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witch hazel in flower, October 24, 2018

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?

* A new video — This past September, Craig gave a talk with slides at The Nature Institute entitled “Where Does an Animal End? The American Bison.” In it, Craig 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 the 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.

* Our 40th issue of In Context is now online! — check it out for its articles on diverse topics, including the bighorn sheep of Yellowstone National Park, our encounter with institutionalized dogmatism in the biological sciences, the nature of goal-directed organic activity, the “miracles” of life, and of course news from the Institute. You will find the issue 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. The deadline to apply is February 15, 2019. More details available here.

* 2019 Winter Course: “The Nature of Animals and Developing Dynamic Thinking” — Join us from February 17 – 21 as we give our attention to the animals and ask: What are their unique ways of being in the world? What do they bring to our lives and what can we bring to theirs? And how can we develop capacities of observation and thinking that allow us to know the world more truly? Find out more about the course and sign-up here.

* Whole Organisms and Their Evolutionary Intentions — Steve has posted an article summarizing some themes of his new book project. While these depart radically from conventional thinking, they might also be considered mere commonsense. Stay tuned for some of the individual chapters, as they are written. You will find the summary article here.

* Our first podcast and our “Other Media” page — as you might have noticed, in the last year we’ve started to put some of our talks online as videos. Now we’ve taken a new talk that Craig gave this March and made it into our first podcast. You can find all of those resources on our new “Other Media” page. 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.

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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