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RE: Book Review: Life is A Miracle


Among our mix of gardener/volunteers at the CCG, we have a NASA weather
scientist and a research biochemist from a major pharmaceutical company.
Both ladies have highly elegant minds, process and synthesize information at
prodigious speeds, have PhDs ( it's the union card in their fields) and are
damned good gardeners. 

Over the years, I've come to realize that their appreciation of nature and
the "connectedness" of life is heightened by their analytic abilities, by
their quest to know and the habit of questioning - not diminished. 

The miracle is still a miracle.

Adam Honigman



> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Tetrad [SMTP:garlicgr@pond.com]
> Sent:	Tuesday, January 02, 2001 9:27 PM
> To:	community_garden@mallorn.com; market-farming@franklin.oit.unc.edu;
> nefood-l@listproc.tufts.edu
> Subject:	[cg] Book Review: Life is A Miracle
> Hi, Folks!
> I was asked to write this book review, so I did.  Figured it might
> stimulate
> some discussion, so am sending it forth.  Once again, no one has paid me
> for
> this, so I retain copyright. . .
> Dorene
> Life is A Miracle:  An Essay Against Modern Superstition by Wendell Berry,
> Counterpoint, 2000.  ISBN:  1-58243-058-6, $21.00.
> The most valuable class I attended while working towards a Pennsylvania
> Teaching Certificate taught us that the average classroom contains
> children
> with at least 10 different thinking and learning styles.  As a logical
> thinker whose appreciation for sequential order approximates the Vulcans,
> I'm still amazed that global thinkers manage to dress themselves one pant
> leg and sleeve at a time.  Yet, as an effective teacher, I have to be able
> to appreciate, reach and communicate with folks whose minds work very
> differently than mine so that together we become a whole society.
> Unfortunately, Berry seems to have forgotten that human brains are not all
> wired in his image.
> The majority of this book is Berry's response to Edward O. Wilson's book
> "Consilience:  The Unity of Knowledge" where Wilson attempts to do physics
> one better and instead of a United Field Theory to explain all physical
> phenomena,  he tries to unite all human knowledge into one discipline.  Of
> course there are flaws in such a project - there always are.  But Berry,
> who
> admits that he has "no competence or learning in science," trips over
> every
> stereotype about science as a discipline and moans that if people would
> just
> stop trying to upset the figurative apple cart in their quest to
> understand
> it literally and accept it for the mystery of life that it is, we'd have a
> more harmonious society.   The idea that some folks will sneak out to
> measure the torque of the apple cart's wheels - that they would WANT to
> measure things like torque as much as Berry wants to walk through his
> fields
> in the morning totally escapes him.
> Hungering and thirsting (to use the language of my religious tradition) to
> understand the world empirically is as human a response to our world as
> sitting in the midst of nature and letting the mystery of life wash
> through
> one.  Humans have done both since self-awareness blossomed in the species.
> To vilify one or the other is to deny ourselves the full range of human
> sentience.
> What disturbed me most in this book was Berry's blindness to what science
> is
> and what it is not - especially when manipulated for corporate profit.  He
> derides journalists and publicists for using science to push their agenda,
> but the "science" he so rightly commends isn't really science - it's a
> fašade of a respectable discipline tricked out to bolster a corporate
> point
> of view.  With just a basic grounding in scientific principles, a talented
> writer such as Berry ought to be able to tell when he's being snowed by a
> public relations machine.  Yet he seems strangely unable or unwilling to
> decipher the language involved, to confront those who use a powerful
> paradigm as a cover for their own greed and instead urges us all to walk
> away from science altogether. 
> Because Berry does not understand science and its language is often
> manipulated to justify a course of action,  his justifiable fury at the
> spiritual and communal paucity of our society hits the wrong target. If
> only
> we didn't have scientists, Berry frets, GMOs, Y2K, and nuclear power
> wouldn't be an issue.  While scientists developed these products, they are
> merely the hired guns for corporations who believe they can maximize
> profits
> through these products.  We get what we pay for in this society - Y2K
> didn't
> happen because corporations and governments spent millions of dollars to
> correct a shortcut they had ordered decades before to "save" time and
> money
> by using 2 digits instead of 4 when dating a year.  The solution isn't, to
> paraphrase Shakespeare,  to "get rid of all the scientists."  The solution
> is to use our critical thinking skills to know when we're being
> manipulated
> and hold corporations responsible for the products they unleash upon us.
> As one who bridges both the scientific and religious worlds, I'm often
> asked
> to review books such as "Life is a Miracle" which try to reconcile
> different
> modes of thought.  Unfortunately (and this book was no exception), when
> reading books like this, I feel like I'm listening to the two halves of a
> single brain - the logical left and the more expressive right - talking
> right past each other when discussing their strengths and sniping about
> the
> other when confronted with their own weaknesses.
> Someday, I'd like to find a book where the two halves can accept each
> other's point of view and cover their own weaknesses with the other's
> strength.  Only then will we truly live in the holistic  (and holy)
> society
> of which Berry dreams.
> Reviewed by Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
> St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden
> Phoenixville, PA
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