Shuck and Jive

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thank God for Evolution!

That is the title of a new book by Michael Dowd. Michael is a United Church of Christ minister. His wife, Connie Barlow, is a science writer. They live out of their van traveling the country with the good news of evolution. They will be coming to Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in September. We are communicating with them to make a combination event between our congregation and the UU church. More details on that to come.

I have just begun reading Thank God for Evolution and I find it fascinating. I think it is time that the churches rather than simply tolerate evolution, really celebrate the way God is creating us! Good stuff.

I invite you to check out the web page. You can also go to his blog, watch the book trailer, here an audio message, and check their schedule.

I am curious as to what you think.


  1. Interesting. I tried to download their free pdf version of the book and got the following message:

    "Info: The selected quantity exceeds available stock. We currently have 0 items available."

    How does one have "0" copies of a pdf file? ;-) And the link for the so-called "free" download states, "The complete text in pdf e-book format free! Really!"


  2. Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the post. We are working on the problem, and will post here when resolved. In the mean time, if you email me, I will send you an alternate link where you can download the PDF.


  3. P.S. This would help. paul {at}

  4. Thanks Paul,

    This is very interesting stuff from what I can tell from your main site. It is encouraging to see religionists positively embracing the evolutionary idea as not being antogonistic to the teachings of Jesus, God, or religion and religious thought in general.

    Since I was sixteen years old (35+ years ago) I have been studying a book that introduced me that religious experience is compatible with the idea that we are "experiential-evolutionary beings" created for a purpose: to find God, recognize the divine affection, and return the free will gift to God of choosing to do God's will and love and serve one's fellows, as Jesus so lived and taught.

  5. Well, I haven't read the book. So, I can't really participate that much in conversation. Have heard mixed reviews. What are the things you like most about
    Michael's ideas, and do you have any areas of disagreement?

    I'm definitely about thanking and praising God for the creation, and being a good steward of the natural world. But, I don't really feel that strongly about all the mechanics one way or the other. OCOCBW.

    And, as I've shared, depending how all this is handled, it can become a very divisive issue in the church.

  6. All I can say is I am building relationships with UCC pastors abroad and that's about all I have to contribute.

  7. I've just started reading the book myself. I think that the author is definitely on the right track when he points out that the overall Big Picture that we have about the workings of the universe does matter. We are creatures that need to give interpretation to our place in the universe, and by better understanding how the universe was formed and emerged in its present state.

    That being said, I just finished chapter 3, and I am not sure what to make his perspective, which seems a little polyannaism--to trust that goodness will always come out of seeming disasters. Yes, the universe overall produced conscious life through evolutionary processes that sometimes included seemingly negative short-term results, but I can't quite agree that we should always trust that the universe will always carry the day.

    But so far, that's a small quibble. I like his overall belief in the importance of evolution as something to be celebrated and that enhances our religious experience.

    I actually would like to recommend another book that also celebrates the workings of our evolutionary universe from a Christian perspective--"Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos", by Bruce Sanguin.

  8. Thanks Rob and Paul (that was fast). Do you keep Michael and Connie's schedule, too?

    Monkey--you just like to see Baby Jesus cry.

    Grace--I think the issue is bigger. Evolution is a bigger story than, say, the Bible story. The story of the Universe is larger than any story in any of our religions.

    Mystical--Thanks for the link to that book. I have already ordered it. You know, I do find Michael Dowd a little too happy now and then. But, he is right. This too shall pass.

  9. please tell me what is wrong with happy? not enough dreary in the world to go around? don't worry... be happy!

  10. Thanks for the further link to books on this subject Mystical. Here is one more I find very relavent:

    Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. Keith B. Miller, editor. Eerdmans.

    Also, one of the best arguments on theodicy I have ever read was written by the philosopher of religion John Hick called Evil and a God of love. It is a classic, and personally, I think his philosophy is very cogent.

  11. Rob, I definitely would like to read that John Hick book. I really like his views on theological pluralism, which strongly influenced my beliefs.

  12. You know, I do find Michael Dowd a little too happy now and then. But, he is right. This too shall pass.

    Sometimes bad things happen for no reason and they serve no greater purpose. I get the feeling from Dowd that he is arguing that every bad thing always leads to something good. I just don't buy that. For example, try telling a Jew that the holocaust served some greater good. Some evils are just evil, period.

    That being said, I do agree that there is some value in taking things in stride, knowing that "this, too shall pass", and trying to be optimistic about life.

  13. Mystical, John Hick has greatly influenced my philosophy of religion too. I have read most of his works over the past 35+ years, and the two that I keep in my library, and even purchase new Reissued volumes when they come out, are listed below.

    Reference List

    1. Hick, John. Evil and the God of Love. Reissued ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan; 2007; c1966.

    2. Hick, John. Disputed Questions. New Haven: Yale University Press; 1993.

  14. With regards to the the fact of oganic evolution, I find the following questions meaningful:

    All evolutionary creature life is beset by certain inevitabilities. Consider the following:

    1. Is courage--strength of character--desirable? Then must man be reared in an environment which necessitates grappling with hardships and reacting to disappointments.

    2. Is altruism--service of one's fellows--desirable? Then must life experience provide for encountering situations of social inequality.

    3. Is hope--the grandeur of trust--desirable? Then human existence must constantly be confronted with insecurities and recurrent uncertainties.

    4. Is faith--the supreme assertion of human thought--desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe.

    5. Is the love of truth and the willingness to go wherever it leads, desirable? Then must man grow up in a world where error is present and falsehood always possible.

    6. Is idealism--the approaching concept of the divine--desirable? Then must man struggle in an environment of relative goodness and beauty, surroundings stimulative of the irrepressible reach for better things.

    7. Is loyalty--devotion to highest duty--desirable? Then must man carry on amid the possibilities of betrayal and desertion. The valor of devotion to duty consists in the implied danger of default.

    8. Is unselfishness--the spirit of self-forgetfulness--desirable? Then must mortal man live face to face with the incessant clamoring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor. Man could not dynamically choose the divine life if there were no self-life to forsake. Man could never lay saving hold on righteousness if there were no potential evil to exalt and differentiate the good by contrast.

    9. Is pleasure--the satisfaction of happiness--desirable? Then must man live in a world where the alternative of pain and the likelihood of suffering are ever-present experiential possibilities.