Castrate People To Prevent Global Warming Suffering?

For another take, be sure not to miss this.

When I was much younger and vastly stupider, I made a snide remark to my father who was engaged in what I thought was a drudgery. He shot me a look that was so at once so gentle and so withering that I have never forgotten it. “And here I thought I was enjoying myself,” he said.

This lesson in minding my own damn business was one of the crucial inoculations I received that prevented me from catching the disease of intellectualism.

But it was more than that. It also taught me what should have been obvious: we are often not the best judges of another’s happiness. True, there are limits and universals—there can be no proscription on proscriptions—and as parents we must act as judges, but for the nearly infinite mundane activities of mankind, we should not criticize, nor direct, nor legislate, nor regulate, nor bureaucratize, etc.

Pete Singer has not learned this lesson. He, and many of his fellow academic intellectual—many of whom are award winning—philosophers say that it would have been “better” if you had never been born; further, that it would be “better” if you never have children.

For people who categorize themselves as brilliant, what is most amazing is that those who promulgate such theories never see the immediate contradiction. If the brilliant had never been born, then the world would never have figured out that they should never have been born, either. For if these vast intellects never appeared, then mankind would have gone on procreating and saying to itself, “And here we thought we were enjoying ourselves.”

But never mind. It is an un-shakeable premise with the intellectual that any human necessarily suffers, or that the probability of a miserable life for the unborn is non-zero.

The first suggested premise is obviously false—it can be believed only if you insist that anybody who claims to have led a useful, happy, productive life is lying. And once you start believing that, you are no longer worth arguing with.

The second suggested premise is just as obviously true. But the probability is non-zero only because anything that might happen to us is contingent. The probability of misery is not large for all, and near zero for many. To say that it is large is to ascribe to yourself predictive powers that have been empirically shown not to exist. But who needs evidence when you have belief?

Singer quotes approvingly from David Benatar, author of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence (by quoting, Singer admits that Benatar’s existence has been useful: the contradiction again). Singer:

To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her…[E]veryone will suffer to some extent, and if our species continues to reproduce, we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. Hence continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none.

The premise that, accepting someone will have a good life, but that that life is not a benefit to him is so discreditable that it is not even false. But it is necessary that you accept it as not just true, but laden with a kind of mystical significance of the kind that ordinary mortals cannot be brought to see but that intellectuals can.

So, is it to the gas chamber with us unhappy people? After all, if our lives are not a benefit—we are a blot on nature!—and that we are only seemingly happy, then it would be better to snuff us out as quickly as possible, would it not?

Singer says that because of the suffering sure to be wrought by global warming, we should “make ourselves the last generation on earth.” How? Well, “If we would all agree to have ourselves sterilized then no sacrifices would be required.” Italics all mine, baby: this is the second time in a week we meet those would use castration to fight global warming. Hey, Petey, if you’re looking for sacrifices, then there’s no better way than to set the example.

A world without people is a blissful place to the intellectual. Why, just think: “No one’s rights will be violated”! One of the many, many commenters anxious to agree with Singer’s religion says, “I love the idea of a planet devoid of people, healing itself from our damage, taken over by animals and plants.”

Ah, the contradiction again, this time in a different form. The intellectual somehow believes he will be able to smile down on creation after mankind has been exterminated. He will then say, “Now is better than before” and be oblivious to the counterfactual, which is that we cannot know what the world would have been like had we never been here.

There is much more to be said, but I have gone on too long. Besides, it’s nearly time to pretend to enjoy myself watching Greece tackle South Korea.

Oh, did I mention that Singer is “Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne”? My, such honors. It must therefore be that I am wrong.

16 Comments

  1. For thousands of years, many Hindus and Buddhists have accepted the premise that life is preponderantly more painful than pleasurable, but also accepted the premise that we return to life again and again. So merely committing suicide or refraining from reproduction won’t end the suffering. Instead we must develop the ability to prevent rebirth, which, while extremely difficult, can be done, they claim. Personally, I don’t know if we are in a position to accurately guage the worthwhileness of living (assuming there is an objective truth to the matter). We are the decendents of those who have chosen to continue to live and to reproduce, and that may well have required that we accentuate whatever there is that is positive and eliminate the negative (by looking away from it as much as we can). So, even if we accept the hedonic utilitarianism that seems to lie at the basis of the Eastern views and Singer’s and Benatar’s as well, we can’t be confident in our measurment of the balance of pleasures and pains.

  2. Plague,

    Did you notice that Singer can hardly write one sentence that isn’t self-contradictory? He says that—probably via an enlightened and mandatory eugenics policy—we could all be made to stop reproducing and thus avoid pain in future generations, “we could party our way into extinction!”

    But then he goes on an on about how any life is not worth living because human life has but at best “fleeting” (he quotes Schopenhauer) satisfaction. If this were true, then there would be no reason to “party our way to extinction” because we obviously could not be satisfied with such a party.

    The so-called Malthusian viewpoint underlying his contradictions is also absurd. I have tried to point this out before, but I haven’t yet been successful. But I’ll try again: there cannot be too many humans in the sense that if we could not “sustain” the humans alive then those humans would not be alive. Does that tautology make sense? It clearly does not to many environmentalists who somehow argue that, if we are not careful, there will be “too many” of us. But there cannot be! It is a physical, biological, and logical impossibility.

  3. What is missing from Singer’s pitch is the what’s-in-it-for-you angle. Any skilled negotiator knows you can’t work entirely for the benefit of one side of the table. Even the pro-human sacrifice advocates in times past had the sense to see the need for the element of exchange–for one’s life, one will be able to commune with the immortal on some level or have favors in the afterlife. Singer ought to go back to the drawing board and work out this kink.

    It’s maddening that people can espouse these ideas and be greeted with thoughtful chin-stroking (“Say, you might have something there”) and not with contempt. It is one thing if a second grader comes home with an absurd idea he’s trying to work out for himself. It is quite another when an academic of stature does the same thing in full public view.

  4. Briggs, you bad boy, it is 40 degrees, dark, and raining out here on the 12th of June, and you had to bring up Professor Singer.

  5. He can always go jump in a lake, or off a bridge, to terminate his unhappiness. If, however, his happiness is predicated on me jumping in a lake, then he will be miserable until the day he kicks the bucket.

    Poor Singer! His brain is too big and his heart is too small. He is defective. Better for all of us if his kind doesn’t procreate. Somebody grab the castration pliers and we’ll snip Singer. For the good of the planet.

  6. Is this an example of circular logic with only left turns? Inquiring minds probably don’t care…

  7. This doesn’t surprise me, as it simply takes environmentalism to its logical extreme.

    Environmentalists believe that when other animals eat, build nests and procreate that this constitutes an ecosystem. When humans do the same this means destruction of the ecosystem. Logically, however much we minimise our impact, it will always be possible to do less. Environmentalism is a race to zero, a puritanical and misanthropic one-way street which devalues human lives.

  8. The world would be safer if they spent their time debating “Which is better, e or pi?”

    Their current obsession is dangerous to the rest of us.

  9. Mr. Siger et al should start improving the earth one corpse at a time and it would end all my suffering if he went first! See problem solved.

    Next!

  10. Singer is also author of the ‘Ethics’ entry in Encyclopaedia Brittanica, the author of ‘Animal Liberation’ and a moving force behind ‘The Great Apes Project’, the aim of which is to extend human rights to all primates. In an interview, Singer made it clear that this was intended only to be the thin end of the wedge, ultimately leading to the extension of human rights to all creatures.

    I seem to recall that some years ago Singer’s views on euthenasia of an arguably eugenicist variety had him deported from Germany. He has held that the life of an intelligent dog is more ‘valuable’ than that of a retarded human infant and holds that in some contexts a parent should have the right to terminate his or her child’s life until a year after birth.

    I regret to admit that Singer is, like me, Australian.

  11. Intellectualism apparently excludes any knowledge of Evolution. A World without Man is free to evolve some other dominant species: probably it will evolve Mankind Mk II for the same reasons it evolved Mankind Mk I in the first place.

  12. To add to the fire I will mention that Singer is the father of three – how would like to know your dad thinks this way about you – and is currently spending gobs of money for full-time care for his mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. You all know Pete and co. exclude themselves from what they would impose on us little people.

    A few months ago there was the hubbub over the female Canadian columnist’s article suggesting that we in the west should serious consider adopting China’s one child policy what with AGW and the decimation of the ecology. Of course, some enterprising blogger took about 30 seconds to find out and spread the news that Ms. Columnist was herself the mother of two.

    The hypocrisy is breathtaking and revealing.

    I’ll leave you all with a look inside another dark, monstrous, “progressive” mind.

    “I do not pretend that birth control is the only way in which population can be kept from increasing… War… has hitherto been disappointing in this respect, but perhaps bacteriological war may prove more effective. If a Black Death could be spread throughout the world once in every generation survivors could procreate freely without making the world too full… The state of affairs might be somewhat unpleasant, but what of that? Really high-minded people are indifferent to happiness, especially other people’s… There are three ways of securing a society that shall be stable as regards population. The first is that of birth control, the second that of infanticide or really destructive wars, and the third that of general misery except for a powerful minority…”
    – Bertrand Russell, THE IMPACT OF SCIENCE ON SOCIETY 1953

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