News - February 14, 2012

Is species extinction bad?

It's not a problem at all when species die out, says 'folk philosopher' Bas Haring. He shouldn't count on getting much agreement, though, in the Studium Generale debate on Wednesday in Wageningen.

The debate issues from Haring's book, Plastic Pandas. Haring is professor of Public Understanding of Science at Leiden University. In his book, he argues that we protect species because of a moral reflex and not because we have good reasons to do so. Nature areas can remain stable even if there are fewer species; rare species are not necessary for providing 'services' to mankind. Haring outlines a future in which the Earth resembles a park adapted for people. We will get cultural diversity to compensate for the loss of biodiversity.
'I don't agree with him in many aspects,' says Jozef Keulartz, assistant professor of Applied Philosophy and one of the debaters. For example, he feels that Haring has played down the importance of the current speed of dying out, and adopts a 'despotic anthropomorphism' in which the human being is the gauge for everything else. The book is also full of 'dreadful comparisons' and is outright childish, feels Keulartz. 'Take this argument: There is nothing wrong with losing biodiversity since we get plastic pandas in return.'
Since its publication, the book has received strong criticisms. First reader and NIOO ecologist Louise Vet remarked that Haring's line of thought sent 'chills down her spine'. To find out how Haring defends himself against all these criticisms, be in Room c222 in the Forum on Wednesday at 8 pm.