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Rev. Michael Dowd's "Gospel of Evolution" Roadshow celebrates 'Year of Darwin'
NORTH AMERICA - As museums and universities the world over celebrate dual anniversaries for Charles Darwin in 2009, Reverend Michael Dowd, author of Thank GOD for EVOLUTION (Viking/Plume), a bold new book praised by both Nobel laureates and religious leaders, enters his 8th straight year traveling the country with his popular Gospel of Evolution Roadshow. In his dynamic sermons and seminars, awestruck audiences across America are wowed by Dowd's evolutionary epiphanies about the meaning of life and the current global integrity crisis.
Rev. Dowd, an ordained evangelical preacher, and his wife Connie Barlow, a noted science writer—author of From Gaia to Selfish Genes (MIT Press), Evolution Extended (MIT Press), and The Ghosts of Evolution (Basic Books)—have traveled North America nonstop since 2002, living out of a Dodge Sprinter named "Angel." Together, the unconventional couple teach and preach an understanding of evolution that they say is "beyond biology or belief." In Dowd's 90-minute presentation, The Gospel According to Science: Evolutionary Good News, he shares a meaningful "God's eye view" of everything from mircrobes to supernovas.
According to Dowd, a former fundamentalist who once argued with anyone who thought the Universe was more than 6,000 years old, "Evolution is the divine designer, and nothing matters more than accepting this as a fact of life."
"Facts are God's native tongue," says Dowd. "God didn't stop revealing truth vital to human wellbeing back when our ancestors recorded their revelations on parchment and preserved them in clay pots. God is still communicating truth today through both religious insights and scientific discoveries. The words 'God' and 'evolution' are pointing to the same divine creative process. Both help us answer the question, How did we get here? One uses the night language of religion, the other the day language of science. Arguing whether it was God or evolution that created everything is like debating whether it was Gaia or plate tectonics that pushed up Mt. Everest."
Dowd's breakthrough book and mobile ministry aim to give voice to a growing movement of millions in the middle that leading polls show see no conflict between religion and reason. The courageous couple have invited battle-fatigued fundamentalists on both sides of the Darwin vs. Design debate to end the war of words and join a new conversation about Creation. In response, scientific luminaries and mainstream ministers—from Baptists to Buddhists—have lined up to praise the Pentecostal preacher, whose meta-religious message is liberating literalists left, right, and center.
"Only the marriage of science and religion can provide the real moral guidance needed to live in deep integrity," teaches Dowd.
Rev. Dowd's unorthodox ministry focuses not only on what evolution reveals about the past, but on its prophetic possibilities for a hopeful future far beyond the doomsday scenarios that have dominated popular thinking for decades. "These are not the End Times," cautions Rev. Dowd. "According to the rock record, humanity only emerged yesterday in geological time. We have an eternity ahead of us to get to know our Creator and our place in the cosmos."
To Dowd, religious doctrines such as 'the Fall' and 'Original Sin' are best understood as "night language," which points to the unchosen nature of inherited instincts that ensured the survival of our ancient ancestors but that have become a burden in modern life, such as personal struggles around food and sex.
"Nothing is more personally empowering than accepting an evolutionary understanding of our true nature," teaches Dowd. "Because I now know how my brain evolved, I've stopped struggling with outdated beliefs about my sinful nature. Thanks to the integrity practices in Thank GOD for EVOLUTION, I now have no resentments, no secrets, and no unfinished business."
From crumbling economies to collapsing ecosystems, humanity is experiencing an unprecedented global integrity crisis. "Integrity is everything," preaches Dowd. "With it, heaven on Earth is ours. Without it, hell inevitably follows. Coming home to Reality, or what my tradition calls getting right with God, is the only way we will ever experience 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.' Evolution matters. Without a meaningful deep-time perspective grounded in measurable reality, we can't possibly know what integrity is-much less know how to live in it. Whether you believe we are a product of chance or design, free will is the X factor that will determine our future. The choice to evolve is ours, and that's good news!"
Raised Roman Catholic, the now roving reverend became a born again Christian following a mountaintop experience on a solo backpacking trip, while serving in the U.S. Army in Berlin, Germany. Feeling called to a new kind of service, Dowd went on to graduate with highest honors from Evangel University, with a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Philosophy, and then earned a Master of Divinity degree from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary (now Palmer Theological Seminary). He later pastored churches in Massachusetts, Michigan, and Ohio.
"People always ask me how an atheist science writer and an evangelical Christian preacher can find enough common ground to get married," says Dowd. "It's because Connie and I share a passion for teaching and preaching the Epic of Evolution—the science-based history of the Universe—in deeply meaningful ways that inspire people to cooperate across religious differences. I preach a universal gospel that makes traditional religious insights real in ways our flat-earth forefathers could only imagine and attempt to convey through parable and metaphor. Fossils now deepen my faith, not test it. I see them as proof positive of the amazing grace that has guided us safely through billions of years of evolution. Today, when I learn of new DNA discoveries or see the latest NASA images, or when I think about how we actually are made of stardust, I don't reject these discoveries for conflicting with the Genesis account of creation. I embrace them, religiously! Studying evolution is like following cosmic breadcrumbs home."
In the 1990s, Rev. Dowd expanded his mission and became a religious organizer for the National Environmental Trust. He went on to manage the Sustainable Lifestyle Campaign in Portland, Oregon, and Global Action Plan's EcoTeam and Livable Neighborhood Programs in Rockland County, New York.
Today, Michael and Connie have no permanent home and travel from town to town, hosted by churchgoers and supporters along the way. The two have spoken to more than a thousand church, college, and community groups since first setting out seven years ago.
This year marks the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory, and the 150th anniversary of his magnum opus, On the Origin of Species. Major museums and leading universities the world over have planned year-long celebrations to honor the controversial scientist and his contributions. This May in Rome, even the Vatican will host its own conference honoring Darwin.
"For years, I demonized Darwin and clung to religious beliefs as fire insurance that would save me from a hellish afterlife," says Dowd. "Now, I thank God for Charles Darwin. Other than Jesus' teachings, nothing has transformed my understanding of God and deepened by faith more than Darwin's revelation about our true nature. Darwin's great gift to us is a real God. He lifted the veil and gave us our first glimpse of just how God created us over these billions of years."
"The science versus religion debate is over. Michael Dowd masterfully unites rationality and spirituality in a worldview that celebrates the mysteries of existence and inspires each human being to achieve a higher purpose in life," said Craig Mello, a 2006 Nobel laureate.
"In Thank GOD for EVOLUTION, Michael Dowd has produced a thoughtful, timely, challenging–and readable–synthesis of science and spirituality. This compelling book is the product of candid reflection on the religious and ethical significance of evolution and contemporary cosmology in the spirit of Thomas Berry and Teilhard de Chardin," said John Haught, Distinguished Professor of Theology at Georgetown University.
"Finally, a God that makes sense!" remarked an atheist audience member at a Colorado presentation.
"The Universe took 13.7 billion years to produce this amazing book. I'm often asked how science and religion can coexist. This is a wonderful answer," said John Mather, NASA Senior Astrophysicist and 2006 Nobel laureate in physics.
"For Catholics who are worried that evolution has nothing to offer them but random Godlessness, this is the book to get. The courageous will discover the same joy, energy, and spirituality that fill the author as he explores an evolutionary view of God and Creation. Take courage and read it!" said Chris Corbally, Vice Director of the Vatican Observatory.
"We're fortunate to have Micahel Dowd on our side – the 'our' being humanity. His discussion of evolutionary integrity was especially meaningful to me." said Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine.
"Thank God for Michael Dowd! How wonderful that a pastor shows how religious inspiration can be drawn from contemplating evolution and the beauty and diversity of the living world," said Francisco J. Ayala, Professor of Biology and Philosophy at the University of California Irvine and past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"An itinerant preacher who teaches evolution in the evangelical style? I was skeptical at first, but Dowd remains true to both science and the spirit of religion. He understands that what most people need to accept evolution is not more facts, but an appreciation of what evolution means for our value systems and everyday lives," said David Sloan Wilson, Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University.
"Michael Dowd shows how a spiritually alive consciousness must embrace evolution and understand it in the wider context of a world filled with the presence of God," said Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun and National Chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. "His approach offers much from which people of all faiths can learn."
"Dowd shows that there are many ways to be a spiritual person and that all of them are enriched by an understanding of modern science, especially evolution. Many will find their faith revolutionized," offered Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education.
"In this book Michael Dowd seeks to bridge the uneasy gap between religion and science. Both sides will be suspicious of his efforts. His work is, however, a step toward that ultimate truth in which both religion and science will finally be reconciled," said retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of the best-selling books Why Christianity Must Change or Die and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism.