Is there a clear writeup summarizing the arguments for why deep ecology is wrong?

post by Linch · 2019-10-25T07:53:27.802Z · score: 11 (6 votes) · EA · GW · 1 comment

This is a question post.


    13 MaxCarpendale
    8 nathan98000
1 comment

There's a folk view that I sometimes round off as "deep ecology," though I think it extends to more than the academic definition[1]. Roughly speaking, tenets include:

1) Ecosystems have an inherent right to exist, and have value beyond aggregating individuals' preferences or happiness.

2) *Species survival* is a coherent concept, and preserving current biodiversity is a worthy goal not just instrumentally but as an end in itself.

3) Humans are bad.

4) Ecosystems are by default in equilibrium.

5) Nature and her children were in harmony before some subset of {white people, capitalism, industrial revolution, agricultural revolution, homo sapiens, great apes} fucked it up.

6) The "Earth" will in a meaningful sense be better off without humans.


I think a lot of these points are not just wrong but incoherent (especially 4 and 5, but I think to some degree or the other, the remaining points rest on those). Is there a clear writeup of what deep ecology entails and why it's wrong? (The arguments on wikipedia seem noncentral).


answer by MaxCarpendale · 2019-10-26T10:05:38.491Z · score: 13 (9 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Animal Ethics has written about this. Here are some of our relevant posts on the subject. Hopefully they are helpful.

comment by gavintaylor · 2019-10-28T17:13:20.393Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Good links Max. I've often felt there is a conflict between ecosystems/species preservation and animal welfare and these are really useful for exploring that idea more.

However, I one point that I still get some cognitive dissonance from is the low-importance ascribed to (species) diversity. It seems like if resources are to be used to make more happy individuals (so using resources to improve the lives of unhappy individuals is not an option, maybe we're in a utopia where the lives of all sentient individuals are already net-positive and we value totalist population ethics), then it could, for instance, be better to produce more happy rhinos than happy humans, as there are far fewer rhinos than humans (if our utopia has the same current species numbers as the world today), so we will get more increase in the diversity of happy experiences. A moral weighting should also be applied between humans and rhinos, but if there is a huge difference in relative population numbers then it would probably be the dominating factor. How do others value a world with 7,700,000,000 people and 40,000 rhinos vs. a world with 7,700,010,000 people and 30,000 rhinos (using rough current species numbers and assuming all were fairly happy)?

I think my intuition is to incorporate diminishing returns (for a given species) into multi-species population ethics, given that the experiences (phenomenology) of species differs, so they experience happiness in different ways. Does this make any sense, and is there a name for such ethical views? It works best for me from the totalist population ethics standpoint, and I probably wouldn't extend this to saying we should help unhappy rhinos over unhappy humans, even given the current populations of both species.

comment by MaxCarpendale · 2019-10-28T17:54:18.583Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)


I personally would disagree that variety of experience is morally relevant. Obviously, most people enjoy variety of their own experiences, but that's already waded into the total hedonistic utilitarian equation because it makes us happier. So I don't think that we need to add it as a separate thing that has intrinsic moral value. Looking at diversity can also be aesthetically pleasing for us, but that gets waited in to the equation because it makes us happy, and so, again, I don't think we need to say it has intrinsic moral value. I don't think our aesthetic appreciation of biodiversity is a very significant source of happiness, though, compared to the well-being of the much larger number of animals involved.

I think what you said makes sense given that moral position. I haven't heard a name for the position that diversity of experience is intrinsically morally significant, but I have a friend who I think argued for a similar position, and I'll ask him.

answer by nathan98000 · 2019-10-25T15:36:41.687Z · score: 8 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Much of this is also noncentral, but may be worth reading for background

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comment by Khorton · 2019-10-25T09:00:42.161Z · score: 10 (5 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

It might be worth trying to figure out why some people think it's right first. I'm sure there are articles about why it's wrong out there, but they might have bad arguments or be arguing against a strawman, and you're less likely to notice if you don't actually understand the topic.