Precautionary Principle

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The Precautionary Principle is a rule that can be applied to fields such as politics, culture, environment, science, and technology. It can be roughly summarized as:

Where there are threats of serious and irreversible damage, place the burden of proof on those who argue that a proposed activity will not cause significant harm.

This definition is more pointed than broader definitions because it notes irreversibility. Irreversible damage is fundamentally different in character because it can only be prevented, and can not cured at at a later date. This is an example of a ratcheting affect.

The Precautionary Principle can be paired with a defense of tradition.


The precautionary principle can be employed in situations where it is not necessary, such as for reversible changes, or when it is counterproductive, to cause stagnation.

According to theory related to the adaptive landscape, large changes can sometimes be more valuable than incremental changes. The misappropriation of the precautionary principle will prevent large changes even when they are needed, in favor of negligent and adverse gradual slides.