Scientific Knowledge: the Impact on Conservation
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis discusses the impact that paradigms of thought have on the construction of conservation programmes. Western scientific thinking represents a distinct way of looking at the world. It accepts a separation between nature and culture and thinks that knowledge about the world can best be discovered through the use of experiments that follow a specific set of rules, the scientific method. Scientific thinking is an integral part of the world view of scientists and extends to the way in which they interact with the world. Scientific researchers design their projects in accordance with how they view nature. This leads to particular construction of the role of primates. People in the network of a conservation project are involved in this paradigm to varying degrees. The purpose that scientific thinkers put behind conservation can be in direct contradiction with that of the local people. Although all groups involved may agree that conservation is a valuable goal, the ways in which they value nature and want to conserve it can be quite different. Scientists view themselves as experts on nature and how best to conserve it, and they attempt to spread their way of thinking about nature to local populations through education programmes. Not all groups accept the scientific paradigm to the same extent and this has a wider impact on the local community and forms new causes of tension as knowledge and power shift. I studied one particular field station, and explored how scientific thinking affected the outcomes of both scientific research and additional projects. I looked at how basing the conservation around scientific research has changed the dynamics created by a forest reserve. Finally I discussed with local people the ways in which the scientific paradigm had spread to them and how the field station was affecting them.