Genetic and Rational Origins of Human Rights
The Survival of The Fittest
Edip Yuksel, J.D. 1997
Why should I care about other humans, or why should you care?
I DO care about other humans, for my own interest, and you should care too. If you do not care, I will not care about you too since you are a present or a potential danger for me. So, either you start caring about other humans or you will not be cared by them. Get ready for a ferocious fight. Most likely you will be the loser, like your imbecile ancestors.
The paragraph above is the caricaturized summary of my theory of human rights. Before attempting to define what we mean by “human rights,” I have to answer why we care about other humans, especially those who are very remote from us? The answer is simple: human evolution AND experience.
We are the descendants of those humans who survived. Our ancestors were more rational than those who perished since they could exploit the nature more efficiently by better reasoning and they could ban together against their enemies, animals or other humans, in better organized groups. Those early Homo Sapiens who were not caring about each other could not form big and strong gangs and tribes, so in the course of struggle they lost the fight and they were left with little chance to produce and multiply. But those who could find a way to balance individual needs with the necessities of having a group, formed the strongest tribes or nations. They lasted. They were compassionate towards each other and were good fighters. They were smarter and they could engage in better war strategies. They also had better memories and learning capabilities. They were, in other words, the fittest.
The genetic survival and progression of human mind and also the lessons learned from failures have created modern Homo Sapiens and modern nations that are genetically and culturally (via lessons from history) inclined to form most efficient societies. Efficiency of a society depends on the happiness of individuals and their contribution to the society. The cumulative value of interaction among the members of a society defines the efficiency and life span of that society.
A society consisting of members that do not care about each other, a society consisting of hostile groups that oppress each other is inflicted with the worst curse: the mathematical contradiction. The biology of human being cannot survive with that contradiction. The apathy or friction among members is in conflict with the very nature of society and will ultimately reduce their society to its atomic particles.
I believe and argue that humans are “rational self-interested utility maximizers.” This is the primary reason why we are on the top of the food chain. The animalistic nature “self-interest” promoted and guided by “reason” forces rational humans to cooperate and maximize the utility. The rational human being has discovered, through the course of thousands years of trial and error, that optimum utility is obtained when each individual enjoy their personal desires and goals in a delicate balance with the desires and goals of other individuals.
So, comes the freedom of expression.
As rational beings, we have learned that mere expression of ideas or beliefs do not hurt the common interest. On the contrary, we have learned that the more people are free to express their opinions the more reduction in the accumulated negative stress in the society. We have learned that occasionally, their ideas, including those ideas that were unpopular at certain times, could provide solutions for some problems. We have learned, with enormous costs, that suppression of ideas create closed societies where corruption, oppression, exploitation and inefficiency reigns. We learned that useful ideas blossom where there is freedom of speech. We know that we are rewarded by the technological innovations when we have more brains enjoying creative thinking. And we are gradually learning that we will be committing national suicide if we use the technology to commit atrocities against other nations.
We have learned that a corporation can exploit its employees to a certain limits. Heavily exploited employees become unhappy, unproductive, and even rebellious which in turn hurting the interest of their employers in the long run. So, both employee and their employers have learned by using their “reason” that an environment of caring for each other is in their best interest.
The same with the “right to life” and “right to privacy”. These rights are not absolute, since humans have interest in staying together, in towns or cities, or states, or on the planet. In fact, with the dramatic increase in human population, humans are forced to live together. So, balancing the individual needs with the requirements of a cohesive and functioning society is an art. Those who have mastered this art are the ones who will progress and ultimately survive. A century from now, this planet, I believe and hope, will be occupied by more peaceful and just societies who have discovered the best formula of that balance. The success of freedom and observing human rights in domestic arena is inspiring the nations to wish the same standards for other societies.
Negative freedoms, in other words, freedoms that do not require affirmative action are the easiest ones to recognize and agreed on. Positive rights, such as right to education or housing, however, is mostly a matter of resources and we, the “rational self-interested utility maximizers,” need further historical experiences and negotiations to understand that it is in the best interest of EVERY PERSON that each member get a minimum share from vital resources. The definition of the “minimum” also depends on this experience.
For instance, the constant increase in the number of prisoners (currently, 1.6 million) and their cost to American society might one day teach the capitalists to look for preventive measures instead of band-aid solutions. I am very optimistic that countries with established democratic systems will implement the International Covenant On Economic Social And Cultural Rights in the next century. As for those countries who are still resisting to implement the Political and Civil Rights: they are going to become extinct. Either by the internal problems or external pressure exerted by those who have discovered the merits of human dignity and individual rights. The world, it seems, will be rotating around an amalgamation of two principles, that is, the golden plated brazen rule: “Treat others the way you are treated by them and occasionally show random act of forgiveness.”