Some common objections to the view that we should not bring anyone into existence, and why I believe they’re indefensible:
Life is good: This objection is as common as it is plainly naive, for anyone who is open-eyed can see that certainly not all life is good. Indeed, if we were honest in our evaluation of life as a whole, we would all likely come to the conclusion that there is much more pain in the world than pleasure. Moreover, the intensity of pain, most will readily admit, generally, far exceeds that of pleasure. Just imagine the worst pain and the best pleasure, and I think this will be more than clear to us. In addition, there is the challenge posed by Hume in his Dialogues, namely, whether anyone would, if provided the opportunity, wish to live the past ten or twenty years of their life again in its entirety, exactly as it was. Hume suggests, and I think correctly, that few would, and this again indicates the predominance of pain over pleasure.
Antinatalism is a pessimistic doctrine: Some seem to think that characterizing a position as pessimistic is to defeat that position, which is of course, absurd. Suppose I were to point out that torturing billions of sentient beings for no good reason is evil, and someone objects that this is a highly pessimistic view of farming, and that we shouldn’t be so concerned about it. Would any thinking person take this objection seriously? There is a difference between simply being pessimistic (i.e., seeking the negative in all things), and being realistic, or seeing things as they are.
Antinatalism is antihuman and nihilistic: Both of these claims are false. First of all, antinatalism is pro-human, inasmuch as its primary concern is with the suffering of humans (and other sentient beings). To be against the needless suffering and misery of future humans is not to be antihuman; on the contrary, it is to be deeply concerned about their suffering, and is the view that we ought to prevent more future harm done to them. The second claim that the position is nihilistic is also false, to the extent that by nihilistic, we mean the denial of any sort of value. Antinatalism is, in this sense, not nihilistic at all, for it bases itself on the recognition that suffering is undesirable.
We must face the tragedies of life. Not doing so is cowardly: This argument is often used to condemn suicide, and now we often see it used to justify procreation. In both cases, this type of assertion is vacuous, and should be dismissed as such. Essentially, the claim is this: Avoiding pain is cowardly, and therefore wrong. Now if this argument succeeds without exception, we should also be against any type of anaesthetic (just to give an obvious example). When a patient asks for anaesthetics, are they acting cowardly? When we choose to alleviate some deep emotional pain with medication, do we act cowardly? And if we do not impose this suffering on another by bringing them into existence, we are acting cowardly? If this is true, every single effort we have made to mitigate unnecessary harm and suffering in the world is an act of cowardice! Are we expected to take such ludicrous notions seriously? Such tactics as these clearly indicate want of arguments. It is really analogous to one saying, ‘Veganism is unmanly!’ or some similarly empty remark, as though they have thereby proven something; in truth, they have demonstrated only their ineptitude.
‘But I am grateful for having been born.’: Some people are admittedly more lucky than others. But one thing we know is that many people on this planet are not grateful for life, as is apparent from the number of suicides annually, and even more attempts of it. Accordingly, it seems to me palpably irresponsible to take the risk of bringing someone into a world of potential evils, on the assumption that their life will be more or less like theirs. There is no guarantee that the child will not be subjected to unacceptable pains and torments (both physically and emotionally); and when there is no harm in not existing, there is clearly (and fortunately) no need to take this risk.
By allowing the human race to die out, we are foreclosing all future (human) happiness: This is true; but it must be remembered at what cost we purchase this happiness. As I’ve already indicated, life can, and usually does, contain immense suffering. We pretty much know that in each generation, there will be some who will suffer unacceptably. By continuing to reproduce, we are essentially pursuing the happiness of future people at the cost of imposing terrible evils on some significant number of people, and I suggest that this is plainly unethical. All the happiness in the world cannot compensate for one individual subjected to some torture. If this is so, clearly no amount of happiness is worth all the suffering that will be imposed on future generations. One way to see this is to look over the past few centuries. Was the happiness contained in those years worth the sufferings? Was it worth all the genocides, all the individual instances of depression, terror, rape, kidnap, torture, enslavement, and the countless other kinds of violence and injustice? (Not to even mention the vast misery and agony we’ve inflicted on the other animals.) Was it worth it? In other words, if we could choose to replay the past centuries, should we? For my part, I think the question practically answers itself; and we have very good reason to believe that future centuries will be equally, if not more, horrific.
Incidentally, it should be noted that this list could, with some inessential modifications, just as easily have been called, arguments against non-harm; for to remove a being (metaphorically) out of the harmless state of nonexistence to the harmful state of existence directly violates the principle of non-harm and nonviolence.
For a recent and interesting defense of non-procreation, one might wisely begin with Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.