Where Jesus meets Darwin

Erie Times News

Traveling minister spreads his 'Gospel of Evolution'

by Dana Massing

EDINBORO -- The white van parked outside the church had a pair of kissing fish painted on the side, red hearts above them. Inside the black outline of one fish was the name "Jesus." Inside the other fish, which had feet, was the name "Darwin." Inside the church, the Rev. Michael Dowd was preaching the marriage of religion and science. "

Science and religion can be mutually enriching," Dowd said before his talk. "Faith and reason can strengthen each other." It's a "Gospel of Evolution" that he and his wife, Connie Barlow, deliver around the United States. Dowd did his "Thank God for Evolution" program Monday night at Unity in Edinboro, 130 Meadville St. He'll talk tonight at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Meadville. His wife, who wasn't at Unity on Monday, spoke in Meadville on Sunday.
Dowd, 49, an ordained Christian minister, and Barlow, 56, a science writer, present evolution as theology and science as divine revelation.

"What I'm trying to accomplish," Dowd said, "is basically to help people see that evolution -- and when I say evolution, what I'm meaning is the history of the universe, the history of cosmos, Earth, life, humanity, so basically the entire history of the universe that our best science is giving us, what 97, 98 percent of the scientists of the world agree with -- how that can be understood in a God-glorifying way, that is a sacred way, a meaningful way, an inspiring way. In a way that will motivate people to be of service in the world, to add their creative energies toward creating a healthy world and to live lives of greater compassion, love, integrity, commitment."

Dowd said most people think evolution and religion are opposites. He said he and his wife try to show how a mainstream scientific understanding of the universe can deepen people's faith.
The husband and wife, sometimes called evolutionary evangelists, try "to show people how a holy view of evolution can inspire people to give their lives in service to a healthy world and to do so with religious devotion," Dowd said.

Twenty-seven people turned out to hear what he had to say Monday at Unity.
Nancy Vandenhonert, 58, of Waterford, took notes in the back of her copy of Dowd's book, "Thank God for Evolution! How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World."

Vandenhonert, a Presbyterian, said she's in an ongoing debate with someone about intelligent design and wanted to hear Dowd to help her express herself on the issue.

She said she sees validity in evolution.

"I've always thought there had to be a way for the two to not be fighting each other, to be compatible," she said. "I want to find that connection."

It's a link that Dowd once refused to consider.

He grew up Roman Catholic and went to an evangelical college. After withdrawing from a class that taught evolution, he told his roommate, "Satan obviously has a foothold in this school."

But his view changed, so much so that he and his wife have been "homeless" for six years.

They travel and sleep in the van with the kissing fish.

They take along laminated photos of stars and nebulae and galaxies, and talk about God as "ultimate reality."
"Studying evolution is like following cosmic breadcrumbs home," Dowd said. "Dinosaur bones and prehistoric artifacts, Hubble space photos and DNA are here to teach us faith, not test it."