Walking the Walk: Thoreau and the art of seeing nature
How often in our fast-paced modern society do you go outside and spend time simply appreciating the glorious complexity of the natural world—and learning about the rich details of the plants and animals that comprise your nearest wilderness? Jeff Hardin, BioLogos board member and chair of the zoology department at the University of Wisconsin, recently wrote an article for Christianity Today’s Books & Culture reviewing the latest annotated edition of Henry David Thoreau’s natural history essays, from which he takes a clear and encouraging message for the modern scientist and Christian.
A key conundrum of our modern, heavily technological Western society is how to stay afloat amid a dizzying array of technical information without being crushed by it. How does one walk amid the trees of technology without missing the forest of the world that technology conveys to us at an ever-increasing pace? This question is especially pressing in the natural sciences. It is an era in which technology has spawned journals—at a seemingly exponential rate—that are dedicated purely to method. In many ways, the technologies that permit us to peer ever more deeply into the physical nature of things threaten to drown inspired science in mere technique.
What antidotes exist for this modern malady? How can a scientist in training develop sensitivities that help her to recall why she became a scientist in the first place? And, for the Christian who is a scientist, how can the sense that the practice of science ought to be an exercise in doxology not be lost?