following: Being a biological parent is not the same thing as being an adoptive parent.

    Actually, the argument is completely logical. On a strictly rational level. It’s not exact same thing, but only on the subjective emotional level of parenthood.
    Adopting is clearly a more ethical choice than having your own children instead. Obviously, you’re free to choose the less ethical option if you prefer that. Just like others are free to choose not to have children but buy a car instead. You just made the mistake of trying to defend that stance by arguing that this ethical difference means we’re trying to force you to not have kids and adopt instead. Nobody suggested that there is an obligation. That’s a straw man you yourself dragged in there. We merely suggested it would have been more ethical if you had. Not that you were wrong not to.

  135. @exarch: In other words, you really ARE telling her that this specific potential child should never exist.

    ———

    No, I’m not. I’m making no judgement whatsoever about the ethics of her having children, just about the logistics. That isn’t a semantic difference, it’s a substantive one. What you are doing (and what mg50 is doing) is taking the word “should” and using two different senses of the word as equivalent: that is, you are playing the semantic game that you accuse me of playing.

    Moving on, you seem stuck on this idea that “logical” means “ignoring the emotional dimension”. This is not logical or rational. Human beings have emotions, ignoring them or pretending that they are not important is ignoring that reality. So your idea of rationality is based on ignoring important components of reality, which seems pretty irrational to me. In addition to that, you’re actually wrong. Adopting children is an objectively different experience than having biological children. For one thing, there’s the whole pregancy and birth part of the experience vs. the year of interviews and weirdness. They have different costs. Behavior has been shown to be driven by genetics as well, which means that biological children are more likely to “take after” the parents, which objectively changes the parenting experience. So even if your definition of rational wasn’t non-rational, your assumption would be wrong.

    I do not agree that adoption is not a more ethical choice than having biological children. I have not tried to defend this stance by saying that you are trying to force me not to have kids, that is something that you are making up. I have defended it by saying that as it has been presented, the argument from entitlement is logically inconsistent and ignores the ethical dimension of reproductive choice and personal satisfaction.

    I’ve noticed that you tend to make things up that I didn’t say and then claim that the thing I didn’t say is a strawman. That’s pretty funny… are you doing it on purpose?

    Finally, it is not true that you (the plural you) “merely suggested it would have been more ethical” if I had adopted. The actually statement that started this was “I find it unethical to bring children into a world where the ones already in it are so inadequately cared for”. So in fact, someone did say that I was in the wrong for having done so.

  136. @sethmanapio:
    That position is only self-consistent if you accept that it is also more ethical to pay child support to an adoptive couple than it is to buy a new car.

    It is more ethical.
    But the childfree couple would also be sacrificing a lot more of their preferred lifestyle than you who’s already decided you want to raise kids (and thus already are, or were, prepared to make the investment of time and money that entails).

    Unless the “ownership” of the kids’ genetics is that much more valuable to you than the actual reward of rasing a human being. Just like the quality of our planet might actually be that much more important to some childfree couples than you might give them credit for.

  137. @sethmanapio:
    What you are doing (and what mg50 is doing) is taking the word “should” and using two different senses of the word as equivalent

    The word “should” only has one meaning:
    to be under necessity or obligation to

    Moving on, you seem stuck on this idea that “logical” means “ignoring the emotional dimension”. This is not logical or rational.
    The moment emotions are a factor, it ceases to be completely rational. I admit to having stripped the issue down to the point where emotion isn’t a factor any more, precisely because it obscures the issue at heart. When emotion becomes a part of the issue, there simply is no answer any more, and that is precisely why this entire discussion is headed nowhere: everyone is using a different value of what’s ethically better depending on their own “gut feeling”. We can agree that adopting a kid is ethically more valuable than having your own and forsaking the foster kid. We can agree that giving all your money to foster children is ethically more valuable than buying yourself luxury items. What we can’t compare is whether deciding not to have kids is more or less ethical than having your own. And what we can’t seem to agree upon is that for some people it feels unethical to bring children into this world that already has so many who are left on the sidelines. You say that unethical is too strong a word, and as a parent feel offended by the non-parents to use that kind of language to brand you, but if we’re going to let emotions play a part, then who are you to say they are wrong and you are right? After all, if everyone is allowed to factor in the weight of their feelings when comparing ethics and values, there is no right or wrong, and there is no point to argue …

  138. I’m not really old enough for people to care about child status yet (I’m 24), and I may or may not have kids in the future. However, ever since I started “dating”, I’ve done it very differently than they way people expected. While I may or may not get married some day, I have never dated with the intention or “goal” of getting married, or even having serious relationship. I rarely date anyone exclusively (although I’m 100% honest and clear about this from the beginning). If something happens to grow into a serious thing, then that’s great. If not, then that’s great too. What’s amazing is that I’ve heard so many similar things when people find out that marriage isn’t necessarily a life goal for me.

    When I mentioned that I don’t care either way if I ever get married at a family event, several older, distant relatives insisted that I would change my mind when I “grew up”.

    Plenty of people ask me if I really want to die alone. For this, I like to point out that life expectancy for men is lower than for women, and the trend is for women to marry slightly older men. Statistically, I should wait a few more years so I can legally marry a man who is at least 10 years younger than I am, if my goal is to die before he does.

    I’ve even had people ask me if I get lonely because I live alone, which is just ridiculous. Other people are allowed to come into my apartment even they don’t live there. I can even go to visit other people. I have a phone and e-mail too. It’s not like I’m in a prison cell; I just get to decide when to be social and when to be alone.

  139. @exarch: But the childfree couple would also be sacrificing a lot more of their preferred lifestyle

    ——-

    That’s in your opinion. In my opinion, giving up a car is a much smaller sacrifice than giving up biological children. My opinion is exactly as valuable when quantifying your sacrifices as your’s is in quantifying mine, and therein lays the problem with your basic case. You want it to be objective, but it just isn’t.

    It’s also problematic that you use a thesaurus to define words. A dictionary would reveal at least 5 definitions of the word “should”.

    My issue with the “quality of the planet” argument is not the importance that people place on it, it’s the question of whether being childless makes any progress towards their stated goal in a practical sense.

    You have an interesting idea of what “rational” means. Apparently, it is “rational” to ignore your emotional well being in favor of a purely utilitarian approach to life. Of course, being happy has utilitarian value, so your argument eats it’s own tail. But even if it didn’t, there is nothing rational about ignoring the emotional component of decision making any more than it would be rational to ignore the fact that you can’t fly unassisted. Both are aspects of the real, objective world that have to be considered if you want to make a rational decision.

    Finally, we cannot agree that fostering a child is more ethical than buying a car. What we agree on is that if you want to say that it is more ethical to adopt a child than have a child, you must agree that it is more ethical to adopt a child than it is to spend your resources on any non-charitable cause beyond the most basic neccessities.

    I do not agree with this conception of ethical behavior. For one thing, it appears to view resources as zero-sum, as if there is a fixed pie that we must fight over. For another, it demands that we ignore our own self interest as a motivating factor. This doesn’t strike me as behavior conducive to the health and well being of a primate, so I don’t buy it as an ethical imperitive anymore than I would any other form of penance.

  140. @sethmanapio: “I believe that we, as a society, have an obligation to care for these children, but that no unwilling person is ethically obligated to raise a foster child or bear the entire financial burden of raising a foster child.”

    I’ll reiterate that I agree with that.

    “if your position truly is that it is unethical to buy a new car, or a house or a stereo or college tuition or anything beyond the neccessities so long as one single foster child needs to be put into a good home”

    My position is that it is less ethical, but doing so is not immoral or evil. In fact, I would consider someone who put aside their unwillingness to be a parent in order to foster a kid to be fantastically heroic. I do not obligate them to do this (just as I do not obligate you).

    “You should realize that each person on “your” side of the argument is making a different case and using different reasoning. So when you say that “no one” has said something, or that you never said something, you are sometimes referring to my refutations of things that other people said, which are different than the things that you said.”

    OK, but you seemed to be responding the same way to everybody.

    “However, I find it disingenous that you believe that you have stated that the argument applies to you, when previously you claimed that it could only practically be applied to other people who also weren’t interested in adopting children. I think that’s a bit of hair-splitting, but what the heck. We’ll take it as read that you think that your ethical obligation (or whatever you want to call it) to spend resources on foster children is equivalent to mine.”

    “In that case, there is no relationship between whether I have children or not and the ethical situation. Since we both share the same ethical position, and one of has kids and the other doesn’t, it makes no more sense to say that it is “more ethical” to adopt children rather than having children than to say that it is “more ethical” to spend money on child support rather than on any non-neccessity. My position as a parent or prospective parent is completely irrelevant”.

    It may be irrelevant to the ethics I outlined but it is not irrelevant in the practical sense of reducing the numbers of children in care. As a prospective parent you already are willing to have kids. Prospective parents are really the only people in reality who are going to adopt. There is no substantive difference between genetic and fostered children and if more people realised this there would IMO be more willing adopters. This has nothing to do with forcing unwilling parents to adopt.

    Now you claim that emotionally you just can’t stomach the thought of giving up biological children for adopted ones. But it is based on no rational reason. So don’t adopt – there is no obligation to do so – but at least recognise that you have created an added demand on resources to satisfy yourself. Furthermore, if this is brought to the attention of prospective parents I believe many would find that when they think about it, they do not have the same emotional attachment to their genes as you profess to have. I do not accept that this is a meaningless position.

    The ethical argument has essentially been a massive, though interesting, detour from this: some people don’t think enough about having children, because it is their right to do so, that’s what they’re supposed to do, and who are the rest of society to say anything negative about procreation anyway. This attitude annoys me as I think it has the potential to do harm whilst self-righteously (“of course my kids will be good for the world”) doing nothing to reduce the suffering of people who are already in existence. But I am not trying to flame all parents by raising the issue.

    (I can’t resist answering some of the critiques of my ethics!

    “It suggests that the sacrifice of one’s own happiness is the height of ethics”

    It suggests that attempting to reduce the suffering, or to increase the quality of life, of human beings is the height of ethics. In general. Such acts usually involve some form of sacrifice.

    @sethmanapio: “it appears to view resources as zero-sum, as if there is a fixed pie that we must fight over”

    No, it works in non-zero sum situations as well.

    “it demands that we ignore our own self interest as a motivating factor”

    It states that acting from self-interest is not ethical. Of course, people make plenty of selfish decisions and doing so is not immoral. But acting exclusively from self-interest is. You can have biological children without being immoral.)

  141. sethmanapio: “No, I do not think that strategic superiority connotes ethical superiority.”

    The “should” there was the “should” of rational decision-making, not the “should” of moral obligation.

    I reiterate: I still have no idea why “If you wanted to be moral, you shouldn’t have had kids” is so much more offensive than “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had kids.”

  142. @mg50: I reiterate: I still have no idea why “If you wanted to be moral, you shouldn’t have had kids” is so much more offensive than “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had kids.”

    ——

    Well, since I didn’t say I would express the latter sentiment at all, I’m not sure why you ask. But there is a distinction between tactical advice and moral judgement.

  143. @Shadow Of A Doubt: It may be irrelevant to the ethics I outlined but it is not irrelevant in the practical sense of reducing the numbers of children in care.

    ——–

    Actually, it is. There’s no substantive difference between a “child-free” couple that is unwilling to adopt and a parenting couple that is unwilling to adopt… except that the former couple likely has greater resources. You may not see the substantive difference between the experience of having biological children and raising adoptive children, but that substantive difference is there.

    But it appears that you and I agree that the position “it is unethical to have children rather than adopt children”, which was the one I originally objected to, is a load of dingo’s kidneys. This idea that reproduction is an evil act (and please, before you accuse me of a straw man, spend some time with a dictionary, a thesaurus, and the concept of transitivity) is what I was objecting to in the first place.

    What you are trying to describe, I think, is the idea that preferring to adopt children is a noble act. That is, it goes above and beyond the bounds of ordinary ethical expectations in a laudatory way. Which is a fine sentiment, and while I don’t actually agree whole-heartedly with that sentiment, it is free of value judgements towards biological parents and so is not actually offensive.

  144. @Shadow Of A Doubt: OK, but you seemed to be responding the same way to everybody.

    ———

    Only in the sense that I castled early in the debate. Look, in that post you respond to a statement that I made to exarch, saying that you wanted to respond to a critique of “your” ethics. But you probably wouldn’t also want to own Exarch’s habit of making things up that I didn’t say and then claiming that the thing I didn’t say is a strawman.

    I’ve done my best not to tar everyone with the same brushes, and to respond to each person individually. But my position is consistent, so where your positions are consistent, my reponses will be too.

  145. sethmanapio: “Well, since I didn’t say I would express the latter sentiment at all, I’m not sure why you ask. But there is a distinction between tactical advice and moral judgement.”

    You already did express the latter sentiment by agreeing that “it would be smarter to delay getting pregnant until some future date.” And while you keep insisting that there’s a relevant difference between the two, you haven’t deigned to divulge what it is after repeated inquiry. In fact, the only reasons for the offensiveness of “It’s immoral to have kids given blah blah blah” you have cared to provide was that it entails first, that your children are of negative value and second, that the world would’ve been better off without your kids; these were explained to be manifestly incorrect, and you haven’t been defending them since. So methinks you’re just talking out of your ass at this point. No offense.

  146. @sethmanapio:
    For one thing, it appears to view resources as zero-sum, as if there is a fixed pie that we must fight over.

    Bingo! You got it!

    There is a fixed pie. Our planet can, at this moment, only support a certain number of people with a certain quality of life. If we wanted every person on the planet to have the same degree of luxury we have here in the west, we’d need about 5 times the resources that our planet currently generates.

    So every extra baby in the west is going to hog a share of the pie. A share that, compared to the living standard in third world countries, is big enough to probably accomodate half a dozen babies.

    So by us in the west not having as many babies, we’re reducing our load on the fixed resources available, and allowing people in other parts of the world to improve their conditions.

    Of course, we’re not going to reduce all suffering by having less babies in the west. And technology is probably going to make our use of the resources we have more efficient. And third world nations are going to need to get their reproduction rates in check as well to improve the quality of life there.

    But it has to start somewhere. If we selfishly keep hogging an increasingly larger part of the pie, there comes a point where WE are the problem. Where we are the reason resources are insufficient to sustain everybody. Where our culture of “you do as you damn well please as long as you can pick up the tab for your excess” becomes unethical or even immoral.

    One kid more or less isn’t going to make the difference. But a difference is needed, or this place is gonna go to hell …

    Some people just attach a greater ethical/moral value to that responsibility than you. Or me.

  147. @sethmanapio:
    It’s also problematic that you use a thesaurus to define words. A dictionary would reveal at least 5 definitions of the word “should”.

    You’re right, it was still on thesaurus from a previous lookup.

    Although I can now see the misunderstanding about “your daughter should not have a child at age 13”. I assume you were using the last definition (used in auxiliary function to express a request in a polite manner)? While we were using should in the second definition (in auxiliary function to express obligation, propriety, or expediency)?

    To me, as a non-native english speaker, “should have” referring to past events implies something that was supposed (or very likely) to happen but didn’t. In fact it seems to mean many things along a scale of probablity about past events, from merely possible to absolutely required.

  148. @mg50: So methinks you’re just talking out of your ass at this point.

    ——–

    I made that statement that I would counsel someone, concerning future decisions, that it would be smarter to delay pregnancy until a later time in their life. That is a different statement than the statement “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had kids.” So, no. I didn’t say what you want me to have said. You seem to not understand that a blanket lifetime ethical injunction has different connotations than tactical advice about current situations.

    And I’m sorry, but if you don’t understand that tactical advice and moral judgement are different things, you aren’t competent to debate anything at all, much less ethics.

    If you didn’t know how to play chess, you should have said so when you sat down at the table.

  149. @exarch: Where our culture of “you do as you damn well please as long as you can pick up the tab for your excess” becomes unethical or even immoral.

    ——

    I think you make a basic mistake here that a lot of people make about the nature of picking up the tab. If we were actually picking up our tab, there would be no problem and it would be impossible for there to be a problem. The real problem is that people do not pick up the tab. In fact, what is typical is for wealthy nations and wealthy individuals and wealthy institutions to push the secondary costs of their behavior–pollution, debt, resource degredation, and so on–off of themselves and onto other people. So, for example, the great financial institutions bankrupt themselves and damage the economy and then make taxpayers foot the bill. Or a company lobbies to kill environmental legislation, thus pushing the cost of their pollution onto the populace at large. Etc. Etc.

    This kind of unethical behavior is what has to change in order to allow for sustainable growth. We don’t have a population problem–at least, not an unsolvable one–but we do have an ethics problem.

    Ideas like having some people not bear children, etc. are not serious ideas if your goal is to build a more sustainable economy. They just push one more cost onto the middle class, which is not ethically sound.

    So the problem isn’t that I don’t take this issue seriously. I do. It’s that I think that your prescribed solution is not merely meaningless but actually unethical.

  150. sethmanapio: “I made that statement that I would counsel someone, concerning future decisions, that it would be smarter to delay pregnancy until a later time in their life. That is a different statement than the statement “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had kids.””

    The statement under consideration is “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had your kid at 13,” not “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had kids.” And the former is indeed the same as the sentence “It’s much smarter to delay pregnancy.”

    sethmanapio: “You seem to not understand that a blanket lifetime ethical injunction has different connotations than tactical advice about current situations.”

    It has different connotations. You have not, however, successfully pointed out which connotations are relevant here – which connotations make the one more offensive than the other.

    sethmanapio: “If you didn’t know how to play chess, you should have said so when you sat down at the table.”

    Chest-thumping doesn’t disguise evasiveness and incorrigibility; it only brings them out. I’m finished with you.

  151. @sethmanapio:
    I think you make a basic mistake here that a lot of people make about the nature of picking up the tab. If we were actually picking up our tab, there would be no problem and it would be impossible for there to be a problem. The real problem is that people do not pick up the tab. In fact, what is typical is for wealthy nations and wealthy individuals and wealthy institutions to push the secondary costs of their behavior–pollution, debt, resource degredation, and so on–off of themselves and onto other people.

    That is precisely what I’m talking about.
    We’re picking up the financial side of the tab, but we’re not reducing pollution, we’re not reducing our consumption of resources. We’re not always replacing what resources we’ve depleted (when that’s even possible).
    But we currently live in a culture where it’s sufficient to pay the financial part without consideration of the long term effects. And that doesn’t appear to be changing very quickly.

    There is a limited amount of resources.
    Your mockery notwithstanding, we currently do not have the technology needed to drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuel by replacing it with solar power. I.e. energy extracted from the sun is limited by our own current technological level. And it doesn’t seem like possible scientific advances in the future can reliably be considered as “extra pie”, since they don’t exist yet (and may even come too late anyway). Not to mention that it fails to take into account the initial resource investment needed to build infrastructure for solar energy collection.

    So for all practical purposes, the pie is pretty much fixed (or growing far too slowly to be significant), and as such our current global population size is actually a lot more flexible than our available resources.

    So we either have to reduce our living standard, or we have to reduce the number of people enjoying this kind of living standard. Neither option is very appealing, but they’re the only options on the table that don’t require scientists to invent unrealistically advanced technology within a laughably short timespan for that to even be possible.

    By the way, I apologise, I didn’t know we were playing chess. I thought we were merely debating an essay about not having kids.
    My mistake …

  152. @exarch: Your mockery notwithstanding, we currently do not have the technology needed to drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuel by replacing it with solar power.

    ——–

    And we don’t need to. There’s enough coal in Oklahoma to power civilization for at least 200 years.

    This “fixed pie” idea of yours is just counter-factual, our resources are not the problem, allocation and social structure of the problem. We do not need to reduce our living standard or reduce the number of people living at this standard, we need to actually address the real problems that make non-sustainable technologies appear cheap. If we don’t, then your band-aid solutions are meaningless.

  153. @sethmanapio:
    There’s enough coal in Oklahoma to power civilization for at least 200 years.

    And how long is it going to take to get that coal out of there?
    It’s not like 200 years worth of coal is gonna be available right away. Nor is using it all at once going to improve living standards in third world countries for very long.

    The problem with your line of thinking is that it’s assuming society and standard of living is stagnant. That people in Africa don’t mind starving to death for another 50 years.
    Third world nations aren’t going to remain technologically backward indefinitely. They are going to need more energy, and are going to find it somewhere. Be that at their own expense or ours.

    So unless we set an example of responsible use of resources, they’re gonna fuck this planet up way faster than we’ve managed to do in the past 200 years.

    One band-aid solution isn’t going to make a difference. But it’s still going to make a bigger difference than no solution at all. A smaller population is a first step towards reducing the resources needed. Less people, less cars, less food needed, less transportation, less electricity needed, less fossil fuel consumption.

    None of these systems operate in complete isolation …

  154. @mg50: The statement under consideration is “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had your kid at 13,” not “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had kids.”

    @mg50: I reiterate: I still have no idea why “If you wanted to be moral, you shouldn’t have had kids” is so much more offensive than “If you wanted to be smart, you shouldn’t have had kids.”

    Just let me know when you settle on which one of these statements you want to claim I said.

    You’re right, though. I haven’t bothered to explain why tactical advice about future decisions to specific people is less offensive to me than moral condemenation of a decision. I wasn’t being evasive at all: I assumed that if you knew the definition of “tactics” and of “morals” you woud be able to figure it out on your own.

    Tactical advice can be given without judgement about the character or moral capacity of the person getting the advice. Tactics have to do with future actions, and they don’t have an implication of what you “should” do, in the sense of moral obligation. So if you would give the tactical advice of “delay pregnancy”, it does not imply that you do something wrong, immoral, or even stupid if you don’t, merely that you followed a different plan with different consequences.

    Moral condemnation, on the other had, does imply that you did something wrong and immoral. It implies that I did something immoral in bringing my children into the world, that their very existence is evidence of my poor ethics, and that is offensive to me.

  155. exarch, you are correct, we do not currently have the technology. You say “So we either have to reduce our living standard, or we have to reduce the number of people enjoying this kind of living standard.” So which are you doing? Reducing your standard of living or reducing the number of people enjoying this kind of living standard? Not reproducing is not reducing the number, not reproducing is only not increasing the number.

    There is another option, that of increasing technology. No, that need not be unrealistically advanced technology within a laughably short timespan.” That is a straw-man that lets you do nothing regarding increasing technology to match the nothing that you are doing in reducing your standard of living and the nothing you are doing in reducing the number of people.

    Reducing the number of people is quite problematic, and is not something I am prepared to do. My standard of living is already very Spartan, not sure I can reduce it very much more while being consistent with trying to advance technology.

    What is important is not the number of people, but rather the environmental impact per person times the number of people. I do know how to decrease the environmental impact per person, and have done so. I invented and commercialized a technology that has reduced CO2 emissions from cement manufacture. I commercialized a process for removing carbon from flyash so the flyash can be used as a substitute for cement on a 1-for-1 basis. We have used it to displace over 5 million tons of cement. To make a ton of cement, two tons of minerals are mined and a ton of CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere. In other words, through my efforts, there is less CO2 in the atmosphere to the tune of over 5 million tons. My net-environmental impact is positive, that is the world is a better place with more environmental resources because of my life.

    My goal is to reduce the environmental impact of people on the environment still more. I don’t see that as a zero-sum, I don’t see that individuals are equivalent in their potential impact. I know how to reduce the environmental impact of people by huge amounts, getting the resources to convince others to do so is my problem. I do believe that some aspects of my inventing abilities are due to my specific genetics. Some aspects of that will be inherited by my children. My goal in raising my children is to induce them to have a positive effect on the world too. I know how to do that in the context of technology development. I know that others don’t know how to do it. I think it is unethical for me to not develop and pursue technology and changes that will make the world a better place.

  156. @exarch: A smaller population is a first step towards reducing the resources needed.

    ———–

    A smaller U.S. population doesn’t actually help very much. Most population growth is occuring elsewhere, not here. And population reduction does not require or even imply a lack of reproduction on my part.

    You are looking at the wrong problem. The real problem is how we access cost. If we fix that, everything else follows. If we don’t fix that, nothing we do will ultimately matter: our civilization will collapse.

    And uh… no. I’m not modeling a “no change” world. That would be almost as silly as claiming that the wealth pie is fixed.

  157. @daedalus2u: “Not reproducing is not reducing the number, not reproducing is only not increasing the number”

    You’re ignoring death.

    “What is important is not the number of people, but rather the environmental impact per person times the number of people.”

    So obviously it follows that it’s stupid to think about reducing the number of people since that unknown is clearly equivalent to 1.

    “My net-environmental impact is positive, that is the world is a better place with more environmental resources because of my life.”

    Argument from Personal Awesomeness.

    You get pissy when someone says:

    “if I’m ever economically capable, I’ll feel morally obligated to adopt”,

    but have no problem claiming:

    “I think it is unethical for me to not develop and pursue technology and changes that will make the world a better place”?

    If you mean “unethical” as in “morally obliged” then you’re being inconsistent. If you mean “not noble” then that was an entirely pointless thing to write.

  158. @daedalus2u:
    So which are you doing? Reducing your standard of living or reducing the number of people enjoying this kind of living standard? Not reproducing is not reducing the number, not reproducing is only not increasing the number.

    This is creationist logic. No, a single person cannot “evolve”. Any changes within me happened upon my conception.
    Likewise, I cannot reduce the population unless I actively start eliminating people, or myself, which I don’t plan to do. But as a society, we CAN reduce our numbers.

    What am I doing to reduce my consumption of resources?
    I try to use as little energy as possible (don’t turn on the heat until it gets a lot colder, turn off the computer or lights when I’m not using them, wash my clothes on a lower temperature, etc…). I also pay a tiny fraction extra for energy that my electric company certifies to be generated in an environmentally friendly way.
    Etc…

    There’s lots of little things. On my own, it’s not going to have that much of an impact, but because everyone else is also doing it, it’s a sizable difference.
    But it’s still not going to be enough on its own.

    As you said, our carbon footprint is a combination of factors. Our carbon footprint is also magnitudes larger than that of your average Ethiopian. So one less westerner is going to have a much bigger impact on the global environment than one less Ethiopian.

    If you think not yet invented technology is going to be the end all fix all of this problem, you are severely deluded. We can’t sit around waiting for the problem to be fixed by someone else. (And by “someone else”, I mean scientific advances)

Leave a Reply

You May Also Enjoy

Close
Close