‘Thank God for Evolution' author visits Racine

The Journal Times

RACINE - The Rev. Michael Dowd and his wife, Connie Barlow, hit the road almost seven years ago and never looked back.

They've traveled around the country ever since, preaching what Dowd calls the good news about evolution.

Dowd will be in Racine on Tuesday as part of a visit to Wisconsin where he is giving about a dozen presentations based on his work as an evolutionary evangelist and his book "Thank God for Evolution."

The program starts at 7 p.m. at the Siena Center, 5635 Erie St.

The itinerant duo - Dowd, a former United Church of Christ minister, and Barlow, a published science writer - call the continent their home, in light of the fact that they haven't had a permanent residence since hitting the road.

Their mission is "popularizing a sacred understanding of evolution" and "healing the science and religion gulf," Dowd said during a cell phone interview Monday from Madison, where he was giving presentations.

Raised as a Roman Catholic, Dowd, 49, had a "born-again experience" in his early 20s and spent years embracing what he calls a fundamentalist view that evolution was of the devil.

A series of events contributed to Dowd's conversion from evolutionary skeptic to evolutionary evangelist.

Dowd eventually enrolled in Evangel University, where he says he learned that most evangelical colleges and universities taught evolution.

He also met a Buddhist Christian who fully embraced evolution and convinced him that a scientific worldview didn't have to contradict a person's deeply-held religious beliefs.

Based on his experience, Dowd understands why some deeply religious people dismiss evolution.

"If you just say the word evolution, to many religious conservatives, what they think of is a chance, meaningless, purposeless, godless, directionless process," Dowd said. "It's not a surprise to me that religious conservatives are not climbing over themselves to embrace that idea of evolution."

Dowd said the fear among many religious fundamentalists is that if someone doesn't believe the biblical account of creation in Genesis to be the literal truth, then they wouldn't trust anything in the Bible.

Dowd doesn't take that argument head-on. He believes people can have a deeper understanding of biblical concepts.

While he travels the country preaching about evolution, Dowd said he isn't necessarily trying to convert anyone.

"I'm not trying to bang down the doors and go where I'm not invited," Dowd said.

Dowd's main audience tends to be moderate and liberal religious people who may already accept evolution. He admits he does a lot of preaching to the choir, but it's one of the most effective ways to get the message across, he said, which is important.

"Until churches in America preach and teach evolution in an inspiring, faith-building way, we're never going to see an end to the science and religion war in this country," Dowd said.

An ordained minister, Dowd no longer serves as a pastor at any church. He says he's now sort of a free agent. People who have attended his presentations have called him a cross between a Pentecostal preacher and astronomer Carl Sagan, Dowd said.

His message is an effort to inspire people to embrace both science and religion. It's a message he says builds bridges between the two, provides guidance and restores hope.

"I'm not just trying to reconcile the two things (science and religion). To me, they're mutually enriching," Dowd said. "I have a closer relationship to God now."