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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter January 5, 2018

CRISPR Creations and Human Rights

  • Margaret Foster Riley EMAIL logo


When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, the definition of human was uncontroversial. It included all members of homo sapiens regardless of gender, ethnicity, race or religion and it did not include animals. In the decades since then, who—or what—should be included in that definition has become less clear. Recently some scholars have argued that some animals should be accorded human rights of liberty and equality. This paper considers what characteristics and qualities should be required for a bearer of human rights. To do that, the paper examines beings who might occupy the space between animals and homo sapiens—a de-extincted Neanderthal or a “humanzee,”—both of which are at least theoretically possible with new technology. It concludes that the cognitive and moral abilities to be both a beneficiary and a contributor to a human polity is a central part of being a bearer of human rights in this context. It determines that a humanzee, and possibly a de-extincted Neanderthal, might have those capabilities. The best way to respect such human rights in those beings would be not to create them.


Thanks to the participants in the workshop on human rights and the rights of non-humans held at the College of Law and Business, Ramat Gan, Israel, especially Steve Walt and my commentator Melanie Levy who provided generous and valuable comments. Thanks also to Joshua Freda for excellent research assistance. The opinions, of course, are all mine.

Published Online: 2018-1-5
Published in Print: 2017-1-26

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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