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The Sacred Depths of Nature Paperback – June 15, 2000
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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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.
I recommend this work for anyone able to read.