In today’s show, Kurt is joined by Nick Byrd to discuss the growing debate over natalism, whether humans should procreate.
Listen to “Episode 142: The Natalism Debate” on Spreaker.
Kurt: Well, a good day to you, and thanks for joining us here on another episode of veracity hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics and society. So nice to be with you here. Baseball season is underway in the Chicago Cubs are presently a top the NL central Well, or I guess so they were off yesterday. They’re undefeated. All right, they want to know, they got a game going today. Very excited. Hopefully another World Series of victory is at hand. And maybe you can hear the car alarm going off on Main Street here in downtown West Chicago. The defenders media offices are home to the the the best international podcast that comes out of West Chicago International apologetics podcast. Chris, how does that go? Again?
Kurt: Yes, yes, that’s right. For those of you who think our claims are a bit exaggerated, let me tell you this, we happen to be the only podcast that fits that description that comes out of West Chicago, Illinois. And so it’s great to be coming to you here today. We have a fascinating show coming up for you. But yet, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to last week’s program, I want to see if I can push you in that direction. Be sure to listen to that very fine interview with Paul Gould on cultural apologetics, a sort of holistic approach to a presenting a winsome case. apologetics isn’t just about presenting arguments. There’s also an art form to it, that we have to understand where people are at. And that also, as we reach people, we’re doing so with our lifestyles, and that includes everything that we do and who we are including the work that we do the art that we make. And so being being a winsome appealing Christian is a part of a lifestyle, not just trying to argue people over and drag them in to the kingdom, which for some people that work CS Lewis said that he came kicking and screaming into the faith. But for many, many others, that’s not that’s not the case. It’s about being winsome. A sweet aroma, as I like to say. And that aroma that comes from Acts. I believe, 15…Acts 10 or 15…10. Cornelius, for his sacrifices were pleasing aroma to God, it says so we need to have that sweet aroma ourselves. Jesus talks about being salt for for people. Okay, at any rate, fascinating show coming up. Here we are talking about the natalism and anti natal ism debate. And joining us is one of our recurring guests. I’m very pleased to have a man for the first time on video. Nick Byrd, Nick, how are you doing today?
Nick: Doing well, How are you?
Kurt: Good. Good. I know before we’ve had you in the earlier stages of our programming, we had you via just audio. And in fact, I recall, I think, was it the first time or the second time you were on a road trip? And so you talked on your phone?
Nick: Yeah, we were supposed to finish a hike by a certain time. Yeah, I was told. And we didn’t finish the next I was like coming down from the mountain.
Yeah. Well, thanks for doing that now. And it’s great to see you person to person. And for those of you who like and follow Nick Byrd on Facebook, he frequently jokes about his uncanny appearance to the celebrity Neil Patrick Harris. So if you think Neil Patrick Harris is on our program today, you’re wrong. And in fact, I would rather have a conversation with Nick bird than Neil Patrick Harris. I think although he would be an interesting interview. I’m sure. He probably doesn’t get into the type of issues I’m interested in, though. And so let’s see if I can remember we had you on to talk about third party voting. That was the very first time you were on the show. And the second time was on rationality, faith and rationality. Something like study show atheist tend to be more rational and we explored what that meant and, you know, exceptions and nuances and all that to what the research was really indicating. But what got my attention was you you shared on your, your page. Something about this topic? natal ism. Am I saying that correctly? natal ism.
Nick: That’s how I would say it.
Kurt:Yeah. All right, natalism and so fascinating, because also, in the news recently, Alexandria, Ocasio Cortez has been talking about how it’s a legitimate question whether people should have children because of the effects of climate change. And that comes out of an interview she did and then also in a live stream here. And before we jump into it, I want I want to play this video for our audience. So you can hear for yourself a question that believe it or not, some people are asking, and people in power and an influence are proposing this and people listen, people listen to people is authorities on the subjects. So I want to play for you here, at least about a minute here of what AOC claims here. So Chris, are we ready here? All right, here we go.
Kurt: All right. All right. We’ll, pause there. So you can see here, she is genuinely concerned about people bringing other people into the world and the suffering that people might have as a result of climate change. She also talked about financial burdens and difficulties, which of course, many of these are tough realities for people that they’re facing. And some people might think that she’s just, you know, this crazy person. But Nick, as you and I know, there are people that give serious thought and consideration to to this position. And so well, for many people AOC might just be, you know, a laughing board or something. They’re a serious thought here. So, as we jump into this discussion, let’s first start off by maybe defining our terms. What is natalism and what is anti-natalism?
Nick: So I guess natalism would be the idea that some good comes of procreating or at the very least, like were permitted to procreate, but I would imagine it’s probably even stronger than that, right? So antinatalism would just be the denial of that claim something like it’s bad to procreate, or like, there’s a comparative claim that goes something like not procreating is better than procreating. And then there’s all sorts of claims about like, you know, existence versus non existence, it’s better to not exist than to exist is some people’s reason to be anti natalist.
Kurt: Yeah, and I can’t help but think you’re, you know, sometimes our shows are dealing with political issues, proper, and others, a lot of them are theology and apologetics, sometimes well, and broadly speaking, those areas cross paths, right with, at least from from, from my hosting seat here. Everything comes from a Christian worldview, you know, how we how we look at things, including the political realm, but sometimes those issues are just more obviously, melding and this happens to be one of those topics, where we want to consider human life we want to consider even what the Bible says about human life. And many people think that Well, obviously the Bible talks about the value of human life and procreating but they’re also and we’ll get into this later, they’re also some verses which present sort of an anti natalist view, in some cases, maybe. So we’ll look into that. So that’s fascinating. So we definitely see sort of political and theological biblical ideas here. Crossing Paths. So Nick, all right, let me ask you what got you interested in this debate?
Nick: Yes. So I was taking a grad seminar at University of Colorado. And one of the topics we covered in Applied Ethics, this seminar was, it’s probably within the to call the non identity problems. So the non identity problem involves this question about like, whether it can whether people who don’t exist or things that don’t exist can be harmed, right. So one example that I hear a lot is like, imagine that I asked you or my family or something in my will and testament to cremate me after my death and to you know, spread my ashes on the top of the mountain, but instead, you or my family, you know, flush my ashes down the toilet or they do Don’t cremate me at all or something like that. Am I harmed by this? And you know, there’s this question of like, well, how could I be harmed if I don’t exist? Like who’s being harmed in this scenario? And so if you have the intuition that, you know, people who don’t exist can’t be harmed, then that’s kind of maybe inform what you think about related topics about like natal ism and anti natal ism, we might find out how that happens later. But I’m curious, actually, what do you what do you think about this? Like, can people who don’t exist to be harmed or not?
Kurt: Yes, well, and I’m sure we’re gonna get more into that. But yeah, I would say actually, that they that they can, that their value, their legacy can be harmed. As a result, and I’m sure I’m sure philosophers have also argued that I read one book and my senior year at Biola University, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice rights and wrongs, and so very much influenced by him. And he argues, I think this about human rights, that when people die, they still have rights, that they’re willing testament be honored. And that legacy is a part of that, that they’re remembered the right way, that there’s value there. And not that there’s value merely in human circles, as we understand things, but because our rights Wolterstorff argues our rights come from God, and God has given us value. And so yeah, when we when you have a will and testament, an individual still can be harmed their honor. So yeah, that’s that’s kind of my approach. But I’m interested to learn more about what anti or Yeah, anti natalists would say here. So who’s what has been one of the big proponents that you are familiar with on the anti natalism front?
Nick: So the one I hear a lot about is David Benatar. So he’s a South African philosopher. He’s got a book, I think it was 2006 something called Better to never have been. And I think he has even a follow up paper where he’s like, responding to the critics of the book saying, like, it’s still in the paper title is still never better to never have been. And I think he also has a recent book called The human predicament, which is about how, among other things how bad human life is. Yeah. And so, you know, he’s, he’s got a very, I guess, pessimistic view of, of human existence. And so that I think, seems to be motivating this idea that procreating Yeah, is…
Kurt: I’m not even sure that pessimistic is a fair term. I mean, if he’s arguing that it’s better not to have been born, he, I mean, he has a very depressing view of human existence. And I can’t help but think and I’m sure he’s gotten, you know, good, robust reasons, you know, for this very thoughtful person. But, I mean, if he thinks it’s never, it’s better to have never been born. But yeah, he’s alive. And he’s writing he’s finding value in writing and sharing ideas. Isn’t that a little at least inconsistent? I mean, that’s sort of my first go to thought.
Nick: Yeah, so this is actually a response I run into sometimes when people will say, you know, an honest or consistent anti natal list would essentially stop living. And since they’re not really stopping living, then they must not really be anti natal lists, you know, in some sense, right. Yeah. And so So Benatar has had some responses to thoughts like this, like, look, no, life can have some meaning. But it’s not some sort of cosmic meeting that really justifies coming into existence. And so he considers ceasing to exist at a reasonable option, but not, you know, the only option that anyone should ever consider
Kurt: he’s not, he’s not prescribing it, we’ll say,
Nick: Yeah, I wonder if his publishers would let him prescribe that.
Kurt: Yeah, okay. So at least my first inclination and how to respond to him. That’s something that his responders have also brought up in the literature, that there’s a, you know, a serious concern here about consistency. Okay, so that’s good. But what are what are some of those reasons that he has for saying it’s better to have never been born
Nick: Right, so one of the kind of more well known reasons that he has for antinatalism comes down to this comparison he makes between existence and non existence. So the idea is, you could like build a table and on the left side, you have existence, and on this table, you’ll have things like pains and pleasures and pleasures, those are good pleasures. Sorry, pains are bad. So you’ve got pleasures, man, you’ve got some good, you’ve got some bad. And on the other side of the table, you’ve got non existence, and you’ve so you’ve got like the absence of pleasure and the absence of pain. And it seems like the absence of pain is probably Good. But the absence of pleasure is, is not bad. But basically, whoever you fill in this table, it just looks like there’s more good on the nonexistence side than there is on the existence side of this table. And so he says, It’s better to not exist, and to just…
Kurt: that’s interesting terms of weighing pain and pleasure against each other. And that and that, for him, the better to not have pain outweighs better than the pleasure. I think he’s probably mistaken there. And people might not realize the great things that can bring life joy. I think joy is a deeper, more soulful experience, then simply pleasure pleasure seeking. I mean, does he does he mean pleasure in sort of like a hedonistic sense or does does by pleasure? He mean, even those deep things like, like, you know, a father? Well, I mean, this, this kind of begs the question, but I take sort of a pleasure out of having children, you know, and I’m referring to the act of fathering my younger ones. So sort of experience. Let’s take one that’s not begging the question. How about going to a baseball game?
Nick: Sure. You know, I’m not familiar with. So there’s different types of, you know, hedonism, or utilitarianism or consequentialism. And like, some people distinguish between like, higher pleasures and lower pleasures, like, I think John Stuart Mill does this. So if Benatar does something like that, then he might say, Yeah, look, we can say we can distinguish between higher pleasures and lower pleasures. But I think he’s still gonna say like, you know, no matter how nuanced you get about pain and pleasure, it’s still going to come out that, you know, they’re non existence just turns out to have more good stuff in it or less bad stuff in it than existence. When you when you build that table and compare the two.
Kurt: Yeah. So this is how he gets to his conclusion that it’s just it’s better to have to not experience pain, over experiencing pleasure. Would that be a fair assessment?
Nick: That’s right. So he assigns, you know, different values to existence and non existence and you know, the value of nonexistence turns out to be like, higher or better, more good. Something like that.
Kurt: Yeah, right. Right. Okay. And so what do what do philosophers think of his view?
Nick: Well, there’s definitely some, you know, some responses. Like I said, he has a paper responding to those to those views. And we considered something this grad seminar that I mentioned earlier, the thing that I find most troubling is just this very comparison, right? So, you know, imagine we’re building this this table comparing existence with non existence like he does. I’m following him mostly when we’re filling in the values for existence, right. So like, pleasure. Yeah, I guess that’s good. Maybe there’s pleasures that are better than other pleasures? Fine. Pain. seems bad. So I’m with him there. And then when we get to this non existence column, I just I haven’t I have no intuitions like I don’t I don’t know what to do with I don’t know how to assign any value to non existence because there’s nothing there to have value.
Kurt: The people that haven’t existed can’t tell us what value there is there.
Nick: Right, right. So when it comes time to compare the two columns, I’m just drawing a blank, right? It’s kind of like, when you divide by zero on a calculator, right? You get this error, right? So I feel like when you when you compare these two columns, you don’t get a response, like one is greater than the other, you just get, like, error or you know, like, something here is undefined.
Kurt: I was gonna say undefined is what the calculator would say, if I remember math class back in high school.
Kurt: Yeah, that’s funny. I see Tony here who’s falling along. Thank you, Tony. Great to have you with us today. He mentioned the Bible verse. We’re gonna get get to that later in the program. So don’t be getting ahead of ourselves here. Okay, so, Bennett Tarr thinks that in having children, we are doing a harm to these children. Is that right?
Nick: Yeah. So he’ll use phrases like, coming into existence is harmful or bringing someone into existence harms the person being brought into existence? And you know, there’s disagreement. Well, yeah, I guess I was gonna say there’s some disagreement about what coming into existence could mean that’s kind of a strange phrase.
Kurt: Yeah. Okay. Now, here’s a thought. In… So, theodicy is the attempt to reconcile divine providence with the evil and suffering we see in the world and one of the earliest church fall There’s in historical theology to attempt to theodicy was erroneous. And he brings in what is now commonly called the soul making theodicy that evil and suffering exists because God is helping build our character. Now, I don’t know if Benatar is a theist, deist or whatever I mean, he might hold but it seems like even on, say an atheistic view, you might think that some pain is actually beneficial. So, for example, when you stick a needle in your arm, in order to be vaccinated against a greater pain that could result that small pain while still painful, is actually a good in the in the grand sense of in the big picture. Does Benatar evaluate that those types of pains? And does he put them as a pleasure somehow as like a good? What’s his view on that?
Nick: To be honest, I’m not sure I know his view on that. But that’s definitely the type of question that you run into when you take a kind of consequentialist and, like where hedonistic consequentialism towards these issues is, how do we think about pain? Because it’s, you know, like, you’re saying, some people are gonna have the intuition that some pains are, at least indirectly good. And that, you know, some people might even say, like, some kinds of pain could be directly good, because some people seem to derive pleasures from pains, right. So like masochism? Yeah. So yeah. So these are these are thorny questions that are going to need to be answered at some point to get the view off the ground, I think.
Kurt: Yeah, I know, again, one of our viewers here, Tony, he’s a big weightlifting guy. And so like lifting weights is a great example. Right? There’s pain in there. But the end result is that and sometimes you walk away feeling good. I mean, it’s an odd feeling. Having suffered, you know, putting your body through that suffering and people that run marathons. I mean, same thing, it’s, you know, a long suffering 26 Miles 26.2 What is exactly the distance? That’s right. I think 26.2 You know, that’s something that people suffer through, especially non trained runners, like my friend, Cisco codo. I know did the Chicago Marathon last year? He told me he was…
Nick: CS Lewis says a line about this. I think he says something like, you know, after a long day, and you you get into bed, and you feel like aches from what you did earlier in the day. And those aches are technically pain, but there’s something that also feels good about that pain. Similar, similar idea, I think.
Kurt: Yeah. All right. So if you had to, sort of caste or play your hand here, do you think that existence is better than non existence?
Nick: I guess I would reject the comparison. Right? So it just seems to be to me an impossible comparison, sort of like dividing by zero is impossible, impossible calculation. And if you can’t make the comparison, then I, you know, I think that, essentially, that reason for antinatalism. seems to fall apart.
Kurt: I see. Okay, so you, right, so you sort of reject his reasoning. And maybe there are some other reasons to be an anti natal lists, but the, the weighing value here, you kind of reject?
Nick: That’s right. So, if antinatalism can be, you know, salvage, I don’t think it’ll be salvaged by comparing existence to non existence. So it’d be like comparing some type of existence with like, some other type of existence, or at least some other type of definable by…
Kurt: So you might say, like, like, maybe it depends, if it’s better to be born or not, like, if you’re born into, you know, an American family versus, you know, an impoverished family somewhere, often. You know, there’s who’s, there are some unreached groups still in, like, um, you know, civilization has never even gone into some groups in the Amazon still, I think, or maybe in the South Pacific, you know, natives that haven’t seen or any, you know, other people for centuries. So…
Nick: There’s some data showing that, at least for parents, the satisfaction that comes from having kids does depend a lot on like, your income and your you know, like, what kind of, you know, if you’re coming from like, a developed country type thing. And so, yeah, there definitely seems to be some contingencies about what good there is in procreating.
Kurt: Yeah, and we can think of scenarios where humans are under intense suffering. Like imagine Jewish people born, you know, in the 1920s, in Germany, or Eastern Europe. Is it good for them to have been born or not? You Some might think it’s better for them to have not been born. But then in response, you might also think actually, while there was great evil and suffering that they experienced, it has also benefited the human race to recognize these great evils so as to prevent them in the future. This and this kind of gets into the idea, would you kill baby Hitler?
Nick: Oh, yeah, that’s an interesting question.
Kurt: Yeah, it’s an odd topic, but it’s related because some people argue that if you kill baby Hitler, well, well, maybe something greater than that would have would come about. So that’s, that’s why you wouldn’t, which is also fascinating to let me say this, a lot of people don’t realize a lot more people died under Stalin in Russia than people did in Nazi Germany. And but I think for whatever reason, Americans probably because of our involvement in World War Two, just go straight more towards Godwin’s Law. Are you familiar with Godwin’s Law? No. So Godwin’s Law is the first person who mentioned Nazism in an intimate debate loses, you know, when you’re not familiar. Well, all the better. You lose. That’s right. Well, but it’s just yeah, just internet debates. Yeah. So yeah, I got Oh, you’re well, you’re well off for not getting involved in some of those debates.
Nick: I probably am that guy sometimes. So now, it’s good to know that like the rules of the game.
Kurt: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. They’re, they’re just made up rules, I guess. But certainly some people do bring it up, perhaps preemptively. Yeah. All right. So okay, maybe there are other reasons for thinking or holding to the anti natal list view. But what might be some reasons and what do you think about say, you know, procreating? And I’m not talking about, like, you know, the act itself here, Nick.
Nick: Yeah, sure. I suppose that’s a separate topic. Yeah. So, you know, I, I’m kind of open to the idea of some type of antinatalism. So I don’t think I would be open to the claim like something like strict or hard antinatalism that says, like, procreation is always in everywhere, necessarily bad. But it does seem like we were kind of just getting at that there could be cases in which procreating seems like the wrong thing to do, or even a mistake. And so, you know, some cases that I think of our, for instance, if someone has the option to procreate, or, you know, obtain children and some other, you know, legal in a good way, like adoption, or, for instance, it seems like maybe adoption turns out to be a better option in some cases than procreating. And insofar as you know, we happen to be saying, in that case, procreating is not as good as an as another option that I guess I, you know, I’m open to the idea of some form of antinatalism.
Kurt: Interesting, I want to explore that thought a little more. And I can think of a wonderful example here that might support your case, which I’ll talk about after the break here. Octomom, maybe people familiar with the news. Remember Octomom, and I’ve piqued your interest. And now I’m gonna make you wait here through the break here. Okay. All right. So we got to go to break here. And when we come back, we’re going to continue our discussion talking about the NATO lism antinatalism debate with our friend of our program, Nick Byrd, who is a PhD candidate at the Department of Philosophy at Florida State University, and a fellow in the department of psychology. So he melds those two together, and I’m sure we’ll get a refresher on some of his research. But stick with us through the short break from our sponsors,
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor, or one of our patron, those are folks that just chip in a few bucks a month to help our program go and grow, you can go to our website brassy, hill.com. And click on that patron tab. And that patron tab has been there a long time I’m hopefully going to be redoing the website in the next few months here, giving it a fresh new look. It’s 2019 After all, as the chronological snobbery argument goes, just because we’re in the future, you know something’s now wrong or outdated. But no, there’s something to an aesthetic, you know, keeping up with the Joneses appearances all that stuff, I haven’t updated the site, I should say, given it a new look or kept it fresh since I created it. So it’s been almost three years now. It’ll be three years in July that we’ve been going at this. What a great opportunity. We have to do this program week after week. If you love our program, please let us know if you hate our program, please let us know. Give us reviews on iTunes or the Google Play Store and our Facebook page. Obviously we livestream week after week. So Facebook is a big platform for us. We’ve also been busy editing the earliest episodes of veracity Hill, and they are awful from a technological standpoint. But we’re doing this because we’re going to upload all of our episodes to YouTube. Finally, speaking of Keeping Up with the Joneses, man, we’re like 10 years behind on that one. So we’re going to upload all of our episodes are YouTube so that we can livestream simulcast to both platforms? So that’s part of our plan. This year, we’re getting it done. We’re probably going to be getting it done before the summer begins? I think. So yes. That’s been part of our plan. We’re building for the future building for the future. You say Kurt? Yes, we’re talking about natal ism, and anti natal ism and whether it’s good to build for the future. I can see Nick there on my screen he likes. He likes the shameless transition. Excellent. Thank you. Thanks. So I’m joined today by Nick Byrd friend of our program. The third time he’s been on always a great pleasure to have you on Nick, you’ve done rapid questions before. So we’ll pass on those but give us a refresher on of some of the things you’re researching these days.
Nick: Yeah, so I kind of do philosophy, but I also do psychology. And I kind of do the Philosophy of Psychology, and the psychology of philosophy, right? So I teach people how to, you know, how to reason philosophically and about, you know, history of philosophy. But then I also kind of study how people reason about philosophy. We talked a little bit about that, I think in the last podcast,
Kurt: Yes, that’s right. Yeah. And if you want to come on and talk even more about that, that is a subject that fascinates me. Especially as, I mean, psychology, that’s so interesting, because, and correct me if I’m wrong, okay, because this is not psychology is not my field, but there tends to be an approach to psychology, which is, again, I could be saying something very ignorant, very deterministic, that, that our, the synapses in our brain bring about responses to us. And so we’re sort of determined to do things determined to think things as a result of the chemical processes. Is that a fair assessment of even just in general psychology?
Nick: It’s interesting, I think that in science in general, there is like, you know, this determinist intuition. What follows from that, obviously, probably varies, so I think some people would start with that worried about it, and then other people might think, yeah, you know, some troubling things follow from determinism like, you know, maybe claims about free will or something.
Kurt: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But at the same time, there’s the concept of neuroplasticity, right? Where it’s, it’s as if as if we make different decisions, we train our brain to respond differently. So there’s sort of a give and take. So at any rate, so my understanding of psychology is that things are just very deterministic. So, you know, I’m one of those out workings or conclusions you say, is that, what if my belief in God is just determined by the chemical responses? You know, am I being irrational? Or am I just doing what I was determined? To do? Do I have objectivity? So a lot of these questions come up, which I’m grateful for your pursuit of truth. Some of the things you study and you’re interested in, are trying to find that that objectivity, if it even can be had, I’m sure is one something you come across, both in philosophy and psychology.
Nick: Can I ask you about your research?
Kurt: Yeah, um, so my research. So I’m studying historical theology, which is basically like, looking at what other guys think about God and the Bible. And I’m studying a specific doctrine called Original Sin, which is a, again, it’s a theological approach. You know, I might say, it’s theological anthropology. So what is what does the Bible tell us about human nature and the the fall of Adam and Eve and the consequences of that? So I’m looking at the thought of a few monks from southern France in the fifth century. They are the so called semi Palade jeans. And they usually get a bad rap a bad view, in the circles I run in, so I’m actually trying to salvage their legacy, if you will, and the value that they have. So that’s sort of my research, and I’m working on finishing that up. So it’s, you know, it takes time, as you know, yeah, we’ve both from the sounds of it. We both been in our PhD programs for few years. So, yeah, so that’s kind of what I’m working on. I’m looking forward to being done. And then once I can get that published, then I’ll probably be doing a lot more talking and writing and I’d like to get into debates to with some other folks in theology, theology debates on the topic. So that should be very fun.
Nick: I look forward to that stuff.
Kurt: Yeah. Good. Go. I’m glad it interests you a little bit. Not until I’m talking then you’re gonna you’ll lose interest. So…
Nick: Well, we’ll see. There’s a way to test that hypothesis.
Kurt: Yes. Okay. So before we took our break, you were talking about how you are perhaps quite a bit or open to the idea of antinatalism. And that we could think of examples where it’s better to adopt than the procreate and i Boy it is due denied. Now I have to look her up what her name was. She made the news years ago, and I called her Octomom Octomom. Here she is. Nadia, Denise dude Suliman, known as Octomom. I’m reading from the great Wikipedia, by the way, is an American media personality who came to international attention when she gave birth to octuplets in January 2009. So that’s the only the second full set of octuplets that were born in the United States, something like that. Maybe ever. I think what? Why she? Yes. Here’s why she made news because she divorced her husband in 2000. Let’s see. Yeah, she divorced her husband in 2008. So she was a single mom. And I think she had these kids. Yeah, I was right. Via IVF. So she, so she, right. So she conceived of these octuplets through IVF, and then had to go on and receive taxpayer support. Because, you know, single mom, eight kids, I mean, it’s hard not being a single mom, one kid. You know, and again, maybe that’s a reason for not procreating is maybe your life circumstance. You know, so there’s certain contexts under which it’s certainly there is there are contexts under which is better to procreate. And so I can think of this example where I mean, why, you know, single mom, eight IVF, eight kids, why, why better not to have done that in the context. But, you know…
Nick: I wonder if the aid was intentional that I wonder if the goal was like one…I don’t know how it works.
Kurt: Yeah, with IVF. I think they kind of just, they throw 1000 darts and see what hits and sometimes you get, you know, it’s kind of common for IVF for folks to have, you know, twins or triplets. From this. Of course, sometimes it’s common for it to not work at all, so that’s why it’s very much hit or miss Okay, so you’re open the idea. Now, when you say you’re open the idea of antinatalism, do you draw a context to that? Or do you think it’s sort of a general universal principle? Because like I said, I think there are examples where, in a certain context, it would be better not to procreate. But I certainly think in other contexts, it’s highly encouraged to procreate. So I sort of say maybe the, the objective values, I think that exist applying contexts differently, versus a universal rule. So what’s what’s your take on that?
Nick: Yeah, so I think whatever my view is about eating antinatalism, it’s coming from somewhere else, like it’s derived from something else. And so it gives a kind of contingent view or a contextual view, I think, is maybe what you were driving. So it would be something like this, look, there’s going to be certain situations in which procreating is not the best option. And, you know, the better option might be maybe not having kids at all, or adopting someone who already exists, right? So, you know, one idea is like, look, there’s, there’s a scarcity of resources, there’s already people in the world who don’t have much, bringing a new person into the world kind of creates, like an additional competitor for those resources, right? So it would be better to just take the person who doesn’t have enough of these resources, as it is, and, you know, adopt them, and hopefully give them more resources and therefore a better life than it would be to procreate. Some.. a new person.
Kurt: May I press you on that point?
Nick: Yeah. Good.
Kurt: Okay. So, but couldn’t we say that, not just now, but for all of human history, that there’s a scarcity of resources? Oh, sure. And hasn’t it seemed to have been the case that that civilization adapts, and that we come based on sort of an economic argument from market forces, we we are able to create more of the resources that are required for to meet the demand.
Nick: Yeah, sure. So, you know, economics is probably showing that like, not all exchanges or you know, resource situations are zero sum games, but there’s can be positive thing games, right? So yes, it might be the case that we can we can both bring a person into the world and like, still have enough resources for this new person and all of their competitors. It does seem, though, that not every procreation is necessarily going to be accommodated by a positive some outcome. Right. So total seems like it’s an empirical question. Right. So like, you know, for every given case of potential procreation, we would want to ask this question like, is this going to be one of those positive some cases? Or is this going to be a non positive sum game.
Kurt: Right, right. And I think that that approach is certainly compatible with my contextualize. Right approach. So yeah, I agree there. Yeah. But I think as a universal rule, because sometimes you what, what is communicated is an unwanted approach. So like with with AOC, is video, I mean, she she isn’t just saying, there are contexts she’s sort of drawing this as a universal rule. At least that’s how I perceive that she’s saying because of climate change, and other issues. People should she says it’s a legitimate question whether people should have children. So she’s sort of drawing this universal rule, or at least she’s, she’s applying this argument to contexts, under which I think it is highly encouraged to have children. So that’s where I’m going to say, hey, wait a second here. Let’s consider this. Whereas your approaches, the economic argument about resources is compatible with my contextualized approach, even if we might disagree on which contexts? Apply it? Yeah, yeah. Okay. All right. So I’m curious, where can people find out more about some of your research and thinking on this topic?
Nick: Yeah. So I have a blog post that basically kind of reviews David Bennett stars, you know, existence versus non existence comparison and how he gets from there to antinatalism. And I kind of complain about my problems with that comparison, and that blog post, but probably more importantly, I point readers to kind of three influential papers about this topic. And that’s probably where people can find like, the real philosophy. Not not my own, not my own blog posts. So yeah, that might be worth checking out. It’s a bird mc.com It’s one of my recent blog posts. Yeah.
Kurt: Okay. And so some of those articles are, say response, or they, sorry, not the blog post, but the three articles, academic articles. Those are in favor of antinatalism or are they responses to antinatalism?
Nick: Oh, that’s a good question. I’m, I think there’s at least responses to the reasons for Benatar’s antinatalism so they might sort of like me, end up compatible with this I’m kind of antinatalism even if they reject one particular person’s reasons, or one particular person’s anti Natalism
Kurt: right, right. Uh, contextualize approached.
Nick: Nice. Yeah.
Kurt: Yeah, yeah. If you’re coining that term, you gotta give me credit now.
Nick: Oh, it’s yours. I’ll set you from now on
Kurt: Awesome. Awesome
Nick: gyros. 2019. man.
Kurt: yes, yeah, that’s right. You know, and I was, I actually had submitted an article for publication about a month or so ago, and I wanted to cite a radio show. And I thought I thought better of it. Because I guess an academic, you know, it’s typically it’s got to be published papers, I guess, radio interviews, I see that sometimes
Nick: We’re a little snobby. Academics are about that kind of stuff that has to be like peer reviewed. And you know, it has to be some prestige attached or whatever the peer reviewed publication was.
Kurt: Yeah. And even if it’s the same person who wrote something, and they did an interview somewhere, you don’t you know, where they said something else or in relation, the radio doesn’t count radio interview doesn’t count. Fascinating. Okay, so this, this stuff is interesting, you know, that there might be reasons for being an anti natal list. And some people might be wondering, how does this approach sort of a Christian worldview, that, you know, the Bible talks about, you know, one of the first commands, the first command is to be fruitful and multiply in the Bible, and there’s certainly lots of passages about the value of of life, and experiencing life with your children, teaching your children to follow the ways of the Lord. And so I’m curious to get your thoughts a little bit about this. And you sort of brought one verse to my attention, which actually, this is the verse also Tony, here who’s watching along today, cited as well from Ecclesiastes. So I’ll let you sort of take it over here and give me your thoughts on that the Bible and antinatalism
Nick: Yeah, so I mean, I probably had an intuition at some point that yeah, the Christian view would be basically natalist Because it’s, you know, it’s frequently talking about how we should you know, populate the earth and have kids and all this, you know, family oriented stuff. But you know, then I run across these these passages like Ecclesiastes chapter four, verse two and three. Did you want to talk about that now? Yeah, yeah, go ahead. Okay. Yeah. So that one just says, I declared that the dead who had already died are happier than the living who are still alive. But better than both, is the one who’s never been born, who’s not seeing the evil that is done under the sun. Right. So I mean, when I read this, I think, Wow, that is straight up David Benatar. And, you know, and the other people who who talk like this? And, you know, Ecclesiastes, you probably know this better than, than I do. But you know, that’s supposed to be considered to be written by someone who’s particularly wise. Yeah.
Kurt: Yeah, at least traditionally attributed to Solomon. It’s a part of Wisdom literature. Now with, you know, wisdom, literature and poetry, you know, it’s it’s different. I mean, it’s not it’s not a treatise. It’s not a philosophical treatise, even if there is truth to obvious truth, wisdom to be gleaned from it. So maybe what the author here means. He might be saying something hyperbolic, perhaps, about the states of affairs, or the degree of which evil, you know, is so awful to experience and suffer from. So so maybe that’s a plausible reading of Ecclesiastes. But there are other verses as well, aren’t there?
Yeah. So, you know, when I’m thinking about, you know, when I was talking earlier about adoption, I think that’s something the Bible talks pretty positively about, like it even makes the metaphor that like, you know, the Christians relationship to God is one of adoption, like, you know, Christians had been adopted, so to speak. And then in James, there’s this passage that says, This is chapter one, verse 27. religion that is pure and undefiled, before God and Father, is this to care for orphans and widows, right? So the idea seems to be, maybe, maybe there’s some pro natalist ideas on the New Testament, but there’s apparently some pro adoption, views and the New Testament as well. And that might make you think, maybe both options are on the table. Right?
Kurt: Right. Right. And here, I came up with this one, Mark 14:16, Jesus says, The Son of Man will go just it is as it is written about him. But woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been better for that man, if he had not been born. So Jesus says here, it would have been better for his betrayer to have not been born. Now. I’m gonna say here that Jesus doesn’t mean it literally. That he means that hyperbolically And here’s why. If from will say, Nick, for my own sake from a conservative evangelical Christian perspective, If Jesus actually thinks that then Jesus would have never been betrayed, if Jesus was never betrayed, he wouldn’t have died by crucifixion, which was all part of God’s plan from here’s a Latin term Historia salutis, the history of salvation. And this was God’s plan all along, from from my vantage point. So I can’t help but think Jesus doesn’t mean it literally here, because he’s, he means that this is just a great evil. That will occurred, but yet he had planned to occur to occur for somebody to have had happened. Boy, a lot of grammatical terms there to have had happen. I think that’s proper English. Chris, what do you mean, Chris has not been? Yes. So yeah, so I don’t think Jesus means that literally. So he can’t can’t take that. But yeah, you got the orphans and widows case. They’re in James. But But even still, you know, caring for the orphans, which is something that early church certainly did. And in fact, they would. The early church, it’s documented would would pick up infants on garbage heaps throughout the Roman Empire and care for them and bring them in and raise them, they would raise these children that were just given up. I forget what the terminology is. But yeah, so certainly Christians did do that. But that’s that’s compatible with procreation. Certainly, Christian couples have been having children for 2000 years here. But so how would you respond there if we’ve got sort of these responses to these allegedly anti natalist passages?
Nick: So you asked me how I would respond to your interpretation of like the Jesus passage in the Ecclesiastes passage. Yeah, yeah. Right. Yeah. So I guess the the one thing I was thinking is like, one response that’s often comes up in the theodicy is, like you were mentioning earlier is how, right God might have plans. But then also, there’s like, least according, you know, in some theologies, there’s also this, this role for freewill, right. So like, God can let things happen. And so it could be that, you know, at least in principle, God could actually think, actually, procreation is wrong in a bunch of different cases, it really would have been better for Judas to never have been born. However, like, someone made the free choice to, you know, perceive Judas. And like, you know, because I’m okay with free will, I guess, like, I let it happen. And so, you know, that interpretation allows Jesus to mean it, so to speak. But yeah, I don’t know if that if that works.
Kurt: Yeah, I think so. And like I said to I mean, there are, I think there are contexts under which. So I’ll go I’ll go a bit further here. Maybe towards towards your side here and openness. I think there are times in which the Bible prescribes antinatalism. Yeah. So wait, you may be like, Wait, hmm, what, you know, the Bible talks about, there are prohibitions against having sexual relations before marriage. So there are contexts under which people do in fact do that. And now and I’ll say this in America and Western civilization, and elsewhere throughout the world. Children are born outside of wedlock, and they grew up fatherless. This is a huge issue. It’s a it’s a massive issue. I think in Sweden, I read some crazy statistic like 80% of children born in Sweden are born outside of wedlock, which now I’m going to look up to confirm. Quick Search here. Let’s see at least in 2013 54.4%, which is still high. But I think I’ve read some article even more recent, whereas higher, but still, can you imagine 50% of children born out of wedlock. 50% are essentially fatherless. Maybe there’s some relationship with their father that they have. But there isn’t that core home home life of a mother and a father. So so the Bible certainly prescribes contexts under which it’s not good to have children. It’s not good for the children’s sake. And I don’t, I’m not just saying because God said so. I think there are very good reasons why this is these are contexts are prescribed. There’s wisdom here. From human experience. It’s it’s not good for a child not to have, say, a father or a mother. I think it’s a very natural thing. And that’s why the Bible, it’s a thing, it’s a natural thing. It’s a God designed thing from my vantage vantage point here. And so there are context under which the Scripture So in Christianity, you say, Hey, you shouldn’t shouldn’t be having children at this stage. So so I’m in agreement in that sense that I’m open to situations where that shouldn’t be the case. So, yeah, I don’t know. What do you think about that, Nick?
Nick: Yeah, so there’s, there’s these interesting studies that look at like wellbeing, subjective well being happiness, life satisfaction, relationship satisfaction over time. And one of the things that these things these studies find is that on average, having a kid means you’re going to be less happy, like, as a result of having a kid, it seems like so basically, having a kid has like a very small, positive effect for a brief moment. And then like, your overall happiness, and life satisfaction, just kind of like, steadily goes down for the rest of your life, and then it pops back up a little bit in retirement. Like maybe when the kid moves out, or something, I don’t know.
Kurt: Empty Nesters…
Nick: these are just averages, right? So it might be that, like, you mentioned, like you love having kids, right? So you’re like an outlier on this graph. But you know, if you’re looking at that, you might think, Oh, interesting. Having kids isn’t isn’t all good. In fact, on average, it’s maybe a very negative experience for lots of people. And what’s most interesting to me is that it’s the negative effects are worse for relationship satisfaction. So there’s not even a positive effect at the beginning for having a kid when it comes to relationship satisfaction. I’m an outlier. And then it just right, again, another outlet, right? Because these are averages. And so there might be some people who look at this data and you know, have some empirical reasons to think, wow, like, I’m not sure I want to have kids, or I’m not sure I want to have kids while I like, with a particular person, like, I might want to have a kid while not having a partner.
Kurt: Okay, so this is fascinating. Alright, so this is where I mean studies show, yes. Okay. But we also have to ask ourselves, on what basis on what expectations are people doing this, if they if they go in having inaccurate expectations, like they think they’re going to be able to retain their free time? You know, after having kids, you know, that’s just this false expectation, of course, it’s going to set them up for disappointment. Now, do these studies. And that’s the thing, where the studies aren’t, as some studies do follow people for decades and decades, but they don’t maybe go into asking people what their expectations are, you know, what do you think life’s gonna be like, when you have a kid? And why do you want to have children? So those are the sorts of things that I would say, hey, wait a second. Yeah, of course, people are going to be disappointed if they go into it for the wrong reasons. So I wouldn’t want people to come away thinking, Oh, this study shows, if you have kids, you’re gonna be off for you, you know, you’re gonna be worse off. Which, for me, in my interpretation, which could be inaccurate, that’s the way it comes across, though. I mean, is that…
Nick: So when you’re looking at the averages, yeah. So it’s difficult to look at averages and then apply them to yourself as an individual, right? Because it’s not clear precisely how to do that. But you might think that like, the averages give you a probability about what to do, right? So if the averages are all leaning one way, then you would think that in my case, even though I could be an outlier, I’m probably not an outlier or something like that. Right. There’s actually a deeper problem looming here. This is an excellent opportunity to mention Laurie Paul’s work. So she has this work called about transformative experiences. And one of her paradigm cases of a transformative experience is the decision to have children, right. So suppose you’ve got all the data in the world and you’d like talk to all the parents in the world need like yet think of a really good idea of what it’s going to be like to have a kid, the process of having a kid transforms your own values to the point where the person you are after having a kid isn’t the person you are before you have the kid?
Nick: So you know, the decision that you’re making pre kid doesn’t factor in the values we’ll have afterwards. And so you just can’t, you can’t there’s like a, an inability to make that rational choice theory type calculation about having children. And there are other types of transformative experiences, but like having kids is one of them.
Kurt: Yeah. But again, hopefully, if you if you can go in managing the expectation that you will change and you and how you respond to those situations, at least, again, I’m not a psychologist, but that, that you could go in and choose how you respond to those situations. You can end off better, I would argue, and I think, for my standpoint, I think the Bible talks about what a great experience having children is the value that’s there. Of course, there are these exceptions that we should consider and as you say, be open to at least what I would say context under which we shouldn’t have kids. But again, maybe there are others that are saying no, even in those circumstances don’t have kids. So like climate change and other reasons. I might, I would push back against some of the some of those reasons As some people, you know, it’s very common, especially in America today, for people are worried that if they have, you know, kids, or even if they get married, you know, they’re not gonna be able to get out of debt or something like that, you know, and I would argue that marriage has a way of bringing people out of poverty. I know there’s that’s a whole nother debate. But that marriage is a good thing. And, you know, especially Ricardos, economic comparative advantage, I think benefits marriages, they will have to do an episode on that I don’t think we have yet the comparative advantage and what that’s about. Nick, we’ve got a close up shop here today. But thank you for coming on the program. Always a pleasure to have you on. Please do stay in touch, keep me posted on your research and other things you’re thinking about. I’m very thankful for folks like yourself who want to approach these things objectively, to look at the nuances involved as well with issues. That’s very good towards, you know, being a critical thinker, which I think you’ve gained from your study of philosophy. So very appreciative of that.
Nick: Appreciate you, man.
Kurt: thanks. Have a good one. All right, secret. All right. Well, that does it for our program. Today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. They are defenders media, consult Kevin, this guy floor, rethinking Hill, the Illinois Family Institute and Fox restoration. I want to thank our technical producer, Chris, for all the fine work that he does, week in week out. And I want to thank our guest, Nick Byrd, we’ll be sure to put a link to his website. I think Chris already has it on Facebook, because he’s already on top of that stuff. So we’ll be sure to do that at our website for this post as well. Last and certainly not least, though, I want to thank you for listening in, and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
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