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.