Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 4, Issue 7, pp 758–766 | Cite as

The good, the bad and the ugly: science, aesthetics and environmental assessment

  • Andrew Johnson


The question is raised, whether there are peculiarly scientific values which can be applied in environmental assessment. The use of the expression ‘scientific interest’ is traced from its 19th century origins to modern British statutes. It is argued that attempts to replace expert judgements by objective scientific criteria (e.g., indices of biodiversity) can never be completely successful. In particular, ‘interest’ is an aesthetic atribute particularly valued by scientists but incapable of precise measurement. While science provides the best framework for informed judgements on conservation issues, the judgements of scientists are inevitably distinct from their experimental results. Judgements rest on ethical and aesthetic values such as importance and interest, which are essential constituents of the scientific sub-culture, but which are not uniquely ‘scientific”.


aesthetic judgement natural beauty complexity diversity 


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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Johnson
    • 1
  1. 1.CambridgeUK

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