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?
“Encountering Nature and the Nature of
— our upcoming foundation course begins July 2020 with a two-year schedule
of online and on-site participation, specially adapted for current
Covid-19 safety precautions.
“Why We Cannot Explain the Form of
— this chapter of Steve’s book (Evolution As It Was Meant To Be)
immediately follows the previously posted “What Is the Problem of Form?”
Read the chapter.
In Context #43 is now
— and it contains a new whole-organism study by Craig, “The Intertwined
Worlds of Zebra and Lion”.
Read In Context.
“Viruses in the Dynamics of Life”
— fresh reading to inform you while you are mainly staying at home. In
this article Craig looks at viruses in their larger, living context.
Read the article.
To the Infinite
and Back Again
— this beautiful and thoroughly engaging workbook in projective geometry
by Henrike Holdrege is available in our
bookstore. Read more about
The complete book is now
freely available online.
In Context #41 is now online!
— and it is packed full with three feature articles: excerpts from
Wolfgang Schad’s new, two-volume masterwork, Understanding Mammals:
Threefoldness and Diversity; a look at the life of the dairy cow from
a forthcoming book of whole-organism studies by Craig; and “The Sensitive,
Muscular Cell” by Steve. Plus the latest news from the Institute.
Read In Context now.
Where Do Organisms End?
Ants, giraffes, and bison reveal how inappropriate it can be to draw rigid
lines between organisms and their environment. This article first
appeared in our publication, In Context, nearly 20 years ago and yet its
message — to stay near the vibrancy of phenomena and not drift into much
easier atomistic formulations — is ever more relevant in our times.
Craig writes in his article that “Each species — bloodroot, giraffe or
bison — appears as a unique member of a habitat or landscape, like tissues
or organs within an organism. In turn, we can study habitats and
landscapes as dynamic members of larger ecosystems and bioregions.
Finally, we are led to the concept of the whole earth as an organism.”
A Phenomenological Approach to Water
Scientist Laura Rubiano-Gomez is currently working on an
independent project at The Nature Institute to develop her vision of a
hydrology curriculum on water, as understood through a Goethean lens. A
graduate of MIT in environmental engineering and oceanography, Laura
recently worked as a physics and math teacher at High Mowing School in New
Hampshire. Her experience in 2018 at the institute’s Foundation Course inspired the new
“In college I was taught to do research in a very
utilitarian way,” Laura says, “but in the course with Craig and Henrike, I
learned what it is to be truly present to phenomena. With this new
syllabus, I want to develop ways for students to study water holistically,
outside the classroom. My hope is to bring not only understanding, but
also a sense of wonder to the subject.” In her research at the institute,
Laura spends a lot of time at a local creek, knee-deep in water. “Every
time I go to the creek, I discover something new about the water,” she
exclaims, “there is so much subtlety in its surface and movement.”
Of Humans and Our Microbial Guests: A Dynamic and Living Balance
A rapidly swelling literature testifies to human dependence upon the
diverse microorganisms — collectively, the
(or microbiota) — our bodies play host to. Yet can we resist the
overwhelming temptation to “thingify” every particular microbiome,
treating it as if it were a statically definable entity with fixed causal
significance? Stephen Talbott makes the case for nimble thinking.
From a reader ...
“I was wondering why there are so many seeds in a milkweed pod, when the
pod seems to come from a single flower. And why there are so few pods
developing from an umbel of milkweed flowers. And why some of the
milkweeds I’m watching (especially Asclepias purpurascens) don’t
seem to spread and colonize as much as I’d think they would.
So I googled around and quickly found your 2006 article,
“The Story of an Organism: Common
Milkweed.” Seldom have I experienced finding such a
satisfying discussion. Some of my questions you completely answered.
Others you commented on, validating what I have observed and musing about
why it is the way it is. Put it in context. Thank you for writing that
and making it available online.”
Keeping in touch:
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.
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!