Lauren asked some great preemptive questions to my presentation about biodiversity and sustainability in her last post. When talking about responsibility, I think it’s intuitive that humans are the primary cause of biodiversity loss and destruction to the environment. Therefore it is our responsibility to solve the problems that we are causing. I believe that the utility that biodiversity can provide, necessitates a significant global response to this problem. When discussing how to go about solving this problem, I agree with Wilson that we ought to “freeze” these biodiverse places. A place is something that Sahotra Sarkar identified in ecology as an area with a major concentration of biodiversity. Though this (and a few other) concept(s) in ecology are ambiguous, there is generally an agreement of when enough diversity exists in a population to be considered biodiverse.
In our discussion following my presentation, there seemed to be a real problem with the notion of intrinsic and instrumental value of biodiversity. I agree with Matthew, that if we rethink biodiversity as this pool of resources for the taking, then we may destroy places simply for their instrumental value. There seems to be a fine line between the recognition of the value biodiversity has, and the acquisition and discovery of resources that could prove valuable. Perhaps this would be a major problem if we managed to actively recognize and protect biodiverse places. Making the argument for instrumental value is much easier than arguing for intrinsic value. Being somewhat of a conservationalist, I still believe life to have intrinsic value but the issue becomes blurry when discussing microorganisms, insects, or other minute organisms. A better argument is made for the uniqueness those organisms possess. Again it seems we can agree that the extinction of a certain organism is bad because once it disappears, it is gone forever.
I keep seeing a reoccurring theme of essentialism in these recent issues. Essentialists believe that most biological organisms have “essences” or properties that comprise and demarcate what it means for them to exist as that organism. This reconstruction may work a little better in the context of discussing why life has an intrinsic value, as opposed to how it could serve as a functional species concept. Still we are left with the issue of determining what these essences or set of essences are. They could be physical, functional, or potentially immaterial properties (as Justin referenced) that something possesses. This notion seems far too unclear to make definitive statements about the intrinsic value of life and biology in general.