Evangelist spreads science-friendly gospel

Erie Times News

By Dana Massing 

The Rev. Michael Dowd once would argue with anyone who thought the world was more than 6,000 years old.Now, the former anti-evolution fundamentalist preaches a message that's gotten him nicknamed an evolutionary evangelist.Dowd will preach his "Gospel of Evolution" in Edinboro and Meadville this week.The Rev. Joanne Rowden, pastor of Unity in Edinboro, one of the churches hosting Dowd, heard him on the radio more than a year ago. She found his perspective refreshing."He had an approach to evolution where God wasn't taken out of the picture," Rowden said.

He's stopping two days at her church."Unity tends to be a place where we're open to ideas outside the traditional way of looking at things," Rowden said.Neither her congregation nor the one at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Meadville has talked a lot about evolution, but it's a topic of interest."We hope to enrich our own understanding of evolutionary topics, and to reach out to the community in a positive way on what can be a divisive topic," Rebecca Hecking said.She's a member of the Meadville church who read about Dowd and his wife, Connie Barlow, in 2006, and is largely responsible for their northwestern Pennsylvania visit. Dowd and Barlow, a science writer, have spent six years telling people across the U.S. about "evolution theology," a marriage of science and religion.A former Baptist and United Church of Christ pastor, Dowd presents evolution as theology, not theory, and science as divine revelation, according to a news release.He's the author of "Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World."Dowd will give presentations based on the book at both churches.He'll also speak Sunday during the Edinboro church's morning worship. Barlow will speak at the Meadville church's Sunday morning service. Her talk is titled "A Walk on the Wild Side: Your Brain's Creation Story."Hecking said the couple's message fits with her church and denomination, which respects the right of individuals to search for truth and meaning in their own lives and form their own opinions.More about Dowd's book is available online at www.thankgodforevolution.com.On the site, in response to a question about his enthusiasm about evolution, Dowd said, "I see sacred views of evolution as the Good News (the 'gospel') of our time, personally and collectively. I thank God for the entire 14-billion-year epic of cosmic, biological, and human emergence, because an inspiring interpretation of the history of everything and everyone builds bridges, provides guidance, and restores realistic hope for individuals and families, for humanity, and for the body of life as a whole."