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FREE RECORDING of the Celebration of the New Edition of this Oxford Classic!

Biologist & Religious Naturalist


Free Event took place on:

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

To watch the recording, click here!

We engaged with eminent biologist and religious naturalist Ursula Goodenough in a conversation about how nature itself is sacred and how the modern scientific understanding of reality can be a source of solace, hope and purpose inside the Epic of Evolution. 

We looked at the emergence of emotions, intimacy, the self and a moral imperative for our time right now.   First published in 1998, the new edition published by Oxford University Press has been extensively revised, integrating rigorous science with deep spiritual wisdom.

The Great Evolutionary Story of Planet Earth

We are embedded in the great evolutionary story of planet Earth, the spare, elegant process of mutation and selection and bricolage. And this means that we are anything but alone.

— Ursula Goodenough

Humans need stories . . .

Humans need grand compelling Narratives/Myths that help to orient us in our lives and in the cosmos. The Epic of Evolution is such a Myth, beautifully suited to anchor our mindful search for planetary consensus, telling us of our nature, our place, our context. Moreover, responses to this Myth— what we are calling a religious naturalist orientation — can yield abiding interpretive grounding, spiritual experience, ecomoral commitment, and celebration.  And then there are other stories on offer as well, human-centered Myths that embody our ideals and our passions. These come to us, often via experiences called revelation, from the spiritual and artistic and wisdom traditions of past and present times, and they burnish our souls.    — Ursula Goodenough


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Who is a religious naturalist?

The religious naturalist orientation combines a naturalist worldview with ideals, perceptions, and values that have been long associated with traditional religions. Religious naturalists find religious meaning in the natural world.

The Religious Naturalist Association (RNA) is a 501c3 that was founded in 2014 and initially co-founded by Ursula Goodenough and colleagues as an online resource to bring together those who have adopted this orientation and those curious to learn about it.  For info, click here!

The Moral Imperative of our Time . . .

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

The Sacred Depths of Nature (New Edition)

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Chapter Headings

1 Origins of the Earth
2 Origins of Life
3 How Life Works
4 How an Organism Works
5 How Evolution Works
6 The Evolution of Biodiversity
7 Awareness and the I-Self
8 Interpretations and Feelings
9 Sex
10 Intimacy
11 Multicellularity and Death
12 Human Evolution
13 Human Morality & Ecomorality

Epilogue: Emergent Religious Principles
Epilogue: The Religious Naturalist Orientation

Extensively revised and in full color. Each chapter begins with an accessible story about the dynamics of Nature: the origins of the universe, the planet, and life; the workings of cells and organisms; the patterns of biological evolution and the resultant biodiversity; awareness and feelings; sex and intimacy; multicellularity and death; and two new chapters on human evolution and morality/ecomorality. Each is followed by a reflection on the spiritual sensibilities elicited by these science-based understandings, generating the foundations for a non-theistic religious naturalist orientation. 

To order the book, click here!


What if we truly saw nature as sacred?

How would that change everything? 


If you’re able to read


before we gather, do

come to the celebration with

thoughts about what’s

arising in you!



Deep Time Video Awards Butterfly, Deeptime Leadership, Personal Empowerment Leadership, Climate change, Evolution Leadership, Big Bang Theory

About Ursula Goodenough . . .

Ursula Goodenough is Professor of Biology Emerita at Washington University who retired to Martha’s Vineyard in 2017. She taught cell biology and evolution and engaged in research that focused on the sexual cycle of the green soil alga Chlamydomonas, on ciliary motility, and on algal biofuel precursors. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Microbiology Society, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and served as president of the American Society for Cell Biology. She and many others are developing what is called a religious naturalist orientation and a new edition of her book, The Sacred Depths of Nature: How Life Emerged and Evolved (Oxford University Press), describes her understandings of this orientation.



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