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King: 2 authors offer arguments on procreation
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“Why Have Children?”

I’m not asking. It’s the name of a book by Christine Overall, and it‘s subtitled, “The Ethical Debate.” With all the political brouhaha over abortion, contraception and reproductive rights, it’s interesting to find someone posing the question: Should we have children at all?

Overall believes we should, but she qualifies her conclusion. There are times when bringing a child into the world is irresponsible.

Another author, David Benatar, believes human beings shouldn’t reproduce. His book is titled, “Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.” Does the man really think the world would be a better place if humans ceased to procreate? Apparently he does.

Always interested in these matters, I tackled Overall’s book first. She is a professor of philosophy at Queen’s University in Canada, and her book reads something like a doctoral thesis. Not really dry if you are interested in the subject, but rather plodding. In Chapter 6, she addresses Benatar’s assertion that coming into existence is always a serious harm.

I had to buy Benatar’s book. Georgia’s public library system doesn’t have a copy. They should. Benatar is a very provocative writer. He does, however, make one thing clear: Not bringing new life into existence does not mean ending life that’s already here. He isn’t remotely suggesting suicide or extermination of any kind. He simply believes that procreating is not an ethical act.

I agree, but don’t throw the paper in the trash quite yet.

Remember, the authors of both the aforementioned books hold Ph.D.s in philosophy. Both books are exercises in logic, and procreation is not logical. It may be many things, biology being an important part of the mix, but ethics is not based on either religion or law, and thus logic isn’t going to solve anything

I am not about to critique the logic of either book, but I did find “Better Never to Have Been” well worth reading, if only because it makes the reader think deeply about life and the human condition.

If Benatar forces people to think logically about procreation by extolling the virtue of nonexistence, he has accomplished a lot. However, most people don’t think; they react. Benatar is going to make a lot of people angry which is sad and a waste of energy.

When I was in school, an anthropology professor gave his students a novel assignment. It involved a controversial book on race. We were not assigned the book itself. We had to research various critiques of the book. This meant going through a number of scientific journals as well as researching the opinion pages of major magazines and newspapers.

Before I ordered Benatar’s book, I read the reviews. If the subject intrigues you, I suggest you do the same. You’ll find them on the Web. I am not interested in whether or not Benatar convinces you. He didn’t convince me, but he did make me think about existence itself.

As far as I’m concerned, Benatar doesn’t carry his argument far enough. He stops with people. What about the rest: animals, the earth, the sun and the stars ... the cosmos itself? It also “comes into existence.”

Go to the Hubble website and click on nebula. You have a treat in store. Nebulae are where stars come into existence, and they are incredibly beautiful.

All life — all matter — is always coming into existence. From particles in the Hadron Collider that exist for mere nanoseconds to stars in the heavens that burn for billions of years, they come and they go.

We humans are mere participants. Our job is to experience the wonder of existence, to minimize pain when we can and to maximize our understanding of life itself.

I abhor suffering of any kind and avoid pain as much as the next guy, but by my own existence, I share existence with the rest of Creation — and it is glorious!

Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at