Dr. Jane Goodall is best known for her pioneering research with chimpanzees in which she discovered that they share more traits with humans than previously realized. In this book, she shares her personal perspective on what her research means for human beings. This is a spiritual memoir, and it focuses on the battles between good and evil that occur. Dr. Goodall optimistically sees the potential for humans to do good as outweighing the potential for evil, and she relates her prescription for how each of us should seek to become more saint-like in order to heal the evil that has and is still being done every day to humans, animals, and the environment. While Dr. Goodall will probably never be thought of as a great prose writer, the testimony of her actions, emotions, heart, and thoughts is a powerful inspiration for all to find one's own special calling and to follow it.
Reason for Hope has several rare qualities. First, it describes how Dr. Goodall's Christian faith is reconciled with her scientific beliefs. Few scientists do that in public, and both religious and nonreligious people will find the comments to be valuable. Second, she describes one of the most unusual reactions to the Holocaust that I have read. Much of her work with overcoming cruelty towards animals is inspired by seeing them as unwilling victims of zoo and animal research concentration camps. Third, she describes in moving detail the religious epiphanies she has experienced. Fourth, Dr. Goodall describes how she has balanced her personal and professional lives in a very vivid way, that connects to her chimpanzee research. Fifth, she takes what she has learned in her research and connects it to a prescription for humanity.
In case you haven't been following her work recently, Dr. Goodall mostly campaigns now for animal rights and to obtain funds to permanently endow the continuation of her work at Gombe in Africa. She is on the road around 300 days a year doing that, and spends the remaining time writing books to publicize her ideas. Her view of animal rights will probably expand your own perceptions. Beyond pointing out the poor conditions applied to animals employed in research and food production, she also makes a persuasive case for how unnecessary pain, discomfort, and a lack of normal pleasantness are instilled on those animals. Basically, she points out that animals share the human qualities of benefiting from lack of pain, freedom to follow one's natural instincts, and receiving loving care. When we treat animals like inanimate objects, we dehumanize ourselves and operate below our spiritual potential to create natural harmony while inflicting real pain and suffering on the animals. Unlike many animal advocates who take extreme positions, she argues for making easily achievable progress towards eliminating abuses of animals as part of a longer path towards ending inhumane treatment of animals. She sees the potential for a future in which there is no animal testing and research and little use of animals for food. But we have to focus on that vision before it will happen. She is even more concerned about the ravages done to the Earth that affect humans and animals alike due to overpopulation, overexploitation of natural resources, and use of chemicals.
I found the way she handled the spiritual challenges she faced to be the most interesting part of the book. Her second husband died unexpectedly of cancer. Four of her students were kidnapped at one point from Gombe. She visited two concentration camps. How can a living, loving God allow such evil? You will find her thoughts and experiences helpful with that fundamental question that we all face at various times.
In many sections of the book, she shares brief poems that she wrote to describe her thoughts during her various spiritual challenges. I found those to be a helpful way to delve deeper into her heart and mind.
Dr. Goodall is clearly a saint-like person in many ways. I am sure you will find it interesting to see what her formative influences were. Some seem to have been instinctive. My favorite story in the book involved how her nanny taught her to be afraid of dragonflies when she was around one, and her child's horror both of them and even greater horror at seeing one killed.
I also admired her for sharing stories of ESP and other phenomena that scientists are not supposed to experience or describe neutrally without proof. Basically, Dr. Goodall looks around and sees the best in whatever she observes.
You will be touched, if you are like me, by how she looks into the eyes of animals and humans to discern how they are feeling. What a warm heart she must have!
After you finish this book, I encourage you to jot down your thoughts about what your spiritual purposes are. What are your spiritual instincts? How do you like to help? How can you do more?
Follow the shining path God places before you!