Monetary values have been attached to the natural environment, even in the absence of any real market. Conflict occurred between the instrumental and intrinsic ends of a value continuum. The contingent valuation method, with a hypothetical market, was used in the USA and trialled by the RAC. But it relied on doubtful survey techniques. Since the Mabo Case and the Coronation Hill Inquiry, Aboriginal cultural values have become decisive factors in environmental assessment. A value matrix model, incorporating a science-culture axis, is proposed. “That a thing may have any value in exchange, two conditions are necessary. It must be of some use . . . it must conduce to some purpose, satisfy some desire. No one will pay a price or part with anything which serves some of his purposes, to obtain a thing which serves none of them. But, secondly, the thing must not only have some utility, there must also be some difficulty in its attainment.” —J. S. Mill, 1847, Principles of Political Economy
The emergence of environmental legislation has led to an increasing demand for scientific evidence. However, critical technical issues are often dealt with by judicial interpretation of the law rather than rigorous analysis of data. Scientists are expected to present their opinions in legal arenas which are not suited to the evaluation of deterministic or stochastic models. The adversary process hinders objective review of the sum of empirical knowledge. Confusion of terminology, methodology and philosophy indicates a fundamental conflict between the scientific paradigm and the legal paradigm. The former must prevail if environmental controls are to be effective.