National Public Radio (NPR) All Things Considered March 19,
2003 Holmes Rolston discusses his religious imperative to
SIEGEL, host: The winner of this year's Templeton Prize for
Progress in Religion is a philosopher and Presbyterian
minister who is known also as the father of environmental
ethics. Professor Holmes Rolston of Colorado State
University will receive the prize of more than a million
dollars. In 1975, Professor Rolston wrote an article in the
journal Ethics entitled Is There An Ecological Ethic? And
his answer was yes, and he's been writing about it ever
since. Professor Rolston is in New York City today.

Congratulations, first of all, on winning the prize.
Professor HOLMES ROLSTON (Colorado State University): Thank
you, sir. SIEGEL: And how would you sum up your thinking
about ethics and nature, the very short version? Prof.

ROLSTON: The short version is my claim that there are what
I call intrinsic values in nature. By that I mean there are
things that warrant respect in nature independently of
human instrumental use, resource use and so forth. So we
need to respect nature for what it is in itself. SIEGEL: In
1975, this idea was not self-evident to your fellow
philosophers, I gather. Prof. ROLSTON: And it's still not
self-evident to many of my fellow philosophers, but I've
persuaded quite a number of them, I must say. SIEGEL:
You've said that religion and science--of both religion and
science, that you've had to quarrel with them equally about
values intrinsic to nature. How so? Prof. ROLSTON: Well,
I've had to quarrel with both because both religion and
science have been too centered on human beings, human
welfare. The philosophical word for that is
anthropocentric. And so I've had to talk to the scientists
who often claim nature was value-free until humans take an
interest in it as a natural resource; I've had to talk to
the theologians who often thought that humans have dominion
over Earth, and remind them both that there's value in
nature independently of human well-being. SIEGEL: Well,
this is question I'm sure you've addressed often in the past
many years, but how do you apply a concept of ethics to
nature when nature is full of predators, invasive species,
parasites? How does one deal ethically...

Prof. ROLSTON: Yeah. SIEGEL: ...with something--with
species that are incapable of reciprocating ethically?
Prof. ROLSTON: Well, I have to talk philosophers into
believing that. The objects of ethical concern may not be
those that can reciprocate. So it's true that ethics--we
have duties toward those who can reciprocate, but my claim
has been that we also have duties toward creatures in which
there is value. So when we put value in jeopardy, we have a
duty. So now I want to claim that in the biodiversity on
Earth there's much at stake, much of value, and we have
duties to these creatures even though they themselves are
not moral agents. SIEGEL: This is a prize for progress in
religion, and you are ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

How does this square with Christian theology to
acknowledge so much value and so much of an obligation
toward nature? Prof. ROLSTON: Well, nature is, after all,
God's creation. The early books of the Bible pronounced the
natural world as being good. Jesus looked around and
thought that the wildflowers had a glory exceeding that of
Solomon and all of his glory. I think there are plenty of
biblical roots for appreciating the majesty, the beauty,
the worth, the value of nature. SIEGEL: Speaking of worth
and value, how do you plan to spend more than a million
dollars? Prof. ROLSTON: I got started on much of my
intellectual career at a college in North Carolina, a
Presbyterian school called Davidson College. And I am
endowing a chair--I'm using the money in its entirety to
endow a chair in science and religion so that what happened
to me 50 years ago can still be happening 50 years hence to
the bright, young minds at Davidson College. SIEGEL:
Professor Rolston, once again, congratulations and thank
you very much for talking with us today. Prof. ROLSTON:
Thank you. SIEGEL: Professor Holmes Rolston, who is the
winner of the 2003 Templeton Prize for Progress Toward
Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, known
for short as the Prize for Progress in Religion. (Soundbite
of music) SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED
from NPR News. LOAD-DATE: March 20, 2003