The End of Suffering – Genome Reform and the Future of Sentience – David Pearce
A talk by David Pearce for the Stepping into the Future conference 2022.
Synopsis: No sentient being in the evolutionary history of life has enjoyed good health as defined by the World Health Organization. The founding constitution of the World Health Organization commits the international community to a daringly ambitious conception of health: “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing”. Health as so conceived is inconsistent with evolution via natural selection. Lifelong good health is inconsistent with a Darwinian genome. Indeed, the vision of the World Health Organization evokes the World Transhumanist Association. Transhumanists aspire to a civilization of superhappiness, superlongevity and superintelligence; but even an architecture of mind based on information-sensitive gradients of bliss cannot yield complete well-being. Post-Darwinian life will be sublime, but “complete” well-being is posthuman – more akin to Buddhist nirvana. So the aim of this talk is twofold. First, I shall explore the therapeutic interventions needed to underwrite the WHO conception of good health for everyone – or rather, a recognisable approximation of lifelong good health. What genes, allelic combinations and metabolic pathways must be targeted to deliver a biohappiness revolution: life based entirely on gradients of well-being? How can we devise a more civilized signalling system for human and nonhuman animal life than gradients of mental and physical pain? Secondly, how can genome reformists shift the Overton window of political discourse in favour of hedonic uplift? How can prospective parents worldwide – and the World Health Organization – be encouraged to embrace genome reform? For only germline engineering can fix the problem of suffering and create a happy biosphere for all sentient beings.
See David Pearce’s writing on post-darwinian ethics.
Other animals, which, on account of their interests having been neglected by the insensibility of the ancient jurists, stand degraded into the class of things. … The day has been, I grieve it to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated … upon the same footing as … animals are still. The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps, the faculty for discourse?…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?… The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes…Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) – Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1789)
See previous interview with David Pearce