Ursula Goodenough is an internationally recognized cell biologist; she is also an accomplished amateur theologian--an unusual combination of interests in a time when science and religion are widely divided. In The Sacred Depths of Nature
, she proposes what she calls a "planetary ethic" drawing on the lessons of both science and metaphysics, celebrating some of the mysteries that are central to both: "the mystery of why there is anything at all, rather than nothing," for one, and "the mystery of why the universe seems so strange," for another. Exploring scientifically based narratives about the creation of the universe and the origins of life, Goodenough forges a kind of religious naturalism that will not be unfamiliar to readers of New Age literature--save that her naturalism has the hard-nosed rigor of a laboratory-trained scholar behind it. Goodenough offers a crash course in the life sciences for her readers, encompassing the basics, for instance, of biochemistry in just a few paragraphs (and getting it right in the bargain), touching on Darwinian biology and population dynamics and even chaos theory to make "an epic of evolution" that has all the hallmarks of an origin myth. Faith and reason, in her view, are not mutually exclusive, and her well-written treatise makes a good argument for bridging the gap between the two. --Gregory McNamee
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From Publishers Weekly
In eloquent prose, Goodenough, a noted molecular biologist, offers a scientist's insight into the dialogue between science and religion. The book's structure is similar to the Daily Devotionals found in some Protestant denominations, but with a decidedly broader approach to the vast ontological questions being pursued. Beginning with an autobiographical sketch, Goodenough moves resolutely through the major questions of being. Her inquiries cut across the boundaries of cosmology, astrophysics, cell biology, evolutionary theory, sexuality and death, moving into the realms of philosophy and theology. The author, while no theist, recognizes the eternal human quest for meaning engendered by the essentially non-quantifiable mystery of consciousness. Displaying open-mindedness to non-scientific approaches in her search for ultimate understanding, she writes with equal respect of Taoism's enigmatic, ironical credo and of 19th-century Transcendentalists' humanistic vision. This spiritual diversity, accompanied by scientific observations drawn from such authorities as Stephen Hawking and Edward O. Wilson, makes for a stirring, enlightening read. In part a reverential memoir by a dedicated scientist, this book provides a meeting place for the revelations of advanced science and technology and the universal, unanswerable questions of humanity. 18 line drawings.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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