WORLD IMPROVEMENT

The reasoning so far about unborn ghosts and future children shows that we can’t press child-making into a familiar mold: we don’t respond to the needs or desires or problems or demands of a particular child—unborn ghost or future child—when we procreate. Bringing new people into existence is a different kind of thing altogether.

Creating a child can still be a good thing, even if it’s not a one- to-one interpersonal favor that we do for someone. It can be a good thing if adding a child to the world makes the world a slightly better place. But does it? It certainly seems that way. (Remember, we’re pretending there are just one billion people in the world.) There are lots of things that we can create. Trivial things like graffiti on a wall. Terrible things like weapons of mass destruction. Good things like works of art. And probably neutral things as well. We do commonly say a life is "infinitely precious" Even if this is somewhat effusive, and not meant quite literally, a human life is a valuable thing. This isn’t because humans contain some magical, ultravaluable essence, but because of what happens in a human life. When you create a child, you start a "flow” of happenings, enjoyments, achievements, realizations, decisions. In the vast majority of cases, much of this is valuable, not negative, and not neutral. Just slightly (relative to the huge heap of good there already is), but in a perfectly real way, the world is better for your child’s life being part of it. I don’t mean just because of the impact the child will have on others. The world is a little better because people themselves add something good.

So yes, we do something good when creating new people, as far as the people created are concerned. We don’t do a favor for unborn ghosts by procreating, and can’t think of ourselves as respecting the wishes of future people. We’re not aiding, rescuing, or helping someone, or heeding someone’s desires or preferences. Nevertheless, the enterprise does have a positive valence, just in virtue of the value of human life.

Or so it seems. Now we turn to some skeptical voices.

 
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