Religious Naturalism and Ecomorality

Ursula Goodenough, Professor of Biology at Washington University in St. Louis

The 2009-2010 Witherspoon Memorial Lecture in Religion and Science

Religious naturalism neither requires belief in God nor excludes such faith. Rather, the orientation is based on an exploration of the religious potential of nature. What is meant by naturalism, and what is meant by religious? "Naturalism" is taken to mean our current understandings of nature, and the history of nature, as brought to us via scientific inquiry - a core narrative. "Religious" is interpreted to entail three sets of personal responses - interpretive, spiritual and moral - to a core narrative. Hence the religious naturalist explores the religious potential of our understandings of nature along the interpretive axis (e.g., theistic or nontheistic), along the spiritual axis (e.g., awe, gratitude, reverence, humility), and along the moral axis (e.g., relationships with others, is/ought valuations). Ecomorality encompasses our relationship with the rest of the planet, a parameter that is particularly well informed by our understandings of the natural world.

Professor Ursula Goodenough is internationally known for her work in the field of cell biology. She is the author of the bestselling textbook, Genetics, as well of a highly regarded book entitled The Sacred Depths of Nature, which was named Outstanding Academic Book of l999 by Choice. Goodenough has served as president of the Society of Cell Biologists. She has also served as president of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, and is on the editorial board of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.