Human Genetics, The Abolitionists and The Hedonistic Imperative.

Have you ever had to watch and suffer the sight of your child dying from an incurable disease such as cancer? Have you lived through the suffering of a parent with dementia or Alzheimer’s ? Do you have a friend living with Multiple Sclerosis?
Have you ever stopped to think why we have overcome Polio, Cholera, Diphtheria, etc but not Cancer, Dementia , Multiple Sclerosis? How about the psychological issues of human suffering such as depression, anxiety or loneliness? Or aggression, psychopathy, schizophrenia? And did you know that more people die from suicide than from wars and natural disasters combined?
Are the barriers to prevention and even eradication of all of these conditions based on Ethical Considerations rather than Scientific Understanding? In other words do we have the scientific wherewithal but NOT the will to genetically modify humanity, because more and more THAT seems to be the solution?
Over 2000 years ago the Greek philosopher, Epicurus, asserted that the purpose of philosophy was to gain a “happy life” characterised by ataraxia (peace and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of pain). In essence, Pleasure was the absence of Suffering, not the excesses of wealth, power, good food, wine, land, property ……. as is so often stated.
We haven’t made much progress over these 2000 years against Epicurean thinking, there is still so much suffering both physical and mental. Just look back at my opening sentences; Cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s, MS, aggression, depression, psychopathy, schizophrenia.
Let’s consider just two of these items, cancer and depression. Literally trillions of £€$ are being poured into finding cures, treatments, drugs for these “sufferings” ……… all poured down laboratory drains or into the coffers of mega drug corporations. Surely there’s another way, one that needn’t wait another million years for a Darwinian solution.

The Hedonistic Imperative was written by David Pearce, a philosopher who maintains that we have a MORAL obligation to work towards the abolition of suffering in all sentient life. In his book he outlines how pharmacology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and neurosurgery could converge to eliminate all forms of unpleasant experience from human and non-human life, replacing suffering with “gradients of bliss”. Wow! This is what Pearce calls The Abolitionist Project in which he is adamant:

“Sadly, what won’t abolish suffering, or at least not on its own, is socio-economic reform, or exponential economic growth, or technological progress in the usual sense, or any of the traditional panaceas for solving the world’s ills. Improving the external environment is admirable and important; but such improvement can’t recalibrate our hedonic treadmill above a genetically constrained ceiling”

The Hedonistic Imperative is a difficult book to read and I am not advocating that you take it on. Neither is this a review of the book, but I would encourage readers here to browse the main elements of The Abolitionist Project and judge for yourselves the moral imperative of post Darwinian genetic engineering. It’s coming anyway, but it should NOT come in a way that results in “designer babies” where only rich parents can afford to “turn the dial” on which parts of the genetic menu to switch on or off. It should not be in the hands of large corporations or super-states such as the EU who will profit from it at the expense of all of humanity. But it MUST come, and the sooner global organisations like the UN and the WHO for example stop global politicking and focus on the real development of humanity the better. Discuss, comment, agree, disagree?

Categories: Philosophy

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