Biophysicist Harold Morowitz spent his last sabbatical pondering the cosmic mysteries aboard a yacht anchored off the West Maui mountains in Hawaii. The result of his musings can be found in Cosmic Joy and Local Pain: Musings of a Mystic Scientist (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1987). [For a review of the book, see THE SCIENTIST, September 21, 1987, p. 20]. The first possession he packed for his trip was Lawrence Henderson’s book The Fitness of the Environment. In this excerpt, Morowitz describes Henderson’s scientific approach to the questions of fitness and design in nature.

Looking for spiritual meaning within science is not a new idea. It was quite a popular intellectual activity in the 18th and 19th centuries, the period from Newton to Darwin. One of the best examples was the Bridgewater Treatises of the 1830s. These works on natural theology were written by eminent scientists with the purpose of showing...

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