Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thoughts

"The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?" - Jeremy Bentham
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MVinding
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Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thoughts

Post by MVinding » Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:20 pm

What are your thoughts about an anti-natalist approach to the problem of wild animal suffering?

It seems to me one of the best solutions, both in terms of feasibility (technically anyways, although I could be wrong, of course) and in terms of effectiveness, as a successful implementation of this approach would solve the problem entirely.

The question is whether it is too outrageous to propose, or even just "ponder out loud" about, but it seems to me that any proposed solution is going to be outrageous, and an anti-natalist approach to nature at least seems likely to be less controversial for most people than taking such an approach to humanity only (cf. the voluntary human extinction movement) -- which makes no sense ethically -- or to all of life, including humanity.

Any thoughts on the idea?

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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by DanielLC » Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:05 pm

It's irreversible, so it's important to be sure that wild animals' lives aren't worth living, but if they're not, I'm all for wiping them out. I think the only technically feasible solution would be mass euthanasia. We can't just sterilize all of the animals.
Consequentialism: The belief that doing the right thing makes the world a better place.

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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by MVinding » Sun Mar 08, 2015 9:34 am

Interesting thoughts.

I fail to see how there can be any doubt about that wild animals' lives are generally not worth living, especially when one considers the fierce war that is evolution and what it inevitably throws at sentient life. Furthermore, I fail to see why irreversibility is a problem unless one has a special attachment to these species, as we could always "fill up" the world with happy beings of another kind -- in this sense, it is not an irreversible move.

Mass euthanasia, yes that would perhaps be even simpler, and most likely more effective. However, this also opens up some dangerous doors (as forced mass sterilization does too, of course). There are good reasons to preserve the sanctity of life notion, and I cannot help feeling that putting down healthy animals is wrong, but yeah, if it spares them from being eaten alive the next day, or starving to death two years later after having eaten countless animals alive, then giving them a quick, painfree exit indeed does seem the right thing to do. Yet in any case, I think we should at least pursue a combination, and not put down, say, healthy herbivores, but merely sterilize them and provide them good lives. After all, when we have the resources and skills to mass euthanize, we should also be able to pull off a welfare state for elephants, as David Pearce has advocated. I think that is ethically the superior move by far, and also much less controversial, so I think we should pursue that to the extent we can.

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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by DanielLC » Sun Mar 08, 2015 8:38 pm

I fail to see how there can be any doubt about that wild animals' lives are generally not worth living, especially when one considers the fierce war that is evolution and what it inevitably throws at sentient life.
It's not a question of what is thrown at sentient life. It's a question of how sentient life evolved to react to it. Wild animals' lives are worth living if their lives being worth living improves their fitness. My instinct is that they'd evolve to average around neutral, with emotions in both directions.
Furthermore, I fail to see why irreversibility is a problem unless one has a special attachment to these species, as we could always "fill up" the world with happy beings of another kind -- in this sense, it is not an irreversible move.
That would be possible eventually, but we'll get to the point of being able to get some idea if their lives are worth living long before getting to the point where we can make artificial life of that complexity.

It's already common to put down feral animals that aren't going to get adopted, so there's precedent for putting down healthy animals for their own good.
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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by MVinding » Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:54 am

DanielLC wrote: It's already common to put down feral animals that aren't going to get adopted, so there's precedent for putting down healthy animals for their own good.
No. This is just a horrible practice, and not in any sense "fertile ethical ground" to build upon, as you imply. Our killing of cats and dogs is not an expression of ethical care for them, but instead the exact opposite: it is something we do because we do not care enough about them, and because they are commodities that we have "produced" too many of. We kill them because we do not have space and resources for them; not for their own good. The difference is everything.

But might such a practice not reduce suffering? I would argue that the answer is a clear "no" for various reasons, one of them being that it serves to reinforce our ethical disregard for non-human animals -- we should prevent their births rather than kill them (which is also why I would favor the sterilizing approach over the euthanizing one with regard to wild animals, since a mass genocide, no matter how "humanely" one could carry it out, tends to be a weird way to care for other beings, especially as a matter of human psychology, which is anything but irrelevant). But regardless of that question, let us not fool ourselves about the attitudes toward non-human animals that these practices reflect -- they are not ones we can build upon, but ones we must oppose. Vehemently!

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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by Brian Tomasik » Mon Mar 09, 2015 12:39 pm

Thanks for this discussion. I think antinatalism for large herbivores would probably increase wild-animal suffering because the food those herbivores would have eaten would now feed many more, smaller, shorter-lived animals. I think antinatalism should operate at the level of primary production. Plants are the "roots" of the problem. But we can't really sterilize plants. Instead, we need to displace their habitat with buildings, parking lots, solar panels, etc.

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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by MVinding » Mon Mar 09, 2015 6:52 pm

Brian Tomasik wrote: I think antinatalism for large herbivores would probably increase wild-animal suffering because the food those herbivores would have eaten would now feed many more, smaller, shorter-lived animals. I think antinatalism should operate at the level of primary production.
I agree. It must be applied consistently, not just for large herbivores. I mentioned herbivores above in relation to a combination of AN and euthanizing, and elephants were only mentioned as a specific example of beings we should be able to give good lives as opposed to killing them.
Brian Tomasik wrote: Plants are the "roots" of the problem. But we can't really sterilize plants. Instead, we need to displace their habitat with buildings, parking lots, solar panels, etc.
Yes, and it is ironic that this is where we clash with the mainstream animal rights movement, which almost praises "mother nature," even though nothing could be more speciesist. On a side note, I actually think this is something that might well change their minds: pointing out that it is overtly speciesist (we do not accept that humans get eaten alive etc.), and if there is anything AR activists oppose, it is speciesism. So I think that holds great promise, and that is why I am currently working on a small book on that, aiming to make that point among others.

Yet challenging speciesism is probably not enough. The "happy nature delusion" needs to fall too. For instance, while you and I likely consider news like this: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... nce-world/ something like the best news of all time (the reduction per se; not the way the reduction happened), many AR activists would probably find it something like the worst news ever, because they think something valuable is lost rather than spared. Yet I think we have enough documentation of what sentient life in the wild is like at this point to prove them wrong.

Btw, Brian, have you seen this: http://www.onlyonesolutionsite.org/homepage.html ? Interesting stuff, I think, relevant to look into both in relation to ER and how the problem of suffering and ER are, as David Pearce has noted, closely connected issues. This OOS group will hardly be the last one to get this idea, although they are misguided on many levels. For one, there is no magical button, and hopeless AR activists are probably going to be the least likely to figure out how to make one, and second, their response in the FAQ section to the question about suffering on other planets is just embarrassing.

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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by Brian Tomasik » Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:00 pm

MVinding wrote: So I think that holds great promise, and that is why I am currently working on a small book on that, aiming to make that point among others.
Awesome!
MVinding wrote: Btw, Brian, have you seen this: http://www.onlyonesolutionsite.org/homepage.html ?
Someone shared the link in 2012. It seems likely that such efforts increase expected suffering by creating backlash. Imagine what would happen to more modest efforts to reduce suffering if a member of OOS tried a failed attempt at terrorism. Fortunately it's not a very popular movement.

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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by DanielLC » Tue Mar 10, 2015 5:49 am

Our killing of cats and dogs is not an expression of ethical care for them, but instead the exact opposite: it is something we do because we do not care enough about them, and because they are commodities that we have "produced" too many of.
If we didn't care about them, we'd just leave them alone. The only reason to kill them is that we consider that a better alternative. Raising them would be better still, but that's not an option for wild animals.

I don't see how antinatalism could be the best option. Either wild animals' lives are worth living, in which case we should let them reproduce, or they are not, in which case we should end them as soon as possible.
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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by MVinding » Tue Mar 10, 2015 11:29 am

DanielLC wrote: If we didn't care about them, we'd just leave them alone. The only reason to kill them is that we consider that a better alternative.
Our reasons for capturing cats and dogs are often just as much, if not more, for human purposes, e.g. that we do not want them to make a mess out of our cities, that we want to avoid stray animals to spread diseases and bite people etc.
A better alternative for what? The reason why healthy animals are put down is that we do not have space and resources for them, and this proves the very point that we do not care enough about them. Killing healthy individuals out of a lack of resources is simply not what we do to individuals whom we truly care about (think: humans). And yeah, it is not that we do not care about cats and dogs at all -- at least they do not have the same status as chickens and pigs whom we find it perfectly fine to fry and eat. Yet it is still a pale form of care we show, which is practically inevitable as long as they are property and have commodity status.
DanielLC wrote: Raising them would be better still, but that's not an option for wild animals.
Mass euthanasia or sterilizing is not yet an option either. In the future it could be, and if/when we attain such technological sophistication, we will likely to be able to steward the life of at least many wild animals. We could likely do this now already, at least resource-wise, yet we obviously do not have the will and mindset it takes, because we think about wild animals in terms of conservation and populations rather than welfare, and because it makes little sense, economically and ethically, to take care of small groups of wild animals while we impose suffering upon billions of them and find it perfectly acceptable to kill them for frivolous reasons.
DanielLC wrote: I don't see how antinatalism could be the best option. Either wild animals' lives are worth living, in which case we should let them reproduce, or they are not, in which case we should end them as soon as possible.
It is hardly that simple. Excuse me for making a bizarre thought experiment, but say we have a population of humans on an isolated island, and say this population is able to reproduce, but their lives are clearly not worth living in the aggregate. Important to note is that it is not that their lives are not worth living most days of their lives, but rather that they have very painful final years and deaths that make them suffer horribly when they die, and which make their lives big minus signs on the whole (one could argue that this applies to most humans in general, but that is not the issue here). To make the thought experiment even more bizarre and similar to the horrors of nature, let's say they tend to die by getting eaten alive by the other humans, and since these humans all have have a genetic defect, this is how they will inevitably act if we do not intervene, and we cannot convince them to use contraception or otherwise not have children (I believe this is fairly analogous to the situation of many, if not most, animal lives in nature -- not cannibalism, although it's not uncommon, but that wild animals eat each other, and live terrible lives in the aggregate, even if most of their lifetime is more than bearable).
Now, the question is: How do we best deal with this situation? Do we simply mass euthanize them? It does not seem like such an obvious solution to me, and ditto for the animals in nature. Forced sterilization combined with some intervention -- such as providing them adequate, cruelty-free food -- is much better in my view.

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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by DanielLC » Wed Mar 11, 2015 5:18 am

Mass euthanasia or sterilizing is not yet an option either.
We can't kill them all yet, but we could do a lot just from nuking a few rainforests. At the very least, we can stop feeling bad about cutting them down. Painless euthanasia would be preferable, but if that means we have to put it off longer, it may not be worth it.
Important to note is that it is not that their lives are not worth living most days of their lives, but rather that they have very painful final years and deaths that make them suffer horribly when they die, and which make their lives big minus signs on the whole[.]
Then it is all the more important to kill them before their final years, rather than letting them die naturally and just keeping them from having children.
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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by MVinding » Wed Mar 11, 2015 12:39 pm

DanielLC wrote: We can't kill them all yet, but we could do a lot just from nuking a few rainforests
Not sure whether you are being serious or facetious here, but it should be clear to anyone that dropping nukes is the last thing to do if one wants to reduce suffering, as it causes horrible deaths, such as being burned alive or dying from burns over periods of time ranging from hours to months (hard to say what is worse), and many other terrible effects such as increased carcinogenic radiation over large areas (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of ... explosions).

DanielLC wrote: Then it is all the more important to kill them before their final years, rather than letting them die naturally and just keeping them from having children.
But this is too simple, and overlooks the important nuances. As mentioned, one could argue that this also applies to most, or at least many, humans in general -- that many humans have very painful final years and deaths that make them suffer horribly, and which make their lives big minus signs on the whole. So should we also kill them before their final years? There are many good reasons to answer no to that question, and ditto for wild animals.

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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by DanielLC » Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:05 am

but it should be clear to anyone that dropping nukes is the last thing to do if one wants to reduce suffering, as it causes horrible deaths
It's an even less desirable option than killing them all painlessly, but it's easier, which means that we can get it done earlier, so it prevents that much suffering.
So should we also kill them before their final years?
I would respect their choice. Animals don't understand the situation to remotely the level of a human, so I don't think they can really be thought of as being able to make a choice. In that case, or in the case of a human that did not choose beforehand and is in no state to make a choice now, I would use my own judgement. If I believe their lives are not worth living, I would euthanize them.
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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thou

Post by DanielLC » Mon May 04, 2015 9:24 pm

(Spoiler: It does not feature any discussion of nuclear first-strikes against nature.)
How about second strike if they nuke us first?
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Re: Antinatalist solution to WAS - curious to hear your thoughts

Post by Ubuntu » Fri Apr 07, 2017 6:19 pm

" I fail to see how there can be any doubt about that wild animals' lives are generally not worth living, especially when one considers the fierce war that is evolution and what it inevitably throws at sentient life."

I wouldn't want to undermine the amount of suffering that non-human animals in the wild feel (and not just from health issues like starvation, disease and injury. One study showed that macaques who were lower on their groups social hierarchy were more likely to over-indulge in high fat/sugar comfort foods) but I don't necessarily agree. I vaguely remember a hedonistic consequentialist vegan on youtube claiming that killing a cow is generally not as bad as killing a human and not because of how the rest of human society is affected by the killing or deaths of humans or for some indirect reason but because cows don't experience as much happiness in their lives (I'm not sure what he said but that's the impression that stuck with me) and I saw this as an ad hoc and biased justification for prioritizing human lives. Most people, consequentialists and non-consequentialists (I don't personally like the term 'utilitarian' ), formally agree that non-human suffering is bad but I think even (hedonistic) consequentialists tend to consider maximizing non-human happiness to be less important than maximizing human happiness. I think one reason why the consequentialist in the video I have in mind might have downplayed how much happiness cows can feel is because humans, being more cognitively developed, have more complicated psychological needs so it's harder to understand how fulfilling the life of a cow with all of her needs met can be since we intuitively have to associate our emotional states with their objects and the average psychologically normal human adult could never be satisfied with the simpler life of a cow, just like someone who loves nothing more than to play video games could be inclined to underestimate the happiness their friend feels painting because painting doesn't make them as happy.

It's possible that cows experience happiness less easily than humans do but that's possible for some human as well and that wouldn't be directly related to cognition (many non-human animals who are cognitively less developed have sharper senses than we do or even senses that we lack entirely). I'm sure they experience a similar intensity of euphoria when high on certain psychoactive drugs. Cows probably don't ruminate over past regrets and traumas (even if they are conditioned by negative past experience) or worry about the non-immediate future, in many respects a well cared for cow might be better off than the average human. Domesticated non-human animals who are well cared for are probably happier than non-human animals in the wild are but I'm sure it's normal for 'wild' animals to have overall happy lives, if not when looking at their entire lifespans then when you focus on their lives up until they fall victim to old age related disease, serious injury, starvation or predation) so if you wanted to mass euthanize non-human animals in the wild I don't think you should indiscriminately focus on all of them. I don't think it would necessarily be a bad idea to (non-commercially) domesticate more non-human animals who can either be fed a herbivorous diet or synthetic meat that will be widely available in the future.

"Furthermore, I fail to see why irreversibility is a problem unless one has a special attachment to these species, as we could always "fill up" the world with happy beings of another kind -- in this sense, it is not an irreversible move."

It's irreversible for the specific beings who are killed and if you could create beings who would experience an equal or greater amount of happiness later on you could do that without killing anyone which would be better than killing someone and 'replacing' them *or* not killing them but not creating other beings who would benefit as much or more from being brought into existence either. Creating another being who would experience more happiness than the one you kill, or a greater number of beings who would each experience the same amount as the one you kill would have, can only make up for killing someone if killing them was *necessary* in order to create another being or beings who would benefit more or as much from being brought into existence as the victim would have from not being killed. That said, I think the focus should be on maximizing happiness for individuals (ie. that sentient beings should be viewed and treated as individual sentient beings and not as members of a species so I don't care about conservation of species per se the way environmentalists do).

I think I'm forgetting something I wanted to add.

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