Adulation, Complicity And Defiance In Breeding

The extreme case of Adulation of our predatory nature in reproduction is, of course, the Judaeo-Christian command to “Go forth and multiply”, so delightfully parodied by Monty Python with their “Let not a sperm be wasted” musical number. Ibn al-‘Arabi taught that the end of human history would be characterised by sterility and many childless marriages, implying that these non-reproducers would then reject the call of God and be damned. We may read this as either a cloudy prophecy of modern pollution-mediated infertility or as simple chauvinism on the part of someone whose reproductive apparatus was functional. In other words, what would he have taught if he had been born sterile?

Lest it be thought that the original Abrahamic directive is a mere leftover from a relatively unpopulated world with labour shortages and tribal gods, and the Catholic follow-up a matter of preserving the tax base of the clergy, some Protestant sects take it quite literally today, and aim at a dozen children each. This is what happens when you make a religious directive that reinforces our biological agenda rather than fighting it as a decent religion ought.

Moreover, “go forth and multiply” is quite recognisable in supposedly secular ideologies such as Manifest Destiny and limitless economic growth. It is taken for granted in many quarters that the business of man is to spread through the universe in the same way as he once explored the Earth, no doubt destroying both along the way. This was magnificently satirised by C.S. Lewis in Out of the Silent Planet, where the scientist Watson is obliged to explain the manifest destiny of Terrans to a planetary guardian spirit, through an interpreter, in a language that lacks abstractions and is thus obliged to tell everything like it is. Bombast about “marching on, step by step, superseding, where necessary, the lower forms of life that we find, claiming planet after planet, system after system, till our posterity – whatever strange form and yet unguessed mentality they have assumed – dwell in the universe wherever the universe is habitable” becomes “perhaps they would be able to keep moving from one world to another and wherever they came they would kill everyone…. He wants the creatures born from us to be in as many places as they can. He says he does not know what kind of creatures they will be.” Rather unfairly, Lewis elsewhere called this evolutionary expansionism “Wellsianity”, but he would have done better to have called it “Dysonianity”, for the proposal to create more living-space by disassembling all the planets of a sun to make a shell entirely enclosing it. On such a Dyson Sphere there would be no tectonic motion, climate change or other environmental processes to create new ecologies that might bring to birth new species – this is the ultimate in the iron dreams of Homo sapiens, happy to destroy not only other life but the very potential for other life, all in the name of 200-million-mile-wide tract housing. In which the teeming gadzillions of human beings would do – what exactly?

Adulatory approaches to breeding need not involve the production of children up to our biological capacity. Only one or two are necessary if we deliberately choose to go along with our programming and locate our personal immortality in having them. Worse, when we locate our very humanity and social dignity in having them, when we consider the childless as being subtly something less than wholly human, when we talk about ‘fulfilment’ in a way that identifies breeding status with mental health, and above all when we bring children into the world to serve our own social purposes, see my Part “Parental Status Technology”, we are Adulationists, and in acute violation of the Kantian Practical Imperative.

Indeed, having children can in itself be regarded as yet another form of predation – creating new victims of emotional, mental and possibly also sexual abuse where none existed before, and where none would exist without our wilful acts. In this way, too, a sanguine approach to reproduction may be classified as Adulation of our predatory nature.

Complicity with our predatory nature is when this thirst to make over the universe into copies of ourselves is moderated by intellect and prudence, or even disguised as something else entirely. The term ‘family planning’ gives the game away, with its overtones of chilly calculation of when to bring new creatures into the world so as best to serve our ends. After all, inclusive fitness is a matter of quality as well as quantity, a matter of what happens in the next generation or several; producing one boy who becomes a maharajah with a thousand concubines is thereby more effective than producing ten street hustlers. Similarly, producing one beauty who can marry the emperor, have the best medical attention for her children, and get all her nephews positions at court, is better than engendering any number of plain janes. This may explain the vexed question of how a genetic predisposition to male homosexuality can survive; the bearer can make good in State or (especially) Church and shower favours on all his breeding relatives. As Pope Alexander III remarked, God forbade priests to have sons but then the Devil gave them nephews.

There may be, of course, embryological, endocrine, developmental-trauma and other reasons why a heterosexual person nevertheless harbours a horror of breeding. Sometimes we might suspect a refusal of adulthood, especially nowadays in our eternal adolescence; but it is what is left over when all such explanations are subtracted that ought to interest us, because that will be Defiance.

The ancient Hindu life-pattern of being a breeding householder and then retiring to the forest to become an ascetic may look like Defiance, but is instead complicitous. In the first place it is a compromise; allowing people to breed when they have the energy and not when they don’t have the energy is not very radical. Second, if having a respected holy man in your family gives prestige and thus allows better marriages, then becoming a holy man is once again an inclusive-fitness strategy serving your progeny and collaterals.

Even more hypocritically complicitous, of course, are all the rationalisations that argue that we bring children into the world for their own good. In fact we predate upon our own children, strip-mining them for attention, self-esteem and social status – and then demanding gratitude. See once again my chapter “Parental Status Technology”.

The remaining Defiance option is too obvious to require very much comment; neither to breed nor to encourage others to do so. Now, non-breeders are often attracted to religion, but then they end up promoting or even imposing Adulatory ideologies on other people, e.g. the Catholic clergy and nuns. This simply does not count. A religious person who chooses not to create new life, but to spend her life doing good works for the already living, or achieving the detachment that children render impossible, is a much more authentic representative of Defiance. So too, in a different field, is the gay man who considers that reproduction is a second-best for people who cannot create art. The ultimate defiance of our predatory agenda is membership in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. The success of this movement would put an end to all our nasty little ways.

Posted on February 17, 2011 at 10:51 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: AGAINST NATURE, Defying The Demiurge

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