Why give a f*** about passing on your genes?

That’s what I kept thinking both times I saw this conversation.

It’s what I think pretty much any time “evolution” gets invoked in the context of asexuality.

I don’t get the expectation that people should want to be “useful to evolution” (the kind of language people use to talk about obeying the will of a deity).

I don’t get the moralistic personification of evolution as a gardener “weeding out” the badwrong undesirables, who judges your worth and makes you feel guilty for existing.

I don’t get the hand-wringing over “continuing the species,” like I’m supposed to care if humans stop being born one day, like I’m supposed to be personally invested in some abstract notion of Humanity Forever, like I should be sad if we got extinct in some distant future that I’ll never see.

I don’t get the notion that I should care about “passing on my genes,” as if they should have some sort of inherent value to me that extends beyond my own corporeal existence, as if I should be emotionally invested in arbitrary molecular structures the way I am in whole people and ideas and lives.

I just don’t… care?

Why are people expecting me to care?

Who is it who’s out there teaching people to care?

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12 responses to “Why give a f*** about passing on your genes?

  • Hezekiah the (meta)pianycist

    People ascribing moral meaning or normative agency to evolution will never not be creepy to me. Especially because frequently they claim that evolution “wants” to weed out people like me (autistic, depressed, anxious, disabled, etc).

  • Calum P Cameron

    In answer to the question of who it is that’s out there teaching people to care – I don’t know, but the character of Weston from C.S. Lewis’s ‘Out of the Silent Planet’ was apparently based on a real person…

    (I kid, obviously. Sort of. That guy, if indeed he existed, is presumably super dead by now. And many analysts believe that Weston’s “all I care about is ensuring humanity outlives everything else” philosophy in that book was actually a satire on the imperialistic white supremacy of Britain at the time rather than a direct depiction of real-world pro-human-prolongment-ism – not that I think the compatibility of those two philosophies is coincidence.)

    As a related aside, I remember as a kid finding it weird how many people seemed to just sort of take it as said that, in a post-apocalyptic scenario, repopulating the species should be somewhere on the agenda. Like… in any realistic post-apocalyptic scenario, it’s probably the human race that caused the apocalypse, right? Why would we WANT to bring that species back? Like, sure, some of the survivors might want children for reasons of their own, and maybe that’ll be enough to repopulate the world accidentally in which case, y’know, fine, but there’s a difference between “acceptable if it happens” and “unacceptable if it doesn’t”.

    • Coyote

      I’m not familiar with that book or the character, but I’m inferring that he’s a douche.

      Also, I’m with you there.

      • Calum P Cameron

        He is, yes. He’s the main villain, and his goal is basically to bring about the genocide of various Utopian alien societies in order that humanity can colonise their planets and thus spread throughout the universe like a disease and survive indefinitely by stealing other people’s stuff. It even gets pointed out to him that living on the other planets would cause humanity to evolve into something unrecognisable over time – something that, unlike the current inhabitants of those planets, might not even be sentient – but he insists it’s the principle of the thing rather than the actual resulting societies which matter to him.

        Then in the (considerably weirder) next book he literally gets possessed by the in-universe equivalent of the Devil and tries to convince a newly sentient, sinless alien species to invent sin, because this is C.S. Lewis and C.S. Lewis is… kind of like that a lot of the time.

  • Alex Black

    The planet’s overpopulated as it is. Not having children is more likely to contribute to the continuation of the species than having a bunch of kids is. There are far more effective ways to contribute to the survival of the species than worrying about how many kids you will have, if any. For instance, working to ensure that everyone has access to condoms.

    Besides, depression runs in my family. Why would I want to pass those genes on?

  • Siggy

    I take it you would not be sympathetic to the existential risk people (who think of avoiding human extinction as a charitable cause). That’s a thing in certain ideologically adjacent circles to mine.

  • Leon T.

    Personally I also find the “Useful to evolution” rhetoric to be somewhat reminiscent of the equally obnoxious “Productive citizen” rhetoric, i.e. The expectation that you (*Unless you’re rich) have to be a working class to lower-middle class employee working 48 hour weeks for give-or-take 50 years, where your value as a human being is seen as equivalent to your instrumental utility in regards to sustaining the current system.

    • Coyote

      True, it does have those resonances… but instead of capitalism it’s about some kind of biological supremacy. I’d be interested in seeing that connection explored mote.

  • chantingdestroyscellulite

    There are studies that say if people don’t stop mindlessly producing as they do the world (Planet Earth) will not be able to resourcefully support the population and we are headed for unfathomable crisis. So there is that. :)

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