Ordained minister speaks on human evolution

The California Aggie

by David Bellumori

Sample ImageThe Reverend Michael Dowd spoke Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis on new ways of thinking about evolution, the universe and humanity's place in the world.Among celestial images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of spinning galaxies, Dowd described this way of thinking as a "creationist story" untied to religious, ethnic or political groups.Dowd and his wife have traveled the country for the last four years speaking to audiences in high schools, colleges and congregations to spread their message. They try to work with as many different groups as possible, including atheists, Buddhists, Christians, American Indians and anyone else willing to listen.

Together, they are among the most popular presenters of the United Universalist Association and have spoken to over 170 congregations in the last three years.Dowd's talk centered on how Darwinian evolution can be described as part of a "14-billion-year, sacred story" that melds the spheres of science and religion to provide a common ground for atheists, theists, pantheists, humanists and spiritual seekers.Tom Jankowski, an organizer of the talk and member of the Davis Unitarian Universalist church said by his count 115 people were in attendance to hear the talk.Jankowski noted he found Dowd's talks, of which this is his fourth, "inspiring" and that they have helped him to reconnect with all other world species.Drawing on ideas of science, religion, philosophy, linguistics and literature, Dowd described evolution as the process of the universe becoming conscious of its own existence."Looking through a telescope is the world looking at itself and saying, 'wow!'" Dowd said. "We [humanity] are the universe becoming self conscious."As evidence of what Dowd called the universe's move toward "greater and greater levels of complexity," he systematically advances through evolutionary history, from the simplest molecules to mammals up to today's nation-states and what he called "biocracy."

Dowd identifies biocracy as a "form of governance that takes into account not only the interests of all humanity but all other species in the biosphere."Dowd also criticized traditional views that separate or privilege humanity over the rest of the species on the planet as well as the conception of Earth as a simple store of unused resources and raw material.After initial remarks, Dowd opened the floor to questions from the audience. Issues of sustainable civilization, petroleum, war and spirituality topped the list of concerns from the audience.Dowd touched on global terror and noted that power structures and conventions in existence until now will be unable to continue indefinitely in the future with the ever-increasing power of action that individuals and groups have via technology.Dowd's speech concluded with a discussion of what he considers likely events for the next 250 years of human society based upon extrapolation from the past.By the end of the talk, Dowd's jovial manner and plethora of information managed to bring most of the crowd to the literal edges of their seats.Gabriel Goeson, a Davis resident and practicing Zen Buddhist, lauded Dowd's speech and ideas."I really wish he could have kept going, I just didn't want the talk to end," Goeson said.