Peter Singer, the often controversial philosopher, is at it again. In a post online, entitled Should This Be the Last Generation, he posits a seemingly timeless philosophical question; should we continue to populate the planet and why?
His arguments are based on the following assumptions (which seem to be premises for many of his other notions):
1. Most of life is about suffering and chasing after illusionary satisfaction.
2. Human beings have no intrinsic value (Singer is also a proponent of euthanising those who are physically and mentally challenged).
3. Bringing unborn into the world is a form of cruelty because we are bringing people into a world to suffer.
While he presents an argument that seems in favor of this crazy scheme, Singer comes to the conclusion that life is worth living for most, so therefore, ending human life is not worth it. After presenting his argument, he poses the following questions:
1. If a child is likely to have a life full of pain and suffering is that a reason against bringing the child into existence?
2. If a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life, is that a reason for bringing the child into existence?
3. Is life worth living, for most people in developed nations today?
4. Is a world with people in it better than a world with no sentient beings at all?
5. Would it be wrong for us all to agree not to have children, so that we would be the last generation on Earth?
To answer his questions in one shot, I would argue that of course life is worth living. To even begin questioning whether the world would be better without us is coming from a place of arrogance. How would we even know or how would a comparison be possible as no sentient beings would be able to judge a world without humans.
For those of us who believe a higher power, regardless of title, many of his questions can be answered as follows: Life has an intrinsic value for each and every one of us. Most of us never fully grasp what that value and purpose is, yet we recognize a certain quality of being special. I would assume that this thinking is somewhat across the board, even in third world countries (maybe especially so, as reproduction continues to remain higher). Yes, life is depressing at times, a theme we find as far back as the book of Ecclesiastes (Qohelet) and other works of that genre, but, as to quote a commentor on the piece by Singer, better to have lived and loved and lost than never to have lived at all. Bringing a child into the world is a joyous occassion with hopes and dreams. Very often those dreams get shattered, but it does not mean a mistake was made, or that the parent should then be considered harmful as they brought the unborn into the world to suffer. Rather, it means life is never what we plan it to be, which for some can be quite sad, while for others brings about greater, more lasting joys.
Update Jun 17, 2010: Peter Singer responds the critiques of his piece in the following post.