215: Reinventing the Sacred by Stuart Kauffman

by Gerard


215: Kauffman, Stuart A. Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion. New York: Basic Books, 2010. 288 pp. ISBN 978-0-465-01888-8.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 200: Religion
  • 210: Philosophy and theory of religion
  • 215: Science and religion

For those people who say that the evidence for God is in nature, Stuart Kauffman is a good way to bridge the gap between a godless universe and one where spirituality pervades the fabric of existence. After reading Niall Shanks’s God, the Devil, and Darwin, I got an understanding of the differing theories of complexity and how they sometimes form the basis for creationist thought. Kauffman’s analysis of nature and molecular complexity goes even deeper than that, however. In Reinventing the Sacred, Kauffman plunges into a scientific universe of systemic breakdowns and synthesis to rechristen what we think of spontaneous, divine, and even religious.

I will confess to having to run to the Internet many times while reading this one to get more context for his concepts and phrases. Things like “the adjacent possible” and “autocatalytic sets” took me a minute to wrap my head around, but in the end, his thorough reading of the universe leads him take God out of the heavens and put him in the helix of DNA. Kauffman’s spirituality lies in the magnificence of molecular spontaneity and the emergence of the human consciousness. I think this is a better way of thinking about the universe. There are still dark places where science cannot yet shed light, and while we shouldn’t immediately ascribe their beginnings to God, we can hold them in a place of wonder until understanding comes. This book takes some effort to get through, but the best conclusions usually come after a bit of struggle. A dense but rewarding book.