Craig Holdrege

Craig Holdrege, Ph.D., is The Nature Institute’s director and spearheaded its founding in 1998. His passion is to develop what Goethe called “delicate empiricism” — an approach that learns from nature how to understand nature and is infused with a cautious and critical awareness of how intentions and habits of mind affect human understanding. His research takes two directions. In the first, he carries out studies of animals and plants that tell the story of these organisms as dynamic and integrated beings within the larger web of life.

The comprehensive and holistic understanding of organisms provides the basis for his second area of focus — researching genetics and genetic engineering in relation to the broader context of internal and external ecology of living organisms. In the late 1970s he carried out a project, under the mentorship of biologist Jochen Bockemühl, studying genetic plasticity in groundsel (Senecio vulgaris) and articulating a phenomenological concept of heredity. Since then he has been following developments in genetics and genetic engineering, benefiting greatly from collaboration with molecular biologist Johannes Wirz, which began in the late 1980s. Craig’s book, Genetics and the Manipulation of Life: The Forgotten Factor of Context, published in 1996, was one of the first books to emphasize the contextual nature of heredity. Craig has a special interest in making genetic research understandable to the general public, and since the late 1990s has worked together with his Nature Institute colleague, Steve Talbott, to write numerous articles on the topic (see links to publications below) as well as the book Beyond Biotechnology: The Barren Promise of Genetic Engineering (University of Kentucky Press, 2008). Also in 2008, The Nature Institute launched a website concerned with the unintended effects of genetic manipulations on plants, animals, and the environment.

Craig gives talks and workshops in the U.S. and Europe on the topics of genetics and genetic engineering, whole organism biology, science and nature education, and the methodology of “delicate empiricism.” He is a guest teacher in the MSc in Holistic Science at Schumacher College in the UK. Since the founding of The Nature Institute he has taught in many of the Institute’s courses for adults concerned with the phenomenological and experiential approach to nature study and biology. He mentors adult learners and teachers. Before founding The Nature Institute, Craig was a high school biology teacher in orf Schools, working in Germany for 12 years and then in the U.S. for nine years. Since the early 1990s Craig has been involved in teacher training.Craig has a Ph.D. in sustainability education from Prescott College in Arizona. He completed a Masters-level, non-degree program in phenomenological science at the Science Research Laboratory at the Goetheanum, Switzerland, and has a B.A. in philosophy from Beloit College.

Learning to See Life: Developing the Goethean Approach to Science


I have often thought that if a teacher wanted to have one succinct motto to hang above his or her […]