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Matriphagy. White widow. No greater love. Theodicy.



There are certain customs, arguments or claims which seem to make sense, but you can’t quite put your finger on why or if it is true or false. And they can fool you, like an optical illusion.

For me, the ontological argument for God (Anselm’s version) was one.  Others include conversion experiences with a one-way (non-returnable) valve, Faith, God knows best, don’t test God, last one in the pool is a rotten egg, go and do X or I won’t be your friend anymore, don’t grass/tell on people (it’s just not done/an unwritten rule), countless logical fallacies, using emotion as a trump card in an argument.

There are some things which have a down side but have a balanced up side to make it worthwhile. The early bird catches the worm. Study hard and get a wider choice of job. Have kids and give up on things to see the joy it brings.

In fact there was a historical act of Suti (or Suttee), largely practised in India amongst Hindus which also presented (albeit potentially illusory) an upside to the downside, but the reward was in the life hereafter, which was not proven to exist in this life, although believed.

This is where a (female – of course!) widow would sacrifice herself on the burning funeral pyre of her deceased husband. I don’t imagine even the nastiest of husband’s would ever be poisoned at dinner by his wife and in fact, his health would seem to be a pretty important part of her life, hoping she dies first. The day your husband dies, especially if he was a good man, would be all the more painful.

The only other type of voluntary death, other than suicide, seems to also be amongst religious tradition or extremism. Beyond that, people would put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others or make a self-sacrifice for the sake of other close relatives or friends. This is altruism. But an extreme form exists within several animal species.

Matriphagy. White widow. No greater love. Theodicy.

Some animal species make the ultimate sacrifice. This includes (certain) spiders, earwigs, pseudo-scorpions and (vertebrate) caecilians.

In some spiders, females produce a liquid from their mouths from pre-digested food and/or eggs to feed their young for a few days. After gaining weight/size, a day after the spiderlings have moulted/shed their first exoskeleton, the mother instinctively goes through a process. She walks around the web, vibrating the thread and releasing new thread, which stimulates the spiderlings into coming to a prominent or central place on the web. The mother then comes and presses against the newly congregated mass of spiderlings who then make her their first victim and (by the process) they collectively and conveniently now have a clear understanding/lesson of how future victims/prey will be recognised and what they should do to entice and subdue it. They all start a frenzy and begin injecting venom into her, which she clearly finds painful and could run away from, but she doesn’t. Within minutes to a couple of hours, all her juices have been sucked out and her life empties into the stomachs of her offspring, leaving a shell.

This is not exclusive to mothers. Virgin females will also sacrifice themselves in this way. Males often die soon after mating too or become victim of the mated partner.

The spider species involved seem to have larger offspring with faster growth rates and so potentially preventing other options of offspring survival. This seems a horrible (but sadly not that rare a) branch of natural selection, resulting in such horrific (but evolutionarily logical) results and logic. Surely it would have been better for the mothers to have just said, ‘no way’ and died out as a species. I wonder if some form of, ‘coping with the suffering’ evolved too?

What an amazing example of a species who’s males and females, mothers and virgin females give their all, solely for the propagation of the species and, seemingly nothing else. Unless someone perhaps knows of a budding arachnid Bach or Renoir, leaving behind a gift for the species to enjoy.

I am reminded of other species that suffer because of things like parasites (e.g. eating into your eye and controlling your brain or eating you from the inside out).

For those of you who are theists, atheists, moral objectivists, subjectivists, nihilists, free-willers or determinists, it’s not very nice to think about and varyingly easy to explain or justify. Sometimes, the truth hurts, whether you like or accept it or not.

There is an extreme (theoretical at least) philosophical view that I have considered since long before I even knew what philosophy meant or was, although I have more recently found it to be a recognised and serious position.

If I could press a button and instantly destroy (and make) all life on earth extinct, (without any suffering), I would do it. Even in my theistic life, no-one could convince me that an eternity in heaven could be good, and the everlasting part just made it worse or made me wonder if that was just phase 2 and something else might be planned (by God) for later, still leaving some option open for me having to make a choice or be forced to do something or go somewhere I didn’t want to go. Heaven was always a place I was not convinced that was consistent, unchangingly or perfect, and hell was, whilst bad, at least consistent. I do not mean to be dismissive or speak lightly of this, but these things did plague my mind. To me, heaven was never a motive for becoming or staying a Christian, though hell was a place that put fear in me long after I defected.

The reason (for my quite extreme philosophical view) is subjective and I would be forcing my view and action on everyone in the process, therefore removing democracy and other people’s view or preferences. I basically don’t like suffering, for myself or others or anyone or any living thing that suffers or even could suffer (even potentially through evolution over billions of years), so I wanted to take control of the world in order to prevent ANYONE from ever suffering in any way, but particularly suffering heavily, which many will continue to do, even if it may not be YOU personally, but you and I represent everyone, including that person in a horrific state of suffering. To me, it is not a case of taking a chance, hoping I will be lucky. It is the experiential knowledge that many of us do suffer and some, terribly, some randomly and some predictably and no-one expects it for our child when we choose to create life.

The worst type of human suffering probably includes torture (physical and emotional) but may not be limited to this. Accident, disease or illness are others. If I consider the most extreme possible example of a child or baby being tortured, (and take an is/ought type of position) then (for me) this cannot justify or be compensated by any amount of good, so cannot justify life in the first place IF such a bad incident could occur, and I suggest it can, has, does and will continue to do so. As no life equates to no pain or suffering or knowledge or a representative that exists to experience such, then not existing is not a bad thing, it just isn’t anything, so we don’t exist to ponder goodness or badness or weigh up the options.

Put another way, if a person never existed to start with, s/he will never suffer or experience anything, good or otherwise, so will be none the wiser, can have no regrets or hopes or anything. S/he is in a neutral position. When I say s/he, s/he has never existed in the first place of course, so there is no person or mind to exist and consider or see in hindsight about the options. There are millions of potential sperm that will never see the light of day, have no regrets and (thankfully) never suffered. YOU can only experience and appreciate good things because you exist and are here. And if a 100% suffering-free life were guaranteed, I still see no benefit (perhaps other than a selfish one) to having children, given the option (non-existence).

As there is no such mechanism to destroy the earth, certainly without suffering anyway, then I have to constrain my ideology to the life that exists now. From today, anyone alive will be dead in 120 or so years (less or plus any medical advancements in restricting or developing the ageing process). So my current theory is to stop all human pregnancy and so force the extinction of humankind by about 2100-2150, when people will be too old to reproduce anymore and die off naturally. This would be problematic in the detail, e.g. providing for the latter few years with food, medicine, warmth without electricity or gas etc. unless euthanasia options were on hand, which, under the impending circumstances, might have been considered and be available.

Sadly, I need universal consensus, the law and no exceptions to implement this, which is unlikely. It also doesn’t stop the suffering and future evolution of the rest of life on earth. So, my theory seems exactly that – theoretical and not very practical. I would also add that I am very lazy and hypocritical. Whilst I have been both a vegetarian and a vegan before, I am currently largely a carnivore, but (theoretically) hold a vegan position, I’m just not committed (yet) to indulge myself. Do as I say, not as I do.


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This may be better placed in the Forums under philosophy, so I may copy it there, too.

This is a blog experiment and is for thought consideration. It is entirely theoretical, impossible to come true or be placed in anyone’s hands and it is open to challenge and if at any time the prospect loomed, I am sure I would have second thoughts or want a lot more feedback on the position to assert or reject/override my viewpoint. Further, I have presented the reasons behind it, but would like to add one more which is rather like the philosophical trolley problem. This is what I think I would like to be dealt with if I am to consider my position again:

Imagine you were offered a drug to put you in an extremely high sense of pleasure. The condition is that someone will have a similar opposite sense of displeasure or suffering. Would you trade this? Would you trade it for a moderate amount of suffering in someone? Or if the person was a member of your family? Where would one draw the line? There are many selfish people in the world who probably would; probably because they don’t know the suffering person. Which is why I opt to remove democracy from them at least, for the sake of the suffering. It is no less painful for a suffering person, whether it is someone you know or not. It is only our subjective indifference to an anonymous person that drives us to ignore or mitigate their suffering. My position is that (to reflect reality) we should consider ultimate suffering and to the closest of our loved ones, though I go much further and would justify the slightest amount of suffering for the smallest amount of time to even one person as not worth coming into existence, even if life were otherwise virtually perfect.

If you were to have the power to create intelligent life, and knew that all types of suffering (including extreme) would be a part of the result, albeit mixed with varying highs, would you go ahead? Try to put yourself in the position of the many who will be less fortunate and suffer, particularly in an extreme way. Few of us experience extremes on either side, but if (and as) we know that many will suffer badly, many being children and babies, is it not selfish and a horrific risk to self AND others, to justify such creation, be it creating life to start with or pro-creating? I have children myself, which makes me selfish and perhaps hypocritical.

If we simply prevent further pro-creation, we are not disappointing or failing anyone, because there is no-one that exists to be disappointed (or thankful that they were not brought into existence to potentially suffer).

Put in one sentence, would you allow yourself or a member of your family or your own child to suffer horrifically in exchange for others existing and having pleasure?

To jump to any other statement (like destroying the world or banning human reproduction) without seriously considering the reasoning and alternative implications is not to understand or do the argument justice.

The argument may seem an atheistic one, but for many believers, to have no children is to guarantee that they will not be creating the possibility of another soul going to hell (or heaven), but I appreciate there are other theistic considerations involved here.

If a person’s house is destroyed, (say in a storm or fire with all the memories, souvenirs, photos and things of material value) there are feelings and emotions in the minds of existent people who may witness this and be sad at its demise. If there is no intelligent mind or creature (left) in existence (when a house is destroyed), there is no regret or sorrow or happiness. There is neutrality. No pain or suffering or joy or happiness or morality. Just nothing. Without or at the end of existence, suffering ends and no longer exists. No-one exists to experience or miss anything good.

This position is undemocratic and if I had the power to press such buttons, this is a one-man dictatorship of the most extreme kind. It will never happen. Remember that I am just theorizing and may have more thinking to do on it. I would probably be better devoting my time/life to convincing people of this.

If 12 thugs want to beat a child up and will take tremendous pleasure in it, is this a democratic or utilitarian decision? Would you, if you had the power, subjectively be willing to override their choice/pleasure and prevent this from occurring in order to save one person’s suffering? Democracy is all well and good when it coincides with our view. For me, it is the majority of the world who do not yet comprehend the reality of the suffering problem and how their selfishness allows it, that makes me want to take the control away from them. The world is not as overt as the thugs in the example, but for those innocent people suffering, they don’t care about where the pain comes from, they just want it gone.

I think most people are selfish and do not consider the extreme suffering or want to take a chance that it won’t be them or their family. But I am taking the position that everyone is equally valued and the one suffering baby represents each of us or our own child(ren). For you to be selfish and take a chance (like the Covid-19 situation of isolation) affects everyone, not just you. In the virus situation, I believe people should, if need be, be forced into situations, e.g. of isolation (thus violating their human rights) in order to prevent them from potentially infecting others – a greater right.

No amount of joy in all the people of the world is more important than (or worth or justifies) the terrible suffering of just one person. I am suggesting that one pain-free solution is to stop pro-creating (as impractical as this is, I’m just arguing theoretically to support my position and reasoning). I am simply arguing that this neutral, not existent position is superior to any world where suffering exists (and/or can’t be guaranteed to stop) and I would be happy to be convinced otherwise, if it makes sense to me. Any reasoned response is welcome. No arguing or attacks, just show the flaws in the position and what the alternatives are and it will be considered.

Remember that destroying the world in any way that causes suffering, is not my position, and given that there is no way of doing this, I do not hold the position of destroying the world. I feel that stopping pro-creation in humans is only a short term, temporary solution to suffering and recognise that it does not stop other species’ suffering or evolving into more intelligent and suffering species. This is why I would prefer the theoretical, ‘destroy all life on earth instantly without suffering’ option, as impractical as this would ever be.

The crux of the issue that needs to be understood and may not be fully appreciated are:

·        To recognise that to not exist has no input or choice or regret. Only those living can determine worth.

·        That for a single baby that is horrifically suffering, (and we must acknowledge that this is highly likely happening and will happen if we continue as we are and there is no way of stopping it) is not worth (in exchange) all the joys for all the people of the world, and if we come to a point where no people even exist to weigh this option up, it’s a no-brainer.

This is not a suicide view. For those already living, life could or should continue. It is more a decision about the unborn, those who do not or yet live. They don’t exist/are not alive to experience or choose or appreciate life (so, ‘they’ are not missing out as there is no-one that is missing out – so this is a neutral point at worst), but life has been prevented from experiencing suffering, ever, which is good.

There is a philosopher who follows some of this viewpoint (antinatalism and the asymmetry argument) called David Benatar. Check him out. Popular youtuber, Alex O’Conner (aka Cosmic Skeptic) has also spoken on the topic. Both of these (and I’m sure, many others) have better explanations than I have. I have just rambled, wrote as I thought and didn’t have time to edit or lay it out systematically. I’ll leave that to experts/others.

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