The Sacred Emergence of Nature

Ursula Goodenough and Terrence W. Deacon

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science

Published in print April 2008 | ISBN: 9780199543656
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

The Sacred Emergence of Nature


Scientists have had spectacular success with reductionism. Response to this success has been decidedly mixed. On the one hand, people slurp up the technologies and medicines that spin off from, and thereby validate, these reductionist understandings. On the other hand, they often decry the Humpty-Dumpty fragments that appear to be all that remains of their whole-egg world where the human is the point. This article first gives an overview of the emergentist view of nature, and then uses these concepts to outline an emergentist view of the religious quest. It suggests that much of what religious persons seek is grounded in a thirst for the very emergent phenomena that in fact surround us. The concept of emergence, more than any other concept we have encountered, puts Humpty-Dumpty back together again in ways that are wonderfully resonant with our existential and religious yearnings.

Keywords: emergentist view; religious quest; emergence; Humpty-Dumpty; reductionism

Article.  8577 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religion and Science

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