A shepherd challenges modern scientists and their ability to capture the works of God in this debut book.
Dedicated to the youth of America, Pickett’s 15 lessons explore nature and God. The author tells of a solitary, wizened figure—the shepherd—whose life exists somewhat outside the realm of popular science and contemporary understandings of the physical world. But his daily interactions with the Earth and its animals have afforded him insights modern scientists might never acquire. For Pickett, the educated people of the world may consider themselves enlightened, but they fail to appreciate how awe-inspiring nature and the God who created it are. “Their self-proclaimed wisdom barely elevates them above the intelligence of a fool, and it will profit them nothing,” he writes. The author questions scientists’ dismissal of the spiritual and their capacity to become true creators, asserting that even if they can claim to understand the processes of plants and cells, they could never perfectly re-create even a small worm. General lessons about life are to be found from the shepherd’s perspective as well. These include the use of shortcuts (the shepherd understands that men with idle time will come to resemble predators) and how life’s greatest dangers will start slowly and then multiply, just like bugs, dirt, and disease. Each lesson begins with a poem that deftly sets the tone for the short chapter through simple rhyming couplets (“There’s another side to living things / that people fail to see, / If earth had only the elements / no life could ever be”). But Pickett’s prose never strays far from poetic, almost transcendental language. His writing is abstract and lovely in comparison to the scientific notions his shepherd is challenging. “This is a world in which all living things inherit the seeds of death,” he writes, delivering the shepherd’s view of disease. While this style creates some elegant passages, it makes the book feel quite lofty and disconnected, which can hamper Pickett’s ability to present persuasive arguments.
A beautifully crafted, if not entirely convincing, meditation on humanity’s different ways of looking at nature and God.