Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of David Pearce's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of David Pearce’s ARZone Live Guest Chat

23 April 2011

6pm US Eastern

11pm UK and

24 April 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 

 

 

Carolyn Bailey: 

ARZone would like to welcome David Pearce as today’s Live Chat Guest.

 

David Pearce is an abolitionist transhumanist philosopher and vegan advocate living in Brighton, UK. Abolitionism, as he uses the term; is a philosophy and movement dedicated to eliminating suffering for all sentient beings.

 

David promotes veganism as the key component of abolitionism. His main arguments include the following:

 

  • Antispeciesism is based on the values most people already hold;

 

  • Brain size and cognitive complexity do not equate to a greater capacity to suffer;

 

  • Many common objections to respecting all sentient life are reflection of status quo bias and an irrational appeal to nature.

 

In The Hedonistic Imperative (1995) – A manifesto which outlines a strategy to eradicate suffering in all sentient life, Dave explains his philosophy and proposes methods for abolishing suffering. He thinks the most significant improvements will require high tech solutions such as genetic engineering and nanotechnology. He would also like to see humans achieve super-intelligence and super-happiness, but he believes that ending suffering is the most critical thing.

 

David proposes creating a welfare state for free living nonhuman animals to protect them from the ravages of disease, starvation and environmental stresses. He hopes to one day see an end to all predation as well; which will require ecosystem redesign which he believes will become technically feasible later this century. In The Hedonistic Imperative he lays out a blueprint for how it can be done, using genetic engineering and advanced nanotechnology.

 

In 1998, David and his colleague, Professor Nick Bostrom co-founded The World Transhumanist Organisation, which has since been renamed Humanity+. According to David this is the largest organisation with a commitment to improving the well being of all sentient life. The abolition of suffering is one of many strands of transhumanist thought.

 

David has recognised the power of online protests and antispeciesist advocacy since the early days of the internet. He has been threatened with lawsuits many times over his highly trafficked online activism sites. The British Field Sports Society tried to sue him for several things, including the charge of using keywords in the metatags of an anti-hunting website.

 

Would you please join with me in welcoming Dave to ARZone today.

 

Welcome, Dave!

 

Ines ARA:

Welcome David

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Hello David.

 

Eugene Farberov:

Applause

 

Gabriel Garmendia:

Hey Dave!

 

Jess Levy:

Hi David!

 

Leah:

Hi, David!

 

theprankster:

Yay!

 

Alex Vance:

Wooo!

 

Dustin Juliano:

^_^

 

Roy Gordon:

hi o/

 

Sadia Rajput:

Hello and welcome Mr. Pearce!

 

Paola Capponi:

hello !:-)

 

Tim Gier:

Hello

 

Brooke Cameron:

Welcome to ARZone, David!

 

Ben Hornby:

Hi Dave.

 

Alicia Sangineti:

hello!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Dave will be responding to his pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage him. Please refrain from interrupting Dave during his first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address Dave at any time.

 

I’d now like to ask Leah to begin by asking Dave his first question, thanks Leah, when you’re ready.

 

Leah:

Thanks! Could you explain what an indirect utilitarian is?

 

David Pearce:

May all that have life be delivered from suffering” said Gautama Buddha. "We advocate the well-being of all sentience", says the Transhumanist Declaration. I put together these unlikely bedfellows because it's worth stressing that one needn't be I put together these unlikely bedfellows because it's worth stressing that one needn't be any kind of utilitarian at all to advocate phasing out suffering. Utilitarians don’t “own” the idea of phasing out suffering – though if you’re a utilitarian and don’t adopt a cruelty-free vegan lifestyle, then I think you’re either weak-minded, weak-willed, or both.

 

Now on to the theoretical stuff.  I'm personally a negative utilitarian i.e. I think we have an overriding duty to minimize - and ultimately abolish – (involuntary) suffering of any kind.  Classical utilitarians believe we have no less of an obligation to maximize happiness. Now I'm all in favour of increasing happiness, possibly by using biotechnology to generate well-being orders of magnitude richer than anything accessible today. I'm just not clear that it's our moral obligation to do so – or (ultimately) to turn the world into "utilitronium" i.e. matter and energy optimized for maximum utility/bliss in the way "computronium" is optimized for maximum computing power.

 

So what is “indirect” utilitarianism? Indirect utilitarianism isn’t a distinct theoretical strand of utilitarian theory.  Rather the “indirect” is a warning against adopting simplistic "utilitarian" policy prescriptions that turn out to have non-utilitarian outcomes. Thus an [indirect] utilitarian can support an absolute legal prohibition on torture - including vivisection - even if there are circumstances where the short-term benefits (i.e. the “ticking bomb” scenario, saving the lives of sick children etc) apparently exceed the harms. 

 

Not all discussions of utilitarian ethics make a distinction between utilitarianism as a theory of value and utilitarianism as a decision procedure. If you unpack many arguments against utilitarian ethics,  they boil down pointing out to the bad consequences that would follow if we pursued [supposedly] utilitarian policies. These bad consequences don't show utilitarian ethics is mistaken. Rather they just show that the supposed utilitarian policy prescriptions weren’t really prescribed at all.  For example, one may disagree on some issues with well-known utilitarians like Peter Singer on [indirect] utilitarian grounds. Likewise, one can argue on [indirect] utilitarian grounds that sentient non-human animals should have an absolute legal right not  be regarded as property.

 

However, one shouldn’t gloss over the differences between utilitarian and rights based approaches altogether. You can have all the “rights” in the world, but if you’re a human or non-human animal in agony or despair, these rights are worthless.  Ultimately it’s well-being that counts.  That’s why I’m a utilitarian.

 

Leah:

Thanks!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

The next question will be from Mangus O'Shales, thanks, Mangus.

 

Mangus O’Shales: 

What do you mean by the term transhumanist?

 

David Pearce:

Transhumanists believe we should use technology to overcome our biological limitations – to become smarter, kinder, healthier and to overcome death and aging http://www.hedweb.com/transhumanism/overview2011.html 

 

But who are “we”? The Transhumanist Declaration (1998, 2009) http://humanityplus.org/learn/transhumanist-declaration/ expresses our commitment to the well-being of all sentience. A commitment to the well-being of all sentience has far-reaching implications for humans and non-humans alike - ranging from the abolition of factory-farming and closure of the death factories to compassionate – and systematic - intervention in the  living world. A commitment to the well-being of all sentience also – I’d argue - entails adopting a cruelty-free vegan lifestyle. But the roots of our human-centered bias run deep. Those roots are going to take a lot of effort in all of us to eradicate. Nature has endowed us with a whole bunch of perceptual, cognitive and ethical biases that shape our intuitions. Western civilization is based on the exploitation of other species and - until very recently - other races. Abolishing all forms of speciesism will take many decades, quite probably centuries. Transhumanists aspire to God-like superintelligence. I think God-like superintelligence entails not just an off-the-scale IQ, but an off-the-scale perspective-taking capacity too - a capacity to weigh all possible first-person perspectives and act accordingly. By the lights of posthuman superintelligence, we all have varying degrees of "mind-blindness" or autistic spectrum disorder. Just as people born blind don't grow up living in darkness – a popular misconception – likewise humans living in a speciesist culture are oblivious of our ignorance most of the time. Hence the need for antispeciesist projects such as ARZone.

 

Roger Yates:

The next question is by "Freddy" who cannot be here, so Professor Timothy Gier will ask it....

 

Tim Gier:

You’ve advocated in vitro meat as a way of reducing the hell on earth that so many nonhuman animals suffer because of humans’ consumption of animal products.Yet humans also use other products and services that are obtained from nonhuman animals. What suggestions do you have for fighting nonhuman animal exploitation in these fields?

 

David Pearce:

Personally I find the idea of in vitro meat revolting - even though its potential mass-production is cruelty-free. But I worry that moral argument and antispeciesist advocacy alone aren’t going to outlaw factory farming and the death factories. For you can’t argue effectively against moral apathy – and let’s face it, most people are morally apathetic most of the time. Fortunately, most people aren’t actively malevolent either. So when in vitro meat products are available at the price and tastiness of traditional products, I predict the majority of people will choose the cruelty-free option – and feel good about themselves for doing so. 

 

But what about the 5% of so of animal “products” consumed that don’t stem directly from eating meal. Well, already gourmet “vegan cheeses”, for instance, are available.  They aren’t indistinguishable from “real” cheese; but in future, bioengineered cheese indistinguishable from existing animal-based products will be feasible too. But what is worth stressing, I think, is that in vitro meat, cheese or other in vitro animal products shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to antispeciest advocacy, but rather as complementary. We need to have the humility to acknowledge that we in the AR community may fail, or at least partially fail, to win over the rest of the world – a daunting task. So a twin track [or fallback] strategy is needed too.

 

I know two arguments against in vitro meat, one bad and one more serious – though still I think it’s mistaken.

 

The bad argument is that in vitro meat is not vegan. In the very strictest sense, this claim is correct.  But the development of in vitro meat needn't involve hurting or killing other sentient beings in any way. Its development may save hundreds of billions of lives. Recall that in vitro meat has its origins in precursor cells, either embryonic stem cells or specialized stem cells in muscle tissue known as satellite cells. So in vitro meat is not strictly "artificial", nor does it involve genetic engineering. Very few of these cells are needed. Their harvesting can involve, say, using cells from a biopsy take from a nonhuman animal being treated by a veterinarian for a medical disorder. I guess an animal rights fundamentalist might argue that humans don't "own" the critical cells in question. But here the debate becomes theological. Compare the debate on stem cell research in the USA. If in vitro meat can save tens of billions of non-human animal  lives without hurting a single non-human animal, then  I think we should support its development – whether it’s technically “vegan” in origin or not.

 

A more powerful argument against in vitro meat is that advocacy of its development might, at some subconscious level, encourage people to think it's morally OK to eat meat in the meantime. If so, I’d be opposed to funding its development. But in practice, discussions on in vitro meat inevitably involve mention of how horrifically sentient non-human animals are treated now. Why else promote cruelty-free alternatives to traditional meat in the first place? The "livestock industry" prefers people to think as little as possible about the origins of the food on their plate.Even purely “scientific” discussions of in vitro meat ending up alluding to why it’s needed i.e. the cruelty of our existing practices. So on balance, I think animal advocacy and in vitro meat initiatives support each other.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dave! Arild Tornes would like to ask the next question. When you're ready, thanks, Arild.

 

Arild Tornes:

Life has evolved sentience and feelings for a purpose – the preservation and continuity of life. Pain is good because it’s signals that teach us that something is wrong. Pain is supposed to protect it’s subjects, it's a helper. It’s a symptom not the root of the problem. Shouldn’t we rather tackle the political problems (the violence) than the symptoms?

 

David Pearce:

Why phenomenal pain and pleasure exist at all is a very deep question. No one knows the answer. Our silicon etc robots are capable of nociception. They can be programmed to learn and to avoid noxious stimuli. Yet they don’t undergo the horrific “raw feels” of pain.


Now clearly we don’t want to become “robots" – to have what we value in life, our peak experiences, replaced by the formal utility functions of digital computers.   But when everything nasty and mundane can be “offloaded” on to computers and smart prostheses, should anyone – human or non-human – be forced to suffer against their will? How much, how often, for how long, and enforced by what means? It’s worth stressing that the signaling function of suffering today can be replaced by information –signaling dips in well-being that never falls below hedonic zero.  If your hedonic set point is elevated,  you can retain the values and  preferences you hold today – but your quality of life will be higher. I hope this life-enrichment can be shared not just by members of one particular race or species, but (ultimately) all sentient beings.

 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David. Leah would like to ask another question next. Thanks, Leah.

 

Leah:

Thanks! According to some utilitarian philosophers such as Peter Singer, only humansand nonhuman animals who are cognitively similar to humans have aninterest in continuing to live...  He considers death a harm only to members of these few species. Do you think this view is inconsistent?

 

David Pearce:

A (direct) utilitarian might  reason on the following lines. Dying is harm. But is death? If Robinson Crusoe passes away painlessly in his sleep, is anyone harmed? We all have spatial and temporal boundaries. Who is harmed by not existing beyond those boundaries?. "Death is not an event in life" said Wittgenstein. There is no evidence we really have an enduring metaphysical ego.

 

So should we agree with Peter Singer? On the contrary,  I’d argue on (indirect) ethical utilitarian grounds that a society based on the sanctity of (sentient) life will be a better.  happier society than a society where we are regarded a mere vessels of pleasure - interchangeable units that can be swapped at will. For example, how is long term planning possible unless we take responsibility for our actions over time?.  Anything than cheapens or diminishes respect for the sanctity of life is likely to diminish the well-being of sentient life over the long term. done

 

Leah:

Thank you!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Dave.

 

David Pearce:

Consensus I hope  :-)

 

Leah:

Can I follow up?

 

David Pearce:

Yes, please! As many follow ups as people like.

 

Leah:

But if you die you will no longer have future positive experiences. Doesn't any utilitarian have to accept that that's bad? Because then there's less wellbeing in the world?

 

David Pearce:

Here we get into heavy philosophical water. If you are a classical utilitarian, you are committed to the view that your matter and energy should be converted into utilitronium (pure bliss). This isn't a problem for the negative utilitarian, who recognises no such obligation. In what sense would a hyper-blissful being be "you"? Ultimately I suspect a quasi-Buddhist conception of personal (non-)identity is correct. I just don't think it is conducive to happiness in today's society at least .

 

Oscar Horta:

Can I have a short follow up on this, please?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Sure, go ahead

 

Oscar Horta:

Ok, thanks! Dave, what your answer pointed out is that according to some conceptions of our identity, death is less harmful than it seems. At any rate, Leah's point is that the reason why death is harmful is that if you die at some point, your life as a whole would contain less wellbeing than if you die later. Don't you think that would be so even if we accepted that view of identity?

 

David Pearce:

Yes, but I worry that perspective, if taken seriously, is likely to harm the well-being of the living. Strictly speaking, however, I don't believe there is any such thing as personal identity over time, simply spatio temporal here-and-nows strung together in different sequences. However,  I think this conception of human and non-human animals may be harmful so outside of philosophical debate, I wouldn't press it

 

Oscar Horta:

Ok, thanks a lot!

 

Leah:

Thanks for explaining all that!

 

Tim Gier:

Roger will now ask Kate's question.

 

Roger Yates:

Do you think humans should prioritise protecting those who are members of endangered species? Would you be in favour of saving the last 10 East African Black Rhinos or 20 rabbits?

 

David Pearce:

Species, genera, families, phyla etc are just abstractions – artefacts of our scheme of classification of living beings. Abstractions don’t have interests. They don’t matter in themselves. So if forced to choose, I’d be inclined to save 20 common White Rhinos instead. I’m not sure about rabbits. It depends on how sentient rabbits are compared to rhinos. I love rabbits, but their brains are much smaller.

 

Am I sure this answer is right? No, for the following reason. Animal activists are rightly extremely suspicious of science and scientific research. All manner of horrors to humans and non-humans alike have been perpetrated in its name. Nonethless I think we should all hugely value scientific knowledge. This is because only scientific knowledge will allow us to claw away out of the horrors of Darwinian life as it exists today. Now I’ve no particular reason to think the passing of the last East African Black Rhinos will lead to a major gap in our understanding of the living world. But what if we’re wrong in ways we haven’t fathomed? How does one factor in one’s own fallibility in ethical debate?. After a species is gone, it’s hard [though not strictly speaking impossible if the DNA is preserved] to bring it back.

 

I confess I’d have less compunction about allowing crocodiles, say, to go extinct.  For the past 100 million years they have been causing appalling suffering to other sentient beings. It’s not their “fault”. But I can’t see any good reason to e.g. captive breed them in their current form so they can cause more horrific suffering in future.

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks David - next up is Carolyn Bailey.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Roger!  You are the director of (and founded in 1995) BLTC Research, which is a non-profit research organisation. This organisation seeks to elucidate the underlying physiological mechanisms of physical and mental suffering, with the intention of eradicating suffering.  You are also well known for advocating for the abolition of suffering in other animals. If it were possible to use other animals for our pleasure  without inflicting pain or suffering, would you be in favour of that use?

 

David Pearce:

For [indirect] utilitarian reasons, I’d be inclined to say no! We should be thinking of ways to help other sentient beings, not use them. Better still, we should aim to develop an inclusive sense of “we” that involves all sentient beings.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dave. Oscar Horta would like to ask the next question, when you're ready, Oscar.

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks. There’s an argument that points out that in a world in which there are beings with an equal capacity for wellbeing and suffering (that is, with equal energy requirements for positive and negative experiences),  if (i) the resources available are limited and thus sentient beings will have to compete for them,and (ii) reproduction dynamics entails that there can exist as many beings as the resources permit, the consequence will be that there will be more suffering than wellbeing. What do you think of this argument? In which way do you think this is relevant? Thanks!

 

David Pearce:

Sadly yes, I think this argument is sound, important and relevant.

 

It’s what Richard Dawkin’s is getting at in his “It must be so” passage "During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear;  others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites; thousands of all kinds are dying from starvation, thirst and disease. It must be so. If there is ever a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored."  Dawkins River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995).

 

Humans treat non-human humans so badly it’s tempting to think simply leaving them alone would be best. But for most non-human animals life in Nature is “nasty, brutish and short”.  This is because they ensure more non-human animals survive, to breed ever more offspring, so there is even worse famine and death by starvation (etc next winter.

 

So is Dawkin’s right? “It must be so”. No, for we can regulate fertility and design compassionate ecosystems instead via genetic engineering http://www.abolitionist.com/reprogramming/

 

 

Oscar Horta:

Ok, thanks!


David Pearce:

Sorry much more should be said I know!

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks David, Edward Sanchez has the next question, but it appears that he isn't here at the moment, so I will ask it for him. Edward asks: What’s your favorite argument against speciesism?

 

David Pearce:

I’d hesitate to use the word “favorite” because I find the parallel so deeply disturbing. Perhaps the greatest crime in human history was the Holocaust: the industrialized killing of members of other races  because they were “inferior”. Yet the nonhuman animals we abuse and kill today are functionally equivalent, both in their intelligence and – critically – their capacity to suffer, to human infants and toddlers. Yes, there are differences between an adult pig and a human toddler. But these differences aren’t morally relevant differences. Sentience is what makes another living being worthy of moral consideration, not IQ.And some non-human animals e.g. the sperm whale, with its 9 kg brain, may be more sentient than humans. One speciesist counter-argument says that humans matter more than equivalently sentient humans because human infants are “potentially” more intelligent than non-humans. But this argument doesn’t work even on its own terms. For we all acknowledge that a toddler with a progressive disease who will never reach his third birthday is just as worthy of love and care as his “normal” counterpart.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Can I ask something please?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

A follow-up, Mangus?

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Yes, please, what is sentience?

 

Dustin Juliano:

good one :>

 

David Pearce:

(the capacity for) conciousness is the broadest sense. Sometimes it is used  in the sense of possession of a pleasure-pain axis but there are forms of sentience where hedonic tone is lacking perhaps the term "consciousnesss" is best used instead but that causes confusion too. Sometimes you realise that when people are talking about consciousness they really mean self-consciousness.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Thank you

 

Carolyn Bailey:  

Thanks, Dave. Roger Yates would like to ask a question now, thanks Roger.

 

Roger Yates:

You have suggested that, under certain circumstances, you could sanction experimentation on nonhuman animals - and human ones? http://www.youtube.com/watch?=nMMowV6BEvc (at about 3.20). You comment that many of your colleagues in the animal activist movement would not support you in this. Can you clarify your position on vivisection?

 

David Pearce:

We now recognize the medical experiments performed on non-consenting humans last century as some of the gravest crimes in recent history. Yet we perform analogous experiments on members of other species as “legitimate” medical research. This is arbitrary speciesist bias at its worse.. So should all experiments on non-human animals be banned? Here I’d like to hear the opinions of other ARZone members. But not altogether IMO. A vast number of procedures don’t cause harm and aren’t invasive. So long as the interests of the subject are paramount, I think testing is morally acceptable to promote the well-being of human and non-human animals alike. The risks here are obvious, but so are the risks of bringing medical progress to an end.

 

Roger Yates:

As a follow-up, assuming we agree that few nonhuman rights bearers get out of labs alive, are you following Singer in saying that death in itself is not a harm?

 

David Pearce:

Ah., I wasn't endorsing lethal vivisection. I had in mind the kind of tests that would be acceptable on humans today or biopsies when an operation for medical reasons was being performed. Basically interventions that don't harm the subject. The second dilemma I worry about is the threshold of sentience. Medically we can learn a vast amount from single celled animals, we share a lot of the same genes, but where does the threshold of sentience start? Here there is a risk of self-serving bias in our answers  scientifically, it would be very useful for it to be ethically permissible to use worms but I think worms are at least minimally sentient. I don't know what other ARZone members think the species level at which non-negligible sentience begins?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

If other ARZone members would like to contribute to this discussion at this time, please feel free to do so.

 

Andrew Stein:

Can we interject?

 

Roger Yates:

Yes, why not - what do we think folks?

 

Mike Koen:

I think it likely that, though we can point to places on the spectrum of sentience where it clearly exists, the point at which it begins will not be found.

 

Eugene Farberov:

I agree, it is like trying to pinpoint where an infant becomes an adult.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

There has to be some kind of brain working though, right?

 

Mary Smith:

I find it hard to believe we can make such a judgement/call

 

Mike Koen: 

Done lol...then where will we get our raw materials?

 

David Pearce:

Flatworms possess dopamine and opioid receptors. Dopamine and opioids are released in response to noxious stimuli. I suspect they do have rudimentary sentience

 

Roy Gordon:

The worm has pink skin and bleeds and even though it does not have a face apparent to us. I would still cringe at the psychological idea of someone in society who pulls blood out of anything, especially another pink skin which then absolves of much more. Hope that interjection was okay.

 

David Pearce:

One can prevent their feeling of discomfort by co-administering an opioid, but here we get into experientalist/ vivisectionist territory

 

Eugene Farberov:

But response to stimulus is also possesed by bacteria and thermostats, so is that a good criteria?

 

Tim Gier:

Response to noxious stimuli does not necessarily presuppose a subjective experience, does it? Excellent question Eugene :-)

 

Maynard S.Clark:

Does future benefit distributed across large numbers of beneficiaries, as utilitarian as that calculation is, count for much in your thinking?  And how much? Nonhuman subjects can only minimally give consent, and surely not informed consent.

 

Alex Vance:

I think you've gotta be very careful when you levy restrictions on medical research. Though I've read a little about all of the banal and pointless studies in universities the world over that enact gruesome damage to unwilling animals, I don't think that as a utilitarian, it's as simple as saying: "you can never cause suffering to an unwilling being," as much as it makes us cringe, because it can and has led to a lot of medical progress and net reduction of suffering. I realize that's probably hugely controversial here and I kind of just threw that out there, but...too late, I guess.

 

Mary Smith:

Isn't this where nanotechnology comes into play?

 

Roy Gordon:

I think my comment about pink skin sounded a little racist up there but if I could add that anyone has some pink skin and the darker most of it is probably the much better it is for whoever owns it sorry about that

 

David Pearce:

Maynard, this is where my (indirect) utilitarianism comes into play.  If one drops the ethical prohibition on experiments that cause harm [as distinct from harmless testing] there is a slippery slope and yes I know "slipperly slope" arguments have pitfalls of their own

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dave. Arild Tornes has the next question but is unavailable at the moment, so I’ll ask this for him. It can be said that this kind of painkilling projects places it’s hopes in the system of exploitation itself, the technocapitalist system’s ability to develop more advanced technology,  and it’s use of “welfare” and belief in the “welfare-state” to drug the oppressed to obedience and create tolerance for the exploitation exploitation - so that it hinders the struggles for liberation (the “animal rights” critique of “animal welfare” and left/libertarian critique of capitalism). What do you think?

 

David Pearce:

Opiate drugs do indeed make people contented and insensitive to injustice –not ill-willed but “selfish”. But equally, other interventions can enhance motivation; others can increase empathy and compassion. In future, there will be safe and effective drugs and gene therapies that allow us not just to be happier but more empathetic – more “moral”. Sadly natural selection ensures that most of us feel quasi-sociopathic indifference towards each other most of the time. I think we need to rewrite our own source code, not just so we are temperamentally happier, but so we are temperamentally kinder too. Unfortunately there was strong selection pressure against genes that promoted saintly behavior on the African savannah. But now we can choose to have children who are predisposed to be kinder than their ancestors.

http://www.reproductive-revolution.com/

 

Like you, I find aspects of technocapitalism oppressive. But ultimately I think our objection to any socioeconomic system must lie in the suffering it causes. So long as (post)human and non-human animals alike can flourish, I don’t think we should be dogmatic about the optimal mix  of state intervention and free markets.

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Tim Gier who's asking a question what he wrote himself.

 

Tim Gier:

The idea of manipulating or altering the genome of human and other animals such that suffering is nearly eliminated certainly has its appeal.  However, there is a school of thought which holds that any being’s understanding and appreciation of the world is tied inexorably to its biology. For example, it’s thought humans can never know what it is like to be a bat. Can we really know in advance then whether the changes you advocate making in our biology might not change us for the worse?

 

David  Pearce:

We may never know what it is like to be a bat – other than by adding the genes, nerve cells and sensory apparatus for echolocation.  But the pleasure pain-axis seems to be universal to sentient life. Simple flatworms release the same opioid and dopamine in response to noxious stimuli as higher vertebrates. Our core emotions and their evolutionary role are strongly conserved over evolutionary history.

 

Intuitively, intervention is incredibly complex. But choosing versions of even two alleles via preimplamation genetic diagnosis can produce creatures who are happier [i.e have a higher hedonic set point.http://www.reproductive-revolution.com/comt.pdf

and kinder http://www.reproductive-revolution.com/comt-altruism.pdf 

and are much less sensitive to painhttp://www.opioids.com/pain/scn9a.pdf

these examples are of course just illustrative

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks David, Oscar Horta is up next with another question. Prof. Horta, when you're ready, please go ahead!

 

Oscar Horta:

Thanks again! This is my question: Do you see a relation between a development in terms of our knowledge and our cognition, and a morality which is more benign toward others?

 

David Pearce:

Yes, science aims to deliver an impartial “God’s-eye-view” of the natural world – a “view from nowhere”. I think we should aim for an impartial “God’s-eye-view” of all possible first-person perspectives in ethics too. For the existence of other first-person perspectives is as much an (objective) fact about the world as the atomic number of gold or the Second Law of thermodynamics. We need to understand how natural selection has systematically warped our perceptions – creating egocentric, ethnocentric and anthropocentric bias that we must overcome. Our naïve moral intuitions are no more reliable than our naïve physics.

 

Oscar Horta:

Ok, thank you!

 

Dustin Juliano:

Love that last paragraph. 100% agree.

 

Roger Yates:

Next up is Leah - go ahead please.

 

Leah:

Thanks! You often mention fallacies and cognitive biases that distort our thinking. I'd like to ask you about three of them: self-serving bias, status quo bias and appeal to nature. Could you explain what they are and how they apply to antispeciesist advocacy?

 

David Pearce:

Self-serving bias reflects our desire to rationalize exploitation as something else. Non-intellectuals may not feel the need to justify their moral apathy [“I like the taste of meat too much to give it up”].  Intellectuals, on the other hand, may invoke the so-called Logic of the Larder http://www.animal-rights-library.com/texts-c/salt02.htm

 

Even though factory-farmed animals spend almost their whole lives below “hedonic zero”, they should somehow be grateful for us to bringing them into existence. Status quo bias is just arbitrary bias in favour of what exists now. “Custom will reconcile people to any atrocity” said George Bernard Shaw. By contrast, if the interests of nonhuman animals were protected, and someone suggested they might be hunted for fun or factory-farmed farmed for food, most people would be outraged.

 

The appeal to nature is the claim that what is natural is inherently good or right.  Even the most ardent advocates of what is "natural” tend to make their claim while wearing clothes.

 

Leah:
Thank you!

 

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks again David, Roger Yates has the next question, go ahead please Roger

 

Roger Yates:

Your critical review of Huxley’s Brave New World seems indicative of a position that suggests that, hitherto, humanity has not been well served by the majority of thinking on utopian futures or “paradise engineering.”  Do you think there are major obstacles to even begin the serious consideration of your substantive ideas, such as the ending of all suffering for all sentients?

 

David Pearce:

Yes, major obstacles. The world is full of utopian dreamers. At the risk of sounding like a technological determinist, if there weren’t substantive grounds for thinking we’re likely to phase out suffering, then the sorts of ideas I discuss...– e.g. life-long genetically programmed well-being would be of limited interest.

 

Phasing out the biology of suffering isn’t a new idea. It’s implicit in Buddhism and classical utilitarianism. What’s different is that 21st century technology allows us – in principle – to turn pious aspirations into reality. After all, if it were feasible, would you like to live in a cruelty-free world?

 

The “utopian” in me would love to see a crash UN program aimed at eradiating the metabolic pathways of suffering wherever they are found. The realist knows  that phasing out suffering is far more likely to happen in a piecemeal fashion. Thus the imminent reproductive revolution of "designer babies" means there will be intense selection pressure against our nastier genes. Not least, most parents will want to have happier children. Likewise, I’d love to see meat-eating criminalised today. The realist in me knows it’s going to take exhaustive and exhausting antispeciesist advocacy over many decades plus in vitro meat to bring the horrors of factory farming to an end.

 

The most “utopian” aspect of the abolitionist project is bringing free living (“wild”) animal suffering to an end.  But even here, I think what happens in zoos today is suggestive. I’m opposed to zoos, of course, but most people are opposed to feeding live rodents to snakes because it’s "inhumane". So it’s now banned. Later this century, every cubic metre of our planet is going to be computationally accessible to inspection with incredible precision of control. How much suffering do we want to exist in the world? Do we want any any? Like it or not, humans will be “playing God”. Let’s just hope we can be benevolent gods – sometimes by compassionately intervening, and sometimes by leaving well alone.

 

Tim Gier:

David, the final pre-registered question for tonight's chat is from Brooke Cameron. Brooke, please go ahead

 

Brooke Cameron:

Your notion of abolitionism includes completely remaking the ecosystem so that predators do not cause the suffering or death of other animals. Many would say this is unnatural, but I would like to ask if this would bring about the problem of overpopulation amongst, well, every species on Earth, and if so, do you have a suggestion as to how this would be dealt with.

 

David Pearce:

The idea of phasing out predation sounds ecologically illiterate. Without predators, surely there would be a population explosion of herbivores who would starve, leading into ecological collapse.

 

The key is cross-species fertility control via immunocontraception. Long-acting contraception is effective and (relatively cheap) It has been used already e.g. in elephants in Kruger national park in preference to the cruel practice of culling. All sorts of imaginative innovations are feasible if we are serious about phasing out suffering e.g. catnip flavoured in vitro mincemeat for obligate carnivores 

 

What could go wrong? Lots of things! The point is we are already intervening in nature on a truly massive scale, via habitat destruction, wildlife parks, captive breeding programs for big cats, "rewilding" The question is whether we want to create compassionate ecosystems in our wildlife parks or  conserve  what we imagine Nature “ought” to be like – hunting killing, disemboweling, eating alive.

 

Extending the principles of the welfare state to non-human animals – first higher vertebrates and then working our way “down” the phylogenetic tree – sounds utopian dreaming.

 

But it’s technically feasible:

http://www.abolitionist.com/reprogramming/

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thank you, David

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David. At this point in time I’d like to sincerely thank you, David, for responding with insight and thought to some great questions. We really do appreciate it! I’d like now to open the chat up to all members and ask that you please send a PM to one of the admins with your intent to ask David questions. I’d like to ask Mike Koen to ask David his first question, when you’re ready Mike.

 

Mike Koen:

Thanks!  It is often quoted that God herself is bound by the Uncertainty Principle and can not know both the position, and the speed, of a particle.  Given sensitivity to initial conditions (Butterfly Effect), even if we all become H+ gods, how will we ever be able to reliably predict and initiate actions that bring the greatest good to the greatest number of sentient beings?

 

David Pearce:

Mike, the short answer is that we can never be sure. All we can do is undertake rigorous risk-reward analysis. "Doing nothing" is still action. If one stands on the rover bank and lets a child drown, well we are going to be doing the equivalent soon of standing on the river bank. We can watch, say, a lion slowly asphysixiate some poor zebra - akin to waterboarding, or we can choose to build kinder ecoststems in our wildlife parks.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dave!

 

Mike Koen:

Thanks

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Mike would like to ask a question on behalf of Jess Levy next, thanks again, Mike

 

Mike Koen:

I ask this in place of the absent, though beloved, Jess Levy… In one of your lectures (posted in part on ARZone) you mention the stance of a depressed person mirroring a submissive posture seen in other social mammals. Evolutionary psychology posits that most of our behavior can be attributed to adaptive qualities in our ancestors: how much of current human behavior, do you think, can we attribute to evolutionarily advantageous behaviors, including the supposed required inclusion of meat in the human diet? As (newish) information about gut flora and fauna might give some validity to the claims that some people physically cannot sustain a vegan diet can we see any evolutionary advantage to some of us being omnivores and some of us being herbivores?

 

David Pearce:

Well, hundreds of millions of Indians have subsisted for centuries on a vegan or quasi-vegan diet, so clearly a vegan diet is consistent with good health. On the other hand, the capacity to derive high quality protein from humans of other tribes and from hunting non-human animals was fitness enhancing in the ancestral environment. I think today some people do best on a high protein diet and some on a low protein diet, and we should all give immense help and support to anyone thinking of becoming vegan. Our society is so geared to an exploitative lifestyle, many meat-eaters find it hard to imagine what they could eat. Although vegetarians statistically live longer than omnivores/carnivores, this isnt true of vegans. Improved vegan education is needed imo. Nutrition isn't studied normally in schools or college over many years of medical training, doctors normally spend only a week  on nutrition whereas it ought to be part of the core curriculum. It would certainly save on health service costs! No, I’m not some naturopath, but, food is the best medicine still has a grain of truth

 

Mike Koen:

Excellent points.  Who says Hplussers cannot be practical Thanks, David.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dave Roy Gordon would like to ask the next question now, thanks, Roy


Roy Gordon:

Hi David, it is quite a priviledge to find my way into this so I will try to ask a meaningful question and if it rambles on a bit the base is rather simple, so dont mind skipping some! Natural selection statement above was excellent btw thank you :-)  Veganism is not truly alienated in todays developed societies but it is not a hard stretch to use that word.

 

It can seem that India and Bhuddist roots would provide some sort of Mecca-equivalent for those inclined toward veganism but, is there truly anywhere in the world that has been created or culturally overrun by vegans? If vegans are to be any less alienated than they might seem today, is it utterly essential and urgent that such a Mecca become a reality beyond the hippies-in-commune type of gathering of old and into the modern industrialised, and technologically significant realm? i.e. like an important city and surrounds of significant size and independence from where vegans might truly be reckoned an established evolution of the human condition, instead of the thinly spread piggyback idealism that it is largely received as today? I swear I thought of that while reading this.

 

David Pearce:

Vegetarianism is now of course relatively common in the west. Veganism, on the other hand, is still quite rare. I always say "cruelty-free vegan lifestyle" - a bit of a mouthful I know to indicate it's not just some quirky dietary preference but ethically grounded. Unfortunately only in cyberspace do significant communities seem to gather. Many young vegans feel isolated and alienated at home

 

Roy Gordon:

Thank you I'd love to be called to such a place tho

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Dave. Oscar Horta would like to ask a question now, thanks, Oscar.

 

Vegano:

I'm so happy being vegan.. =)

 

Oscar Horta:

Ok, here's the question. Some theorists (such as Colin McGinn) have argued we will never be able to solve the so-called “mind-body problem”. That is: they claim we will never be able to know  what is exactly the physical process in our central nervous systems that makes us sentient beings. If this were so, we would never be able to know what beings are sentient. What do you think of this?

 

David Pearce:

Before launching into the Hard Problem and the philosophy of mind, I think it's worth noting that we can make progress in discovering the neural correlates of different states of consciousness in humans. So if we know that nonsense mutations of the SCN9A gene completely eliminates the capacity to feel phenomenal pain, and other alleles either increase  or decrease pain sensitivity we can infer other vertebrates with the same gene and analogous allelic variations experience the same sorts of pain increase or decrease in sensitivity, or in rare cases, none at all. The same is true for our core emotions - the neural pathways and genes are strongly conserved. Why does consciousness exist at all? Well, I'm both a physicalist  (there is nothing in the world that isn't captured by the equations of physics are their solutions - no "element of reality" as Einstein put it) and also a panpsychist. I take seriously the possibility that fields(branes) or microqualia are the stuff of the world, the "fire in the equations" that not even materialists purport to explain. But I don't think chairs, tables, rocks, digital computers, plants etc are subjects of experience ie I'm not an animist. Rather I think what distinguishes the significantly conscious from the negifibly conscious is macroscopic quantum coherence. Even though the mind/brain is apparently too warm to support such states. Apologies to anyone who has nodded off by now

 

Mary Smith:  

still here.....

 

Alex Vance:

hoo rah

 

Carolyn Bailey:  

We're still very interested, Dave

 

Sadia  Pajput:

:-)

 

Mike Koen:

Macroscopic quantum coherence?

 

Maynard S. Clark:

This is quite good, I think, but needs more 'ramping up' for the general audience. 

 

Roy Gordon:

Still here!

 

Andrew Stein:

http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/1355/

 

David Pearce:

Think of superfluid helium or a superconducter, what would otherwise be 10 to the power 23 odd atoms can become bound into a unitary macroscopic state  right. Why isn’t the mind like mind dust, discrete psychic atoms but instead populated by dymanic objects embedded in a unirary experiential field. The population of China isn’t a subject of experience, why aren't colonies of nerve cells the same? Colonies  panpsyhism doesnt itself solve the problem of why we aren’t zombies imo, only panpsychism + quantum cherence, however I should add this is conjecture.

 

Oscar Horta:

k

 

David Pearce:

Sorry but Oscar did ask!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, David

 

Oscar Horta:

lol, thanks!


Carolyn Bailey:

Gabriel Garmendia would like to address you next, thanks Gabriel

 

Gabriel Garmendia:

Hey Dave! =)  Can you talk a little more about your concerns with the moral/legal status of nonhuman animals as property of human beings, and why this point is important for your utilitarian views?

 

David Pearce:

Hi Gabriel

 

Oscar Horta:

OK Dave, now Gabriel did ask too!

 

David Pearce:

Fortunately my answer does not depend on macroscopic quantum coherence..  [well actualy...]

 

Gabriel Garmendia:

haha

 

Oscar Horta:

Doesn't it?

 

David Pearce:

Well, OK, I don't think I could write this without it....but seriously, the reason I think legal protection is essential is otherwise, well, words are cheap. One can talk as much as one wants about rights, ethics, ad morals, but unless the interests of humans and non-humans are protected in law with sanctions against abusers, then the horrors will go on.  Although I think our obligations to non-human animals are _far_ more extensive than not treating them as property, I certainly think that right should be enshrined in law  

 

Gabriel Garmendia:

Thanks Dave! :-)

 

Tim Gier:

Do laws against the killing of human beings prevent the killing of human beings?

 

David Pearce:

To a very large extent in contemporary western societies that lack guns, yes. Here in the UK, murder is extremely rare of humans at least . "Sportsmen" still murder non-human animals for fun

 

Tim Gier:

I'd argue that laws against the killing of humans are effective because generally it is accepted that the killing of humans is wrong, not that the killing of humans is rare because we have laws against it.

 

Mary Smith:

May I comment please?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Sure, Mary

Roy Gordon:

It is generally accepted that the killing of animals and even the harming of them is unacceptable as well tho is it hunting or any few specifics which prevent this common sense from overriding traditions?

 

Mary Smith:

Take for example, South Africa - they are listed as one of the most dangerous countries in the world and CT is listed as the city with the 4th highest murder rate in the world. Killing of animals are at the same or higher ratio and with a government endorsing canned lion hunting, it makes the problem worse. It will take many, many years to change traditions.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Kate Go Vegan would like to ask a question next but is busy transcribing, so Roger Yates will ask on her behalf. Thanks, Roger.

 

Roger Yates:

Environmentalists often try to present their views as favourable to nonhuman animals. Yet they have defended environmentalist measures that harm animals, or oppose other measures that could benefit them because they are considered to be unnatural. What do you think of this?

 

David Pearce: 

Well, I don't think we should care about "the environment" in the abstract - merely sentient beings and the effect their environment has on sentient beings. Thus I don't think a tree, for example, has rights or interests. A tree only matters insofar as indirectly it contributes to the interests and well-being of sentient beings. The language i'm using here doesn't sound very tender or compassionate, but caring about non-sentient entities other than instrumentally strikes me as misguided.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

That makes sense to me  Sock it to 'em (the trees), David

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks again, Dave. Mary Smith would like to ask a question next, thanks, Mary

 

Mary Smith:

Thanks - David, to what extent is vivisection involved in developing nanotechnology? 


David Pearce:

By itself, very little. The crunch will come when we use micro-miniaturised nanobots to intervene in human and non-human bodies, or to "police" the oceans etc. All sorts of procedures can be performed on humans and non-humans without harming them - what's critical is presumably guidelines and ethics committees.

 

Mary Smith:

Intel - the world's largest computer "chip maker" in computer processing is involved in vivisection

 

Maynard S. Clark:  

How about AMD?

 

Mary Smith:

No, AMD is not  but INTEL is the sponsor of ISEF, and they allow vivisection and claim to want to use nanotechnology as an alternative.

 

Alicia Sangineti:

Vivisection to make computer chips??... uggggg

 

Carolyn Bailey:

What is ISEF, Mary?

 

Alex Vance:

International Science and Engineering Fair

 

Mary Smith:

That's right Alex

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Alex


Maynard S. Clark:

It's used for toner ink cartridges

 

Maynard S. Clark: 

Anecdotally, I think that we have drawn many of OUR constituents from technical fields during the 80s and 90s, but our more distributed constituencies today may be different.

 

Roy Gordon:

Must say I am cautiously glad to have an AMD processor. :-( been vegan for years but never went looking for it, just seems to follow me around stuff like "No more intel chips anyway"

 

David Pearce:

i was appalled to learn that the head of godaddy registrar recently shot an elephant. The IT industry is not a hotbed of morality.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

May I ask why you were appalled that the head of Godaddy killed another animal, David?

 

David Pearce:

I guess its rather absurd  to be unusually appalled when so many people i know still eat meat, but yes i was shocked.

 

Carolyn Bailey:   

I agree, I think it's odd to be appalled that one man exploits other animals.

 

Roy Gordon:

Do you sit and watch them eating meat? Are your celebrities your deity

role models?

 

Alex Vance:

I guess we've passed a resolution that you're odd, David. Now kindly leave so we can continue.

 

Mary Smith:

I cannot post the link now, but please look at ISEF 2011 guidelines - there are 6 pages on animal testing

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Mary, if you could post it on the transcript comments when the transcript is posted, that'd be great.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Maybe include it in the final transcript Ooops

 

Tim Gier:

Mary, may I ask you a question about Intel please? Do you mean to say that Intel itself actively conducts vivisection?

 

Mary Smith:

Tim, Intel has been a sponsor of ISEF since 1999 they allow children between the ages of 16 and 22 from all over the world to enter. 

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Intel may not be morally sensitive about vivisection; most universities are not. 

 

Alex Vance:

What are the things that AMD sponsors that are wrong?

 

Tim Gier:

Right, I understand that, but that doesn't mean that Intel actually conducts vivisection.

 

Mary Smith: 

http://www.societyforscience.org/document.doc?id=9

 

Ben Hornby:

So, do Intel actually perform tests on other animals themselves?

 

Alex Vance:

No, they allow children who enter ISEF to do experiments on animals

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Moving on, Alex Vance would like to ask a question now, please go ahead, Alex.

 

Alex Vance:

Sweet. Yeah 1. What's your favorite charity and 2. What tools do you use to research the background of non-edible products to filter them out according to the larger vegan lifestyle, if any?

 

David Pearce:

Despite my personal revulsion against meat, my favourite charity is http://www.new-harvest.org/  because i think in vitro meat will prevent untold misery and save hundreds of billions of otherwise wretched lives. I also highly esteem a number of animal activist charities - even if I don't always agree with their initiatives. My favourite human Charity is Amnesty International, torture is the vilest of crimes and they do more than anyone to combat it. Grim stuff I know! May i ask a question, or rather two: what - if any - is the consensus of most ARZone members on 1) in vitro meat and 2) compassionate interventions in Nature?

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Can we do a systematic poll on it?  I'm worried about it, and cannot get a clear response from most ARAs in discussing it.

 

Andrew Stein:

1) Most of the argumentation I've heard for in-vitro meat is simply a supply and demand one: global meat consumption is rising like crazy and we need to find new ways to "produce" meat.

 

Roy Gordon:

If you don't mind a new members opinions, 1. not something given to consideration as I don't like fake meat although sitting and thinking about it being available and cheaper certainly does something encouraging 2) something I often like to think about

 

Tim Gier:

On in vitro meat, if there was a way to produce it such that the rights of all nonhumans were respected, then I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with it, although I am not sure that in vitro meat could be so produced.  On compassionate interventions in nature, I believe that there are most likely some clear cases where humans can and should intervene to make the lives of nonhumans better.

 

Leah:

I agree with that, Tim. But I don't think it's answer.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

1)I suspect that biopsied cells grown in Petri dishes or other media provide the basis; that doesn't violate the animals' rights by David's analysis.

2) Many ARAs tell me they don't want us changing nature

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I'm curious to learn how invitro meat would cause the cessation of predatory behaviour

 

Tim Gier:

I am less convinced that we could ever successfully accomplish widescale "re-making" of predator-prey relationships without causing even worse unforeseen problems, but I think it is worth very serious study.

 

Leah:

I agree with that too, Tim

 

Alex Vance:

Personally, i think there's a big difference between appeasement like animal welfare and something as possibly game changing as IVM, and i'd support IVM even though they will probably have to do a lot of comparison testing with meat and live animals.

 

Tim Gier:

thanks Leah! :-)

 

Andrew Stein:

If ARA's don't want us changing nature; why don't we go back to the days of the African savanah?

 

Alex Vance:

muscle growth 


Mary Smith:

What does that mean Andrew?

Andrew As David mentioned, we are already changing nature on a massive scale. On what basis do ARA members not want to change nature further?

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Do you feel we have a right to change something like the natural instincts and behaviour of lions, Andrew?

 

Roy Gordon:

You cannot feed a cat fruits alone. Only domestication or significant genetic remapping could alter the predation of cats at least and for insects it might be a whole tin of worms.

 

Alex Vance:

Actually, there is vegan cat food manufactured for cats, a quick google search will find it.

 

Roy Gordon:

Yeah but to change the wild cats to it you’d have to domesticate them.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 

Exactly, Roy! 

 

Andrew Stein:

Carolyn, I don't see why not, if the intentions are right.

 

Andrew Stein:

And no animal is being harmed in the process.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 

Have we not done enough harm by domesticating other animals at this stage?

Should we continue with this? Where do we draw the line? No, Andrew, the predators ARE being harmed.

 

Andrew Stein:

What harm has come out of domesticating animals? Serious question - I am probably not informed.

 

Carolyn Bailey: 

In my opinion domestication has allowed us to accept the rights violations that many believe are necessary in order to control the population of domesticates in order to enhance the lives of those we now have a responsibility to care for. Domestication takes away the liberty of those who are forced to live an unnatural life in inappropriate habitat.

 

Maynard  S. Clark:

Bioethicists/liberal eugenicists here at Harvard SPH tell me they won't take us seriously until we DO reconstruct the predator-prey relationship (because rights as we construe them are external to humans)

 

Alex Vance:

Well, strays. Everywhere. Starving. 

 

Roy Gordon: 

But wait... Pandas!! I mean I wouldn't put it completely past any animal to show the compassion that it shows us to the rest of the world.

 

Andrew Stein: 

Carolyn - how

 

Alicia Sangineti:

Domestication itself is wrong

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Yes, Alex, and having their rights violated in order to save them. These situations are far from ideal.

 

Maynard S Clark:

Are we discussing OUR duties to not harm, rather than their 'rights'?  or their duties with regard to US (and how is that claim upon us made)?

 

Alex Vance:  If I ride a horse, is that cool, if the horse likes me?

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Their rights to enforce duties upon us - sorry

 

Carolyn Bailey:

We still have a few questions for David, so if we can get back on track it'd be great. Maynard Clark has the next question for Dave, please go ahead Maynard when you're ready.

 

Maynard S. Clark:

2- or 3-pronged question:  transforming 6.91 billion humans into post-humans, then into socially sustainable society, will be difficult, and I would also like your analysis of Hobbesianism. Further, applied sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies argued that institutional ‘ethics maintenance’ is socially necessary for social stability. I argue that we need to 'build vegetarian culture' knowledgeably. Abolitionists are nowhere near building adequate levels of sustainable social organization with mentoring capacities that would be needed. Sorry to be long-winded (at the fingertips)

 

Roy Gordon:

Pandas are carnivores that have semi evolved into grass eaters... but their situation is not currently ideal. It is the only example I've ever heard of tho

 

Roy Gordon:

I'd like to ask David about the pandas recent, current even, evolution

 

David Pearce:

I very much agree on the need to "build vegetarian culture" knowledgably. But I also think the key to success may involve making sure most people suffer negligible personal inconvenience - not appeals to moral heroism. We've touched on the in vitro meat issue  re compassionate ecosystem building, if doing so involved vast expense, effort, tax rises etc, most people presumably would not support it but other things being equal. if you ask people : do you favour culling starvation or depot contraception for elephants in our wildlife parks when they reach carrying capacity most people I think would favour depot contraception - obviously we're talking here about large iconic vertebrates - “charismatic megafauna" - but the principle can be extended so long as we don't ask people to make big sacrifices fortunately computer power and genetic engineering, like all IT-based services, will be cheap, relatively.


Maynard S Clark:

Yes!

 

Material substrate for culture. So many are being sensitized to nonhuman suffering

 

Thank you VERY much! 


Carolyn Bailey:

I agree, they would, Dave

 

Andrew Stein:

Now go to bed!  And thanks :-D


Maynard S. Clark:

Roy Gordon?

 

Roy Gordon:

If you'd like? 

 

David Pearce:

OK, last qustion before bed!

 

Roy Gordon:

I just wondered if the evolutionary state of the panda is something you consider in your ideas?  About getting carnivores to be less so.

 

David Pearce:

An ex-carnivore that is now mainly vegetarian?

 

Roy Gordon:

Completely I thought

 

David Pearce: 

You could be right, just bamboo?

 

Roy Gordon:

Believe so... but their sex drive suffers apparently   they are fat and lazy :-)

 

David Pearce:

Anyhow, yes, genetic tweaking will permit us to allow obligate carnivores today not to harm others. In the meantime, catnip flavoured in vitro mincemeat could allow domestic cats to be quasi-vegan [etc]  the first stage , however, is education/debate? Do we want cats to lead cruelty-free lives. Do mice and their suffering matter? 

 

Tim Gier:
If we take their lives seriously, yes, the suffering of mice does matter. especially to them.

 

Maynard  S. Clark:

Does OUR suffering at the mouths and anuses of rampant mice matter to anyone but us?

 

Roy Gordon:

Well it must matter or not surely

 

David Pearce:

Though I think our number one priority should be shutting down the factory farms and the death factories. I think the torment of "mere" rodents does matter and later this century - probably not for a few decades - it will be effectively preventable, but first will come the large vertebrates (who coincidentally tend to have the largest pain centres). Whales, elephants, ungulates etc.

 

Roy Gordon:

Thank you

 

David Pearce:

Good night everyone/...and very many thanks to the organisation of ARZone! Thanks for inviting me.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

You are very welcome, David. Thanks for being here and sharing your insight and wealth of knowledge with us. This has been a great chat!

 

Dustin Juliano:

gnight, David  thank you for all this!

 

Sadia Rajput:

Much Gratitude for an intellectually stimulating converse, and a beautiful evening. Thank YOU much Mr.Pearce!  Learned much and will be deducing many an answer later from transcript as well. And indeed philosophers do rock ! :-)

 

Roy Gordon:

gnight and thanks this was great!

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you David!

 

Leah:

Good night, David!


David Pearce:

Thanks everyone

 

Maynard S. Clark:

Good night, David, and thank you VERY much.

 

David Pearce:

Catch up soon I hope

 

Mangus O’Shales:

:-) good chat tonight!

 

Gabriel Garmendia:

Dave, you're the best!

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thank you, David, you were great!

 

Maynard  S. Clark:

AWESOME !  Read his writings

 

Alicia Sangineti:

Thanks!

 

Ben Hornby:

Goodnight, thanks, Dave!

 

David Pearce:

Goodnight

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after a chat by starting a forum discussion or by making a point under a transcript.

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Comment by Tim Gier on May 3, 2011 at 23:31
David said "I don't believe there is any such thing as personal identity over time, simply spatio temporal here-and-nows strung together in different sequences" and mentioned that it might be a concept harmful to humans as well as to nonhumans. I disagree. Were we each to realize the urgency of now, and the immediate presence of here, we might all also apprehend our place as part of the whole, rather than perpetually chasing our 'selves' in vain.
Comment by Alex Melonas on May 2, 2011 at 2:00
As for the latter suggestion about intervening in nature to reduce the harm experience, I've yet to hear a plausible ethical account for why, in principle, that would be wrong. Moreover, Pearce has suggested various responses to the practical objections raised against such policies.
Comment by David Pearce on April 30, 2011 at 9:30

Roger, would you argue that a rights-based approach leads to greater overall welfare for human and non-human sentients?  [even though it sometimes conflicts with "direct" utilitarian policies]

Comment by Alex Melonas on April 29, 2011 at 22:23

@David and Tim: if you accept the argument I've laid out above -- moving from the question of "personhood" to basic entitlements to the question of "property" -- it isn't clear how "savior siblings" is justified. In the final analysis, while the use is non-harmful, it seems predicated on the same basic kind of moral assumption that would put the "savior siblings" in the "thing" or near-"thing" category b/c they lack whatever basic entitlement we grant to "persons," an entitlement human slaves did not have. Unless, that is, those "savior siblings" could opt-out of the relationship and not donate; so you'd have to wait until they became moral agents before having them donate. It seems you have to make some kind of "property" claim, in other words, on those "savior siblings," i.e., they were created to serve some instrumental end.

Now I'm certainly not making natural rights claims, I'm simply saying that there seems to be a kind of moral logic in distinguishing "persons" from "things" that would make any institutionalized use of a "person" morally questionable.  

Comment by Tim Gier on April 29, 2011 at 8:12

This was a very interesting chat, covering a good many topics that we might not expect to see on ARZone. Thanks David!!

As far as "savior siblings" go, without spending much time thinking through the idea, my initial reaction is a negative one. For one consenting person to agree to help save the life of another is one thing, but for us to bring a life into the world for the sole purpose of using that life to further someone else's just seems wrong to me.

Also, I don't see why it's necessary to call nonhuman animals "persons" unless it's thought that without such an appellation there could be no legal protections of them. But, it seems to me that there are human beings who aren't moral persons whose rights, nonetheless, are respected both generally as well as by law.

Comment by David Pearce on April 29, 2011 at 5:20
 Alex, Matthew, many thanks for a lucid overview of some of the issues.
How do people feel about, say, "saviour siblings"?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savior_sibling
If it's ethically acceptable to create humans whose tissues can (without harm) save the lives of other humans, is it any more or less acceptable to do the same with non-humans?
Comment by Alex Melonas on April 27, 2011 at 13:03
My general claim is that while rights are founded on interests, it requires more argument to show that those rights are absolute. What I tried to show is that there might be an argument for the right not to be property, which would absolutely prohibit all institutionalized use. But to answer your question re: justifying infringing on bodily integrity, I suspect Pearce, for instance would argue from a consequentialist premise to show why infringing that interest is at times justified. Perhaps his indirect utilitarianism, however, would challenge that.
Comment by Matthew McLaughlin on April 27, 2011 at 11:21

@David, thanks for the link to the book on Henrietta Lacks.  I wasn't aware of her story, or that she is the source of the HeLa cells.  You pose a good question about whether her cells should have been destroyed after her death.  It's something that I'll definitely have to think about.  It's also interesting to consider whether the cells could have been obtained with her consent.

 

@Alex I hadn't considered the difference between absolute versus non-absolute rights.  I'm not well versed enough in the difference to argue for either.  In the case of non-absolute rights, what would be adequate justifications for infringing on bodily integrity?  I think one example would be to act in the best interests of someone cannot do that themselves (e.g. someone with a severe developmental disability, a nonhuman animal, or a young child).  For these types of people, those who care for them take them to a physician an receive vaccinations and other treatment that they did not consent to.

 

Thanks for the feedback!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comment by Alex Melonas on April 26, 2011 at 22:10

@David: But I think Mathew's point is that, strictly speaking, this is still use (I was under the impression that you believe extracting cells from live animals is justified). And use, non-harmful or otherwise, raises the question: how do we justify that use? I'm skeptical of this claim, however, b/c it seems to presume that an animals' interest in bodily integrity carries w/ it an absolute right to not be used in any way.

But I can imagine an argument that runs (like Francione's): in the first stage of the argument, we show that animals are "persons," which means they have some kind of intrinsic value (so that's the first moral binary b/n "persons" and "things"), i.e., they have some kind of basic entitlement granted to, say, you and I, an entitlement that human slaves, for instance, lacked. And from here, we see that in the second stage of the argument animals are excluded from the range of potential property, because property (however you define it), by definition, lacks that basic entitlement -- property has instrumental value only. And then we can move to Francione's third stage, which is the moral wrong of institutionalization, i.e., a) since animals are "persons" and have some kind of basic entitlement because they aren't "things," b) which means they are excluded from the range of potential property b/s if I am "property" that means you have an entitlement to control me in some way for your own use, which means that I lack that basic entitlement attributed to "persons" in the first stage, c) which means the institutionalization of my "property" status is morally unjustifiable because it is predicated on me being a "thing" in the first stage of the argument. I think the conclusion is that even the non-harmful extraction of cells from an unconsenting (by definition) nonhuman animal is suspect. 

Comment by David Pearce on April 26, 2011 at 19:19
Very many thanks.
Matthew, what I had in mind was, for example, the non-human animal equivalent of
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Should the cells from the biopsy have been destroyed after the patient died?

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