On the Intrinsic Value of Species

My good friend Cavalier claimed to me that “There is no point to life besides man. Better the Earth itself be sterilized than mankind should not rule over it. For there is no point to life without us.”

This sort of thinking is responsible for a great deal of harm that human beings have inflicted upon the earth and its countless species.  I was surprised that someone as usually rational and ethically considerate as Cavalier could claim something so absurd, a position of anthropocentric speciesism.

My response to his claim was the following:
Do you truly believe that only human life has value or “a point”? What about the countless species of organisms of every quality, ability, shape, size, and unique form? Do they not add richness to the universe? Would the universe or the earth be as valuable without them?

Human beings are one species among many. Like all other species, we exist only in interdependent relationships with all other species within the matrices of countless complex ecosystems. I do believe, along with the “richness theorists” (e.g. Peter Miller), that there is such a thing as intrinsic value and that the basis for this value is “richness” defined as a measure of variety and harmoniousness of interrelationships. Were we to kill off many other species through our irrational, careless and neglectful actions we would greatly diminish the overall richness of the planet and, therefore, its overall intrinsic value.

Humans are not the center of all value, as is commonly assumed. We must move beyond anthropocentric ethics to a non-speciesist ethic that acknowledges the intrinsic value of other species.”


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