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John Evans discusses his book What Is a Human? What the Answers Mean for Human Rights, the results of his empirical study across the United States. The research concerns long-standing academic debates about how the human is defined: whether primarily as a biological being determined by genetic makeup; whether defined by certain capacities that philosophers have outlined, such as rationality; what it means to be made in the image of God; and whether the promotion of these perspectives affects viewpoints on human rights issues such as genocide and torture. Are the critics correct that propagation of the biological and philosophical view of the human leads to less value for some humans, and thus for human rights?
The results from respondents in the American context reveal nuance in how the perspectives interact. Moreover, a socially-conferred perspective is also included, one in which humans are recognized through social relations. This approach can be positive if it is fully inclusive, and significant as technology advances. Conversely, it can go astray and lead to dehumanization. A distinction between a human being and being human emerges in the responses, the latter focused on the expression of compassion and love. Based on the overall findings, a call is made for human sacredness to be firmly incorporated in the definitions.