As any other species, I do not believe human beings naturally have rights but rather engage in a process of survival led by natural selection; however, as intellectually superior creatures, humans live in a way by which each individually should ideally have rights. It is by the latter reasoning, therefore, that humans do in fact have “natural” rights. The initial phases of the evolution of humans depicted a community of cavemen that lived in much the same way most animals we know today survive. No government, no systems. This means that there was no body to ensure that each individual’s chances to survive were maximized. Instead, the most fit lived on and reproduced. As we began to evolve as a species, we developed more of an identity as a species in the ways by which we treat others and allot resources depending on social and such hierarchies. The social thought process, then, brings about questions domestic and international communities come to answer: what things, what rights, what qualities of life is every person entitled to? What guarantees are ensured to an individual solely based on the virtue that he or she is human? Overtime we as a global society have generally regarded human rights in terms of sustenance of basic necessities of life (the right to live, the right to freedom, the right to live in a manner that most suits your needs for happiness). We think of these as “natural” rights. But then, my question is if the definition of human rights is flexible and evolving, as we’ve seen throughout recent years, to encompass more and more, are these rights in fact “natural.”
I believe there should be made a greater distinction between natural rights and human rights. To me, natural rights define the Nature-given grants to individuals. These include the necessities of life, liberty, and happiness as defined earlier and those detailed in the Declaration of Independence. Although in many cases rights are infringed upon, and more often entail the cases that people file to claim their human rights have been violated, these aspects of being a natural born human are not time bound. We will, most probably, not alter these rights with time. However, coming back to the evolving law of human rights, we see that it is forever changing based on our global experience and maturation. For instance, in the late twentieth century, human rights entailed, explicitly, more factors as right to fair trials. In more recent years, human rights have pushed those definitions to more creative uses of rights that makes us question the rights we have in two manners: are rights that enable us to “survive” enough? Or do these rights have to expand to living, as opposed to mere survival. In general, I believe that the human rights we know today do attempt to address both. Take for instance the case of net neutrality. As more and more service providers today push to limit equal access to all content and applications, our freedom of free expression (as the internet provides a platform for people to speak out and articulate themselves) and right to protest (increased internet limitations would inevitably mute people’s voices and instead push power towards the upper end hierarchy that constitutes our democracy) are violated. Ultimately, opposition against net neutrality is a threat to our freedom of speech. This is an example of how our human rights are evolving to fit our needs in the digital age.
In conclusion, human beings have natural rights granted to them by Nature that could be expanded to include the rights of other animals as well (every living being has a right to life, for instance). However, the complexity of human nature has also led us to develop a moral code of human rights that we believe should be granted to every individual. Still, just because these rights (i.e. the right to education, the right to clean water) should be guaranteed, everyday we see across the world examples of how these vary rights are violated. Thus, the question shouldn’t be whether humans naturally have rights, but rather who has these rights and how do we broaden the who to encapture more citizens of this world.