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Rev. Michael Dowd: Thank God For Evolution
Posted: 15 August 2008 02:22 PM   [ Ignore ]
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The Reverend Michael Dowd, along with his wife, science writer Connie Barlow, have lived permanently on the road for years, sharing a “sacred view of evolution” with religious and secular audiences of all ages. His new book is Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World.

In this interview with D.J. Grothe, Michael Dowd discusses his new book Thank God for Evolution, which is a religious defense of the central organizing theory of modern biology. He reveals the agenda of the book, and the reception it has received from both the scientific and the religious communities. He explains his religious background, and how he has adopted a thoroughly “naturalized” religion that he calls “Religion 2.0,” compatible with and integrated with evolution, and which rejects the supernatural or the “unnatural.” He details why he has become an “evangelist for evolution” and why the “gospel of evolution” has been so popular for both the religious and the secular audiences he has spoken to over the last six and a half years. He expounds his “evolution theology,” and how the traditionally religious can embrace the facts of evolution, which he considers the most important religious act they can commit.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org

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Posted: 15 August 2008 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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[ Edited: 19 August 2008 04:52 PM by jholt ]
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Posted: 15 August 2008 07:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Listening to this, I understand that Rev. Dowd seems to be describing his point of view as pantheism, and I can’t grasp what the point of it is.  If the universe is god is the metaphor, then doesn’t god lose all meaning?  My impression is that he’s really an atheist, but he can’t seem to admit it.  An impersonal and unknowable god seems like no god at all, at least from a teleological point of view.

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Posted: 15 August 2008 10:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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after hearing this whole interview, it sounds like this guy is trying to convert atheists to christianity or some sort of religiosity subtly

The bottom line is this - give evidence for a supernatural entity or zip it.

I don’t care for the blending of spirituality and the actual world. - I don’t even think the word spiritual has any meaning whatsoever.  This is a lot of hot air.

I would have trouble even communicating with this person.  I am ultimately a materialist.  His vocabulary is murky or unclear and dilluted with religious terminology.  It’s irritating.

HOW is this man a reverend? - HOW?  he says “facts are god’s native tongue” - uh so there IS a supernatural entity who made the universe- is THAT how he is a reverend? - if so then no thx, I don’t believe in supernatural entities like ghosts, faeries, spirits, demons, or invisible people with magic powers I just don’t and somehow he’s trying to use religious lingo to spout out science -

I remember people calling Richard Dawkins the high priest of evolution - and it made me irritated - well this guy is full of it - thx but the empirical facts and the rule of parsimony say not to posit additionals unnecessarily and this guy is all over the place -

I’d never buy his book and I hope it does poorly lool-

incidentally my cat is a member of the universal life church - an ordained minister too - mabye he should write or scratch out a book - i bet it would be more interesting

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Posted: 15 August 2008 11:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Why exactly did DJ suggest that Dowd was “Christian-lite”? Though I personally happen to reject any particular conception (even more abstract or earthy ones) of God, the Divine, Ultimate Reality, or whatever, I also reject the practice of the so-called “new atheists” to define Christianity and the religions in only the most narrow, fundamentalist terms. This is an occurrence I have often encountered in discussions, atheists and agnostics telling Christians that they’re not really Christians because they don’t believe in A, B, and C.

Shouldn’t the Christian be able to define for his or individual self what exactly it is to be a Christian?

I understand that DJ was originally Christian himself, but frankly I find it a bit arrogant that he would suggest that the particular form or thought process of the Christianity he belonged to is the ONLY form of authentic Christianity. Many fundamentalists, for instance, regard Catholicism as a kind of distorted version of the Christian faith, if they even regard it as being Christian at all. If we’re looking only to Christian fundamentalists for our definition of Christianity, then shouldn’t we then leave out things like the Inquisition, Crusades, etc. when criticizing the Christian religion? After all, according to the fundamentalists, Catholicism is barely Christianity at all. Do the new atheists agree?

Catholicism, which is the largest denomination of Christianity, also teaches (however wrongly) that there is no inherent contradiction between evolutionary theory and the Christian faith, which is why you have a Catholic like Dr. Kenneth Miller providing damning testimony against ID at Dover and co-authoring the high school textbook for biology, or a Catholic like Francisco Ayala spending time as president of the AAAS and being awarded the National Medal of Science. Interestingly enough, something so important to science as Big Bang theory itself can be traced back to the “hypothesis of the primeval atom,” proposed by none other than a Catholic astrophysicist, Fr. Georges LemaĆ®tre (who eventually served at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences). According to the way many of my fellow atheists define Christianity, these people aren’t real Christians at all since they don’t accept a literal reading of Genesis, one of the staples of true Christianity. Yet, their church says they don’t have to. Is then Catholicism itself Christian-lite, and only Protestantism actual Christianity?

Hey, but wait. Biblical criticism had its advent in the Lutheran church, so literalism is obviously not a given there. What about the Episcopal Church? Isn’t their presiding bishop, Katherine Schori, a marine biologist? Are those another two churches gone Christian-lite?

The way I see it, I as a non-believer have no business questioning the sincerity of faith of any Christian. A great example of the nonsense of such a practice is Sam Harris, who on pg. 21 of “The End of Faith” accuses religious moderates of “scriptural ignorance” (something repeated in Susan Jacoby’s otherwise excellent “The Age of American Unreason”). He, a neuroscientist in training, is in effect claiming to be more aware of authentic Biblical teachings than somebody like John Dominic Crossan, a Biblical scholar, and [like most serious Biblical scholars and theologians] a moderate, who was educated at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. Sorry, but I think that’s just nuts.

Fact is, Christians who accept evolutionary biology as fact and shape their Christianity accordingly aren’t doing anything different than what Augustine and the other church fathers did when they Hellenized the Christian faith to make it more acceptable to the world of their time. Their way of understanding and explaining the Christian faith was distinctly Greek, not Jewish. Indeed, all of the most hollowed of Christians dogmas, such as the Trinity, two natures of Christ, etc. were fashioned in a Greek philosophical vocabulary which earlier Christian Jews wouldn’t have recognized at all. What Dowd is doing, then, actually seems to be very much in line with Christian tradition, and not that radical at all.

Incidentally, not even Augustine advocated a literal reading of Genesis. Guess he was just as “Christian-lite” as all the rest.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 12:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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mandydax,

Dowd is more likely a panentheist, as a number of the clergy and theologians who have praised his book (Matthew Fox for example) are well know for holding what they call a panentheistic view of “God.” From what I’ve heard, panentheism is a growing trend among Christian theologians. I found the following quotes from Professor of Religion and Jesus Scholar, Marcus Borg, online at mysticalseeker.blogspot.com

He speaks about panentheism as follows:

The first conceptualizes God as a supernatural being “out there”, separate from the world, who created the world a long time ago and who may from time to time intervene within it. In an important sense, this God is not “here” and thus cannot be known or experienced but only believed in (which, within the logic of this concept, is what “faith” is about.) I will call this way of thinking about God “supernatural theism.” Widespread within Christianity, it is perhaps what a majority of people (both believers and non-believers) think of when they think of God. Some accept the existence of such a being, and some reject it. But it is the notion of God as a supernatural being “out there” that is being accepted or rejected.

The second root concept of God in the Christian tradition thinks of God quite differently. God is the encompassing Spirit; we (and everything that is) are in God. For this concept, God is not a supernatural being separate from the universe; rather, God (the sacred, the Spirit) is a nonmaterial layer or level or dimension of reality all around us. God is more than the universe, yet the universe is in God. Thus, in a spatial sense, God is not “somewhere else” but “right here.” I will call this concept of God “panentheism”.

Pantheism lacks the extra syllable en, which makes all the difference. Pantheism (without the en) identifies the universe with God: God and the universe are coextensive (literally, “everything is God”). Pantheism affirms only God’s immanence and essentially denies God’s transcendence; though the sacred is present in everything, it is not more than everything. But panentheism affirms both transcendence (God’s otherness or moreness) and immanence (God’s presence). God is not to be identified with the sum total of things. Rather, God is more than everything, even as God is present everywhere. God is all around us and within us, and we are within God.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 07:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Good discussion.  I sure enjoyed my interview with D.J.!  For those interested, I was interviewed a month and a half ago by Reggie, The Infidel Guy—also a wonderful experience.  D.J. and Reggie are two of my favorite atheist interviewers.  Both the audio and video of The Infidel Guy interview can be accessed here: http://thankgodforevolution.com/audiovideo 

AndChomskyMakesThree is correct: I’m essentially doing what theologians have always done: revised religious worldviews in light of the best understandings of reality available when they were alive. And yes, I’m sort of a panentheist, though I much prefer the term “creatheist” - which can be pronounced “Cree-ATHEIST” or “Cree-a-THEIST” (I discuss this concept in chapter 7 of my book, “Thank God for Evolution”, where I also distinguish it from pantheism and panentheism.)

Just this morning I posted a response to Michael J. Booker’s mixed review of my book (mentioned above). It addresses the most common misunderstandings that atheists and humanists make about the Evolution Theology perspective I offer in my book and my programs.  Here’s the link: http://thankgodforevolution.com/node/1134

Co-evolutionarily,

~ Michael

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Posted: 16 August 2008 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It should also be said that this interview is only Part 1. D.J.‘s interview with Dowd was so long and wide-ranging, that I decided to cut it into two parts. Part 2 will be next week. Cheers, Thomas

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Posted: 16 August 2008 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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[ Edited: 19 August 2008 04:53 PM by jholt ]
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Posted: 16 August 2008 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Thomas Donnelly - 16 August 2008 08:15 AM

It should also be said that this interview is only Part 1. D.J.‘s interview with Dowd was so long and wide-ranging, that I decided to cut it into two parts. Part 2 will be next week. Cheers, Thomas

Thanks very much for the high quality of the audios.  I just finished this podcast and I think D.J. did another great job.

If I understood things correctly from the podcast,  Dowd’s position reminds me of the books by John Shelby Spong, in that Spong gradually over the books he wrote clearly articulated a view that the Bible was not literally true—and yet he saw a need for religion in our current world. 

This transition from a literal Christian church to a symbolic/metaphorical Christian church is curious since the same scriptures and prayers continue to be used.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Jackson - 16 August 2008 11:48 AM

Thanks very much for the high quality of the audios.  I just finished this podcast and I think D.J. did another great job.

If I understood things correctly from the podcast,  Dowd’s position reminds me of the books by John Shelby Spong, in that Spong gradually over the books he wrote clearly articulated a view that the Bible was not literally true—and yet he saw a need for religion in our current world. 

This transition from a literal Christian church to a symbolic/metaphorical Christian church is curious since the same scriptures and prayers continue to be used.

Could one create a new religion based on morality rather than magic? After all, if Scientology can be a religion, surely anything can.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[ Edited: 19 August 2008 04:53 PM by jholt ]
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Posted: 16 August 2008 01:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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jholt - 16 August 2008 12:49 PM

Whenever I run into the evolution as fact, theory and a mixture therein, it’s always been in some way a response to creationist. .... Is the debate really mainly about confronting creationist? If this is true, then I surely side with Gould on this particular point. Disbanding such a word as theory[of ENS) to simply place evolution by natural selection in bolder form to mitigate creationist attack is without merit as far as I understand the issue.

Don’t all these arguments come down to evidence? The creationists can’t believe that the complexity of life can come about by natural processes and the rest of us can. Until and unless they can come up with actual evidence their arguments are moot.

For all I know there is an army of fiendish white mice circling Mars in invisible interstellar pink teapots, planning their invasion of Earth. However barring some actual evidence of this I don’t see myself spending any time worrying about it, nor contributing to the Earth Defense Fund to prevent it.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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[ Edited: 19 August 2008 04:52 PM by jholt ]
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Posted: 17 August 2008 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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I was confused by the description of the podcast and thought I would understand the Rev and topic better after a listen. I was wrong.
I really do not know what he and his wife the traveling Evolutionary Church are about. Dowd seems to suggest in the discussion we can never, ever get away from “night terms” like faith and spiritual so we are obliged to dress up science in mystical garb so that the uneducatable teeming masses will accept the facts? Really? Wow. Dark, cynical. No wonder you call them night words.

Also as noted elsewhere there does seem to be a current of “evolution is great, learn its rules, follow its example” so that we can survive. ‘cept that we know evolution were it ranked in a moral way is at least as bad as it is good… an amoral destroyer of countless species… a designer who set up endless bloody, brutal, horrific warfare between predator and prey to last millions of years. ie natural = good.

We, we humans, do not need religion. We do not need quasi-religious science. We do not need mystical mumbojumbo no matter what it describes or refers to.
We do not need to worship anything- science, facts or otherwise.
We need you to buy a house without wheels and stop.

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Posted: 17 August 2008 12:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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sate - 17 August 2008 11:29 AM

... Also as noted elsewhere there does seem to be a current of “evolution is great, learn its rules, follow its example” so that we can survive. ‘cept that we know evolution were it ranked in a moral way is at least as bad as it is good… an amoral destroyer of countless species… a designer who set up endless bloody, brutal, horrific warfare between predator and prey to last millions of years. ie natural = good. ...

Humans are the anti evolutionary species. We inoculate ourselves to prevent natural selection for disease resistance, and we do much, much more.
And then we invented war. We should, by rights, be selecting for ‘war resistance’ (not the political variety).

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