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Title: Is Conservation Biology a Scientifically Legitimate Discipline
Authors: Neill, Sandra C.
Gross, Mart R.
Keywords: Conservation
intrinsic value
Issue Date: Apr-2010
Abstract: A postulate of conservation biology is that biotic diversity has intrinsic value (Soulé 1985). A quarter century after the discipline’s inception, many conservation biologists still contend that society’s investment in conserving biodiversity is justified by its intrinsic value (Van Dyke 2008, Noss 1994, Callicott 1986). However, others have challenged whether intrinsic value is meaningful or useful for decision-making (Justus et al 2009). We addressed this challenge by empirically testing three hypotheses about intrinsic value in conservation biology. First, intrinsic value is a foundational concept within conservation biology. This predicts that conservation biology textbooks will universally accept intrinsic value. Our examination of the current field of conservation biology textbooks and foundational documents (n=14) confirms this prediction. Second, intrinsic value is not reducible to physical properties, a requirement of science. We tested the prediction that intrinsic value originated in religion and remains metaphysical in conservation biology by searching back from current scientific literature to classical ethics ca. 2390 BP. Results confirmed an independent analysis by Van Dyke (2003). Third, future conservation professionals are adopting the prevailing view that intrinsic value is real. We surveyed University of Toronto conservation biology students (n=58) and discovered that 66% view intrinsic value as an objectively real property, and 80% are unclear about the subjective nature of valuation. Therefore, our research confirms the hypotheses that intrinsic value is a foundational concept within current conservation biology, and is accepted by future conservation biologists even though it is not a scientifically legitimate concept.
Description: large display poster in pdf format
Appears in Collections:Learning Innovations and Academic Development

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