Preamble: This is the first in a series of articles I wish to publish on the religiosity of prominent scientists. See my previous article on why it pays understand religion and appreciate religious beliefs (or lack thereof) other than one’s own.
British ethnologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, which promotes wildlife conservation and research, and a United Nations Messenger of Peace. As the world’s foremost primatologist and expert on chimpanzees, Jane Goodall observed Tanzanian apes for over 50 years and revolutionized mankind’s knowledge of chimpanzee behavior. Goodall has redefined our understanding of what makes humans distinct from animals.
Jane Goodall’s religious sensibilities favor the mystical. She is attributed with, “Thinking back over my life, it seems to me that there are different ways of looking out and trying to understand the world around us. There’s a very clear scientific window. And it does enable us to understand an awful lot about what’s out there. There’s another window; it’s the window through which the wise men, the holy men, the masters of the different and great religions look as they try to understand the meaning in the world. My own preference is the window of the mystic.”
In the May-2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Jane Goodall discussed her spirituality: “amazing moments—when you seem to know something beyond what you know and to understand things you don’t understand—can’t be understood in this life.”
When asked if she believes in God in an interview published in the Sep-2010 issue of Reader’s Digest, Jane Goodall said,
I don’t have any idea of who or what God is. But I do believe in some great spiritual power. I feel it particularly when I’m out in nature. It’s just something that’s bigger and stronger than what I am or what anybody is. I feel it. And it’s enough for me.
Jane Goodall is a dedicated vegetarian and advocates the vegetarian diet for ethical, environmental, and health reasons.
Farm animals are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined and, despite having been bred as domestic slaves, they are individual beings in their own right. As such, they deserve our respect. And our help. Who will plead for them if we are silent? Thousands of people who say they ‘love’ animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been treated so with little respect and kindness just to make more meat.
In ‘Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey,’ Jane Goodall tracks her ambitions and accomplishments as one of the world’s foremost primatologist to her childhood roots, tenderly inviting young readers to follow in her spiritual footsteps. In the first chapter, she writes:
I do not want to discuss evolution in [depth], only touch on it from my own perspective: from the moment when I stood on the Serengeti plains holding the fossilized bones of ancient creatures in my hands to the moment when, staring into the eyes of a chimpanzee, I saw a thinking, reasoning personality looking back. You may not believe in evolution, and that is all right. How we humans came to be the way we are is far less important than how we should act now to get out of the mess we have made for ourselves. How should the mind that can contemplate God relate to our fellow beings, the other life-forms of the world? What is our human responsibility? And what, ultimately, is our human destiny?
Val Silver says
Thank you for sharing about Jane Goodall, an animal activist who lives her spirituality by being an educator and voice for our chimpanzee cousins.