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The Sacred Depths of Nature Paperback – June 15, 2000
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"For a scientist like myself, Goodenough's elegant narratives provide a refreshing way to encounter familiar material. I was especially impressed with her ability to cut right to the quick, so that within a few short pages the reader is whisked from the big bang to the emergence of our planet and the birth of life on earth."--Scientific American
"A celebration of molecular biology, with meditiations on the spiritual and religious meaning that can be found at the heart of science....Makes an important contribution to the ongoing dialog between science and religion. This book will engage anyone who has ever been mesmerized--or terrified--by the mysteries of existence."--Biology Digest
About the Author
Ursula Goodenough is Professor of Biology at Washington University. One of America's leading cell biologists, she is the author of a bestselling textbook on genetics, and has served as President of the American Society of Cell Biology and of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and in Chilmark, Massachusetts, on Martha's Vineyard.
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Her book is excellent. I little out of date, published in 1998, but only with regard to a few minor details that have emerged since the sequencing of the human genome was completed about three years after its publication. It is a very thoughtful synthesis of the understandings of current biological science with the human tendency toward religiosity and the myths and tenets of popular religions. On reading, I was amazed at how much it reflected my own views. Well worth reading!
to acquaint them with how things really work. My only reservation is that Ursula toys around with "beliefs" as a crutch for what can't be
explained by science. Later in the book she rejects this use of "beliefs". With the scientific method there is no place for beliefs (you only accept
what you can prove under controlled conditions). Yet she has a knack for explaining things clearly and simply.
Collins English Dictionary defines immiscibility as “two or more liquids incapable of being mixed to form a homogeneous substance: oil and water are immiscible.” Ursula uses the word to show that the world’s religions will never become homogeneous because, as she maintains, “Every religion is embedded in its cultural history…and any project designed to overthrow established cultural traditions is inherently doomed.”
For this reason, she believes “That we need a planetary ethic” if we are to successfully resolve the problems of “climate, ethnic cleansing, fossil fuels, habitat preservation, human rights, hunger, infectious diseases, nuclear weapons, oceans, ozone layer, pollution, population. Our global conversation on these topics is, by definition, cacophonies of national, cultural and religious self-interest. Without a common religious orientation, we basically don’t know where to begin, nor do we know what to say or how to listen, nor are we motivated to respond.”
In short, she argues that the “significance and future of humanity remain central to our religious concerns” and requires a “global ethic that must be anchored both in an understanding of human nature and an under-standing of the rest of nature.” Accordingly, she hopes that her book will inspire its readers to broaden the scope of their religious beliefs by finding room, as she has, for the belief she calls religious naturalism,” which alone can provide the missing common religious orientation that allows science and religion to be miscibile, or mixed to form a homogeneous unity.
As a perfect gnostic, my religious beliefs made it easy for me to do what she hoped I would do. May there be many others willing to do what I have done.