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Should Ecological Science Be Ethical?

Queensborough, Simon A.; Comita, Liza S.

Both scientific and moral communities have identified that current management of the natural environment by humans is unsustainable. How society responds to environmental challenges will likely require a multi-disciplinary approach. Jenkins addresses the contributions that science, religion and ethics can make to resolving complex environmental problems and increasing successful management of ecological systems. While we agree with many of Jenkins' points, he touches upon three common ideas about science, and ecology in particular, that we argue are often misconstrued: Scientific understanding of current environmental challenges is inadequate due to 'uncertainty' in scientific studies; Ecological scientists are equivalent to environmental managers; and scientists should become more like activists and consider social values as drivers. We suggest that these ideas may be unhelpful in interpreting scientific studies and might lead to increasing misrepresentation of science. Furthermore, such perceptions may increase distrust by the general public of scientists who do not adequately separate objective scientific evidence from personal value-judgments. We agree that the scientific method should indeed be ethical, with no room for fraud or deliberate falsification of results, but that the science itself must be objective and non-moral, with scientific evidence unprejudiced by political and social agendas. We recommend that ecologists and managers, as well as ethicists and religious communities, work together in a robust defense of an evidence-based approach to the management and restoration of global ecological systems.


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Also Published In

Union Seminary Quarterly Review

More About This Work

Academic Units
Union Theological Seminary
Published Here
September 10, 2015