As a Professor of Biology at Washington University, Ursula Goodenough is one of America's leading cell biologists. Her book, The Sacred Depths of Nature, combines the wonders of the physical world with the marvels of human thinking. At first, her book might be seen as reducing all existence to mere scientific concepts according to laws of physics and chemistry. Yet, each chapter ends with thoughtful reflections that lift the human spirit.
Before she became involved with scientific studies, Goodenough used to see wonder and beauty in the utter simplicity of the night sky - its infinity of stars and planets. Today, she feels her childlike amazement has been enhanced rather than diminished by science.
After a thorough examination of the universe's beginning, Goodenough explains that the myriad transformations of energy, which occurred during and after the Big Bang, are more cause for wonder and excitement than her original, primitive, view.
Just the thought that the Big Bang occurred at all, she would exclaim, can thrill anyone who considers the monster force or forces that caused such an explosive incident. Equally mesmerizing are the physical laws the Big Bang is now following as all-that-is keeps on evolving after billions of years. It is one thing to describe the vast energy exchanges that brought forth our solar system and planet earth. It is quite another to contemplate why!
Equally mysterious is this: From high-energy physics during the cooling off process of the universe, atoms began to bond in such a way as to create the water, carbon dioxide, and other chemicals necessary for life. Scientists have described in minute detail how these atoms have bonded, but are at a loss to explain why they sought these bonds in the first place.
And from these bonds occurring according to discoverable, ordered laws of nature, the first living creatures resulted. Goodenough explains in very understandable language how evolution works. Choosing simple life forms over a prolonged period of time, evolutionary laws select by adaptation to their environment, complete, complex, diversified organisms, eventually giving rise to the great apes which led to the formation of human life.