Thursday, 20 March 2008

Bloody parents, ruining things for the rest of us.

An interesting post on Warwick blogs about having children vs. adopting (if you can bear reading it given the fact that the author has symbolically crossed the whole thing out). The author posits that in the current world situation, having a child of your own is a fundamentally selfish act, bringing happiness to yourself, whilst increasing the global problems of resource-depletion and overpopulation.

The argument, I guess, is that if you want a child, adopting one gives you all of the benefits of having a child (what you want), while providing a caring home for an existing child (what they want), and preventing further overpopulation (what we all want).

As far as adoption being a better idea than giving birth, it seems like a solid idea, and the only real argument I could see would be that for many people, it may seem more difficult to love a child who is not (biologically) your own. Short of slipping orphaned newborns into the arms of parents who have unknowingly just lost a child, there's no real solution to this, and so for those people, the argument comes down to whether it is morally justifiable to bring a child into the world, versus not doing so.

The argument then comes down to whether it is 'better' (in as objective as possible a sense) for life to be created than for it not to. Is it always better for a child to be given life, even if that life is likely to be short and unpleasant? Should we be aiming for the ideal of bringing as much life as possible into the world (trying to maximise potential for happiness), or trying to increase the quality of life of those already existing (trying to maximise actual happiness)?

Ultimately, of course, the problem comes down to one of moral imperative, and selfishness. Labelling bringing a new child into the world as a selfish act seems on balance to be a resonable thing to do, but this needs to be balanced by the meaning of the word selfish. I would argue that we all do so many selfish things every day (maximising our own local potential happiness at the expense of other people's actual happiness) that the 'selfish' label is maybe not so much of a deterrent. Having a child may be selfish, but so is going out for a drink with friends rather than volunteering at the local homeless shelter, or driving to work rather than selling my car and giving the money to charity. Or making any purchase other than food, drink and shelter.

So, the questions really come down to: If we want to eliminate (or reduce) selfishness in the way that we act, day to day, is not having a child (and potentially therefore adopting one) a meaningful decision to make? Would it make any difference in the glorious tide of selfishness that is modern life? Is it possible or desirable to eliminate selfishness as I describe it, and does the presence of such selfishness in the world actually matter?

I'm not going to answer these questions, because if I did, you wouldn't learn anything. Feel free to discuss in the comments, though.

The discussion also reminded me of vhemt, of whom I'm not entirely sure what I think.

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