Goodenough for Me

Posted: March 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Goodenough: not lacking a space between the two words good and enough, but rather a proper name, Ursula Goodenough. She is one of the world’s finest cell biologists and teaches at Washington University in St. Louis. One of her passions is the intersection between religion and science, hence her past presidency of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science.

I’ve just finished her power-packed volume, The Sacred Depths of Nature (Oxford University Press, 1998). A self described “religious naturalist” she finds the universe – its origin and beautiful complexity – brimming with enough sacred presence to tease out songs of praise, awe and wonder. The universe is finely tuned for life, its building blocks for biological unfolding cemented into the foundation of all that is.

Her descriptions and, yes, testimony, will thrill those who want a faith that makes sense alongside the insights of modern science. They may be less gratifying for those holding classical theistic formulations. But the hymn of praise she sings before the intricate function of every enzyme and protein of every cell is worth learning. From the evolution of all species to the emergence of consciousness she speaks with conviction and elegance.

I think of her as a scientific Emerson, a cell biology transcendentalist. In her own words:

“The religious naturalist is provisioned with tales of natural emergence that are, to my mind, far more magical than traditional miracles. Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us.”(30)


  1. NMiller says:

    Blessed assurance!

  2. Jan Coffman says:

    [Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive…] Thank you for sharing this quote. That is what I enjoy about daily walks outside. “Miracles” every day.

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