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Reinventing the Sacred [Paperback]

Stuart Kaufman
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

4 Mar 2010
Consider the complexity of a living cell after 3.8 billion years of evolution. Is it more awesome to suppose that a transcendent God fashioned the cell at a stroke, or to realize that it evolved with no Almighty Hand, but arose on its own in the changing biosphere? In this bold and fresh look at science and religion, complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman argues that the qualities of divinity that we revere--creativity, meaning, purposeful action--are properties of the universe that can be investigated methodically. He offers stunning evidence for this idea in an abundance of fields, from cell biology to the philosophy of mind, and uses it to find common ground between belief systems often at odds with one another. A daring and ambitious argument for a new understanding of natural divinity, Reinventing the Sacred challenges readers both scientifically and philosophically.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic; Reprint edition (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465018882
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465018888
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 14 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 315,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Kauffman, an outstanding thinker who has devoted much reflection to complexity theory, offers some insightful perspectives on the physical world in "Reinventing the Sacred,.".. This is an interesting book that will generate much discussion."

"Houston Chronicle"
"Kauffman's book is a rigorous intellectual quest not only to find the sacred in nature but to remove the taint of atheism from science."

"Scientific American"
"[Kauffman's] provocative argument for a different understanding of God is compelling."

"["Reinventing the Sacred"] sparkles from every angle as its author gallops through the relevant science, philosophy, economics, history, ethics, poetry and - well, we had better use the word because Kauffman does: religion.... Bringing science and religion together globally in the way that Kauffman wishes is not going to be easy - as other ecumenical movements have repeatedly found - but it is necessary."

"Library Journal"
"[Kauffman] offers a fresh angle in the ongoing debates concerning creationism, intelligent design, and evolution."

"Publishers Weekly"
"Provocative.... Kauffman raises important questions about the self-organizing potential of natural systems that deserve serious consideration."

Brian Goodwin, Co-author of "Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology"
"This brilliantly-argued book takes science into novel territory with clarity and conviction, and in Kauffman's inimitable style it challenges some scientific taboos. With this book a new biology is emerging, and with it a new culture."

Owen Flanagan, Author of "The Really HardProblem"
"Stuart Kauffman is the new Spinoza. "Reinventing the Sacred" is a pedagogical tour de force as well as an uplifting metaphysics for the 21st century."

Gordon D. Kaufman, Mallinckrodt Professor of Divinity, Emeritus, Harvard University
"This is a brilliant, new, comprehensive, scientific world-picture, and it deserves a wide reading in the educated public."

Philip Clayton, Author of "Mind and Emergence"
""Reinventing the Sacred" is a tour de force and a brilliant manifesto for a new emergence-based scientific worldview. But science alone will never be enough; humanity must also invent new categories of the sacred that speak to this naturalistic age. Stuart Kauffman courageously challenges fundamentalist pretensions on both sides, seeking to mold a new partnership of science and religious epoch-making book."

Kenneth Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economics
"Stuart Kauffman has long studied the nature of complexity in biological systems. His new book shows in a startling way the power of these ideas in our understanding of ourselves and how we relate to the world around us. The sense of agency and of values, seemingly banished by the scientific viewpoint, are restored and enriched by a fuller perception of science deriving from biology as well as physics. Any reader's views will be dramatically altered."

Lee Smolin, Author of "The Trouble with Physics"
"Stuart Kauffman has written a wonderful book, as optimistic as it is provocative. He proposes a new scientific world view that not only incorporates reductionism, but goes beyond it to a vision of a self-constructed and continuously creative universe whichcan be understood and revered, but not always predicted. Knowledge and wisdom are different aspects of our humanity in Kauffman's universe."

"Shift Magazine"
"Well-written and rigorously argued.... For this meaningful contribution to the quest for an era of sustainability, atheists and believers alike should be most grateful." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Stuart A. Kauffman is Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School and Professor at the University of Calgary. He is the founding director of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics. He is the author of The Origins of Order and At Home in the Universe. He lives in Calgary, Canada, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
In "Reinventing the Sacred", Stuart Kauffman explores the case for reinventing the sacred within the secular world, arguing for the establishment of a global spiritual space in which we can all find a common sense of something God-like, whatever our religious convictions (or lack thereof). To reach that point, Kauffman shows that we need to abandon the long-established world-view based on reductionistic (Newtonian) physics, and to look at the world instead through the lens of the new science of complex system theory. This need for a change of focus derives from the position that such concepts as meaning, purpose, ethics and even life itself can neither be predicted nor explained from a consideration solely of the behaviour of particles -- or whatever it is that physicists currently think is down there at the lowest level of existence -- in motion, when the reductionist approach tells us that everything that is real must be. And yet we, as humans, are generally uncomfortable with the idea that such things do not exist, or are unimportant. This is, of course, a quandary that reductionist scientists have long struggled with. Traditionally, the view has been to consign such things as morality, and the purpose and meaning of life, to the realm of the human mind, to call them mental constructs about which science has nothing to say, and move on. Kauffman aims to challenge that conclusion. Read more ›
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The God we don't have to believe in 9 Aug 2009
The title of Stuart A Kauffman's book Reinventing the Sacred. A New View of Science, Reason and Religion is made clear already on the inside of the cover: "Consider the woven integrated complexity of a living cell after 3.8 billion years of evolution. Is it more awesome to suppose that a transcendent God fashioned the cell at a stroke, or to realize the truth: the living cell evolved with no Creator, no Almighty Hand, but arose on its own, created by the evolving biosphere? The truth is much more magnificent, much more worthy of awe and wonder, than our ancient creation myths." Or as it is said some pages into the book: what is important is to "find a `third way' between a meaningless reductionism and a transcendant Creator God, which preserves awe, reverence, and spirituality - and achieves much more" (31). This means that Kauffman breaks with reductionism and determinism and their impoverished world and goes in for self-organization, emergence and creativity. We live our lives forwards into mystery. Life, biosphere, man and his everyday world and history are real and not reducible to physics. Agency, values, meaning, ethics, are real parts of the furniture of the universe. Poetry and poetic wisdom are right and real and show us the truth. So art and humanities investigating our way into the unknown, are as important as science, this scientist writes. But we are of the world, it is not of us. We don't have to believe in God as the unfolding of nature. This God is real, Kauffman asserts at the end.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A New Emerging Scientific Worldview of God 4 Sep 2010
Kauffman trained in philosophy and medicine, and now specialises in Bio-complexity and Informatics. In this sometimes provocative but enormously fascinating book, he sets out to demonstrate the inadequacy of reductionism alone in explaining our world, and offers ideas for a future evolution steered by us for a safer and better global place to live. He aims to address the schism between faith and reason, between science and arts, between reason and other sensibilities, in a new way; it is time, he writes, to "heal the split," for the sake of our world.

He starts by dismissing the once widely held scientific view (not now so widely believed by the physicists it seems), that everything in the universe can be reduced to natural physical laws. He looks around him and perceives many things that whilst not contravening the laws of physics, nevertheless cannot be reduced to physics in this way, including the evolution of the biosphere, our world economy, our history and indeed life itself. And he carefully and thoroughly explains why.

Through such observations he maintains that we can break what he calls the "Galilean Spell," which we have lived with since Galileo and Newton; the idea deeply rooted in our Western worldview since those great minds, that all that happens in our universe is governed by natural laws. He shows that we need more than this to explain many phenomena. Without rejecting reductionism entirely, he carefully and fully shows why it is inadequate to explain everything, as he describes a new emerging scientific world view, proposing that we are all members of a natural universe of "ceaseless creativity, in which life, agency, meaning, value, consciousness and the full richness of human action have emerged.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new take on consciousness 24 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kauffman thinks the complexity of biology cannot be deduced from particles in motion and their governing laws. He argues that there is an infinite number of ways in which quanta can be arranged, and organisms are only a small subset of these possibilities.

Life is viewed as introducing agency into the universe. Choosing between different behaviours is seen as requiring agency, which involves meaning and values, and these in turn require consciousness. Kauffman does not consider that information can explain the functioning of the cell. He argues that an agent is required to give meaning to information. The advantage of an agent is that there is not just one response to one stimulus, but a choice of different responses according to context. The ability to discriminate between stimuli is argued to be a 'poised state' between order and chaos, where order always gives the same answer for particular stimuli, despite varying outcomes in the past, and chaos gives a random outcome that is of no value.

Kauffman argues that consciousness derives from such a 'poised state' between the classical order of decoherence and the 'chaos' of quantum coherence. The 'poised state' is suggested to span both systems that are mainly coherent and systems that are partly coherent, and this is suggested to provide the brain with greater flexibility than either order or 'chaos'.

The flow of information into cells is seen as a means by which recoherence can be induced, and coherence thus maintained, with quantum possibilities effecting classical systems, while classical systems can influence recohering quantum systems. He views this as being supported by recent research on photosynthetic organisms, which shows that their efficiency of energy transfer depends on longer than previously predicted maintenance of quantum coherence in these organisms.
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