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We may never have complete knowledge of biophysical and human nature, as represented by the brain/earth sphere. The knowledge we do have is built on distinctive "visions": perspectives or metaphors for nature, each with major scientific and religious implications. These visions are represented by different faces of the dodecahedron (a 12-sided geometric shape) wrapping around the sphere; each face offers a different perspective on nature. New Visions of Nature, Science, and Religion examines five such visions; for information on the image we use to represent each, please consult the visions of nature section.

The dodecahedron is an appropriate symbol for the totality of human understandings of reality, as it has fascinated mathematicians and mystics alike since the Greeks. Mathematically, it is known as a regular polyhedron or Platonic solid; for ancient mystics, the dodecahedron represented the "fifth element" (after earth, air, fire, and water) of ether from which the universe was made (Cromwell 1997).

The dodecahedron is also appropriate for representing the five visions of nature that comprise our program since it is geometrically based on a pentagon: each face is a pentagon, and the vertices of a dodecahedron can be constructed by means of multiple lines connecting the vertices of a pentagon, i.e. a dodecahedral graph.

In a three-dimensional world, one can only imagine three possible independent perspectives, as famously symbolized by the book cover of Gödel, Escher, Bach (Hofstadter 1979). A cube, for instance, has six faces defining three planes of orientation (e.g., the top and bottom face of a cube define parallel planes of similar orientation); each plane corresponds to one of the three dimensions of ordinary space. But if orthogonality (right angles) is removed as the criterion of dimensionality, then the dodecahedron represents a doubling of perspectives relative to our ordinary perception of space, with twelve faces defining 6 planes of orientation. More complex geometric figures are possible, of course, representing even more perspectives; but doubling seems sufficiently challenging for most of us.

In spite of this interesting complexity to the dodecahedron, it can be laid flat in two-dimensional space. And each component is a flat plane, not the more complex curved surface of a sphere. Similarly, each vision of nature involves certain simplifying assumptions necessary to make it appear comprehensive (i.e., representing all of nature) without becoming overly complex. It is these simplifying assumptions at the heart of each of these metaphors or visions of nature that may reveal their chief identifying features, as well as their most important implications for science and religion.

Cromwell, Peter R. 1997. Polyhedra. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hofstadter, Douglas R. 1979. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An eternal golden braid. New York: Basic Books.