Main content area

On nonepistemic values in conservation biology

Baumgaertner, Bert, Holthuijzen, Wieteke
Conservation biology 2017 v.31 no.1 pp. 48-55
biodiversity, biologists, roots, wildlife management
Conservation biology is a uniquely interdisciplinary science with strong roots in ecology, but it also embraces a value‐laden and mission‐oriented framework. This combination of science and values causes conservation biology to be at the center of critique regarding the discipline's scientific credibility—especially the division between the realms of theory and practice. We identify this dichotomy between seemingly objective (fact‐based) and subjective (value‐laden) practices as the measure‐value dichotomy, whereby measure refers to methods and analyses used in conservation biology (i.e., measuring biodiversity) and value refers to nonepistemic values. We reviewed and evaluated several landmark articles central to the foundation of conservation biology and concepts of biodiversity with respect to their attempts to separate measures and values. We argue that the measure‐value dichotomy is false and that conservation biology can make progress in ways unavailable to other disciplines because its practitioners are tasked with engaging in both the realm of theory and the realm of practice. The entanglement of measures and values is by no means a weakness of conservation biology. Because central concepts such as biodiversity contain both factual and evaluative aspects, conservation biologists can make theoretical progress by examining, reviewing, and forming the values that are an integral part of those concepts. We suggest that values should be included and analyzed with respect to the methods, results, and conclusions of scientific work in conservation biology.