He gives thanks for evolution

San Diego Union-Tribune

By David Hasemyer

To make a point, the Rev. Michael Dowd drops to his knees and scoops an imaginary handful of dust to his face and breathes deeply.

The biblical scripture Dowd is pantomiming comes from Genesis and says: "God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."

But Dowd doesn't see that as strict evidence of creationism, that mankind was created in that instant. He instead interprets it in a way to support his naturalist beliefs that evolution is responsible for mankind and the planet we live on today.

"It is a poetic way of saying we emerged from the Earth," he said.

Yesterday, Dowd brought his message that science and theology can coexist to a receptive congregation at Vision: A Center for Spiritual Living in Tierrasanta. He will speak again at 7 Wednesday evening at the Chalice Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Escondido, 2324 Miller Ave.

Dowd calls himself an evolutionary evangelist who tries to bridge the gap between the Bible and evolution.

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, says God created Earth and everything on it over six days. Evolution says Earth and its life forms developed from primordial organisms over billions of years.

That seems to be an inevitable collision of science and faith.

Dowd says it doesn't have to be.

"God speaks though empirical evidence," he said. "Science is God revealing his truths."

Dowd, a former United Church of Christ minister, has written a book, "Thank God for Evolution," in which he encourages another way of thinking about science and religion.

He and his wife, Connie Barlow, a science writer, travel the country in a van with a silhouette drawing of two fish, one labeled Jesus and the other called Darwin, kissing each other with red hearts above them.

The Darwin fish, depicted with tiny appendages signifying the creature's evolution, symbolizes Charles Darwin, considered one of the first evolutionary biologists.

Together they represent how understanding the evolution of the universe strengthens faith.

"This is God working in disguise," Dowd said.

Despite Dowd's receptive audience, not everyone embraces his position, Vision's the Rev. Patti Paris said. More conservative Christians say evolutionary teachings do nothing to provide answers to solemn questions such as what is the purpose of everyone's life.

Paris argues that it does, and embraces Dowd's reasoning.

"There are those kinds of questions that prompt us to look within ourselves," she said. "Evolution has given us the power of reason so that we may be able to answer those questions using the Bible for guidance."

So Dowd makes sense when considering God as both eminent and transcendental, Paris said.

"It means God can be seen as the creator and evolution as the method of creation," she said.