Trying to meld religion, science

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

by Gene Taylor

The keynote speaker at a Texas Wesleyan University forum says that religious teachings don't belong in public school science classes, but students should have the chance to take courses that discuss how science can enrich their religious faith.

Michael Dowd, author of Thank God For Evolution, said that such courses could come under the umbrella of humanities or worldview classes.

Dowd travels the country with his wife, Connie Barlow, spreading the message that science and religion enrich each other. He will take his message to Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth on Tuesday as part of its annual University College Day, an event that includes exhibits and discussions about topics such as literature, science, math and social studies. Dowd was invited because his comments will likely spark a lot of conversations, said Bob Landolt, Texas Wesleyan chemistry professor.

"There's been some controversy," he said. "That's not the point of bringing him to Texas Wesleyan."

Dowd says he doesn't "believe" in evolution. He "accepts the overwhelming evidence of evolution." He also said he doesn't "merely believe in God. I know God. I have a personal relationship with God."

He makes the point in his book that "my intent is to help you see what I see - science and religion can be mutually enriching. We are in the early stages of one of the most far-reaching transformations into which human consciousness has ever ascended.

"Today's conflict between science and religion is the catalyst by which both will mature in healthy ways. Neither will drive the other into extinction.  . . .  Here is my vision: Within the first half of this century, virtually all of us - believers and nonbelievers alike - will come to appreciate that evolution is a gift to religion and that meaning-making is a gift to science. As the religions come to embrace the science-based history of the cosmos, each tradition's core insights will be accessed in larger, more realistic ways than ever before."

Dowd will travel to a state polarized by the evolution issue. Last month, the State Board of Education reached a compromise on the teaching of evolution. The board dropped a 20-year-old requirement that "strengths and weaknesses" of all scientific theories be taught in public schools. But the panel agreed that students should be encouraged to scrutinize "all sides" of scientific theories, a move some believe allows for creationist teachings.

Eilene Theilig, who has worked in both worlds, said she sides with Dowd. She was the project manager for NASA's Galileo, sent to explore Jupiter, before she sought a master's degree in divinity in 2003. She now directs lay and continuing education at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.

"I can't deny what the physical world teaches us about the origin of our diverse life-forms," she said. "Science reveals the complexity, immensity and beauty of our natural world. And this expands my appreciation of a creator God."

This report includes material from The Associated Press.