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The Multidimensionality of Environmental Problems: The GMO Controversy and the Limits of Scientific Materialism


  • Michael S. Carolan


This paper argues for a broader understanding of complexity; an understanding that speaks to the multidimensionality of environmental problems. As argued, environmental problems rest upon ontological, epistemological, and moral claims; they rest, in other words, upon statements about what is, knowledge, and what ought to be, respectively. To develop and illustrate this argument, the GMO (genetically modified organism) controversy is broken down according to these three dimensions. Dissecting environmental problems in this manner reveals why we cannot look solely toward the natural sciences for resolution: because these problems beg questions that cannot be answered with references to materiality alone.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael S. Carolan, 2008. "The Multidimensionality of Environmental Problems: The GMO Controversy and the Limits of Scientific Materialism," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 17(1), pages 67-82, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev17:ev1705

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    More about this item


    Complexity; science; values; ethics; biotechnology; risk; uncertainty;

    JEL classification:

    • D46 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Value Theory
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes


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