Minister has embraced sacred evolution

Gresham Outlook

Do you believe the biblical story of creation is literally true, symbolically true, a little of both, or none of the above?

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by Rob Cullivan

No matter what you believe, the Rev. Michael Dowd wants you to consider that there may be another story behind the creation story – and that’s the story of evolution. He’s presented his belief in “sacred evolution” to Christians, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics and other groups, and has earned kudos from scientists and religious thinkers alike for his work.Raised a devout Roman Catholic, Dowd became a born-again Christian while serving in the U.S. Army in Berlin and came to believe evolution was the devil’s lie. Now he believes it’s the honest-to-God truth.

Dowd, 49, notes that he met a number of Christians on his spiritual journey who also believed in evolution and who changed his mind on the subject. As he learned more about science and evolution, he saw them as pointing toward God, not away.

“For me, I wasn’t giving up something, I was gaining something,” he says during an interview regarding his upcoming appearances at three churches in the Portland/Vancouver area next weekend (see sidebar).

“What I was gaining was a sense of divine revelation that wasn’t going back a few thousand years, but going back millions of years. Science is showing us what God is revealing.”

Dowd has become a zealot for his faith, which reconciles evolution and religion, and has written about it in his book “Thank God for Evolution.” In his view, God is the ultimate “nest egg” of all that is, the “Ultimate Reality,” so to speak, out of which all other “eggs” are hatched – namely, all that is. Evolution is not some meaningless, random series of events, but a meaningful march of the universe trying to come to know itself.

One reason people have rejected evolution, he says, is because it’s taught as a coldhearted “survival of the fittest,” when it should be more accurately described as “survival of what fits.” On that note, cooperation among living things to survive is as much a component of evolution as competition, he says, noting that humans can take charge of their evolution by cooperating more, a stance religious and non-religious people alike can understand.

“Cooperative individuals and organizations will almost always out-compete non-cooperative individuals and organizations.”

He adds that he has Portland ties – he lived in the city from 1996 to 2000, and served as campaign manager for the Portland Sustainable Lifestyle Campaign, organizing “eco-teams” of neighbors who encouraged each other to live sustainable lifestyles, consuming less water and composting as just two examples.

He and his wife, science writer Connie Barlow, have spent the last several years on the road, as “evolutionary evangelists.” He adds that the gospel they preach contains elements that people of conservative, moderate and liberal mindsets can accept, even if they don’t always agree on other matters.

“What ultimately I think matters is how well we cooperate across ethnic, religious lines to co-create a just, healthy, beautiful and sustainable life-giving future.”