Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Evolutionary Christianity at PSF Tonight!

Tonight we are going to watch and discuss the DVD Evolutionary Christianity with Rev. Michael Dowd. Michael is the author of Thank God For Evolution.

Rather than think that evolution is a threat to faith, Dowd shows how evolution can inspire deeper faith.

It is a fascinating tour of the great story of our universe.

Michael Dowd and his wife and partner, Connie Barlow, visited us a few years ago. You can read a number of blog posts about the visit including this one.

Join us at seven for supper and the program to follow.

Invite friends. All are welcome!

Presbyterian Progressive Student Fellowship
1412 College Heights Road


  1. Seems to me that this kind of program sends exactly the wrong message about religion and evolutionary biology.

    Please don't misunderstand. I have no problem with evolution. I am surely no expert, but I have read Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle, and On the Origin of Species with much enjoyment and appreciation. I have read a few of our more contemporary popular science writers (Stephen Jay Gould, mostly). So, again, I am no expert, but I have no problem whatsoever with a conflict between Christianity and evolutionary biology.

    Where I do have a problem, though, is where the science of evolution is used to give a psuedo-scientific cast to a system of ideas using similar terms or models. Talking about human history in terms of childhood/adolescence/adulthood is fine, if you think that sort of thing is helpful. But it's got nothing to do with the emergence of animal and plant species due to random variation and natural selection. It's really hijacking evolution to use it for a non-scientific purpose. The same with talking about "spiritual evolution," or "evolutionary ethics." These things may or may not have some validity, but they certainly don't meet the ordinary criteria for scientific truth.

    And that, in itself, might not be objectionable if it didn't reinforce the suspicions of many that evolution really isn't science, but an ideology used to give the prestige of science to any number of innovations that they oppose. What does it say to people like that, people who hardly read anything, much less Darwin, when evolution is embraced by progressive Chrisitianity as a support for progressive Christianity? My guess is that it confirms their suspicions that evolution is a "front" for dispensing with traditional morality and religion, and they will fight all the more attempts to teach it in the schools; after all, no religious or political instituion goes out of its way to celebrate the universal law of gravity or the general theory of relativity.

    We mentally separate the earliest misuses of the evolutionary paradigm with the distinct term, "social Darwinism." And the misuse was quite serious--anyone who's read much from the last hundred years will come across how Marxists, fascists, even monopoly capitalists, seized on biological models to promote varous modes of "natural selection."

    I don't say one should never use models or analogies from biology in social or spiritual expression. But since doing so has nothing to do with being scientific, it runs the risk, if it misconceives or misrepresents what it is doing, of discrediting genuine science, and making the task of spreading real scientific literacy more difficult.

  2. Well, gee rick... All your points are well made, but you might consider that you've posted them on a minister's blog site. They'd be more fitting in a context absent of any spiritual concerns.

    Michael Dowd is also a minister. His business is to address matters of the theological and spiritual. Of course he is at liberty to hijack Darwinism. Why should he not? Because sprituality at its roots is inevitably intellectually dishonest? It is, but man does not live by head alone.

    I think you have some misconceptions about Dowd's presentation. It's more about astrophysics than anything else. He makes some mention of biological evolution, but not much.
    What he does say about evolution is that it is a fact, and that accepting evolution, and indeed, cosmology on the whole can enhance the quality of the spiritual lives of those who choose to believe in God. I don't necessarily agree with Dowd, but he does do some things to quell the fervor of the science deniers.

  3. I participated in some of the online presentations this past summer. Evolutionary Christianity is not about the science of evolution, it is about Christians being willing to consider what we now know about the nature of the universe (cosmology) and incorporate that into our religious practice.

    This is precisely what Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox has been talking about since the 1980s with his theology of Creation Spirituality (original blessing, not original sin).

    This gets us quickly into discussions about who/what is God? and other life and death issues, and how our cosmology speaks to meaning.

    It should be a fascinating evening. I'd love to teleport in, but we haven't reached that level of technology yet . . .

  4. This is a helpful conversation. I think theology and meaning-making is always in the process of hijacking what we know from other fields.

    Genesis 1 hijacked what our ancestors in the Ancient Near East new about the cosmos and infused it with meaning.

    Dowd (and others) are attempting the same with what we know.

    The obvious problem is that wooden interpretations of our inherited religion have made it difficult to embrace new scientific knowledge and this in turn has stunted our creativity regarding constructive theology (which I now call hijacking) for what we are discovering.

    Dowd's conclusions are less important to me than that he is giving it a college try.

  5. Agreed. This is why I hang with the Unitarian Universalists and have been part of starting a UU Christian group that meets at 10 a.m. on the first Sunday of every month.

    We have had negative blow-back from some former fundies, who found refuge in UU, but most vociferously from a former Jew, who can't get his head around putting Christianity and theological Inclusiveness into the same bowl. Stunted creativity indeed!