Join 3,555 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Is Procreation Immoral?
April 2, 2012 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Elizabeth Kolbert explores the case against kids. Drawing from the work of philosophy professors David Benatar, Christine Overall and economist Bryan Caplan, Kolbert examines the justifications for reproducing.
posted by Kitty Stardust (125 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
“Withdrawal immediately before emission” could, “if practiced with sufficient care,” be effective. A small piece of sponge, fitted with a narrow ribbon and inserted into a woman’s vagina “previous to connection,” would also suffice. If neither of these techniques appealed, he counselled “syringing the vagina immediately after connection, with a solution of sulphate of zinc, of alum, pearl-ash, or any salt that acts chemically on the semen.”


Well okay then. Where do I get this stuff?
posted by ODiV at 12:34 PM on April 2, 2012


Second, once you accept that you should have a baby in order to increase the world’s total happiness, how do you know when to stop?

Wow. It never would have occurred to me in a billion trillion years that this could actually be a real reason that people decide to have kids.
posted by elizardbits at 12:42 PM on April 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


Feed the machine, share the love, keep the continuum open.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:44 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


By all means, make the rational decision not to have children. You make it easier for those of us still in the game. I had kids just so I could avoid being a lonely little dead end twig on the big tree of life leading back to The Beginning. I'm going to do our great^5000-grandbacteria proud by competing with every living creature on earth. Hopefully my genetically superior offspring will some day get to experience the joy of being the last ones standing.

Fuck you, anteater. Fuck you, planaria. Fuck you, rattlesnake. I will be victorious.
posted by pjaust at 12:45 PM on April 2, 2012 [41 favorites]


Wow. It never would have occurred to me in a billion trillion years that this could actually be a real reason that people decide to have kids.

The article is mostly talking about philosophical justifications, not the practical justifications that people invoke when they decide to have children. But in a way that's pretty much what the Quiverfull movement is about. Children are a blessing and a gift from God*, and who doesn't want more blessings and gifts? Therefore, people should have as many children as possible.

* From Psalm 127:
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Lots of people take a milder view, which is that children are a blessing, so people should have them, but maybe they shouldn't have quite as many as physically possible. Or at least it's okay not to.
posted by jedicus at 12:49 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


It sounds more like philosophers doing what they do best or justification after the fact, elizardbits.

Ask me in a month or so and we'll see what I say. :)

But yeah, I expect to see more of this kind of article over time. I've been noticing that all those articles I see on "how you can reduce your carbon footprint!" seem to have a big blind spot to the largest factors like reproduction, mostly because those factors are ones that people aren't expected to compromise on.

It could be I'm just missing the ones that advocate for more serious change, but I would guess that's mostly because they'd be less widely spread.
posted by ODiV at 12:51 PM on April 2, 2012


Second, once you accept that you should have a baby in order to increase the world’s total happiness, how do you know when to stop?

Wow. It never would have occurred to me in a billion trillion years that this could actually be a real reason that people decide to have kids.


That reminded me of one of my favorite lines from Raising Arizona:
These were the happy days, the salad days as they say, and Ed felt that having a critter was the next logical step. It was all she thought about. Her point was that there was too much love and beauty for just the two of us, and every day we kept a child out of the world was a day he might later regret having missed.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 12:51 PM on April 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


Is there no middle ground between Soylent Green and Kill All the Humans?

We might also end up with near-immortality and basically stop reproducing, which has two big downsides: no more cute babies, and never getting rid of people like Dick Cheney.
posted by emjaybee at 12:56 PM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


It never would have occurred to me in a billion trillion years that this could actually be a real reason that people decide to have kids.

If it increases happiness of you (not to mention your partner and your inlaws), it would also the world's total happiness. So, yes, it seems a primary reason to have a child. However, having a child for the sake of the world's well being seems as strange as having no children for the same reason. That kind of assumed selflessness just feels like a bizarre religious command more than anything.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:56 PM on April 2, 2012


I bet this is the thread where we finally decide who is better: parents or non-parents.
posted by pjaust at 12:58 PM on April 2, 2012 [46 favorites]


I still wish we'd stop calling it "having kids" and instead say what it is: "making people". Puts a different spin on it.
posted by curious nu at 12:59 PM on April 2, 2012 [21 favorites]


The choice to have children is a strange one. We have a two-year-old that's absolutely the one central joy in our lives - I would do anything for her. We're also expecting a second. By that measure, there should definitely have been no question that we should have had kids.

On the other hand, it's a lot of work and I do understand that there is no pressing need for us to further the species. I wouldn't advise people to jump at it for the sake of the above reason, as there are many joys to not having kids and the associated lifestyle.

I figure if we have two kids (slightly below the replacement amount) it's a reasonable pursuit. I would never advocate for the children for children's sake. Plus, who wants to deal with 5 kids? Who has the resources?

The advice I give my friends is simple: If you enjoy family and want family around you, it's probably a good idea. If you're just doing it because you think you should but really also like your free time, then maybe it's something you have to think hard about.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:59 PM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is there no middle ground between Soylent Green and Kill All the Humans?

Christine Overall is a mother of two.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:00 PM on April 2, 2012


My life would have been completely different if that condom hadn't broke.

I cannot objectively determine if it would have been better.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:02 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I chose not to have children as a trade-off. I drastically reduced my carbon footprint by not breeding so that I can now freely and guiltlessly indulge in my favorite hobby: clear-cutting old-growth timber.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:03 PM on April 2, 2012 [97 favorites]


Is there no middle ground between Soylent Green and Kill All the Humans?

The Hunger Games.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:04 PM on April 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


People who want children for altruistic reasons -- to raise someone who will make the world a better place, to increase total global happiness, etc. -- should probably consider adoption before biological procreation.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 1:04 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


> People who want children for altruistic reasons -- to raise someone who will make the world a better place, to increase total global happiness, etc. -- should probably consider adoption before biological procreation.

Why is this axiomatic? Maybe a couple wants their own children so they can deal with fewer unknowns about a baby's genetic predisposition.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:07 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Bad Reasons To Have Kids
posted by The Whelk at 1:08 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kids are a great retirement plan.
posted by oddman at 1:11 PM on April 2, 2012


Kids are a great retirement plan.

I believe the main article refutes this.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:12 PM on April 2, 2012


In a casual conversation with a friend the topic of logical reasons to have kids came up. They said it would be nice to have someone care for them in their dotage. "So you're going to care for your parents then?" "What? Of course not I can't stand my parents."

The topic was quietly dropped.
posted by The Whelk at 1:15 PM on April 2, 2012 [27 favorites]


>Why is this axiomatic? Maybe a couple wants their own children so they can deal with fewer unknowns about a baby's genetic predisposition.

I guess I'm not understanding how much "unknowns about a baby's genetic predisposition" has to do with their ability to make the world a better place as an adult when weighed against the child's education, parenting, and future life experiences.
posted by One Thousand and One at 1:15 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


People who want children for altruistic reasons [...] -- should probably consider adoption before biological procreation.

I suspect that with something as personal as "whether to have children", there probably shouldn't be any "shoulds" thrown about.

Including the "you should have kids" one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:16 PM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


so we are essentially ensuring the eventual extinction of philosophers
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:16 PM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: How about we go the other way with it and throw around as many "shoulds" as possible with as much backing reasoning as possible?
posted by ODiV at 1:23 PM on April 2, 2012


How about we go the other way with it and throw around as many "shoulds" as possible with as much backing reasoning as possible?

If you had a whole bunch of people pestering you with a whole bunch of different lectures about how you should be living your life, how would "more backing reasoning" make it less odious?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:25 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I had a kid because what the hell else was I going to do? Start going to the theatre, or read even more books?

It's a relief.
posted by colie at 1:30 PM on April 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


Of course I'm not in favour about people pestering others on their personal lives. I was talking about general proclamations in philosophical conversations and not lectures to individuals.

The "it's a personal decision" line gets brought out for a number of things that people would like to shut down discussion on, so I'd like to do away with it. But again, emphatically not for people personally hassling you or I about how to live our lives.
posted by ODiV at 1:31 PM on April 2, 2012


"Kids are a great retirement plan."

"I believe the main article refutes this."


It does? I only saw the following (the bit about the optimal number of kids/grandchildren is about free time, not financial support):

"Still others argue that people ought to have children so there will be someone to care for them in their old age. “Anyone who has children for the sake of the supposed financial support they can provide,” Overall writes, is “probably deluded.”

That is far from a refutation. It disagrees with what I said (which I said mostly tongue-in-cheek) without any kind of evidence or support. In my experience, amongst my family and close friends, every adult who has needed help from their kids has gotten it. (I'm sure there are some. I just can't think of any at the moment. In any case non-helping children would be in the very small minority.) Perhaps my ethnicity (Hispanic) has something to do with this. We are well known to emphasize familial cohesion, after all. (Note that I freely admit that this is anecdotal data and does not constitute a technically sound argument for my earlier claim.)
posted by oddman at 1:32 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh. The number of people who think they make "decisions."
posted by jfuller at 1:33 PM on April 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


In “Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate” (M.I.T. Press), Christine Overall tries to subject that decision to morally rigorous analysis. Overall, who teaches philosophy at Queen’s University, in Ontario, dismisses the notion that childbearing is “natural” and therefore needs no justification. “There are many urges apparently arising from our biological nature that we nonetheless should choose not to act upon,” she observes. If we’re going to keep having kids, we ought to be able to come up with a reason.
I think Dr. Overall stops short of the full implication of her line of inquiry. The question she needs to be asking is whether human thought itself is justified. I would argue she's making a weak case for it, which might explain why I killed so many brain cells with such reckless enthusiasm when I was a student at Queen's.

(Queen's is a fine school, widely considered one of Canada's best. Its engineering, law, business and medical schools are highly respected, and anecdotally I know that its liberal arts programs have also turned out many excellent authors, actors, teachers and historians. The philosophy department was not, in my experience, the stomping ground of the school's best and brightest.)
posted by gompa at 1:34 PM on April 2, 2012


I've read Benatar's argument before in a nytimes article, and while his conclusions are interesting I don't find his arguments convincingly rigorous. Both times he uses a pretty oblique argument involving the asymmetry of pleasure and suffering, and to me that doesn't cover all the bases. What I do like though is the implication that it would be *unethical* for humans to create sentient AI; I bet most average people never even considered it that way.
posted by polymodus at 1:35 PM on April 2, 2012


“There are many urges apparently arising from our biological nature that we nonetheless should choose not to act upon,” she observes.

That seems a pretty glib dismissal of one of the generally agreed upon definitions of life.
This is questioning instinct on a level beyond "is it moral to eat meat" this is questioning "is it moral to eat".
posted by Gygesringtone at 1:38 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


so we are essentially ensuring the eventual extinction of philosophers

KILL IT WITH FIRE HEMLOCK
posted by joe lisboa at 1:40 PM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I had a kid for the best reason possible: Cuteness.
posted by caution live frogs at 1:41 PM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


I only had children so that my asshole brother won't inherit the duchy if I am killed in a boating accident.

Seriously, fuck that guy.
posted by Winnemac at 1:42 PM on April 2, 2012 [27 favorites]


The best attitude I ever heard about children was when I visited the Wampanoag site at Plimoth Plantation. In describing life before contact with Westerners, the native museum staff members said that folks back then never had more than 2 or 3 kids--because that was considered selfish, both to other members of the tribe and to the earth's limited resources.

... fitted with a narrow ribbon and inserted into a woman’s vagina “previous to connection,” ...

And they also practiced birth control (some sort of berry I think, I forget now). I always get a kick out of reading about people who think they reinvented the wheel and were smarter than the natives.

That seems a pretty glib dismissal of one of the generally agreed upon definitions of life.

Agreed. That sex drive is effing powerful, sometimes.
posted by Melismata at 1:42 PM on April 2, 2012


Having children is not a rational action. That it is not rational can be either positive or negative or neutral, depending on the individual(s).

Applying rational arguments won't do anything except a few writers and thinks some busy work and possibly a published article.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:43 PM on April 2, 2012


This topic reminded me of my favorite moment in the Office when they find a video of when Michael Scott was a boy:

Young Michael Scott: I wanna be married and have 100 kids so I can have 100 friends, and no one can say no to being my friend.

Edward R. Meow: [Long pause] Uh... oh, ok. Well, nice talking with you, Michael. Back to you, Miss Trudy!

Melissa Hudson: [after Michael turns off the clip] Did you get married?

Michael Scott: Uh, no...

Abby: Why not?

Michael Scott: Uh, it just never happened.

Sasha: So, do you have any kids?

Michael Scott: Uh, nope.
...

Sasha: So you didn't get to be who you wanted to be.

Michael Scott: [pause] I guess not..
posted by yeti at 1:46 PM on April 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Coming up next: is falling in love immoral?

Honestly, don't philosophers have something better to do with their time, like. . . uh. . .

Let me get back to you on that.
posted by math at 1:46 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Favorite", that is, because I LIKE TO CRY.
posted by yeti at 1:47 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


As book dedications go, Benatar's is pretty great: "The volume is dedicated to his parents, 'even though they brought me into existence,” and to his brothers, 'each of whose existence, although a harm to him, is a great benefit to the rest of us.'"

I recently enjoyed horror writer Thomas Ligotti's non-fiction work The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which turns philosophical anti-natalism to face Ligotti's themes of the uncanny and cosmic indifference. Just the right blend of radical pessimism, nay-saying, and melodrama to cheer the misanthrope's heart. There's Schopenhauer and Thomas Metzinger in there. Benatar blurbs it, too.

One question: why no Gnostic viewpoint in the article? C'mon, New Yorker. Some of us need occult justifications just to get up in the morning.
posted by Idler King at 1:49 PM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Elizabeth Kolbert Nathan Caswell explores the case against kids.

They're constantly covered in snot. Boom, done.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:50 PM on April 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


this is questioning "is it moral to eat".

Which, you know, is a valid question. All life kills other life to survive, either directly (wolf eats sheep) or indirectly (plant spreads roots and grows taller than other plants, takes all the sunlight and ground nutrients, lower plants die, taking limited resources and forcing starvation on competing life). Of course, then you're ascribing morals to the chemical processes of life itself and that runs into a host of problems.

Still a fair question to ask, though, and this plus the "life is suffering" tack is how I assume the "destroy the world" sort of supervillain came about.
posted by curious nu at 1:51 PM on April 2, 2012


Ya, I did that cost to benefit analysis in my early 20's and decided no kids. I had no drive to reproduce and it you hate it parenthood is not the sort of thing you can back out of once you buy in.
posted by Gwynarra at 1:51 PM on April 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


Coming up next: is falling in love immoral?

I think the proper way to frame it in the context of their concerns is whether love is unethical. It's a reasonable philosophical question because even from soap operas we know that people's emotions can get carried away and result in harm. Certainly there's a lot to understand about the relationship between love and responsibility and how that relates to the human condition. And indeed, even an antinatalist position such as Benatar's would have to consider this, but who knows to what degree he addresses this in his writings. But philosophers as a whole aren't crazy to ask these things.
posted by polymodus at 1:54 PM on April 2, 2012


That seems a pretty glib dismissal of one of the generally agreed upon definitions of life.

That's a pretty serious is/ought confusion there; you should have it looked at.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:55 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


What I do like though is the implication that it would be *unethical* for humans to create sentient AI; I bet most average people never even considered it that way.

Except!
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:57 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Alternatively, Benatar's just given us an argument for the absurdity of some of our widely shared intuitions about obligations in the face of pain and pleasure.
posted by voltairemodern at 1:58 PM on April 2, 2012


… Well if by average person you mean only screenwriters or science fiction authors? (The latter tend to be well-versed in philosophical issues).
posted by polymodus at 2:00 PM on April 2, 2012


even an antinatalist position such as Benatar's

Hell Is For Children?
posted by freecellwizard at 2:01 PM on April 2, 2012 [8 favorites]


“I am sitting with a philosopher in the garden; he says again and again 'I know that that’s a tree', pointing to a tree that is near us. Someone else arrives and hears this, and I tell him: 'This fellow isn’t insane. We are only doing philosophy.” (Wittgenstein, On Certainty)

As for Gnostic takes on this in the modern world, let me recommend Theodore Roszak's novel Flicker.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:02 PM on April 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also, Philip Larkin's "This Be the Verse" comes to mind:

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
posted by Idler King at 2:04 PM on April 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Overpopulation is a lie. "To say that there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers. Our world needs more joy."

Hate to post stuff like this, easy target and all, but they do exist.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:15 PM on April 2, 2012


Agreed. That sex drive is effing powerful, sometimes.

It's beyond that, my wife and both wanted sex, and got it. We'd still have been able to keep getting it without having children. But we both wanted children, in the same way we wanted sex.

That's a pretty serious is/ought confusion there; you should have it looked at.

Speaking of glib dismissals...

When having moral discussions about something that is so essential to life that it's considered a one of the defining characteristics, one needs to give that fact a little more consideration than that quote does. Maybe Christine Overall has at some point, and it just didn't get mentioned.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:18 PM on April 2, 2012


I just want to have my very own Mini-Me and don't bother to refute this non-argument because it is infallible. I am willing to crush my ambitions and dreams in order to spooge out My Very Own Likeness.
posted by naju at 2:23 PM on April 2, 2012


To say that there are too many children is like saying there are too many flowers.

Clearly someone who hasn't been through a Texas pollen season, cause let me tell you, there are too many fucking flowers sometimes.
posted by emjaybee at 2:28 PM on April 2, 2012 [13 favorites]


Some people justify the decision to have children on the ground that they are perpetuating a family name or a genetic line. But “is anyone’s biological composition so valuable that it must be perpetuated?”

*playfully opens top three shirt buttons, runs index finger down my biological composition in reply*
posted by Greg Nog at 2:48 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm not understanding how much "unknowns about a baby's genetic predisposition" has to do with their ability to make the world a better place as an adult when weighed against the child's education, parenting, and future life experiences.

Well, thats in the article:

"He [Caplan] cites a variety of twin and adoption studies showing that genetics swamps parenting on traits ranging from children’s health and intelligence to their chances of going to prison."
posted by wildcrdj at 2:50 PM on April 2, 2012


Based on 40-odd years of experience with various sorts of people, I am firmly convinced that the people who wish they were never born should not have children.

I just want to have my very own Mini-Me and don't bother to refute this non-argument because it is infallible. I am willing to crush my ambitions and dreams in order to spooge out My Very Own Likeness.

It's even simpler than that. You either want the human race to go extinct or not. If not, who should have the kids?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:35 PM on April 2, 2012


And yeah, overpopulation is the last desperate argument of the commitment-phobic.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:35 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not reproducing is "want(ing) the human race to go extinct" and anyone who says they're not having children because of overpopulation concerns is lying? So they don't actually want the human race to go extinct? I'm not sure I follow what you're trying to say.
posted by ODiV at 3:47 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: known in academic circles as the Repugnant Conclusion
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:52 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


One quibble with the article is that Knowlton's tract had anything to do with declining birth rates. In animal models and in other human populations that have been studied; the decline in birth rates is observed as the population's infant mortality declines and consumer goods increase.
posted by humanfont at 4:03 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't have kids, but am willing to submit myself to cloning. After all, that toilet isn't going to clean itself.
posted by arcticseal at 4:32 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


This morning my one-year-old daughter and I shared a banana for breakfast. She crawled up to me to take a piece and, when I started the break off the next one, crawled into my lap and sat down to eat with me. Later in the day she saw a pigeon and blew it a kiss. Right now she is trying to have a conversation with our pet turtle. So really, I don't need any "proper" reaons, and there is no limit to the amount of shit I couldn't give about whether philosophers find that rational or not.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:48 PM on April 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'd like to make a deal with parents: You can talk about recycling only if you also tell me your plans for educating your kids so that they're the ones who build the Warp Drive.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:26 PM on April 2, 2012


What the fuck, mrgrimm? There are other ways to make a commitment to humanity than reproducing, or than parenting.

If nobody had children, yeah, humans would eventually become extinct. But surely the most tenable position is somewhere between "nobody have children" and "everyone, without exception, have children or you're letting down the side."


(I have an unusual dog in this fight, as someone who chose not to parent but chose to help people who wanted to parent reproduce.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:32 PM on April 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Are unusual dogs immoral?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:40 PM on April 2, 2012


Absolutely no one that hasn't been completely indoctrinated is going to want to talk to me when I'm an old man. I'm not going to have any friends. So that's why I'm indoctrinating my kids into thinking they like me, so that someone will still talk to me when I'm 80.
posted by wilful at 5:52 PM on April 2, 2012


No one has yet linked to The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement? "May we live long and die out".
posted by wilful at 5:53 PM on April 2, 2012


My unusual dog is an unreal bitch, but you know what they say about animals and their humans...
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:54 PM on April 2, 2012


I don't have a position on other people having children, but my own ethical leanings will probably lead me to avoid having computers.
posted by silby at 5:56 PM on April 2, 2012


Children. Just another kind of computer.
posted by silby at 5:56 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't even keep my cat from puking on the bed, and you want me to get a human?
posted by LogicalDash at 5:59 PM on April 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


> “One of the implications of my argument is that a life filled with good and containing only the most minute quantity of bad—a life of utter bliss adulterated only by the pain of a single pin-prick—is worse than no life at all,” Benatar writes.

One of the other implications of arguments like this was my decision that one philosophy course was enough for me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:31 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Everyone knows the real reason people have kids is to secure a supply of compatible donor organs.
posted by Ritchie at 6:32 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm not offended by other people who choose to have kids, but I do get a little annoyed when people think it's highly unusual that I'm middle-aged and I haven't. Like, not "that's an interesting choice" unusual but more like "look, a man in an orange jumpsuit and bunny slippers playing the accordion at the bus stop."

The jumpsuit is NOT orange and people LOVE Lady of Spain.
posted by delfin at 6:44 PM on April 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it possible to be "unreal"?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:14 PM on April 2, 2012


As for Gnostic takes on this in the modern world, let me recommend Theodore Roszak's novel Flicker.

If you decide to read that, you better watch out for them damn' Orphans!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:21 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Meatfilter: a man in an orange jumpsuit and bunny slippers playing the accordion at the bus stop.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:46 PM on April 2, 2012


Negative numbers aren't real numbers, so my unusual bitch, being highly negative, is unreal.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:03 PM on April 2, 2012


Applying rational arguments won't do anything except a few writers and thinks some busy work and possibly a published article.

True dat. There used to be some short story online in which a woman had the opportunity/wish to do something or other to fix the world and she wanted to have less babies in the world, and the other godlike character was all, "No, it hurts people too much and makes them crazy when they can't have as many babies as they want." Something like that, anyway. Pretty sure that website's gone though.

But really, logic and reason and overpopulation does nothing against the giant cosmic scream of MY PRECIOUS BABY MY BABY MY BABY MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Sigh. I just wish those that heard the scream would stop bitching out those of us who don't. And I hope I never hear that scream, because man, I don't think it'd be doing any child of mine any favors to exist.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:39 PM on April 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


No one has yet linked to The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement? "May we live long and die out".

I keep waiting for those guys to get impatient and decide to form the INvoluntary Human Extinction Movement
posted by happyroach at 9:20 PM on April 2, 2012


"And yeah, overpopulation is the last desperate argument of the commitment-phobic."

Wow, that's a relief. And to think I was worried! Thanks, dismissive internet commenter!
posted by IjonTichy at 10:02 PM on April 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


When having moral discussions about something that is so essential to life that it's considered a one of the defining characteristics, one needs to give that fact a little more consideration than that quote does.

No. The only way this could be seen as an argument is if you are conflating of two different senses of "essential." Reproduction is essential to the definition of life because reproduction is useful to biologists in delineating two broad categories of things, living and nonliving. This bears not a whit on whether reproduction is moral. "Essential" here simply means that it is useful in the definition. Try, for instance, a related question. Is it moral for nonliving things to not reproduce, and is the fact that living things reproduce by definition helpful in any way?

Many would argue that reproduction is essential to life in a different way - that is, they are compelled to reproduce, and they cannot conceive of life any other way. This sense of essentialness (and sense of the word "life") is worth considering in arguments about morality, but that's not what was originally stated.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:17 PM on April 2, 2012


I am fucking sick to death of being told that I'm morally deficient, or less than human, or just a flat out selfish asshole who wants the human race to become extinct because I don't want to have babies of my own.

Maybe I don't want to have babies because I had shitty parents who set a really bad example for me of the whole idea of familial love and happiness. Maybe I don't want to have babies because there are horrible health issues running rampant throughout my whole family tree and I don't want to bring another life into this world if it's going to end up having those same health issues. Maybe I don't want to have babies because I am single and I don't want to be a single parent because that shit is HARD, yo. Maybe I don't want to have babies because currently I can barely take care of myself, let alone take responsibility for another life. Maybe I don't want to have babies because after watching several friends endure high-risk pregnancies and agonizing, bone-wrenching labor and delivery, the thought of having to endure that much pain makes my bowels actually loosen with fear. Maybe I don't want to have babies because I don't have enough maternal instinct to be a good mom.

You want to have a baby? Fantastic! Babies are nice, and if you do it right, they turn into really cool people. I think people who really, really want babies should be able to have them. And I think people who don't want babies shouldn't be shamed for that. My not having children is most assuredly NOT going to cause the human race to become extinct. What a ridiculous thing to say.
posted by palomar at 11:22 PM on April 2, 2012 [10 favorites]


I am fucking sick to death of being told that I'm morally deficient, or less than human, or just a flat out selfish asshole who wants the human race to become extinct because I don't want to have babies of my own.

Seriously? Has someone ever actually said this to you (apart from your stereotypical mother or grandmother), or are you perhaps inserting your own issues?
posted by wilful at 12:51 AM on April 3, 2012


So, it occurred to me the other day that we're forgoing many tens of thousands of dollars a year while my wife stays home to look after the kids. Later, my kids will be part of an ever-dwindling pool of wage-earning, service-providing tax payers. Those taxes will be sucked up by the skyrocketing needs of a rapidly ageing population - some of whom didn't forgo a hundred grand a year when they were young, have no savings anyway, and who'll reap the benefits provided by those of us who did have kids.

So at some stage I'm going to teach my kids to ask whether their customer / client is a parent, and if the answer is no, to charge them extra or tell them to go fuck themselves.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:59 AM on April 3, 2012


I am fucking sick to death of being told that I'm morally deficient, or less than human, or just a flat out selfish asshole who wants the human race to become extinct because I don't want to have babies of my own.


Seriously? Has someone ever actually said this to you (apart from your stereotypical mother or grandmother), or are you perhaps inserting your own issues?


I've been told this and variations upon this multiple times by multiple people, including complete strangers after less than two minutes of conversation where the only questions they asked were my name and whether I had children. A large proportion of people are keen on the idea of being able to tell women their choices about their own bodies are wrong, misguided, immoral and a whole host of other negative assumptions. Not to mention "you're too young to know that you really want babies. When you're older you'll change your mind and realise it'll have been too late to have them. And then you'll be sorry."
posted by talitha_kumi at 2:28 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


Seriously? Has someone ever actually said this to you (apart from your stereotypical mother or grandmother), or are you perhaps inserting your own issues?

wilful, please see mrgrimm's earlier comments on this post, where he accuses people who do not want to have children of wanting the human race to become extinct.
posted by palomar at 3:09 AM on April 3, 2012


and to be frank with you, my mother and grandmother have NEVER said this shit to me. it's always people who don't know shit about my life who feel free to cast judgement. just like you did.
posted by palomar at 3:10 AM on April 3, 2012


Seriously? Has someone ever actually said this to you (apart from your stereotypical mother or grandmother), or are you perhaps inserting your own issues?

Yep, and it's even been said on Metafilter in previous threads on procreation. Not really capable of love until you have kids, will never understand real happiness, selfish, morally-deficient, not a real adult, not a real person, mutated, etc. I concede the last one *might* be accurate, but there are many other species which drop reproduction rates when resources are scarce (which might be relevant to the idea of whether reproduction is essential to the definition of life or not).

Never underestimate how glibly insulting people can be when it comes to justifying their own choices and they haven't thought about the impact their words will have on another person.
posted by harriet vane at 3:11 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


JenFullMoon: Was the story "The Book of Martha" by Octavia Butler?

"You believe the population problem is the worst one, then?" God asked.

"I think so," she said, "Too many people. If we solve that one, we'll have more time to solve other problems. And we can't solve it on our own. We all know about it, but some of us won't admit it. [...] So everyone's reproductive system shuts down after two kids," she said. "I mean, they get to live as long as before, and they aren't sick. They just can't have kids anymore."

"They'll try," God said, "The effort they put into building pyramids, cathedrals, and moon rockets will be as nothing to effort they'll put into trying to end what will seem to them a plague of barrenness. What about people whose children die or are seriously disabled? What about a woman who's first child is a result of rape? What about surrogate motherhood? What about men who become fathers without realizing it? What about cloning?"

Martha stared at him, chagrined. "That's why you should do this. It's too complicated."

Silence.

"All right," Martha sighed and gave up. "All right. What if even with accidents and modern medicine, even something like cloning, the two kid limit holds. I don't know how that could be made to work, but you do."

"It could be made to work," God said, "but keep in mind that you won't be coming here again to repair any changes you make. What you do is what people will live with. Or in this case, die with."

"Oh," Martha said. She thought for a moment, then said, "Oh, no."

"They would last for a good many generations," God said, "But they would be dwindling all the time. In the end, they would be extinguished. With the usual diseases, disabilities, disasters, wars, deliberate childlessness, and murder, they wouldn't be able to replace themselves. Think of the needs of the future, Martha, as well as the needs of the present."

"I thought I was," she said. "What if I made four kids the maximum number instead of two?"

God shook his head. "Free will coupled with morality has been an interesting experiment. Free will is, among other things, the freedom to make mistakes. [...] Whatever you do, your decision will have consequences. If you limit their fertility, you will probably destroy them. If you limit their competitiveness or their inventiveness, you may destroy their ability to survive the many disasters and challenges that they must face."
posted by OnceUponATime at 3:43 AM on April 3, 2012


So, it occurred to me the other day that we're forgoing many tens of thousands of dollars a year while my wife stays home to look after the kids. Later, my kids will be part of an ever-dwindling pool of wage-earning, service-providing tax payers. Those taxes will be sucked up by the skyrocketing needs of a rapidly ageing population - some of whom didn't forgo a hundred grand a year when they were young, have no savings anyway, and who'll reap the benefits provided by those of us who did have kids.

I guess it never occurred to you that people who don't have kids pay more than their share of taxes for things like the schools that you send your kids to, and the sidewalks that your kids ride their tricycles on. Or that tax deduction that you get for having kids.

So at some stage I'm going to teach my kids to ask whether their customer / client is a parent, and if the answer is no, to charge them extra or tell them to go fuck themselves.

Nice sense of compassion you're passing down, there.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:44 AM on April 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


So at some stage I'm going to teach my kids to ask whether their customer / client is a parent, and if the answer is no, to charge them extra or tell them to go fuck themselves.

That's nice. I'll remember that when I'm voting YES on the next goddamn school district levy, even though I don't have any fucking children of my own. Yeah, I cheerfully volunteer to pay MORE taxes so that YOUR children can get a decent education. But please, teach your children to be just as hateful as possible to old people, all because of your baseless assumptions. That's a GREAT idea.

Hey, what about those individuals who have babies that die? Will you teach your children to hate those people, too? How about people who didn't have kids of their own because they were busy being the sole caretaker of a sick parent? Will you teach your children that they should tell those people to go fuck themselves, too? That's so awesome. You are SO cool.
posted by palomar at 4:01 AM on April 3, 2012 [10 favorites]


I sure hope you'll teach your children to be incredibly hateful to infertile people, as well. After all, they shirked their duty by not having babies just like you! So they should go fuck themselves too, right?
posted by palomar at 4:05 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seriously? Has someone ever actually said this to you (apart from your stereotypical mother or grandmother), or are you perhaps inserting your own issues?

Not two comments down from you, someone announced that he was going to be teaching his kids to tell childless people to "go fuck themselves." Is it really that surprising that the childless get their affairs meddled in?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:06 AM on April 3, 2012


We can't have kids, so that choice was made for us. We couldn't adopt due to various circumstances, so that choice was made too.

Not having kids can be a choice or you may have no choice in the matter, same as having kids. Making assumptions about people's personal circumstances can lead to great hurt being caused. For the record we've encountered far too often the same stupid hurtful comments that palomar and others have commented on. It doesn't stop hurting.

So thanks for that glib dismissal of my life obiwanwasabi. Post office must have lost your thank you card for the taxes we continue to pay towards the healthcare and education that your kids benefit from.
posted by arcticseal at 4:47 AM on April 3, 2012


blink.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:54 AM on April 3, 2012


I guess it never occurred to you that people who don't have kids pay more than their share of taxes for things like the schools that you send your kids to, and the sidewalks that your kids ride their tricycles on. Or that tax deduction that you get for having kids.

It would be easy to make a counter argument about what those who do have children do for the world and how the childless benefit from that. I'm not going to because it seems silly to pit one group against another on a thread on a website.

Individuals should be free to make whatever choice they decide about having kids and have rest of society respect that decision by not offering judgements about said decisions.

So could we not do that here, the pitting of group against group, while each recounts the unfairness or superiority of their side?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:54 AM on April 3, 2012


Having kids is like driving a car. Just because almost everyone possesses the ability to drive a car doesn't mean that most of them are automatically GOOD AT IT. Or that you're assured of being good at it if your next car turns out to be a stick-shift or some unusual sports car or just inherently unreliable. And even if you DO turn out to be good at it, you're surrounded every day of your life by people who AREN'T, puttering along in a traffic jam with on-ramps that are clogged already.

Is it so wrong just to take the bus?
posted by delfin at 5:17 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seriously? Has someone ever actually said this to you (apart from your stereotypical mother or grandmother), or are you perhaps inserting your own issues?

I have been told this by friends, typically after they have had children. I see nothing wrong with their choice, but for some reason they have a problem with mine. Sometimes it is under the guise of the (more positive) statement "But you'd be such a great parent! You need to have children to offset the bad parents!" sort of thing, but it is always about how my choice is somehow selfish or wrong.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 5:33 AM on April 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Actually, this is very, very simple. Provide education, contraception and access to abortion to women, and they will have a lot less children. There is a catch. If you do all this and don't also provide welfare, in the form of care for the elderly, education for the young and child care for the smallest, women will stop having children altogether. Something to think about, there.
I said all of the above the other day at work, when some philosopher type began going on about over-population. The sad thing was, none of my (all male) colleagues had even thought about this perspective. They didn't argue for or against, they were honestly surprised.
posted by mumimor at 6:08 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let us not forget that we are currently sifting through the remains of a national debate over whether or not an employer should have any say in his/her female employees' reproductive choices, or at minimum willfully obstruct a common contraceptive method.

The lesson of Sandra Fluke is instructive as to how a woman requesting easier control of reproduction can lead to vilification and mockery.

And the runner-up in the Republican nomination process at the moment, a guy who is leading in several states, feels sincerely that sexual activity without procreation is worthy of Presidential disapproval and is "not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to . . . how things are supposed to be."

So, you know what? Let's not get our noses in the air about who's snippy about others not having kids. Anger over this sort of thing seems to be just a WEE BIT topical.
posted by delfin at 6:18 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Due to medical conditions, my wife would have a 50% chance of dying in childbirth even if in the best possible health. Even if we risked that there are scary genetic issues on both sides of our family such that it is a partial miracle that we've made it as far as we have. There are religious types that say we should trust in God to make a miracle for us, but I also remember there being some important commands to not put Him to the test. No children for us.

I think that's why I cried more than I ever have in my life during UP. Both incredibly sad and yet hopeful.
posted by charred husk at 7:01 AM on April 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


That study on parental happiness pisses me off.

Yes, parenting is work. Yes, it is hard. Yes, I am perhaps at times not as happy as people who don't have kids. But you know what? When my three year old recently diagnosed on the spectrum manages to say, "I love you, Mommy!" I am probably happier in that moment than I have ever been before I had kids. The moments of happiness I have now are of a level that I can't begin to describe --- I feel I could fly to the stars in those moments. And that by far beats out the consistent but not particularly special happiness I experienced before having kids.

So, yeah, I'm maybe not as happy as often as I used to be, but the happiness I experience as a parent is pure bliss.

I wouldn't trade that for anything.

So I really wish that study would just get buried already.
posted by zizzle at 7:30 AM on April 3, 2012


I see, you think your experiences are better information for others to use when deciding whether to have children than the study is.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:19 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, this is apparently another topic that this place doesn't do well?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:23 AM on April 3, 2012


My cousin and her hubby were married 9 years before having their son. When asked why they waited so long, my cousin said, "We've done all the traveling and other fun stuff we wanted to do together. Now we can make time to live for someone else."
posted by reenum at 8:26 AM on April 3, 2012


I see, you think your experiences are better information for others to use when deciding whether to have children than the study is.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:19 AM on April 3 [+] [!]


No, I don't. But I do believe that study is misleading, as was a similar one where participants were called at random times of the day for a few weeks and asked if they were happy or some such nonsense. Happiness isn't quantifiable the same way a plate of beans is. Saying people who aren't parents are happier than people who are parents is like comparing apple eaters to orange eaters.

Furthermore, correlation is not causation, as anyone whose taken Psych 101 would know. That there is a correlation, however dubious, that parents are less happy than people who are not parents does not directly imply that being a parent is the cause of being less happy. So it's erroneous to make that assumption since that assumption isn't even a part of the study. People are inferring more from it than there is.
posted by zizzle at 8:45 AM on April 3, 2012


I'd like to make a deal with parents: You can talk about recycling only if you also tell me your plans for educating your kids so that they're the ones who build the Warp Drive.

Same with dog owners? Meat eaters? Car drivers? Frequent fliers?

The footprint of 10 responsible people dwarfs the footprint of 1 irresponsible.

At the very upper limits, we've only got another couple hundred million years left on Earth. Why not give up now?

If you think there are too many people on Earth, have one child. If you think we're just about right, have two. If you think we need more, have three. Your body/patience/sanity will tell you when you've had enough.

The justification for reproduction is simple: 1. continuation of the species; 2. the GENES.

“is anyone’s biological composition so valuable that it must be perpetuated?"

You obviously have not met my wife.

As far as happier/not happier, those scales are always weighted towards the active parents, usually of young children, which requires the most effort and rewards with the least sleep.

But how happy must my parents feel knowing they've raised two (relatively) happy sons with kids of their own? Being a grandparent seems like one of the greatest things in the whole world, and the easiest way to get there is to have kids of your own.

Happiness is not everything. Being a parent is one of the saddest things in the whole world. It's a cliche (Louis CK?), but it really is like taking out a piece of your heart and letting it run around. The sadness of parenting is sublime, a very unique experience imo. I honestly recommend parenting to most of my friends-quietly, subtlely, and privately. One of the biggest things I've learned as a parent is how to keep my mouth shut.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:53 AM on April 3, 2012


I guess it never occurred to you that people who don't have kids pay more than their share of taxes for things like the schools that you send your kids to, and the sidewalks that your kids ride their tricycles on. Or that tax deduction that you get for having kids.

Welcome to the persecuted minority. How do you think we pacifists feel?

My not having children is most assuredly NOT going to cause the human race to become extinct. What a ridiculous thing to say.

Of course not. We've got plenty of people. I don't think the moral issue is as simple as it seems, but I'm more than fine with anyone not having kids--hey, some of my best friends are married without kids ... and black/hispanic/asian too, lol!--but, just like you, I'm not fine with all those folks who adamantly say *no one* should have kids, because in my opinion, most people should. Certainly, lots of people cannot or should not or have to weigh complicated issues to decide whether to or not--it's not simple.

But no, of course there is nothing morally wrong with not having children even if physically and financially able, I don't think. Not even if underpopulation becomes a problem.

I think the personal right to do whatever you want with your own body is supreme.

and the sidewalks that your kids ride their tricycles on

And really. Sidewalks are for kids?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:03 AM on April 3, 2012


No. The only way this could be seen as an argument is ...

We're talking past each other, and a huge chunk of it is my failure to communicate well. so let me try putting this another way.

Oh and by way of disclaimer: I'm speaking as humanity as a whole, not individuals, and I make no judgement based on a person's differences from that imagined "norm."

There's a good chance that you'll claim that what follows is just an extension of an "is\ought" confusion. That's fine. There's a good chance that my definition of "moral" is different than yours. There are also a few other spots where reasonable people can and do agree. When I'm GMing a 2nd Edition game, and you're reading the 3rd Edition rule book, we're going to disagree.

By focusing on if having children is moral or immoral the study is ignoring a third option, that it's neither. I think any answer to "is it moral for me to convert chemical energy to kinetic energy," is essentially meaningless. For me, morality implies a degree of choice.

Now, I'm not willing to go full biological determinist, but I do think that for many people the choice to reproduce or not isn't one. We can all pretend otherwise, but deep down, we're wired to "go ye forth and multiply." Some of us are better at ignoring the call than others. For them, the questions of morality makes sense. For others, not so much. That's what I'm complaining about, the question being asked is just so abstract and so far removed from reality that any answer is meaningless. It assumes a "is?" and "should?" are the only considerations that need to be addressed about the morality of an action. "Can" is equally important.

That's why my emphasis on the degree to which reproduction is important to life, it's what life does. So if a behavior is so universal to life as to be part of the taxonomical definition, I think it is safe to say that the majority of the human species (being part of life), are going to exhibit that behavior. Now, maybe you believe that there's still enough of a choice to put this into the moral\immoral spectrum, and in some cases I'll certainly agree. I just would like the question to have been given a little more consideration than "We can change some behaviors, so we can change this one." It's a huge assumption that I'm not sure matches reality.

On the other hand "is it moral for me to convert chemical energy to kinetic energy to do X" or "...to accomplish Z" are likely to wield much more sensical answers. So I guess in the end it all boils down to framing. "When is it moral to have children?" wouldn't have raised the same hackles for me.
posted by Gygesringtone at 9:44 AM on April 3, 2012


The justification for reproduction is simple: 1. continuation of the species; 2. the GENES.

But that justification rests on the assumption that, first, I'm attached to my particular set of genes--which I am decidedly not--and, second, that the continuation of the human species is worth the eventual extinction of most of the rest of the world's biodiversity. Which, in the end, boils down to how far you're willing to extend the boundaries of empathy. Personally, I wouldn't mind if humans voluntarily cut down their numbers, retreated to a island--a big island, say, Australia--and let the rest of nature take over everywhere else for a long, long while. Give some less fucked up species a chance; bonobos, maybe.
posted by IjonTichy at 9:56 AM on April 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the biggest things I've learned as a parent is how to keep my mouth shut.

...really? You call telling people who don't want to have children that they want the human race to become extinct "keeping my mouth shut"?
posted by palomar at 10:04 AM on April 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Somewhere in between the Final Scene of Final Fantasy VII and the vending machine that is Michelle Duggar, the truth rests.
posted by delfin at 10:16 AM on April 3, 2012


As a person with a kid, let me just apologize to everyone who's been shamed for not reproducing. That shit is wrong and I don't know why anybody would do such a thing. It's a hard gig and I'm happy that I'm doing it but I have never understood so clearly why someone would choose not to as I do now.

At any rate, think of it it this way: I'm pretty sure those exact same people would be complaining about what a brat your kid is or what a horrible parent you are if you did reproduce.

Reproduce or don't, there's no escaping the assholes who want to judge you.
posted by emjaybee at 5:40 PM on April 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


reenum: "My cousin and her hubby were married 9 years before having their son. When asked why they waited so long, my cousin said, "We've done all the traveling and other fun stuff we wanted to do together. Now we can make time to live for someone else.""

My parents waited the same period as well before having my sister and then me, they said it gave them time to get to know each other properly before having kids.
posted by arcticseal at 10:09 PM on April 3, 2012


[Some comments deleted. Obiwanwasabi, I don't know what you are trying to do here, but cut the games if you want to participate in this discussion.]
posted by taz at 11:15 PM on April 4, 2012


Continuation of the species shouldn't enter into it...humans WILL die out. It's not like our reign will be infinite.
posted by agregoli at 8:52 AM on April 5, 2012


for many people the choice to reproduce or not isn't one. We can all pretend otherwise, but deep down, we're wired to "go ye forth and multiply." Some of us are better at ignoring the call than others.

But we have the technology to make ignoring that call a completely enforceable one-time choice. We can override our biological urges. We don't even need to exert continuous willpower to do that. It takes less effort to disable reproduction than it does to give up smoking or lose weight.

As to the morality of that choice: my position is pretty much the same now as it was six years ago.
posted by flabdablet at 11:12 PM on April 6, 2012


I honestly recommend parenting to most of my friends

Me too.

Wherever you live, there will be more existing kids in dire need of your parenting skills than there are potential foster parents willing to take them on.

It seems to me that given the choice of offering a loving and stable home to (a) an existing child in need of one or (b) one's own presently nonexistent offspring, that there is at present no convincing moral argument against (a). And I can't see that changing until such time as kids in need become a rare phenomenon i.e. not soon.

The genes thing: you share 99% of your DNA with a randomly chosen chimpanzee. How much do you think you share with a randomly chosen human child? And is some minuscule increase in the amount of shared DNA really worth denying a child in need your love for?
posted by flabdablet at 11:30 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


zizzle, you might be interested to read Authentic Happiness or Flourish by Martin Seligman. He thinks that 'happiness' or the broader term 'well-being' is composed of several types of positive emotions, and the kind of pleasure that a report-in-at-regular-intervals study is designed to measure is accurate but only one aspect of the whole picture. He also thinks factors like engagement (or flow, being in the zone) is another, meaningful activity is another, and has recently included accomplishment and positive relationships.

As someone without kids, basic pleasures are easily available to me, especially since sleeping in is one of my favourite little pleasures. Engagement and accomplishment are relatively easy, because outside of my job my free time is my own to spend reading or practicing my hobbies. But I have to make an effort to do things that are meaningful (and I do, because I'm not a selfish cow), and I have a smaller family and circle of friends to have positive relationships with.

I think the average parent would have less time for pleasures, engagement and accomplishment, but their meaningful activity and positive relationships measures would be a lot higher. At any rate, positive psychology is still a new field compared to the work done on fixing mental unwellness, so more developments will probably happen.
posted by harriet vane at 2:19 AM on April 7, 2012


« Older Absolute Beginners....  |  A Death in Yellowstone: On the... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments