Book Review: Reinventing the Sacred

Reinventing the Sacred by Stuart Kauffman describes a scientific worldview that embraces the reality of emergence.1 We live in a universe, biosphere, and human culture that are not only emergent but radically creative. Kauffman attempts to lay out the scientific foundations for agency and therefore value in the biological world.2 He has a great deal to say about organized processes, for they are less understood than we might think.3 We have as yet not theory for systems that do work to build their own boundary conditions, and thereafter modify the work that is done, and then modify the boundary conditions as they propagate organization of process.4

An organized being is […] not a mere machine, […] but it possesses in itself formative power of a self-propagating kind …
—Immanuel Kant5

We live our lives forward, often without knowing, which requires all our humanity, not just ”knowledge.”6 Much of what we do when we intuit, feel, sense, understand, or act is non-algorithmic.7 Stuart Kauffman emphasizes that the human mind need not act algorithmically,8 nor is it merely computational.9 A central failure of the ”mind as a computational system” theory is that computations, per se, are devoid of meaning.10 Agency, meaning, value, and doing are real parts of the universe.11 Astonishingly, ”order for free,” does exist.12 Life itself seems to maximize self-propagating organization of process. It’s a thought-provoking book!

1 Stuart A. Kauffman, Reinventing the Sacred (Basic Books, 2010), p.5.
2 Ibid., p.11.
3 Ibid., p.35.
4 Ibid., p.92.
5 Ibid., p.88.
6 Ibid., p.89.
7 Ibid., p.235.
8 Ibid., p.77.
9 Ibid., p.195.
10 Ibid., p.192.
11 Ibid., p.78.
12 Ibid., p.106.


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