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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?

* Evolution As It Was Meant To Be — And the Living Narratives That Tell Its Story — eight chapters (and more) of this current book project by Steve are now available online. Read more.

* Biology Worthy of Life — In conjunction with the book mentioned above, Steve has reorganized this project and brought the web pages up to date. Go to the main page.

* 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.

* A New Video: “Where Does an Animal End? The American Bison” — In September, Craig gave a talk with slides at The Nature Institute on the American Bison. In his presentation, he shared the fruits of his many years of research into this fascinating animal: its physical constitution, its relationship to its ecosystem, its life as an individual and as part of a herd, and its relationship to Native Americans. Through a close look at the American Bison, Craig sheds light more generally on the boundaries of what makes an animal an animal, and how the demarcations aren’t as clear as we might expect. You can view the video here.

* Starting our next Foundation Course in Goethean Science, June 2019 — This year-long, low-residency program gives a grounding in Goethe’s “delicate empiricism,” a holistic and contextual approach to encountering and understanding nature. The course begins with a two-week intensive at the Institute in June, 2019, and concludes with a second two-week intensive in summer 2020. During the year between, participants will be mentored in their own research and practice, and will also share ongoing study. More details available here. This Course Is Now Full!

Keeping in touch:

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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.”

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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