Volume 2 Issue 1 ( March 2015 )

Pages 41-48

Ignorance as a Limitation for the Application of Scientific Methods to Environmental Protection Activities

Takashi Watanabe


In the field of science and technology, an open discussion of ignorance as a fundamental cause of environmental destruction has long been avoided. However, this does not mean that ignorance has become obsolete or irrelevant altogether because it has yet been well discussed in the field of philosophy. The different attitudes toward ignorance between the fields of science and philosophy imply that it is a slippery and almost inconceivable object for science, whereas it is something essential to grasp and examine for philosophy. To understand its slippery nature, therefore, we suggest that ignorance is best examined from an epistemological viewpoint, as something that oscillates between reality and nonreality that appears on the surface and then hides underground. In this paper, we explore how ignorance escapes from the scientist’s careful observation and affects the results of actual comprehensive environmental protection measures such as the precautionary principle and risk assessment.

Keywords: risk assessment, precautionary principle, uncertainty, ignorance, catastrophe principle