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  1. #1 NYT: Should this be the last generation? 
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    http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com...generation/?hp

    JUNE 6, 2010, 5:15 PM
    Should This Be the Last Generation?

    By PETER SINGER

    Have you ever thought about whether to have a child? If so, what factors entered into your decision? Was it whether having children would be good for you, your partner and others close to the possible child, such as children you may already have, or perhaps your parents? For most people contemplating reproduction, those are the dominant questions. Some may also think about the desirability of adding to the strain that the nearly seven billion people already here are putting on our planet’s environment. But very few ask whether coming into existence is a good thing for the child itself. Most of those who consider that question probably do so because they have some reason to fear that the child’s life would be especially difficult — for example, if they have a family history of a devastating illness, physical or mental, that cannot yet be detected prenatally.

    All this suggests that we think it is wrong to bring into the world a child whose prospects for a happy, healthy life are poor, but we don’t usually think the fact that a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life is a reason for bringing the child into existence. This has come to be known among philosophers as “the asymmetry” and it is not easy to justify. But rather than go into the explanations usually proffered — and why they fail — I want to raise a related problem. How good does life have to be, to make it reasonable to bring a child into the world? Is the standard of life experienced by most people in developed nations today good enough to make this decision unproblematic, in the absence of specific knowledge that the child will have a severe genetic disease or other problem?

    If there were to be no future generations, there would be nothing for us to feel to guilty about. Is there anything wrong with this scenario?

    The 19th-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer held that even the best life possible for humans is one in which we strive for ends that, once achieved, bring only fleeting satisfaction. New desires then lead us on to further futile struggle and the cycle repeats itself.

    Schopenhauer’s pessimism has had few defenders over the past two centuries, but one has recently emerged, in the South African philosopher David Benatar, author of a fine book with an arresting title: “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.” One of Benatar’s arguments trades on something like the asymmetry noted earlier. 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. Few of us would think it right to inflict severe suffering on an innocent child, even if that were the only way in which we could bring many other children into the world. Yet everyone 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.

    Erin Schell Benatar also argues that human lives are, in general, much less good than we think they are. We spend most of our lives with unfulfilled desires, and the occasional satisfactions that are all most of us can achieve are insufficient to outweigh these prolonged negative states. If we think that this is a tolerable state of affairs it is because we are, in Benatar’s view, victims of the illusion of pollyannaism. This illusion may have evolved because it helped our ancestors survive, but it is an illusion nonetheless. If we could see our lives objectively, we would see that they are not something we should inflict on anyone.

    Here is a thought experiment to test our attitudes to this view. Most thoughtful people are extremely concerned about climate change. Some stop eating meat, or flying abroad on vacation, in order to reduce their carbon footprint. But the people who will be most severely harmed by climate change have not yet been conceived. If there were to be no future generations, there would be much less for us to feel to guilty about.

    So why don’t we make ourselves the last generation on earth? If we would all agree to have ourselves sterilized then no sacrifices would be required — we could party our way into extinction!

    Of course, it would be impossible to get agreement on universal sterilization, but just imagine that we could. Then is there anything wrong with this scenario? Even if we take a less pessimistic view of human existence than Benatar, we could still defend it, because it makes us better off — for one thing, we can get rid of all that guilt about what we are doing to future generations — and it doesn’t make anyone worse off, because there won’t be anyone else to be worse off.

    Is a world with people in it better than one without? Put aside what we do to other species — that’s a different issue. Let’s assume that the choice is between a world like ours and one with no sentient beings in it at all. And assume, too — here we have to get fictitious, as philosophers often do — that if we choose to bring about the world with no sentient beings at all, everyone will agree to do that. No one’s rights will be violated — at least, not the rights of any existing people. Can non-existent people have a right to come into existence?

    I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now. But justifying that choice forces us to reconsider the deep issues with which I began. Is life worth living? Are the interests of a future child a reason for bringing that child into existence? And is the continuance of our species justifiable in the face of our knowledge that it will certainly bring suffering to innocent future human beings?
    What do you think?
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  2. #2  
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    So why don’t we make ourselves the last generation on earth? If we would all agree to have ourselves sterilized then no sacrifices would be required — we could party our way into extinction!
    You first.

    In a 2001 review of Midas Dekker's Dearest Pet: On Bestiality, Singer argues that sexual activities between humans and animals that result in harm to the animal should remain illegal, but that "sex with animals does not always involve cruelty" and that "mutually satisfying activities" of a sexual nature may sometimes occur between humans and animals,


    He's a fan of PETA as well, a vegan
    Last edited by Sonnabend; 06-16-2010 at 03:48 AM.
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member Constitutionally Speaking's Avatar
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    I think this is a GREAT idea!!!!

    We can promote this in all of the lefty circles. Hell, we can pay for the party - let them have their fill of drugs sex and booze - as long as they sterilize themselves.

    We can build them a resort with the most lavish accommodations and in the most exotic places - let them live out their lives in a totally hedonistic bliss. Just keep them the hell away from the children so they don't keep brainwashing them.

    It would save our nation.
    I long for the days when our President actually liked our country.
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  4. #4  
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    I never wanted children, so I didn't have them, but it had nothing to do with my world view. It was just a personal decision.
    "Today, [the American voter] chooses his rulers as he buys bootleg whiskey, never knowing precisely what he is getting, only certain that it is not what it pretends to be." - H.L. Mencken
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  5. #5  
    If there was ever an 'end of the world' post, this qualifies.

    Luckily, in every social upheaval that results in mass death and cultural realignment, it's guys like this one who are always the very first up against the wall. :)
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  6. #6  
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    Not sure why this qualifies as an end of the world thread, unless I misunderstand the purpose of this section - while the editorial spends most of its time laying out a pretty bleak and extreme view of an old 19th century philosopher, the article is ended with the author's disagreement of it:


    I do think it would be wrong to choose the non-sentient universe. In my judgment, for most people, life is worth living. Even if that is not yet the case, I am enough of an optimist to believe that, should humans survive for another century or two, we will learn from our past mistakes and bring about a world in which there is far less suffering than there is now. But justifying that choice forces us to reconsider the deep issues with which I began. Is life worth living? Are the interests of a future child a reason for bringing that child into existence? And is the continuance of our species justifiable in the face of our knowledge that it will certainly bring suffering to innocent future human beings?

    What do you think?
    So he doesn't want to "party to extinction", after all. He also believes that we should, as the post laid out, sacrifice some our own pleasure for the sake of the future desires of not-yet-existent people. I agree - I'm sure most others do too. The question he's raising is, why? How do we justify this conclusion? Most importantly, just how much should we sacrifice of our own pleasure, to either prevent suffering or promote the happiness of future generations?

    It's also interesting to note, that this is the same Peter Singer who literally wrote the book (Animal Liberation) which the animal rights movement used as its inspiration (though, I'm not sure how related the two are anymore), and also is a strong proponent of abortion, and has been very active in the debate. He's very active in debates surrounding all sorts of life and death issues like abortion, and euthanasia, etc.

    Because of his views on these issues, most Christians who know of him, pretty much think he's satan incarnate - though if one actually dares to read his work, one will find he is far more reasonable than he is portrayed.
    Last edited by wilbur; 06-16-2010 at 03:21 PM.
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  7. #7  
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    Because if you don't want to sound like an inhuman monster. . . which to many minds, Peter Singer DID EVEN BEFORE THIS . . .there are some questions you don't ask.

    The idea of voluntary extinction is against our very evolutionary programming/Creator's vision and he knows this. It's and it's even more restrictive cousin, eugenics, been voted down time and again by human action and society.

    And based on his history, his nominal objection at the end seems like a put-on. Even if he probably means it.

    And...dude, he just comes across as the "never lived in the real world intellectual" that wants to tell us how to live our lives that makes Americans as a people crazy.

    Libs wonder why people like the Duggars and Sarah Palin exist and are popular? Peter Singer. You can't have the former without the latter.

    ~QC
    "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." Rudyard Kipling - (1865-1936)

    Context doesn't matter to this liberal it seems/ as long as it satisfies his godless dreams/ like monkeys throwing sh!t as castles in air/ as long as he throws/that is the extent of his care.
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  8. #8  
    Senior Member warpig's Avatar
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    There are many more who support his view of humans

    “We are all of us, dogs and barnacles, pigeons and crabgrass…equally remarkable and equally dispensable.” (Quote from, “Human Beings Deserve the Right to Life Because They Are Human,” Wesley J. Smith, Life News, 8/27/07)

    “Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs.” (Earth First! Journal editor, John Daily)

    “To feed a starving child is to exacerbate the world population problem.” (Yale professor Lamont Cole)

    “The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States.” ….Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund

    “Human happiness, and…fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet…until such time as homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.”…David Graber, research biologist with the National Park Service
    "What this country needs are more unemployed politicians."
    -Edward Langley

    "Liberals are the type of people who go on safari and wonder why they can't get out and pet the lions..."- warpig
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  9. #9  
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    Peter Singer doesn't ask any different questions than any other philosopher. Even theologian's ask the same sorts of questions. They often ask (and try to answer) questions like, "What is the meaning of life?", "Why should we value our lives?", "Why should we value the lives of others?", "Do our lives actually have value at all?", and yes - "Why should we care about the what happens to the world after we don't exist?"

    I'm not sure why any philosophical questions of these sorts should be off limits, ever. It's not like we have any certain answers to any of them. It's really the answers , not the questions, that bother some people any ways, isn't it?

    And based on his history, his nominal objection at the end seems like a put-on. Even if he probably means it.

    And...dude, he just comes across as the "never lived in the real world intellectual" that wants to tell us how to live our lives that makes Americans as a people crazy.
    That's pretty extraordinary - so you know enough about him to be able to peer into his psyche from across the internet, and judge his character?

    I'd hazard a guess that you're impression of him comes mostly from second-hand rather than first-hand experience. I don't know how anyone can read what he writes - or even what he says in lecture or debate - and walk away thinking he is anything but calm, reasonable, non-dogmatic, careful, methodical and intellectually humble. You don't have to agree with every word he says to notice the *huge* discrepancy between what this guy actually says, and what others (mostly Christian thinkers) say that he says. I've never seen anything like it, really. Hell, he even got some begrudging approval from Bill O'Reilly when he went on his show, even though you could tell Bill was expecting a different outcome.

    I've read quite a bit from him, and if you had asked me my opinion about how he would answer the questions he raised in the article - I'd have been right - that he'd say life is probably worth living. I don't think it was a put on, at all.
    Last edited by wilbur; 06-16-2010 at 08:46 PM.
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  10. #10  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gingersnap View Post
    If there was ever an 'end of the world' post, this qualifies.
    I'm guessing that's why it got moved. ;)
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