Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A Call to Arms

I had a dream last night that I posted three entries on the one day. It was only 33% correct, so it wasn't much of a premonition. But in any case, my topic for today is Organised Resistance. And why we antinatalists don't seem to be doing much in the way of spreading the word. Now you'd be right in saying that the art of blog-posting is as good an advertisement as any as to the grandeur and loveliness of antinatalism, but the sad truth remains: not many of us even have blogs. And moreover, most of our blogs aren't even popular enough to make any significant impact on converting others. Don't act by the way, like a lot of religious people out there. If your idea is correct, then it stands to reason that you spread it to best maximise the likelihood that its conclusions are made reality. By that reasoning, we should all be missionaries of antinatalism! But still, look around you: Google does not recognise antinatalism as a word, no scholar openly espouses antinatalism apart from David Benatar, and most people still have the same knee-jerk response to attempts to convince them that they can't have children.  Something must be done.

I think the main problem is that we can't see each other. We can't meet up with each other and plan any kind of revolt or mass-advertisement, because on the internet it simply seems like all of us are acting alone when we try to spread the good word. But if we just get up the courage, kick ourselves in the ass, and start working hard to pursue the only thing in life that has any sort of value at all, maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference before we die. That's all well and good, you say, but you haven't even told us what to do? How can we trust you, estnihil, if you won't even offer a simple little example?

Well, I'll tell you. We start off with the Overcoming Bias community. My reasoning is simple: they have a serious pronatalist on their side (i.e. Bryan Caplan), and they obviously have knowledge of Sister Y's blog (Eliezer and Rob's comments), but they still don't buy into the truth of what we say. My plan? A two-pronged attack. Those of us with blogs mount a coordinated assault on a single day, September 13th (Positive Thinking Day), and those of us without attack their ill-thought out ideas on Less Wrong's IRC chatroom.   

Convert as many as you can. Godspeed, comrades.


  1. I do see the appeal, but a couple things:

    1. Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, this must be done.

    2. Think about a fringe belief you heard of once. Would a group of people who hold that belief all advocating it on a forum make you more likely to adopt that belief?

  2. Yeah yeah I know, it's preachy. I'm not trying to become the first antinatalist dictator, I'm just advocating getting known. I think the thing is, being known is always better than not being known. A random church in the middle of nowhere will never have many people attending it, but the Westboro Baptist Church probably got a lot of converts even after so much bad press. It's better that we alert people to the fact that our beliefs exist rather than maintain our dignity by not speaking up. And I don't mean we HAVE to do things my way, it's just that, it seems really to me that the easiest way to get more antinatalists on our side is to talk to thinking people - and the OB community is full of them. Do you get what I mean?

  3. est, Overcoming Bias is the most ironically titled blog that has ever existed. I simply do not get the amount of respect Robin Hanson gets in this community. He uncritically accepts the pronatalist position and encourages a population explosion (cuz poor kids smile, dontcha know). He spends a large chunk of his cash to have his head cut off and frozen after he kicks the bucket in the hopes that future generations, despite their severe resource shortages (brought on by the aforementioned population explosion), will find him fascinating enough to defrost him. He is a creepy, hostile sexist who whines about how men who refuse to have a paternity test performed before they put their names on some baby's birth certificate are victimized as much as victims of rape (if not worse). He lacks the basic self-awareness and critical thinking skills to notice that maybe the reason his readership is overwhelmingly male is because he and his commenters are misogynistic assholes and instead concludes that women are simply not interested in overcoming bias. And Bryan Caplan, well... words cannot describe.

    Plus, these people already believe that they are more enlightened and less biased than the general population. There is some research that suggests that such beliefs may actually make people less reflective about their gut judgments. Seriously, you'll have more luck at a Quiverfull chapter meeting than with the Overcoming Bias crowd.

  4. I don't know if Bryan Caplan is a "serious pronatalist" or whether pro-natalism is just something he latched onto just to be politically incorrect. His appeal to economism and other types of facile axiomatic reasoning suggest the latter, along with his "parenting is irrelevant," "education is irrelevant," "IQ is everything" positions. As for me, I'm not sure I'm sold on antinatalism. It sounds pretty extreme to me. I'm definitely in the "overpopulation is not a non-problem" camp, and even fascinated with negative utilitarianism, but antinatalism seems a bit shocking to me. As far as converting others, the "child-free for personal reasons" crowd is facing strong headwinds even when on the defensive. I do get most of my population-oriented rhetoric from the child-free crowd; with my first priority taking head on the explicitly insulting meme that equates parenthood with adulthood. One of my talking points toward breeders is "someday your kids will thank me for being child-free." Don't even get me started on the grandkids... You might be interested in the Golden Coat Hanger blog, where there are a lot of "gatekeeper" horror stories (e.g.) involving voluntary sterilization. This stuff isn't utility calculations on potential suffering by potential people living in a potential future, but about very real human rights abuses against human adults in the here and now.

    "I'm not trying to become the first antinatalist dictator…"

    Now that's got me thinking: Arguably the most egregiously pronatalist dictator—Ceausescu—was also a Communist. Perhaps we can borrow a page from the right wing playbook and red-bait the pronatalists!

    Note: The logical target for antinatalist propaganda is young people who have not yet decided on things like family size. This puts us in the same boat as Socrates

  5. Lorraine, excellent point about target demographic.