Human Rights and Wrongs. Biological Skepticism towards Human Rights

Master's Thesis, 2018

65 Pages, Grade: A











This journey would not be possible without kindness, affection and blessings of Prof. Dr. Carole Alsharabati. I am very thankful to my supervisor Prof. Wissan Saade who showed his confidence in my topic and motivated me to write on it. I dedicate my thesis to both.


This thesis is an attempt to provide an adequate theoretical framework to understand the biological basis of human rights. We argue that the skepticism about human rights is increasing especially among the most rational, innovative and productive community of intellectuals belonging to the applied sciences. By using examples of embryonic stem cell research, humanoid robotics and artificial intelligence, a clash between applied scientists and legal scientists cum human rights activists has been highlighted. International human rights regimes notably UN bodies are writing declaration after declaration related to the issues, which are purely of biological nature such as bioethics, human genome, genetic engineering and human cloning. Because of these declarations, applied scientists have fed up of human rights and can justifiably reject them as a whole considering them alien to scientific culture and hence saying that they are unable to find local normative validity of human rights inside the scientific community. After an extensive literature review, this thesis concludes that advances in applied sciences proven by empirical evidences should not be restricted by normative theories and philosophies of the social scientists who often take part in drafting of legal documents such as UN Declarations. Whereas biology can provide a framework of cooperation for social and applied scientists.



As much human nature and human consciousness collaborate with each other, that much the human knowledge about itself increases. The substance which requires to define “human”, comes from its own nature. Consciousness provides knowledge which is essential to define “human”. When active consciousness and passive nature start collaborating with each other, the first thing which born is the concept of “Human”. As much consciousness strive to look for opportunities to perceive nature, that much the concept of human become clearer. (Khalid Javid)

We realize this fact that at this stage, our ideas may be not coherent, but we strongly feel the importance of exploring this area which stands at the junction of applied and social sciences and to look at human rights through the prism of biological, cognitive and behavioral sciences. We are writing this thesis with this cautionary proviso that our goal is not to provide any conclusive argument but to learn by exploring this relatively new domain of legal and political philosophy.

With the discovery of “God Particles”[1] and advancement in the evolutionary biology, one thing has confirmed that even applied scientists rely on instinct. Sometimes it seems that theoretical physicists and theologians are following the same line of arguments and even using the same methodology to prove some of the metaphysical phenomenon. Some progressive social scientists are trying to decode philosophical notions in biological terms with an aim to transmogrify dualistic thinking into monistic thinking. We are dealing with questions on quite serious grounds such as: “What if ethics finds its cause in physical or molecular processes?”[2]

Scientists have reached to that extent where they are trying to find empirical evidence for a Universal Moral Grammar[3] as they have transcripted the whole human genome[4] and found a universal genetic grammar. Human have been spreading their genes through cooperation. Likewise, it is highly possible that ethics have also been spread through a biological or physical force. At least in the case of writing of UN Declaration of Human Rights, we can see a part of motivation coming from biological factors like emotions. Using applied sciences for explaining ethics or some of the leading concepts of social sciences like Human Rights can help social scientists as well, to tackle the false dichotomies in contemporary legal and political philosophy. Four[5] natural laws of global ethics and law can be formulated based on factual biological mechanisms – natural laws that have remarkable equivalents in religion and contemporary law.[6]

The idea that social and applied scientists can join hands to explain some of social phenomenon is not new. A number of established fields of knowledge stand at the cross road of social and applied sciences. Academia is becoming multidisciplinary. Cross-sectional, multidisciplinary studies which spread their tentacles on different fields of educations are considered of high quality and preferred by scholastic community. For example: Behavioral biology is a very progressive area of science which studies human nature from evolutionary prospective. It applies principles of biological sciences for the explanation of developmental mechanisms of human behavior. [It connects patterns of “genes through neural activity to brain circuitry and behavior. Behavioral biologists believe that the human brain evolved similarly to human physical characteristics, such as opposable thumbs and walking erect. In other words, the human brain evolved through natural selection “to make decisions that enhance reproductive success.” Likewise, “complex functional human psychological and behavioral traits are the results of adaption through natural selection.”][7] In short, the evolutionary biologists try to explain human behavior by linking it to psychology and then to neurology and physiology.

In social sciences and even in humanities, there have been historic attempts to find a consensus between soul and body under the heading of dualism. For example, René Descartes did an attempt to give physiological explanations of human behavior. His main idea today referred as Reflex Arc[8] which is a pure biological concept. The underlying philosophy of “Reflex Arc” can be seen in Descartes work where he mentions that we have some sort of preexisting knowledge and brain is the center of soul and mental processes. His idea that many mental and behavioral phenomena can be understood in terms of purely physical causes[9] lead to many advanced discussions which we are trying to conduct in this thesis.

Edwin Fruehwald in his article has done an extensive literature review to prove that there are empirical evidences showing that rights have not something but everything to do with physical body. He refers to different applied scientists and biologists and wrote: “Biological rights derive from neuro-cognitive universals that transcend cultures. These universals exist because “some designs [evolutionary adaptations] out reproduce others until they become universal in the population . . . .” Behavioral biologists have discovered hundreds of universals. Noam Chomsky has conjectured that there is a “universal grammar,” which underlies all human languages. Professor Raffaele Caterina has declared that “people from different cultures, and scientists, recognize substantially the same discontinuities in nature, demonstrating that classification of living organisms is not just a matter of cultural conventions.” Professor Donald Brown has uncovered hundreds of universals including classification, crying, daily routines, envy, etiquette, facial expressions, jokes, law, leaders, logical notions, play, and social structure. Even art is a universal.”[10] Without any exaggerations, there have been real attempts to find biological bases of law because order in the society was inevitable thus this order was discussed and explored seriously by the social scientists from all dimensions.

Any regulatory mechanism for the society, doesn’t matter law or human rights or cultural norms have passed through an evolutionary process before being declared as a generally acceptable set of rules for populates. These sets of rules are motivated by the culture, practices and history of the people they direct. Similar to language, law has universals which lie much deeper than just history and culture. Noam Chomsky’s attempted to find a universal grammar which has found many empirical evidences lately. His claim that all the human languages conceal with a common biological base that’s why we have understanding of each other. We extend this idea to law as well that different types of legal mechanism are supervised by a common biological mechanism which makes it vivid for the persons from different legal bodies to understand if one’s rights have been violated or not.”[11]

Behavioral biologists claim, and this claim doesn’t require any evidence because it is common sense that human brain is designed to detect social cheaters. For example, someone’s facial expressions, tone of voice, body language and even body temperature can reveal if he is a cheater or not. The lie detection machine also works on this principle that there is a significant change in human’s physiology when he tells a lie. The underlying emotions can easily be detected. Similarly, when cheaters cheat, the collective behavior of the society demands these cheaters to be punished. “People even punish cheaters when it is costly to themselves (altruistic punishment) because punishing cheaters promotes cooperation and is a fitness indicator for sexual selection. Further, it might be immoral not to punish cheaters, and the cost of punishment is reduced when undertaken by a group. Moreover, because culture is learned through observation and is passed from generation to generation, punishment becomes a behavioral-cultural norm, thus allowing “the outcome of punishment to be learned without personal transgression.” In addition, punishment and other law help to create trust within the group. In sum, law and punishment help maintain reciprocal altruism within a group when the opportunity for personal interaction is impossible because of the group’s size.”[12] One reason to base a theory of rights on biology is that it is easier to adopt a positive natural trait than to repress it since it is part of the human behavioral system.[13]

Looking at the evolution of human rights through the perspective of any filed of knowledge, we can see that human rights are a product of a culturally particular social construction[14]. Social construction of a particular culture can be the only explanation of the origin of the human rights. Human Rights can be natural, divine or metaphysical if they are not an evolved social construction. Human Rights in particular, and morality in general is of divine origin is a long historic unending discussion among normative philosophers and theologians. Some scientific like theoretical physicists have given metaphysical explanations of some of the social phenomenon. But the idea to find the origin of human rights in nature can be supported by empirical evidences. If we consider that human rights are social construction of a particular culture, then many other cultures could reject them being foreign. There is a need to find a local normative validity of the human rights[15], so they must be adopted and respected. Moreover, a general local normative validity of human rights will ensure their universality as well. Benjamin Gregg developed a cognitive approach to any local culture and this cognitive approach distinguishes them from the normative one. The benefit of this cognitive approach is that it allows advancement of human rights as rights internal[16] to any given community’s culture.

Morality or Law and consciousness about Human Rights are some of feelings which are specific to the homo sapiens. These Feeling are natural and innate in their existence. Morality is pure receptive and part of human construction. The maturity of these feelings requires evolution, upbringing and experiences of the events from the outer world. The feeling about human rights is innate (in Kantian Terms[17] ) and Natural (in Religious Terms). Human Rights have been developed through the same process of evolution and appreciation as some of the other innate human feelings like language and aesthetics. Morality was inborn which developed into an advanced form of human rights. An analogy can be the appreciation of aesthetic and beauty. The parameters of beauty were different centuries ago and today they are different. Likewise, the feeing of good and bad is biological and can be felt which became more sophisticated in the form of human rights. In simple words, the appreciation of morality is innate whereas the conceptualization of human rights is the product of linguistics and social evolution. Until, we hadn’t had human rights in language, the meaning of morality was not completely perceivable for human, but it knew that there is something wrong with its moral code. Morality is sensory thus biological whereas it is being expressed through law and human rights which are the product of the evolution of human’s society.

Hugh Gibbons and attorney Nicholas Skinner wrote a paper with the title “The Biological Basis of Human Rights”[18]. They argued that the idea of justice and morality is found in all the social structures and thus it is universal. The provided a theoretical prove for our case that human rights are biological and also tried to explain the evolutionary process of human perception of human rights starting from the biological brain. They named their theory as the “Theory of Biological Jurisprudence”[19] to describe that how human rights emerges from human biology. Their first argument is same as of Descartes. “I think, therefore I am.”[20]. They say that the brain causes mind. Our biological brain converts into a conscious mind which provides us a legal status. Death is a legal phenomenon which is related to the consciousness of human brain because our brain is the scientific basis of our mind which causes an impact on our world. Next, they said, “Mind Causes Wills”. Which means that mind demands changes in the world. Mind imagines and then wants those imaginations to be converted into reality. These wills cause undertakings and undertakings causes risks. Risks cause duties and duties cause rights and these rights cause law.

In the conclusion[21] they say that human rights didn’t emerge as a result of constitutional amendments, advocacies or what law experts or theologians said about them. Human Rights emerged as a result of our actions. Our actions are the product of our minds. Minds which are conscious and that mind which causes actions under consciousness. This experience of causation is called as will. This consciousness is biological because it is the outcome of certain biological phenomenon taking place in our brains. Will is a conscious state thus it is biological as well. Our wills are sources of undertakings and these undertakings causes risks through the experiences of undertakings. Risks and undertakings causes duty towards others as we cannot fulfil our wills all alone in a social structure. These duties create rights towards others. If we will not fulfil our rights, we will be committing a wrong deed which is not accepted by our legal systems. This is the biological basis of legal wrong. That is the step by step emergence of human rights from our biological self.

These biology-based laws offer several advantages[22]. For example, there is no need to create new rules and law beforehand if we know that what actor wanted to undertake and what were the risks? What he did about them and what was enough etc. The second advantage of biological based human rights can be seen in this age of informational technology and applied sciences advancements. A person from a nationality A is disturbed by a person B of another nationality through internet. There might be some legal complexities, but biology-based ricks are specie-wide, thus they are more seriously tackled under the foreword of human rights. Third, the enforcement of biology-based rights is highly decentralized. Just because of biology we can ignore the legal complexities of related to national interest and policies. Fourth, biology-based law is formative; it shapes and develops the individual’s sense of responsibility, leading to responsible behavior in the future. Besides the weaknesses in the enforcement of law, the biological basis of rights can help the legal system to make quick and relevant decisions in positive law.

For our own ease, we simplify the above details is the following words. “Aggression is proven to be biological and genetic engineers have discovered the gene of aggressions.[23] Whereas morality is a complex process. For this, we need to identify a cluster of genes responsible for our moral behavior. Scientists are agreed that morality is biological[24] which triggers from our brain and encode itself in our cognition. This cognition can be seen into our behavior. Our behavior demands a social contract. This social contract demands perfection and smooth flow of the governance through legal, cultural or political orders (laws and human rights). Any disturbance in these orders disturbs not only the greater layer of social contract but underlaying smaller layers of behavior, cognition and biology as well.”[25]

Human Biology is an active force in the production of Human Rights. Our approach is to prove the same point but by using the top down approach. From Skepticism to the origin of the human rights. If we do the reverse engineering of biological basis of morality, law and human rights, we can find an argument emerging in the favor of our case. Skepticism about morality, law and human rights can explain their origin as well because they provide an opportunity to investigate them in their full flagged form. For example: if we want to understand something better, we can become skeptic about it so that we can criticize and try to find loopholes in it.

One thing is for sure that skepticism about something cannot be rational because emotions are unavoidable in the process of being skeptic. Whereas, skepticism itself is a biological process because its triggering components are purely of psychological nature. Thus, we claim that the explanation of something by defending its case against skeptics is not rational approach. If someone says that someone is skeptic about human rights, that’s why we need to defend their case. But before defending, one needs to prove that he can justify human rights by defending them against skeptics. We argue that, first we must agree on this premise that arguing against skepticism is the best methodological approach to defend the legitimacy of human rights. If so, then we need to investigate this methodology (arguing against skepticism to defend human rights) as well. For example: If someone is skeptic about human rights which (Skepticism) is a biological mechanism, the same biological mechanism should be used in understanding of human rights. Rational approach in this case would be,

“If we accept that human rights have biological basis. And Skepticism has biological basis. Thus, there is a need to find a consensus between human rights and skepticism to justify their biological basis. If we don’t believe in these premises that human rights have biological basis, we cannot use skepticism to justify the case of human rights which is a biological concept.” So, we will see skepticism as a psychological concept and biological skepticism on human right separately. From a cognitive point of view, the concept of human rights contemplates study of its mental structures which include stereotypes and standard representations of the world of law noted for stability of structures, images and emotions: a cognitive approach focuses on a special role of a human factor in cognitive and verbal-thinking processes.[26] Likewise, just opposite to it, if a concept is fully developed, we can become skeptic about it to better understand it. We can use same sorts of images, emotions, human factors and verbal thinking processes to criticize a concept for its better understanding.

It has been experienced that the study of biology has been used to understand the functioning of human body and the study of psychology is often associated with the cognition and development of human brain. In the following chapters, we have conducted an investigation about human rights and their biological origin by being skeptic about them. We have tried to demonstrate the articulation of biological concept into human rights discourse and futuristic approach towards skepticism about human rights. The purpose is not to prove that human rights are a useless effort at all but to highlight some of the difficulties and challenges for the modern rational scientific world. We claim that in order to sustain human rights, we need to take applied scientists in confidence and it wouldn’t be possible without spreading the tentacles of human rights discourse on applied sciences. We need to talk in the terminologies and scientific Jorgen used by applied scientists to overcome their reservations and convince them about the pragmatic importance of human rights. Moreover, human rights are a significant mile stone in the history of social sciences and they are still progressing whereas applied scientists have also achieved many significant mile stones in the last century. For social scientists, it is very importance to take in confidence these applied scientists, so they may have sympathy towards the emotions of social scientist and social scientist could get appreciation from the most rational community which are applied scientists.

In the next chapters, we have discussed in detail about Human Rights Skepticism and skepticism emerging from social science community. We have shed a light on the work of two social scientists to highlight, “How they pursue skepticism and categories it and how they tackle this skepticism?” In the next portion of chapter second, we have investigated two cases from the applied sciences. The first case is about “Stem Cell Research” and how human rights activists are creating a hurdle for applied scientists in the area of genetic engineering. Genetic engineers want to conduct more research by using stem cells whereas legal and social philosophers are creating a hurdle for them while making an argument that it is against the human dignity.

The second case is of humanoid robots and advancements in robotics. Robotics is an area in applied sciences which is striving to ease jobs being done by humans today. Scientists have become very successful in creating robots which are exact replica of human in conducting certain tasks. Some robots have even got legal status and nationalities and some legal systems have accepted their legal personhood. The introduction of new legal personalities in our social and political system will disturb human rights activists when there will a clash between human rights and robots rights. Advancement in the area of robotics are inevitable and human rights will cause a hurdle for applied scientists on the name of demand for unequal rights of rotos.

In the third chapter, we have discussed the case of human rights skepticism through the prism of social sciences. Besides our criticism on human rights through an applied sciences perspective, we feel that with the introduction of human rights, we have become skeptic about some of established social science concepts. In the first case related to social science skepticism, we have investigated the 21st century philosophical progress, the state of nature and social contract. In the second case, we have tried to see the human right through individualism and socialism and concluded that the human rights are socialism of individualism. In which human rights advocates strove for individual rights by they want to achieve this through a socialistic order.

In the fourth chapter, we have compared some important declarations of UN to provide an empirical backup to our case and not to make our case too verbose, to put our case in the legal or political science framework, we have compared Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Universal Declaration on Human Genome and Human Rights, UN Declaration on Human Cloning and Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. These declarations after declaration being introduced by UN make applied scientists more skeptic and beg for a question, “why a single declaration is not enough to prove the dignity of human?” Because each new declaration and treaty further decent into legal system through legislation and cause a hurdle for applied scientists actively participating in research.

In our conclusion, we demand that there is need to define human body by social scientists to prove its sanctity. Moreover, if we have a biological framework of cooperation, then we don’t need an international one or at least put in a way that this international framework is biblical. Even international framework demands cooperation and negotiations which is basically a call for to stimuli the biological traits of humans. (It is our nature that we prefer negotiations). The whole peace building process and conflict resolution mechanism at some stage demand for negotiations in which they make people realize the importance of peacemaking and living in cooperation. At biological level, there is a social contract between atomic and sub atomic particles and inside cell. The rebellion cells are encountered by leucocytes and sometimes they become cancerous. Between these lines, there a possibility of a fruitful discussion about the biological, cognitive and behavioral science foundation of Human Rights which cannot be ignored and can be very helpful for applied and social scientist to understand each other.



Our clear case revolves around this argument that without recognizing biological bases of human rights, we will always remain skeptic about them. Whereas human rights defenders refer to skepticism and recognize that it exists. This Skepticism is purely a psychological concept and that’s why a biological concept which functions at individual level. To be skeptic about things is a part of human nature. It is not something which emerges when human meet with other humans or in more formal words, skepticism is not which originates because of social contract. Skepticism is the outcome of Individual analysis of the events by everyone separately. That is the reason that some humans in the group are skeptic about something and others are not. It is impossible to address skepticism without addressing the other demands of human nature.

Besides this fact that Human Rights have got an unquestionable position as a notion in political and legal discourses, why we don’t have a gut feeling that human rights have something intrinsic in them? Usually this is considered as a skeptic position towards human rights. Even for some progressive social scholars human rights are just a political jargon or linguistic acrobatics. Social scientists have done criticism on human rights from different dimensions, but the magnitude of human rights have reached to that extent that the criticism on human rights is often considered as non-serious, irrational rightist scholarship. Philosophically speaking, human rights are used as a reference to “realism” because of their reputation of being as an undoubted reality.

We stand with the line of scholars who believe in the pragmatic importance of human rights. Especially in those contexts where there was no moral code present before the introduction of human rights. Moreover, no one can deny the importance of human rights in their articulation in international human rights regimes and to maintain a globalized rule of law. By refereeing to this pragmatic importance of human rights, we are not justifying the metaphysical importance of human rights. In our thesis we will not discuss and evaluate the ontological and epistemological critics on human rights, but we will use some philosophical terms as a reference to make certain point clear.

Scholastic studies of Human Rights skepticism have not been elaborated as compared to the counter skeptic studies. The main idea behind human rights skepticism studies is to answer the questions of skeptics but not to evaluate the grounds of their claims. In addition to that, the current counter skeptic studies cannot be projected in the future as their arguments are grounded into philosophy and encircle around the “sources of law” debate.

We have tried to investigate the two categories of human rights skepticism and their counter arguments made by two different scholars and then we have tried to build our own case to introduce new categories of human rights skepticism, which are by now neglected by the legal and political scholars. By describing the arguments made by these two scholars, we have tried to do the most respectful interpretations of their ideas and tried to put them in their most elaborated form. Our approach to in interpreting their position is academically integral as well as we have sympathy towards the emotions of these scholars.

First scholar, Prof. George Ulrich[27] built a case that people are skeptic about human rights because of reasons which fall in four main categories. First, he referred to the argument of Bentham and MacIntyre that Human rights do not “exist”[28] and are philosophically unfounded. He referred it as Ontological Skepticism. People often consider that by referring human rights, we have a cluster of notions in our mind and we try to fit our interpretations of morality into the framework of human rights. But the skeptic position is that human rights doesn’t exist at all. In the rebuttal, he said that Ontological argument demands an alternative which advocate for natural rights. Its mean that we need something like human rights if not human rights itself. As different set of moral codes are categorized under the umbrella of religious, social and political interpretations. Thus, there is a need of something like human rights which spread its tentacles to all other moral codes. Contemporary Human Rights discourse is perfect in this regard that it provides a universalized approach and understandings. That’s why the necessity of human rights advocates for existence of human rights.

Secondly, He said that people pursue human rights as western idea. People in the East feel that human rights a western soft power instrument to legitimize their hegemony on them. Some of the instrumental practices and usage of human rights to justify their agendas by some of the western countries, strengthen this skeptic position. Moreover, Human Rights have extremely individualistic approach. They separate human from society and come in contest with established religious and cultural norms. The purse of human rights is to respect the rights of individuals and by striving for the individual rights, sometimes, human rights separate the individual from the society. He referred it as Cultural/ Religious based skepticism.

Third, he said that people think that Human Rights are a luxury product. They do not facilitate local changes. Human rights are idealistic, and they are surrounded by massive hypocrisy. He called this type of skepticism as pragmatic skepticism. Human rights are pursed as a neo-liberal notion in comparison to the neo-conservative notions being advocated by the equal strength. His fourth type of skepticism is the Political Skepticism. He explained it as “Small countries think that human rights establish an illegitimate source of authority to some bigger countries. Moreover, there is a proliferation of Human Rights.” There are generation after generations of human rights. The balloon of rule of law is not expanding with that speed with that the human rights are expanding.

In response to these skepticisms, he offered three philosophical perspectives of human rights. Constitutional law perspective, International law perspective and perspective emphasizing the historicity (epochality) of human rights.

In support of Constitutional Law Perspective, he said that Human Rights provide minimal standards of protections and entitlements which are guaranteed to all the members of social community. Thereby resonates with classic social contract theory. Especially in our legal systems, the question has been debated since their beginning that what justifications to provide for positive laws. Human Rights are a justification in constitution law which explain natural law in terms of positive law.

International Law Perspective is a perspective, which in the context of increasing global interdependence, defines human rights as integral to the achievement of the main objectives of the international community, notably peace, security, equitable development and prosperity. Human rights are one of the main indicators to estimate the prosperity and rule of law in one state and also used a s a reference to indicate when humans in one state need help of the humans in other states. In this context, human rights act as a common protection mechanism for many states. This vision of human rights is prefigured by Kant’s essay on Perpetual Peace and is reflected in the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action para. 4, stating that ‘the promotion and protection of all human rights is the legitimate concern of all the international community.” A historical perspective is emphasizing the historicity of human rights with a particular emphasis on the recurrent – at times ritualized –invocation of the mantra “never again” in the face of societal disaster. Through a dual mechanism of denunciation of past wrongs and affirmation of a new set of moral and legal standards devoted to safeguarding the dignity and integrity of the human person, universal human rights (in different configurations and interpretations) are established as constitutive of the current historical epoch.

Zachary Shemtob in his paper[29] highlighted five categories of skepticism. He tried to analyze the positions of human rights being cultural, political and neo-liberal hegemony. He also investigated the arguments related to human rights being a useless and dangerous abstractions.

Human rights skeptic belongs to those categories of people who ar culturally relative and deny the universality of human rights. They openly argue that Human Rights are a western phenomenon and they shouldn’t be imposed on the non-western societies. Moreover, they claim that human rights are no suitable for societies in transition with weak communal institutions. Zachary says in counter that human rights may be formalized in the West, but they aim to be universally recognizable. He says that the UN Declaration of Human Rights gives a great hope to the world. We think that he didn’t tackle this position of human rights being cultural hegemonic argument successfully. He argued from utility. He showed that human rights are a hope to be useful, but he didn’t show that why human rights are not cultural hegemonic?

Human Rights are considered as an instrument to legitimize some states political hegemony. Zachary referred the authors who consider that Human Rights have a huge potential of being misused. Human Rights are actually being misused and states have suffered economic sanctions and military interventions. US war on terrorism and attack on Iraq are often referred as a US misuse of power on the name of Human Rights. Zachary accepts that these kind of human rights critics who accept that Human rights are being used to legitimize political hegemony, are instrumentally true but they are foundationally wrong. He says that critics of human rights argue on human rights because they are misused by the regimes, but these critics are not on the human rights. If human rights are too vulnerable to be abused, then it doesn’t mean that they should be denied completely. He argues,“Many ideals can be stripped of context and used repressively, but this hardly invalidates the principles behind them. Especially popular today is justifying actions in the name of liberty, no matter for what cause one espouses (whether to achieve Islamic independence or protect American families from the so-called “Homosexual Agenda”). Yet despite its rhetorical abuses, few would declare the idea of liberty itself bankrupt and in need of disposal. The problem thus lies not in the concept of liberty but the perverse manner in which it is often invoked.”[30] In the case of political hegemony, he is arguing from the foundations and building a case that instrumental value of human rights should be ignored and foundational value should be considered. But in the case of cultural hegemony, he himself used instrumental argument to counter the foundational argument. He said that there is a hope for human rights discourse to be successful because. Its mean that should we compromise on the foundations of culture because instrumental benefits of human rights will be more in future?

Anther common criticism comes from the scholastic community which consider them as a part of neo-liberal ideology. This criticism is not politically pragmatic or culturally motivated but grounded in ideology itself. Although the concept of neo-liberalism is being used extensively in political and philosophical discourses, but it is very difficult to draw a line around it. Scholars still didn’t know that what is included in the package of neo-liberalism. “Despite its continuous abuse in usage, however, scholars generally regard neo-liberalism as the advocacy of five particular precepts: (1) Open and unfettered markets, both global and domestic, (2) reductions in social expenditure, (3) the deregulation of almost all industries, (4) widespread privatization, and (most importantly for our purposes) (5) the elevation of individual responsibility over the general collective interest (Martinez and Garcia 2005).”[31] Zachary says that he is unable to any justification that why some critics of human rights think that the human rights are neo-liberalism are interconnected. He claims that why USA has proven to be more skeptical about human rights than its European allies. If human rights and neo-liberalism are so connected, then the pro neo-liberal states should be the biggest advocates of human rights. (He concluded this by himself). USA has violated a number of human rights conventions and convents and even didn’t sign some of the most demanding conventions especially when it comes to the environment. Whereas some of the least market friendly states are very outspoken about human rights and advocate about human rights. For example, the Scandinavian countries have been the biggest promoter of human rights and they have scored very high on the scales of human rights indicators, but they seem not that concerned about neo-liberal ideologies. Thus, it seems that not a single scholar offers a critical point nor offer any sort of intellectual framework to help forge a visible connection between human rights and neo-liberalism.[32]

Orya Maqbool Jan in his article “Hijab and Corporate Morality”[33] showed a clear connection between human rights and neo-liberalism. He says that “why is so that all liberal thinkers, intellectuals and human rights activists are always harping on the same tune of bringing the women out of their homes, in order to make them a symbol of glitter and glamour for the public? These liberal, democratic and progressive human rights activists have no objection if a woman performs her religious rituals like praying, fasting, reciting the Holy Quran, paying Zakat and performing Hajj. But the moment, these human rights activists see that a woman is deciding to stay at home, looking for an indoor chore and deciding to look after her kids and family, they become very outspoken about human rights and start criticizing her. They even try to portrait an pathetic image of her by showing that a lot of money has been spent on her education and she has opted to stay at home like old fashioned, conservative and regressive people. Their anger and frustration reach the boiling point, as soon as they see some woman coming out of her home with her face and body covered. The woman who decides to cover her face and body is challenged by morally bankrupt capitalists who launch a vigorous onslaught against her by using weapons such as women’s rights, democratic values, economic progress and gender equality.”

Orya claims that when women wear hijab, by doing this, she goes against the billion dollar fashion industry. “Those who are behind this dirty game are fighting the war of their survival and the survival of their business. This business begins with beauty products and continues to flourish in the form of fashion industry, media, advertising, dress designing, vulgar movies and the global mafia of prostitution. An objective analysis of this industry reveals startling facts. Hundreds of multi-national companies are busy all over the world in the manufacturing of hair dyes, lotions, hair dyes and shampoos for making the hair straight, curly and attractive. The business of several other companies is aimed at producing creams and other such products to give a seductive look to legs and arms when they are shown in public. Each and every bit of the body from the nails of the feet to the hair on the head is being used in the market for business purposes. This whole business is being promoted and consolidated all over the world by means of the glamour of media and abundance of fashion shows. The typical physical features of model girls shown through media and fashion shows are projected as an ideal thing for the women throughout the world. At times, size zero is described as ideal. But a few years later, articles appear in newspapers and magazines in praise of the fleshy body. International beauty contest is the culmination of all these things.” “When women are sold as beauty products in the market, the whole society is gripped by a sudden thrill or emotional excitement, accompanied by violent sexual passions in men. For the further flaring up of these feelings and for the further expansion of this business, a huge pornographic industry with an annual income of 70 billion dollars, was brought into existence. Out of this 70 billion, 15 billion dollars are earned only from the United States. Twenty billion dollars are earned each year by the sale of porno movies and 8 billion dollars are earned by selling pornographic magazines. Those who operate porno web sites on the internet, earn three billion dollars annually.” By giving some empirical examples, Orya has built a case that there is a connection between neo-liberalism and human rights. Or at least one cannot claim that there is no viable explanation of it.

Finally, Zachary tries to counter the arguments[34] made by scholars who think that Human Rights are useless or dangerous abstractions. He refers to the claims that human rights appeal to the emotions. Human Rights have more emotions than logic. In his conclusion, he says that all the critics and skepticism about human rights originate from their perverse application and that have a limited empirical support. He says that “humanity better served focusing on ways to improve its effectiveness rather than delegitimate its existence.”[35] In our next chapter, we will try to criticize on Human Rights by using only empirical cases from the social and applied sciences and will prove that the future of human rights is in dangerous not because there are theoretical critics wiring against them but there are pragmatic loopholes as well for the applied and social science.


[1] Higgs boson, A newly discovered sub atomic particle which gives mass to the matter.

[2] Gommer, H. (2014).

[3] John Mikhail, (2006).

[4] Schadt, E. E., Edwards, S. W., GuhaThakurta, D., Holder, D., Ying, L., Svetnik, V., … Shoemaker, D. D. (2004).

[5] Aquinas distinguishes four kinds of law: (1) eternal law; (2) natural law; (3) human law; and (4) divine law. ... Here it is worth noting that Aquinas holds a natural law theory of morality: what is good and evil, according to Aquinas, is derived from the rational nature of human beings.

[6] Gommer, H. (2014).

[7] Edwin Fruehwald, (2009).

[8] A reflex arc is a neural pathway that controls a reflex. Sensory neurons through spinal cord, deliver their messages to the brain.

[9] René Descartes, Accessed at

[10] Edwin Fruehwald, (2009).

[11] Hugh Gibbons. Dag Forssell, (2013).

[12] Edwin Fruehwald, (2009).

[13] ibid

[14] Benjamin Gregg, (2010).

[15] ibid

[16] ibid

[17] Immanual Kant proposed his deontological moral theory according to which there is a supreme principle of morality according to which one should act is a way as one wants other to act towards it. He called it “Categorical Imperative”.

[18] Hugh Gibbons and Nicholas Skinner, (2004).

[19] Ibid, Page 52

[20] Cogito, ergo sum is a Latin philosophical proposition by René Descartes usually translated into English as "I think, therefore I am".

[21] Hugh Gibbons and Nicholas Skinner, (2004).

[22] Ibid

[23] Nolan, K. A., Volavka, J., Lachman, H. M., & Saito, T. (2000).

[24] Gareth Cook,(2013).

[25] Social contract is often taken a starting point in the explanation of legal and political order. But we neglect this fact that “State of Nature” is dealing with individuals, and not with the collective state of nature of society. The disturbance in state of nature is the sum of individual’s state of nature. This state of nature is the result of individuals behavior, individual’s cognition and ultimately individual’s physiology.

[26] Zerkina N., Kostina N., Pesina S., (2014).

[27] Prof. George Ulrich from University of Riga, during the class “Human Rights Skepticism” for Arab Masters in Democracy and Human Rights 2017 tried to counter the arguments related to Human Rights Skepticism. My discussion with him during the class was one of the motivational factors for me to write this thesis.

[28] John Robinson's pages on Ethics, Rights, morals and history. Accessed at

[29] Shemtob, Z. (2010).

[30] Shemtob, Z. (2010).

[31] Ibid

[32] Ibid

[33] Orya Maqbool Jan, (2015) , Hijab And Corporate Morality, Translation Accessed at

[34] Shemtob, Z. (2010).

[35] Ibid

Excerpt out of 65 pages


Human Rights and Wrongs. Biological Skepticism towards Human Rights
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
human, rights, wrongs, biological, skepticism
Quote paper
Ammar Younas (Author), 2018, Human Rights and Wrongs. Biological Skepticism towards Human Rights, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Human Rights and Wrongs. Biological Skepticism towards Human Rights

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free