The Nature Institute
Viewing Nature, Science,
and Technology in Context
“The question is not what you look at — but
how you look and whether you see.” - Thoreau
Welcome! We hope our
publications and education programs inspire you
with fresh and radical perspectives on nature, science, and technology.
What’s The Latest?
Have you noticed the new
menu item on the left of this page? It’s a major new project of The
Learn about it now.
In Context #32 is now
From the attempt to create learning experiences at the Exploratorium in
San Franciso, to the attempt by synthetic biologists to create new life
forms — we offer perhaps unexpected assessments in the latest issue of
See the articles.
Learn about our winter course,
“Developing a Qualitative
Understanding of Nature: Animals, Humanity and Evolution”
(February 8 – 13, 2015):
The course is intended for farmers, gardeners and others seeking a
renewed relation to the land. Read more.
Form and Pattern in the Amazon: A River
Adventure (June 1 – 12, 2015):
Join Mark Riegner and Craig Holdrege for a vivid experience of the
natural wonders of the Amazon basin. Reserve your space by January 5,
Visit our Calendar of Events
to learn about upcoming events.
Join our mailing list:
You'll receive our twice-yearly, free magazine,
and occasional brief notices about courses, events, and other
publications. Just send an email to
asking to be kept informed, and please include your postal address to
receive In Context by mail, if you live in the U.S. International
readers and others who prefer email only will receive email links to new
issues of In Context.
Biology Worthy of Life
The revolution now taking shape in the world’s molecular biology labs may
not yet be common public knowledge, but it is transforming scientists’
thinking about genetics and the organism as a whole. Researchers have
been discovering that it makes much more sense to say that the organism is
in charge of its genes, than to put it the other way around. For
commentaries on our shifting understanding of organisms at the molecular
level, see the continuing series of articles by Stephen L. Talbott
Worthy of Life. Steve’s more recent contributions to the series
tackle some of the central controversies surrounding evolution. Also,
Steve has established a portal page
(along with an RSS feed
for those familiar with such things) for introducing all his new writings.
And, finally, there is a new
topical index for convenient access
to all the content of “Biology Worthy of Life.”
Unintended Effects of Genetic Manipulation
This Nature Institute project documents over 100 cases of
unintended and unpredictable effects of genetic engineering on organisms
and the environment. Our nontarget.org website makes important scientific
research about unintended effects accessible to the broader public. It
provides crucial information needed for an informed debate concerning
genetic engineering in agriculture and genetically modified food.
Craig’s latest book
Who would imagine that plants can become master teachers of a radical new
way of seeing and interacting with the world? Plants are dynamic and
resilient, living in intimate connection with their environment. This
book presents an organic way of knowing modeled after the way plants live.
Details available in our bookstore.
Commemorating Henri Bortoft’s Life.
The Holistic Science Journal (for which Nature Institute director,
Craig Holdrege, is a contributing editor) has put out a special
“Dynamic Wholeness” issue,
commenting on the life work of the late Henri Bortoft. Bortoft was a
leading student of Goethe’s scientific methods and an effective elucidator
of wholeness in nature. Readers may also be interested in a
brief personal appreciation of Henri by Craig in In Context #29.
(Go to p. 9 after clicking on the link.)
What Does it Mean to be a Sloth?
This article by Craig Holdrege paints a vivid picture of the sloth —
a remarkable animal that expresses slowness in so many of its
characteristics and even slows down processes in the rain forest in which
it lives. Originally published in 1998, this article, can now be read in
revised form on our website. Enjoy getting to know this remarkable
creature. And maybe it will even help you slow down in our hectic times!
Read the article.
A Book from Nature Institute Staff
“Craig Holdrege and Steve Talbott’s analysis of genetic engineering is the
smartest, most original, and most compelling I have seen anywhere, in
journalism or academia.” (Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's
Published by the University Press of Kentucky, Beyond Biotechnology:
The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering is in the Press' “Culture of
the Land” series, whose editorial advisors include Wendell Berry, Bill
McKibben, Wes Jackson, Vandana Shiva, and others. As Sheldon Krimsky
(Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University) describes
the book, “The authors offer a refreshing style of scientific
interpretation and have brought the discussion of the issues to a new
level by making excellent use of current scientific findings that disclose
how genes operate in vivo and by drawing on bioethical discussions.”
Here’s where you can
learn more about
the book and order it.
The Work of Martin Wagenschein
The Nature Institute has translated some of the writings of the German
science educator and physicist Martin Wagenschein. To read about
Wagenschein and to access the translations,
How Shall We Live?
The way we experience ourselves in the world - our habits of perception
and the relation between our sense of Self and sense of the Other - are
decisively important for everything from the achievement of a truly
adequate science to the restoration of social health to the establishment
of an environmentally responsible ethics. Human progress in all fields
depends upon how we engage the phenomena around us. This is why the book
Being on Earth:
Practice In Tending the Appearances,
a full-text, online document, is so important. Written by physicist Georg
Maier, the late philosopher Ronald Brady, and the late physicist Stephen
Edelglass, it explores what it means for us to be on earth as knowers, as
participants in earth's various ecological settings, and in company with
one another. The book breaks down the barriers between fact and value,
between science and aesthetics.
Being on Earth is now also available as a 196-page softcover
paperback from Logos Verlag in Berlin. The price is 40.5 euros
(approximately 63 US dollars). You can order the book over the internet by
A Thought-Provoking Publication
Long Neck: From Evolutionary Fable to Whole Organism
by Craig Holdrege
A fresh look at the giraffe and evolution. To find out more about this book,