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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?

* “Let the Phenomena Speak!” — Our 2018 Summer Intensive, June 24 – 28, is a contribution to Sustainability Education. The course will guide participants in cultivating careful observation and sensitive description of natural phenomena. It will also provide educators with a clear model for helping students cultivate those skills. Please check out the course description.

* “Encountering Nature and the Nature of Things”Deadline to apply: March 15, 2018. A new, year-long program to study and practice Goethean Science, which applies holistic, phenomenological methods to understand the world around us. This foundation-year training includes two-week residential intensives in July 2018 and July 2019, with guided study and practice throughout the year in between. More information is available here.

* Two of Craig's recent talks now online — We’ve uploaded two of Craig’s presentations from this past fall to our YouTube channel. The first — “Where Do We Come From? The Question of Origins and Ancestors” — was given in late October to a packed house at The Nature Institute. The second — “Giving Living Beings a Voice” — was a presentation he delivered in November at a conference in Toronto on Synthetic Biology. Both are insightful and thought-provoking. Enjoy!

* Diversity in Human Fossil History — a new teaching kit on human evolution, prepared by Craig Holdrege. The kit is designed to bring evolutionary teaching into closer correspondence with the available evidences, which are never as neat as the textbook theories might suggest. The kit is described and made available here.

* Do Frogs Come from Tadpoles? Rethinking Origins in Development and Evolution — Craig Holdrege’s new Nature Institute Perspectives booklet on the stunning development and metamorphosis of the frog, together with an elucidation of the puzzles of its evolutionary development. The booklet is available here.

* In Context #38 is here! — and you can now explore it. Read about the problems with intelligent design theory, or about an anomalous flower, or about a cross-continent, teaching journey through Australia, and other activities by Nature Institute staff. It’s all here.

Visit our Calendar of Events to learn about upcoming events.

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You'll receive our twice-yearly, free magazine, In Context, 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 entitled, Biology 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.”

example of a soil chromatograph


Living Soils Project

Visit Living Soils home page

Soil health is bound up with the dynamics of the whole farm organism, which includes the inner perspectives of the farmers. In this new initiative, we strive to foster not only a shift in agricultural practices, but also a shift in human consciousness, out of which new ways of interacting with nature in agriculture can develop. Our goal is to help farmers cultivate dynamic ways of seeing and understanding that can be concretely applied on farms, especially in composting. We provide on-farm consultations, qualitative soil and compost testing, workshops, and educational publications.

wheat plants

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 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.

Book cover of “Thinking Like a Plant”

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.

sloth in tree

A Book from the 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 Dilemma)

“Beyond Biotechnology” book cover

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.

book cover of “The Giraffe’s Long Neck”

A Thought-Provoking Publication

The Giraffe's 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, click here.

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