Abolitionists promote a rational/scientific approach towards minimizing suffering and maximizing happiness as the prime ethical directive for humanity. Abolitionists believe that biotechnology can and should be used to eradicate suffering and make us better humans. We believe life and suffering are not inseparable - instead, we see suffering as an undesirable quirk of organisms evolved by Darwinian selection. The neurological pathways of suffering have evolved because they served the inclusive fitness of our genes in the ancestral environment. Although, at present, suffering can be useful to us, as well as to our genes, we do not think this will always need to be the case.
Abolitionism calls for us to start thinking from a world societal design perspective. We propose that genetic engineering should be used to ensure pre-determined well-being and mental health. In the Hedonistic Imperative, an Abolitionist manifesto, David Pearce outlines potential strategies for achieving the abolition of suffering through the use of biotechnology. He proposes that pain and malaise should be replaced by a motivational system based on heritable gradients of bliss as an interim solution to the problem of suffering.
Technologies such as genetic engineering, nanotechnology, pharmacogenomics, and advanced selective psychopharmacology can seem removed from daily life. Many see them as merely the stuff of science fiction and utopian idealism. Science news websites such as Betterhumans, however, give us an idea of what is already available or just over the horizon.
In the opinion of many scientists, the technological barriers to the advent of Abolitionist disciplines are much less than the ideological barriers. If so, we urgently need to establish ethical guidelines to ensure that these new and powerful technologies will benefit mankind. We believe a strong movement is needed, not only to prevent harm to society caused by Darwinian power struggles, but to promote the development and use of technologies that will abolish suffering while maintaining and promoting human individualism, creativity, prosperity, diversity, and peace.
While the use of science to end suffering may seem like common sense, there are many factors that hinder its application: ideological, religious, corporate, and political powers rampant in our society effectively halt and distort critical areas of research. For example, the FDA only allows new drugs to be developed that treat an identified disease, as if suffering itself were not a disease but an immutable fact of life. Meanwhile, mental states of euphoria or bliss are categorized as "pathological." Regulatory institutions are designed to maintain the current impoverished definitions of mental health in order to promote a subdued acceptance of policy that does not lead to our ultimate fulfillment. Sadly, the institutions we have created in order to improve our lives are now a formidable barrier to achieving the goal with which they were created.
Some will rightly say that the Abolitionist directive is an over-simplification of the ethical guidelines necessary to safeguard the use of evolving biotechnologies. Indeed, the development of such guidelines will require an ongoing and complex dialogue. However, it is important to keep core values in mind when making policy decisions. The elimination of suffering should be our prime objective. Abolitionism is the alternative to the ever-increasing peripheralism/materialism taking the place of philosophical assumptions. The project to eliminate all sentient suffering has the potential to unite the entire race while affirming our human qualities.
The Age of Enlightenment
is just beginning