To undermine the worth and importance of intrinsic value, as Lynn A. Maguire and James Justus do in their Viewpoint article (BioScience 58: 910–911), is to undermine conservation work. They themselves recognize the importance and usefulness of intrinsic value when, referring to the Endangered Species Act, they state, “Intrinsic value may get a proposed listing to the table, but it does not muster the attention needed to get it off the table and into action.” Although intrinsic value cannot be the sole basis for conservation planning or decisionmaking, it does provide purpose and brings parties “to the table.”
Maguire and Justus's fundamental error is the view that intrinsic value must compete with instrumental value. Their article begins by acknowledging the support for intrinsic value of “conservationists from Muir to McCauley” but doesn't give the whole picture. The belief that nature has intrinsic value as well as and apart from its instrumental value has been discussed by writers from Leopold to Rolston. Conservationists must realize that intrinsic and extrinsic (instrumental) values are not mutually exclusive.
Maguire and Justus also maintain that when protection of a species or ecosystem conflicts with economic development or with immediate human needs, intrinsic value is even less likely to be an effective basis for conservation. This argument scapegoats intrinsic value. Because of humankind's anthropocentrism, no basis for conservation is likely to trump immediate human needs.
In previous years, conservation has been faulted for being unable to reach the masses. More recently there have been successful partnerships for conservation between science and religion. We should be motivating people by branching out in search of ideas that complement our own, rather than forcing them to choose between concepts that are in fact compatible.
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