Environmental Ethics

Volume 45, Issue 3, Fall 2023

Yasha Rohwer
Pages 209-221

Evolution Is Not Good

Many environmental ethicists think evolutionary processes are good or, put differently, that they are morally valuable. Furthermore, many claim this value can be compromised when humans disrupt or cause a break in these processes. In this paper, I argue this account is mistaken. Evolution is not good. Furthermore, evolution cannot be “broken” by mere human involvement. There is no preordained trajectory in evolution; randomness, genetic drift, and historical contingency influence all evolutionary histories. Additionally, to think humans necessarily undermine so-called “natural” processes and turn them artificial is to ignore Vogel (2011, 2015), and insist on pre-Darwinian dualism. There is no morally meaningful distinction between natural selection and artificial selection; they are both simply selection. Furthermore, animals shape their own evolutionary trajectories, their progenies’, and those of other organisms through their intentions and choices—as is illustrated in the theory of niche construction. Human involvement in evolutionary processes does not “break” them nor does it necessarily reduce the value of the end products of those processes.