Minister preaches 'Gospel of Evolution'

The Capital Times

by Samara Kalk Derby 

Michael Dowd, an ordained Christian minister and author of the recent book "Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World," told a Madison crowd Monday night that nothing matters more than what we think about evolution.

"Humans have always had to have a sacred story that honors objective truth and subjective meaning," the former anti-evolution fundamentalist told a crowd of about 350 in the auditorium of the just-completed $9.1 million addition to Madison's First Unitarian Society.

Dowd and his wife, acclaimed science writer Connie Barlow, have been traveling for the last six-and-a-half  years, living out of a van adorned with Jesus and Darwin fish kissing.

Known as "America's Evolutionary Evangelists," they travel the United States preaching the "Gospel of Evolution." Dowd's Monday night sermon followed three talks he gave at the First Unitarian Society over the weekend. Dowd will be presenting variations on his sermon again on Oct. 19 and Oct. 21 at Unity Church, 601 Tompkins Drive.

The religious advantage to embracing the evolutionary worldview, Dowd told the New York Times Magazine this summer, is that it explains our frailties, our addictions, our infidelities and other moral deficiencies as byproducts of adaptation over billions of years.

Dowd, a former pastor in the liberal United Church of Christ, has come to view evolution as a spiritually inspiring idea that God-fearing people must embrace. He calls his adopted religion "Religion 2.0."

Once people understand that sin is universal, they can get past it and play a conscious role in the evolution of humanity, he said.

It is important to realize religion, sanctify science, and reveal the true magnitude of both science and religion, Dowd told his Monday night audience. "It unmasks the powers of manipulation and clarifies our way into the future," he said.

Integrity is the key to alleviating suffering -- living life fully and loving the life you live, Dowd said. "What we do today will impact the world for good or ill for countless generations."

To end his lecture, Dowd quoted by heart the Rev. Thomas Berry, 93, a Catholic and cultural historian, who said: "The basic mood of the future might well be one of confidence in the continuing revelation that takes place in and through the Earth.

"If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the Earth, if this same dynamism brought forth the continents and the seas and atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell and then brought into being the unnumbered variety of living beings, and finally brought us into being and guided us safely through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relation to this stupendous process.

"Sensitized to such guidance from the very structure and functioning of the universe, we can have confidence in the future that awaits the human venture."