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Title: Why should wild nature be preserved? : a dialogue between biblical theology and biodiversity conservation
Author: Bookless, David John Charles
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 4416
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The past century has seen a rapid acceleration in global anthropogenic biodiversity loss, despite massively increased conservation effort and knowledge. Consequently, there are wide-ranging debates around whether economic and instrumental valuations of wild nature assist in its preservation, or whether they commodify entities that possess intrinsic or inherent value. This thesis seeks to bring insights from biblical theology into dialogue with conservation biology concerning the value of wild nature and the place of humanity in relation to it. Through a theological overview of four major biblical themes expressing God's initiative towards all that exists (creation, covenant, reconciliation in Christ, and eschatological consummation), it is proposed that God's relationship with nonhuman creation provides a useful conceptual structure in addressing contemporary conservation dilemmas. In particular, it is suggested that debates regarding anthropocentric or ecocentric, and instrumental (including economic) or intrinsic valuations of wild nature, and similarly between 'conservation' and 'preservation', may constructively be placed within a wider context regarding humanity's place with regard to its fellow creatures. Within a Christian worldview it is proposed that this is ultimately a Theo-eco-centric context wherein all value, nonhuman and human, is contingent upon God's purposes from creation to consummation. The conclusion of the thesis brings the theological insights of the four central chapters into dialogue again with contemporary conservation debates. Moving beyond ecocentric (nature for itself) and anthropocentric (nature for people) motivations for conserving wild nature, it proposes a concept of 'people within nature' that is theologically coherent but expressed in language that brings biblical theology into debate both with secular conservationists and those of other faith traditions. It recognises both humanity's total dependence on thriving ecosystems and the particular role humans play in nature's protection. The language of virtue ethics is posited as being particularly valuable in this regard. It is hoped that this thesis will be a useful contribution to current conservation debates surrounding how nature should be valued, and will also encourage deeper theological reflection on the place and value of nonhuman animals.
Supervisor: Ford, David F. Sponsor: Faraday Institute for Science and Religion
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: biodiversity ; conservation ; biblical theology ; theocentric ; anthropocentric ; ecocentric ; wildlife ; theology ; virtue ethics ; value ; Theo-eco-centric ; creation theology ; ecotheology ; intrinsic value ; instrumental value ; ecosystems ; Christocentric ; nonhuman