Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > Human Rights after Darwin: Is a general theory of human rights now possible?

Human Rights after Darwin: Is a general theory of human rights now possible?

  • Speaker: Professor Conor Gearty
  • Chair: Dr Sigrid Rausing
  • Thursday 7 May 2009, 6.30-8pm
  • This event was supported by Matrix Chambers


The holy grail of human rights is a universal theory, some overarching set of foundations that explains why it is right as well as morally pleasing to promote human rights across the world. The search for this kind of truth has been hindered by the century-old divide between science and the humanities that has isolated specialists in their particular disciplinary fields, depriving scholars of access to progress that is being made elsewhere. With advances in evolutionary biology and the neurological sciences, that divide is now breaking down. The more recent addiction to uncertainty as the only possible truth is fading too, a victim of our intuition that good and evil have a meaning beyond our mere agreement to use these words in a certain way. As the mists caused by these old divisions clear, a universal theory of human rights, rooted in truth, is emerging into view. Is the golden age of human rights not past, but just around the corner?



Conor Gearty is professor of human rights law, director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and practising barrister at Matrix Chambers.

Sigrid Rausing is a publisher, anthropologist and philanthropist.


Recordings and Transcript

An audio recording of this event is available to download as: mp3 (40 MB; approx 86 minutes)

You can also read the text of the lecture or watch a video recording of the event