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Abolitionism (bioethics)

This article is about a movement to eliminate involuntary sentient suffering. For other uses, see Abolitionism (disambiguation).

Abolitionism is a bioethical school and socio-political movement that promotes the use of biotechnology to eliminate suffering.


Historically, there have been a number of religions and religious denominations which promoted the reduction of suffering by explicitly advocating non-violent behavior. Jainism, Quakerism and The Amish are key examples. Nevertheless, direct reference to the abolition of suffering is rare. The teachings of Gautama Buddha are sometimes understood to have been motivated by the eradication of suffering.[1] Two quotations commonly ascribed to Gautama Buddha are "I teach one thing and one thing only: suffering and the end of suffering",[2][3] and "may all that have life be delivered from suffering."


Abolitionism was primarily inspired by Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian ethic.[4]

People have been found in studies to achieve a “baseline happiness,”[5] sometimes called the hedonic treadmill, a pre-determined happiness set point that a person will return to throughout their lives. This set point is regardless of their personal income.[6]

According to evolutionary theory, humans evolved through natural selection and follow genetic imperatives that seek to maximize reproduction,[7] (not happiness).

Abolitionism requires as a premise that emotions have a physically manipulable, not spiritual, source, such that by altering the human brain we can fundamentally change the way that humans experience life.[8]

Scientific advancements

Recent laboratory breakthroughs have bolstered the idea that happiness is physically based and can be influenced through scientific methods. In 2006, Guillaume Lucas of McGill University and his colleagues published a study on the biochemistry of depression and the development of depression resistance.[9] Mice born without a gene coding for the expression of a potassium channel found in depression-related neurons have resistance to depression (as tested by standard behavioural measures in the rodent model) comparable to that of naive mice treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).[10]


  1. Chung, Man Cheung; Hyland, Michael (2012). History and Philosophy of Psychology. p. 302. 
  2. "The First Sermon of the Buddha". Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  3. ""I Teach Only Suffering and the End of Suffering" "Nope, I didn't (quite) say that" —The Buddha". Retrieved 2015-05-14. 
  4. "Interview with David Pearce". Archived from the original on 3 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-03. 
  5. David Lykken and Auke Tellegen. "Happiness Is a Stochastic Phenomenon" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-01-10. 
  6. RA Easterlin. "Will Raising the Incomes of All Increase the Happiness of All?" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-11-26. Retrieved 2007-01-03. 
  7. Raymond Bohlin. "Sociobiology: Evolution, Genes and Morality". Retrieved 2007-01-03. 
  8. Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. "The Abolition of Suffering". Archived from the original on 5 January 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-03. 
  9. Heurteaux C, Lucas G, Guy N et al. (Sep 2006). "Deletion of the background potassium channel TREK-1 results in a depression-resistant phenotype". Nat Neurosci. 9 (9): 1134–41. PMID 16906152. doi:10.1038/nn1749. 
  10. news article; discovery of a gene therapy for depression

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