Why do people breed?

If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation, as to spare it the burden of existence?
People have numerous reasons as to why they make babies.
People have numerous reasons as to why they make babies.

If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation, as to spare it the burden of existence?Or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood.
-Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
Sufferings of the World 1851.

Humans, like all creatures, have urges which lead to reproduction. Our biological urge is to have sex, not to make babies. Our “instinct to breed” is the same as a squirrel’s instinct to plant trees: the urge is to store food, trees are a natural result. If sex is an urge to procreate, then hunger’s an urge to defecate.

Culturally-induced desires can be so strong that they seem to be biological, but no evolutionary mechanism for an instinct to breed exists. Why do we stop breeding after we’ve had as many as we want? If the instinct is to reproduce, how are so many of us able to over ride it?

There are too many who have never felt that urge: mutations don’t occur in this high a percentage of a population.

Looking to our evolutionary roots, imagine Homo erectus feeling the urge to create a new human. He then has to understand that a cavewoman is needed, sexual intercourse must be engaged in, and they will have to wait nine months.

Considering how often our species has the urge for sex, it’s likely human sexuality serves primarily a pair-bonding function rather than procreative.

Human infants are vulnerable for so long that their survival, in prehistoric times, may have depended on a strong pair bond between parents. Bonobos, perhaps our closest biological relative, are reported to engage in sex for social reasons more than for reproductive reasons.

Like the Greek philosopher Diogenes, searching all day with a lighted lantern for an honest person, the search for a rational, ethical reason for creating one more human today goes on without success.

Ask someone why they plan to create another of themselves, and they’ll most likely offer one of the reasons listed in the chart. Their real reasons are given in the middle, and alternatives to breeding for those reasons are given to the right.

Biology and Breeding

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