Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason and Religion

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Consider the woven integrated complexity of a living cell after 3.8 billion years of evolution. Is it more awe-inspiring to suppose that a transcendent God fashioned the cell, or to consider that the living organism was created by the evolving biosphere? As the eminent complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman explains in this ambitious and groundbreaking new book, people who do not believe in God have largely lost their sense of the sacred and the deep human legitimacy of our inherited spirituality. For those who believe in a Creator God, no science will ever disprove that belief. In Reinventing the Sacred, Kauffman argues that the science of complexity provides a way to move beyond reductionist science to something new: a unified culture where we see God in the creativity of the universe, biosphere, and humanity. Kauffman explains that the ceaseless natural creativity of the world can be a profound source of meaning, wonder, and further grounding of our place in the universe. His theory carries with it a new ethic for an emerging civilization and a reinterpretation of the divine. He asserts that we are impelled by the imperative of life itself to live with faith and courage-and the fact that we do so is indeed sublime. Reinventing the Sacred will change the way we all think about the evolution of humanity, the universe, faith, and reason.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Kauffman, a complexity theorist at the University of Calgary, sets a huge task for himself in this provocative but difficult book: to find common ground between religion and science by redefining God as not a "supernatural Creator" but as "the natural creativity in the universe." That creativity, says Kauffman, defies scientific assumptions that the biosphere's evolution and human activity can be reduced to physics and are fully governed by natural laws. Kauffman (At Home in the Universe) espouses emergence, the theory of how complex systems self-organize into entities that are far more than the sum of their parts. To bolster the idea of this "ceaselessly creative" and unpredictable nature, Kauffman draws examples from the biosphere, neurobiology and economics. His definition of God as "the fully natural, awesome, creativity that surrounds us" is unlikely to convince those with a more traditional take on religion. Similarly, Kauffman's detailed discussions of quantum mechanics to explain emergence are apt to lose all but the most technically inclined readers. Nonetheless, Kauffman raises important questions about the self-organizing potential of natural systems that deserve serious consideration. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Kauffman (biological sciences, physics, & astronomy, Univ. of Calgary) strives to present as guiding principle of this work a view of the impersonal creativity inherent in nature as an attempt to combat any "necessity" of belief in a creator God. Through this perspective, he offers a fresh angle in the ongoing debates concerning creationism, intelligent design, and evolution. Unfortunately, he runs into the problem that afflicts most other books in the faith and science genre: specifically, he argues a position from one side of the issue without any knowledge of the positions of the other side. Kauffman understands the matters of science at work-and raises some valid philosophical questions-but he does not understand or adequately deal with issues of faith, theology, or spirituality. As a result, we are given a title that is not only misleading but also one whose utility is severely limited. For special collections only.
—Dann Wigner

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465003006
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 5/5/2008
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Stuart A. Kauffman is the founding director of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics and a professor of biological sciences, physics, and astronomy at the University of Calgary. He is Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, a MacArthur Fellow, and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. His books include The Origins of Order and At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity. He lives in Calgary, Canada.

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Table of Contents

1 Beyond reductionism 1

2 Reductionism 10

3 The physicists rebel 19

4 The nonreducibility of biology to physics 31

5 The origin of life 44

6 Agency, value, and meaning 72

7 The cycle of work 88

8 Order for free 101

9 The nonergodic universe 120

10 Breaking the Galilean spell 129

11 The evolution of the economy 150

12 Mind 177

13 The quantum brain? 197

14 Living into mystery 230

15 The two cultures 246

16 Broken bones 255

17 Ethics evolving 259

18 A global ethic 273

19 God and reinventing the sacred 281

Acknowledgments 289

Notes 291

Bibliography 305

Index 307

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Reinventing the Wheel

    I greatly enjoyed this book and its wide, yet shallow conversations regarding evolution, quantum mechanics, ethics, reductionism and the origin of life. All of the topics discussed are in my favorite pile so I couldn't help but like the book.

    However, in today's world of growing atheism and the trend among the remaining believers for syncretism, I was hoping the goal of the book was to fall off the fence on one side or the other. The author certainly leaned toward the side of atheism but then surprised me with his proposition that we replace religion with the worship (or near-worship) of nature. I know I have simplified the matter but this is really what the book boils down to.

    Instead of reading radical, new ideas, I see that we have circled back to imbuing natural forces with divine sparks. How sad. Again, not to over simplify but the premise of this work could be taken a step forward (backward) to a return to sun gods and fertility rites. For goodness sakes, we could just join a Wicca coven and be done with it.

    Stuart Kauffman is obviously a very intelligent man and has written a very enjoyable book. Nevertheless, at its heart, it is neither new nor very intelligent.

    I hope you find this review helpful.

    Michael L. Gooch

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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