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Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion    by Stuart A. Kauffman order for
Reinventing the Sacred
by Stuart A. Kauffman
Order:  USA  Can
Perseus, 2008 (2008)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

Stuart A. Kauffman, the founding director for Biocomplexity and Informatics and a professor at the University of Calgary, is the author of The Origins of Order and At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity. In his new book, he attempts to create a natural linkage between science and religion, or at least between science and spirituality. On the one side there is religion and the idea that God created and controls everything, and on the other there is science explained by facts and the constant motion of microscopic particles. Kauffman says there is a third option, bringing these two views together.

Beginning with a brief history lesson on science, Kauffman cites the age of reason and enlightenment as the time when scientists removed all sense of spirituality and creativity from science. With the move towards reductionism, science boiled reality down to its base, microscopic levels with the various atoms and their components. In the twentieth century, reductionism went one step further, venturing into the world of sub-atomic particles and how the movement of these infinitesimal particles defines reality and existence as we know it, with future events and actions being predictable through this model.

And yet there are still occurrences, Kauffman says, that science was entirely unable to predict - such as certain evolutionary traits of animals and people, which should under this reductionist paradigm be predictable, and yet come as a total shock to scientists when they occur. Another example lies in sociology and the economy: with our vast global population, science is unable to predict events occurring within populations and economies, even when precise models exist for them. It is here that Kauffman says there is something special going on, that makes impossible, unpredictable things happen.

This is the crux of Reinventing the Sacred and at times Kauffman tends to repeat himself with ideas already expressed, as well as sayings that become all too familiar. Nevertheless, Reinventing the Sacred does offer up some very original and refreshing ideas on how one can view the universe in its astonishing complexity and brilliant creativity.

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