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Antinatalism: are humans a plague?

March 2020 | by Geoff Chapman

Sir David Attenborough during 2019 IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings
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According to the popular naturalist and TV presenter, Sir David Attenborough, ‘Humans are a plague on the earth… If we disappeared overnight the world would probably be better off.’ Attenborough has advocated limiting population growth and decries the ‘frightening explosion’ in human numbers.

Although such views are not new, they have been given new prominence by the rise of what is known as antinatalism: the view that human procreation is unethical. The Antinatalist Party of the UK has its own website and uses various social media outlets to endorse its cause. Books, blogs, and YouTube videos promoting the movement are common.

The policies in the Antinatalist Party’s manifesto include discouraging people from having children by cutting tax credits, taxing meat to reduce harm to animals, and legalising doctor-assisted dying for those with serious physical and mental illnesses (including conditions which are not terminal).

The party’s founder, Nadeem Ali, told The Independent, ‘The core philosophy of antinatalism is to recognise that being born means to suffer, as well as feel pleasure, but that the forgoing of pleasure is not as bad as the presence of suffering.’

Professor David Benatar of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and the author of Better Never to Have Been said, ‘I don’t think that the absence of humans on the planet would be a bad thing at all.’

Many antinatalists claim that it’s wrong to bring children into the world because they couldn’t give their consent to be born. Antinatalists also claim that life is purposeless and that the potential suffering of future generations means that it would be better if people were never born in the first place. Like David Attenborough, they also believe that the natural world would benefit from our absence.

Of course, it goes without saying that all these people are evolutionists who believe that human beings are the accidental products of millions of years of chance processes.

Created for humans

How should Christians respond to the antinatalist view? As Bible believers, we do accept that humans have not done a good job of carrying out God’s mandate to be stewards of his creation. Because of the sins of selfishness and greed, mankind has indeed done damage to the environment through pollution, exploitation, and carelessness.

However, we do not ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ by saying the world would be better off without us. The answer is not fewer people, but more wisdom and consideration in our stewardship of creation. The irony is that this a position promoted by the Bible but undermined by the ‘nothing ultimately lasts or matters’ bottom line of atheistic evolution.

In fact, the Bible clearly teaches that the earth was specially created as a home for humans. This is one of the reasons why creationists reject the view that the Earth existed for more than four billion years before humans appeared. The psalmist wrote, ‘The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man’ (Psalm 115:16).

There is much evidence that our planet was designed with us in mind. Design expert Professor Stuart Burgess highlights several anthropocentric or ‘man-centred’ features, including the variety of edible fruits and vegetables, and animals such as sheep, cattle, and horses, which seem so well designed for our use. Horses, for example, were historically indispensable to the farming industry, to travel, and to the military.

The earth is undeniably a ‘goldilocks’ planet. From its gravity to the oxygen levels in the atmosphere to the moderate temperature ranges, it is just right to serve human life and flourishing.

Humans central to God’s plan

To suggest that the world would be better off without us is to exchange the truth about God for a lie and to worship created things rather than their Creator (Romans 1:25).

What would be the point of the natural world without humans to appreciate it? Animals are oblivious to natural beauty and only concerned with survival and propagation. We do not even see the higher primates, for instance, gathering to appreciate a sunset or to gaze at the stars on a clear night.

The antinatalists are in complete error. Humans are central to God’s plans for the earth. He also afforded mankind the highest worth and value when he himself became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ to save and redeem lost humanity. In lamenting the existence of man, antinatalists undermine the very thing that God dignified through the Incarnation – humanity.

Humans are also an essential part of the future. In the prophecies of Revelation, the Apostle John spoke of the new creation, where there will be ‘a great multitude’ of redeemed people ‘from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne and before the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:9). The focus and glory of that new creation will not, however, be mankind itself, but he who is the God-man and the only Saviour of mankind – the Lord Jesus Christ.

Adapted from Creation Update No. 114 and edited with the author’s permission.

Geoff Chapman is director of Creation Resources Trust (www.crt.org.uk).