Shuck and Jive

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Michael Dowd Featured in Dahlman's Column

Jim Dahlman wrote a nice column about Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow who are in the Tri-Cities through Tuesday. It is today's Johnson City Press.

Preacher, Science Writer Teach on Faith, Evolution

Nothing matters more at this time in history than what people think about evolution.”

We might expect that kind of universal claim to come from a passionate evangelist, and in a way that’s correct. Except that this preacher, Michael Dowd, says evolution is the good news.

Dowd, ordained in the United Church of Christ, and his wife of seven years, science writer Connie Barlow, travel the country full-time, preaching and teaching a surprising message: Rather than threaten or undermine faith, evolution can sustain, inform and even motivate religious belief.

“Both of us have this passion of telling the story of evolution in an inspiring way,” Dowd explained in a phone conversation this week. “We share the same purpose of communicating a science-based vision of the universe in a religious way.”

They bring their message to Northeast Tennessee on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, speaking at Holston Valley Unitarian-Universalist Church and First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton. (For details, call the Rev. Jacqueline Luck at 477-7661 or the Rev. John Shuck at 543-7737.)

Dowd published a 430-page book last fall with an eyecatching title: “Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World” (Viking). He also runs a Web site (

His missionary zeal for “evolutionary theology” comes from a conviction that evolution itself provides meaning to existence by creating — yes, creating — a “holy trajectory” from simplicity to ever-greater complexity.

“Humans are part of that process,” Dowd said. “The universe became complex enough so that it could be aware of itself. We’re not separate from nature. It’s nature becoming aware of itself.” (Read More)

You might be amused by the comments on in response to the letter Jacqueline and I had published in the Bristol Herald-Courier. Here are a few samples:

If you reject the book of Genesis you might as well throw out the entire Bible because NOTHING makes sense without it. If you accept millions (or billions) of years of death and destruction then Christ’s death is totally nonsensical. There is no getting around it. If you accept evolution and millions of years then you have to invent your own religion, and write your own Bible because the Bible that you have now is completely at odds with what you believe.

You know that writer may be correct. I personally have thrown out the Bible as any source regarding science or history. It is poetry, saga, myth. I certainly embrace a different religion than fundamentalist Christianity. Here is another...
Science must be kept clear of religion and politics. I call on again to put the Bible or at least intelligent design back in schools as long they misuse science to promote atheism or promote environmental occultism under the guise “saving the planet.” Stay away from this Rev. Dowd.
Science must be clear of religion and politics, so let's teach the Bible as science in schools. That comment reflects the weird spin of fundies that evolution is a religion.

Jacqueline and I stand by our statement in our letter regarding the widespread misconception between faith and science.

It also reflects a crying need for both religious and scientific literacy in our communities.
Many clergy professionals feel it is imperative to help people, especially people of faith, understand science.
Michael Dowd responded a couple of times on that forum. I thought this was good:

1) I’m not an atheist, nor a pantheist, nor am I a “former” evangelical. I’m an evolution-celebrating, God-honoring, evolutionary theist.

2) There is nothing “New Age” about the Evolution Theology my wife and I teach and preach. The reason that 5 Nobel laureates and dozens of other scientific and religious leaders, including theologians, bishops, priests, ministers, rabbis, and other luminaries across the theological spectrum - from Catholics and Quakers to Baptists and Buddhists - have endorsed my book “Thank God for Evolution” is precisely because it is grounded in our best scientific understandings. Well over 95% of the scientists of the world would agree that we live in, and as part of, an evolving universe of increasing complexity and co-operation at larger and wider scale over time. This is a well established fact, not a belief.

3) The real God is hardly inconsequential and trivial. But our ideas of God and beliefs about God usually ARE trivial - especially in light of the Reality of God - which will always be more than we can ever know, think, or imagine.

I invite those who are curious to come see/hear for yourself at either Holston Valley UU in Gray or at First Presbyterian in Elizabethton.

If you’d like, you can also download my Promises, Introduction, Prologue, and Chapter 1 of my book for free here:

God’s blessings to all.

~ Michael

We have stirred the pot. You should know that I have had a number of calls affirming what we are doing in this area.

Bottom line: I don't really care what people believe in terms of their faith. Just don't mess with science and the teaching of science. Don't introduce your religion into our schools.

For those people of faith who are sincerely struggling with how to make sense of their faith with science, Dowd may be able to help. The solution is not messing with science, it is in revising your faith.

It will be interesting to see who comes to the worship and workshops beginning tomorrow! If you are in the area, I hope you will!

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