Tuesday, August 22, 2017 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Ursula Goodenough


Professor of Biology and a leading proponent of Religious Naturalism and the epic of evolution.
Ursula Goodenough
You can't have thought without emotion, and one emotion is fear, and making an important decision on the basis of fear is not a good idea. So develop your courage.
Goodenough quotes
Reverence is the sense that there is something larger than the self, larger even than the human, to which one accords respect and awe and assent.
Goodenough
We are, each one of us, ordained to live out our lives in the context of ultimate questions, such as:
Why is there anything at all, rather than nothing?
Where did the laws of physics come from?
Why does the universe seem so strange?
My response to such questions has been to articulate a covenant with Mystery. Others, of course, prefer to respond with answers, answers that often include a concept of god. These answers are by definition beliefs since they can neither be proven nor refuted. They may be gleaned from existing faith traditions or from personal search. God may be apprehended as a remote Author without present-day agency, or as an interested Presence with whom one can form a relationship, or as pantheistic Inherent in All Things.
The opportunity to develop personal beliefs in response to questions of ultimacy, including the active decision to hold no Beliefs at all, is central to the human experience. The important part, I believe, is that the questions be openly encountered. To take the universe on to ask Why Are Things As They Are? is to generate the foundation for everything else.




Goodenough Ursula quotes
The Big Bang, the formation of stars and planets, the origin and evolution of life on this planet, the advent of human consciousness and the resultant evolution of cultures this is the story, the one story, that has the potential to unite us, because it happens to be true.
Goodenough Ursula
When the responses elicited by the Epic of Evolution are gathered together several religious principles emerge that I can believe, serve as a framework for a global Ethos.
Ursula Goodenough quotes
We all eat or are eaten. That's the way life works, it's a greater rhythm. And that's why science and the understandings it has uncovered can be a source of joy.
This all relates to assent, a very important Judeo-Christian concept. "Thy will be done" is a God-kind of assent. "God works in mysterious ways," and you're supposed to give assent even if you don't like it. As a religious naturalist, I think of assent differently. Assent is saying, "Okay, for whatever reason, this is the way life works. It's an acceptance of what is. After that fundamental acceptance, I can live my life to minimize suffering and promote as much as good as I can, and try through whatever work I do to help others." We can't get around death, but we can get around poverty. We can try to avoid women being brutalized. We can curb environmental degradation.
One can start from the perspective of a religious naturalist or from the perspective of the world religions and arrive at the same place: a moral imperative that this Earth and its creatures be respected and cherished.
Ursula Goodenough
A great many people say we have language and imagination to posit creators, interveners, and agencies that we can't actually prove. And yet some people experience God within them--these experiences are not drawn-up hypotheses. It's possible those of us who don't feel God within them have deficient brains that aren't capable of such experiences; or alternatively, the people who experience these things have brains that somehow create them. As near as I can tell, the jury is out on that. I may be a non-theist who doesn't include a god concept in my religious orientation because I have an incompetent brain, or perhaps theists have brains giving them inaccurate information.
Goodenough Ursula quotes
Human memory, they say, is like a coat closet: The most enduring outcome of a formal education is that it creates rows of coat hooks so that later on, when you come upon a new piece of information, you have a hook to hang it on. Without a hook, the new information falls on the floor.
Goodenough
Human consensus does not generate reality. Were it able to do so, the Sun would have taken to orbiting the Earth some time ago.
Goodenough Ursula
Well, God answers of course come in every flavor imaginable these days so God can be process-God can be mind-God so there are all of these ways that God is now configured as well as the ones that come to us from traditional religions where God has much more power  then there's the whole personal God part which I do talk about in there at some point. So I don't think that even that there is a God framework out there at this point that I am either accepting or rejecting. My response is that I call myself a non-theist as opposed to an atheist because as I see an atheist as having a belief about God, i.e. that there isn't one. And my I've never been actually very interested in the question I guess is one way to put it. I see it as a question That can be summarized in the aphorism "Why is there anything at all rather than nothing." And science doesn't have any answer to That so what I articulated in the book and continued to do is what I call a covenant with mystery where mystery is itself a noun but I am using it as literally in absence of category. It's not like I have a mystery then I put attributions onto it it just ... I don't know the answers.
Ursula Goodenough
There are all sorts of transcendent response on offer but they to my mind are not necessary to call oneself religious. And obviously this is semantics as much as anything else. But I do go ahead and consider myself a religious person.




Ursula Goodenough quotes
I have come to understand that the self, my self, is inherently sacred. By virtue of its own improbability, its own miracle, its own emergence And so I lift up my head, and I bear my own witness, with affection and tenderness and respect. And in so doing, I sanctify myself with my own grace.
Ursula Goodenough
There are two flavors of God people: those whose God is natural and those whose God is supernatural. Certainly there are a lot of people within religious naturalism who have no problem with God language God as love, God as evolution, God as process. People see God as part of nature and give God-attributes to the part of nature that they find most sacred. I encounter people like that all the time.
Goodenough quotes
The word "religion" goes back to the Latin ligere, "to bind." So religion means "to bind together again." I think we should develop religions that allow us to do that.
Goodenough Ursula
The evolution of the cosmos invokes in me a sense of mystery; the increase in biodiversity invokes the response of humility; and an understanding of the evolution of death offers me helpful ways to think about my own death.
Goodenough Ursula quotes
Naturalism has been defined by many people. It's just a world view that does not include the supernatural so it's everything else.
Ursula Goodenough
I like mindful people. Fear prevents mindfulness, and then greed marches in because you are fearful, so you feel like you have to shore everything up.
Ursula Goodenough quotes
Humans need stories grand compelling stories that help to orient us in our lives in the cosmos. The Epic of Evolution is such a story, beautifully suited to anchor our search for planetary consensus, telling us of our nature, our place, our context. Moreover, responses to this story what we are calling religious naturalism can yield deep and abiding spiritual experiences. And then, after that, we need other stories as well, human-centered stories, a mythos that embodies our ideals and our passions. This mythos comes to us, often in experiences called revelation, from the sages and the artists of past and present times.
Ursula Goodenough
Patterns of gene expression are to organisms as melodies and harmonies are to sonatas. It's all about which sets of proteins appear in a cell at the same time (the chords) and which sets come before or after other sets (the themes) and at what rate they appear (the tempos) and how they modulate one another (the developments and transitions). When these patterns go awry we may see malignancy. When they change by mutation we can get new kinds of organisms. When they work, we get a creature.
Goodenough Ursula
The tapestry maker first strings the warp, long strong fibers anchored firmly to the loom, and then interweaves the weft, the patterns, the color, the art. The epic of evolution is our warp, destined to endure, commanding our universal gratitude and reverence and commitment. And then, after that, we are all free to be artists, to render in language and painting and song and dance our ultimate hopes and concerns and understandings of human nature. Throughout the ages, the weaving of our religious weft has been the province of our prophets and gurus and liturgists and poets. The texts and art and ritual that come to us from these revered ancestors include claims about Nature and Agency that are no longer plausible. They use a different warp. But for me at least, this is just one of those historical facts, something that can be absorbed, appreciated, and then put aside as I encounter the deep wisdom embedded in these traditions and the abundant opportunities that they offer to experience transcendence and clarity.


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