Published July 01, 2019 by Tom Porter

“Is Procreation Immoral?” ask Philosophers, including Bowdoin’s Sarah Conly

Professor of Philosophy Sarah Conly edited the latest issue of the journal Essays in Philosophy, all of which is dedicated to the question of population control. As mankind faces the prospect of climate change-induced environmental destruction, Conly asks: “Do we have a right to procreate?”and “What are the social ramifications of bringing a new person into being?”

Congestion in Ho Chi Minh City, 2011

The issue contains four essays, plus an introduction by Conly, all of which are asking the question: “Is procreation immoral?” Conly describes it as “the most pressing question of our time.” In her introductory essay, she cites a warning from the United Nations that the world’s population, currently at 7.7 billion, is set to hit 11.2 billion by the year 2100 if current trends continue—a figure she sees as unsustainable.

“If the population continues to grow as it has in the last hundred years, whatever steps we take to mitigate the damage we do—cutting back on per capita carbon emissions, reducing per capita resource use, etc.—won’t be enough to stave off massive suffering,” she writes.

Conly and her colleagues caught the attention of the bioethics news website BioEdge in a recent article titled “In Times of Climate Crisis, How Many Children Should You Have?” The piece also quotes from Conly’s 2015 book, One Child: Do We Have a Right to More? (Oxford University Press), in which Conly argues that “we don’t have a right to more than one biological child.”