Helpful Hints on the Morality of ParenthoodPosted on April 16th, 2014 2 comments
One Thomas Rodham Wells, who apparently fancies himself a philosopher, has posted an article entitled Is Parenthood Morally Respectable? over at 3quarksdaily. It explains to the rest of us benighted souls why it’s immoral to have children, except in situations where the number is limited to one, and the prospective parents’ motives in having children are scrutinized for moral purity, presumably by a board of philosophers appointed by Wells. Such tracts have been popping up in increasing numbers lately, mainly emanating from the left of the ideological spectrum. I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I see them. They’re the ultimate expressions of what one might call a morality inversion – morality as a negation of the very basis of morality itself. Moral objections to parenthood are hardly the only manifestations of such suicidal inversions observable in modern society. For example, often the very same people who consider parenthood “evil” also consider unlimited illegal immigration “good.” I suppose one shouldn’t be surprised. Jury-rigging a large brain on a creature with a pre-existing set of behavioral traits, and then expecting the moral emotions to catch up with the change overnight would be a dubious proposition even in a static environment. Plump that creature down in the environment of today, radically different as it is from the one in which its moral equipment evolved, and such “anomalies” are only to be expected.
On the other hand, Darwin happened. He certainly had no trouble making the connection between his revolutionary theory and moral behavior. It was immediately obvious to him that morality exists because it evolved. The connection has been just as obvious to many others who have come and gone in the intervening century and a half. In this post-Blank Slate era the fact should be as obvious as the nose on your face. It should serve as a check on the intellectual hubris of our species that, in spite of that, so many of us still don’t get it.
I won’t go into too much detail about how Wells rationalized himself into a morality inversion. It’s the usual stuff. Parenthood is selfish because it imposes social costs on those who choose not to have children. Parenthood is irresponsible because the carbon footprint of children will melt the planet. Parenthood is unfair because the burden of other people’s children on the childless don’t outweigh their advantages. And so on, and so on. As usual, all this completely misses the point. The “point” is that the ultimate reason that morality exists to begin with, and absent which it would not exist, is that it increased the probability that individuals of our species would survive and have children who would also survive. In other words, using morality to encourage genetic suicide is manifestly absurd. It is basically the same thing as using one’s evolved hand to shoot oneself, or using one’s evolved feet to jump off a cliff. One can only conclude that, in the midst of all his complex moral reasoning, Wells never bothered to consider why, exactly, there is such a thing as morality.
Should one go to the trouble of pointing all this out to him? Why on earth for! The rest of us should be overjoyed that he and as many others like him as possible are delusional. If anything, we should encourage them to remain delusional. If they have no children, we won’t have to feed them, educate them, the planet may not melt after all, and, best of all, there will be more room for our children. As for me pointing this out to my readers, I admit, it does seem somewhat counterintuitive. On the other hand, so far there aren’t enough of you to seriously risk melting the planet, and if you’re smart enough to “get it” it’s probably worth my while to keep you around to provide a little quality genetic diversity in any case.Demographics, Environment, Ethics, Evolution, Evolutionary psychology, Good and Evil, human evolution, Human nature, Morality Immoral parenthood, morality
That’s not what I wrote. I actually gave a defense of the objective moral value of parenthood.
Also, you seem to be confusing proximate and ultimate levels of explanation with regard to the evolution of morality.
Also, with regard to the survival of the human species qua human genome, overconsumption via overpopulation seems a rather greater threat at present than underpopulation. (The threat is greater still to the flourishing of human civilisation, which I see more reason to care about then human genes.)
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