Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Q&A with Ursula Goodenough



Ursula Goodenough is the author of the book The Sacred Depths of Nature: How Life Has Emerged and Evolved, now available in a second edition. She is professor emerita of biology at Washington University, and she lives in Chilmark, Massachusetts.


Q: How did this second edition of The Sacred Depths of Nature come about?


A: I published the first edition in 1998 to explore the concept of a non-theistic religious naturalist orientation, wherein our science-based understandings of the natural world serve as fodder for existential and spiritual response.


Q: Are there any major changes between the original book and this new edition?


A: Yes. The science-based concepts are updated and expanded throughout; many of the spiritual reflections are deepened; chapters 2 (The Origin of Life) and 12 (Human Evolution) are mostly rewritten; and chapter 13 (Morality and Ecomorality) is totally new. The book is now in full color, and new poems and quotes have been added.

Q: The author Robin Wall Kimmerer said of the book, “At once expansive and intimate, empirical and immanent, analytical and intuitive, material and spiritual – science and poetry get to dance joyfully together in these pages.” What do you think of that description?


A: I am a deep admirer of Robin’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass, and am honored that she describes my book with such beautiful words and feeling.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: An enhanced understanding of our science-based understandings of nature and the opportunity to explore their religious potential.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m going back to some projects we did in the lab that were never written up, after which I’m considering writing some sort of memoir.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Many readers tell me that the book has played a key role in their search for eco-spiritual sensibilities. The book’s website is, and the Religious Naturalist Orientation website is


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment