Amanda Hancock, For The Miami Student

Miami University students are surrounded by a campus rich in natural beauty, but how often do students take a second look and attempt to understand their surroundings? According to Miami University botany professor Nicholas Money, considering this can be “life changing … something of profound philosophical significance.”

In his new book, Mushroom, Money explores this complex relationship between biological topics, such as mushrooms and the philosophical meaning of life.

The book contains eight chapters, or essays, which explain the many different ways that mushrooms inform about the broader meaning of life.

“Each chapter goes way beyond the biology and explores much wider, profound questions,” Money said.

For example, one chapter discusses recent studies involving hallucinogenic mushrooms. These studies reveal the depth of the experience and what it may suggest about the existence of God and the foundation of the religious experience.

Another chapter delves into medicinal mushrooms and issue of herbal supplements. It discusses non-prescription drug interest in using mushrooms as a source of medicine in treating chronic illnesses.

However, Money suggests how little scientific evidence there is and his discussion serves as somewhat of an assault on this theory.

According to Money, his teaching experiences proved very beneficial in writing Mushroom, as well as his four previous books.

“Teaching at Miami has been tremendously helpful because it continually helped to relate to a broader audience,” Money said.

After 16 years at Miami, research at Yale and undergraduate studies at the University of Bristol, Money has participated in extensive research involved in mushroom-forming fungi. Additionally, as the Western Program Director, Money has gained experience with interdisciplinary practices, so the book concentrates on the connections between science and philosophy.

For non-science majors, terms like “alkaloids” and “neocortex” that appear in the book may seem daunting, however, Money stresses that Mushroom goes way beyond just the science.

“It’s about how science informs the way we look at the world,” he said.

Money acknowledged the fantastical slant of his discussion, but also said just how important these clues are.

“It’s impossible to find out who you are and your place on earth without comprehending the rest of life on earth,” Money said. “There’s nothing more important than this beauty in science to me.”

He encourages Miami students to join the discussion by thinking about how botany relates to their own lives.

“Students need to expand their universe and consider our wider relationship here on earth,” he said.

Money is also participating in a lecture series called “Your Strange Universe” and will speak at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2 in 322 McGuffey Hall.