Nature’s Legacy: On Rohwer and Marris and Genomic Conservation

Ethics, Policy and Environment 18 (3):265-267 (2015)
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Rohwer & Marris claim that “many conservation biologists” believe that there is a prima facie duty to preserve the genetic integrity of species. (A prima facie duty is a necessary pro tanto moral reason.) They describe three possible arguments for that belief and reject them all. They conclude that the biologists they cite are mistaken, and that there is no such duty: duties to preserve genetic integrity are merely instrumental: we ought act to preserve genetic integrity only because doing so is required by some other duty, such as the duty to preserve taxonomic biodiversity, or the duty to preserve the reproductive fitness of existing species. In permitting for instance the introgression of cattle genes into the genome of Bison bison we therefore do not necessarily fail in any respect ethically. I criticize the paper on three fronts.

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