Thinking large spells end of evolution 'war'

Austrailian Herald Sun

by Bryan Patterson


MICHAEL Dowd, a man with a passion for science and religion, calls himself an evolutionary evangelist.

Since 2002, the ordained United Church of Christ minister and his atheist wife, science writer Connie Barlow, have travelled the world celebrating evolution as a grand epic spiritual story.

They have dedicated their work to proclaiming the "great news of a sacred view of cosmic, biological and human evolution".

Dowd's book, Thank God For Evolution, attempts to unite rationality and spirituality.

It is timely, coming out on the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of The Origin of the Species.

Growing up in a Catholic family, Dowd was taught evolution was of the devil.

He believed Darwinism was the root of most social problems, and was deeply concerned for my friends and family, especially those "caught in the snares of a secular humanistic worldview".

"I even distributed anti-evolution tracts and was eager to debate anyone who thought the world was more than 6000 years old."

The shift in his thinking came in stages. He came to trust his religious teachers before he knew they held evolutionary world views.

He talks of no longer opposing evolution, "but wholeheartedly embracing it as the Great Story of 14 billion years of divine grace and creativity".

Dowd declares the war between science and religion is over. But he recognises that many of the religious still reject evolution.

"Religious believers can hardly be expected to embrace evolution if the only version they've been exposed to portrays the processes at work as merely competitive and pointless, even cruel, and thus Godless," he says.

"Is it any wonder that many on the conservative side of the theological spectrum find such a view repulsive, and that many on the liberal side accept evolution begrudgingly?

"Only when the evolutionary history of the universe is articulated in a way that conservative religious believers feel in their bones is holy, and in a way that liberal believers are passionately proud of, will evolution be widely and wholeheartedly embraced."

Dowd claims more than 95 per cent of the world's scientists, including those who are devoutly religious, agree on the "general flow" of natural history.

He quotes one of his parishioners, an 82-year-old amateur astronomer, gazing at the Milky Way and remarking: "You know, Reverend, the more I learn about this amazing universe, the more awesome my God becomes."

Years ago, the late Carl Sagan wrote in his book The Demon Haunted World: "We've arranged a global civilisation in which most crucial elements . . . profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology.

"This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces."

And writer A.N. Wilson, an atheist who returned to his Christian faith, said science could no more explain the universe than a clock, left to itself, could tell the time.

Wilson said he thought Christians could love God and agree with Darwin.

"But I think the jury is out about whether the theory of natural selection, as defined by neo-Darwinians, is true," he said. "But these are scientific, rather than religious, questions."

Recently, 12,000 clergy in the US signed a statement about science and religion declaring: "To argue that God's loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris."

The clergy, from many different traditions, jointly stated they believed that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science could comfortably co-exist.

"We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests," they said.

"To reject this truth or to treat it as one theory among others is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children.

"We believe that among God's good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator."