WSW: Coexistence for Science and Religion

Sep 12, 2014

Michael Dowd
Credit Courtesy of Michael Dowd

      

Science and religion have often been on a collision course since at least the time of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. 

Some recent disputes over climate change have had a science-versus-God aspect. But one theologian says it doesn't have to be that way. Reverend Michael Dowd calls himself an "evolutionary evangelist" for what he calls "ecological Christianity." Dowd admits that science and religion can be at loggerheads, particularly in the minds of Biblical fundamentalists. As Dowd puts it, "Biblical literalism disses God; it basically says that God spoke all the cool important stuff 2,000 years ago, and I don't think you can possibly slander God more powerfully than that." 

"Biblical literalism disses God; it basically says that God spoke all the cool important stuff 2,000 years ago, and I don't think you can possibly slander God more powerfully than that."

Dowd will speak about that Tuesday, September 16, at 7 p.m. at the Portage United Church of Christ, 2731 West Milham Avenue.

Dowd says his faith is based on "evidential revelation" that views "God" as the "sacred name of reality." "Facts are God's native tongue," according to Dowd, who says human beings are on the verge of a reckoning with their disregard of reality and the voice of Nature on the matter of climate change.

Calling himself a "climate hawk," Dowd says our species has a responsibility to face up to the damage it has caused to the environment. His hero is former Republican congressman Bob Ingliss of South Carolina, who's leading a campaign to address climate change using free market forces. That would involve eliminating government subsidies for fossil fuels and charging users for the cost of fixing the damage they cause.

For Dowd, science is our "collective intelligence" that allows us to explore the two biggest questions: what is real and what's important? Although scientists almost universally say the climate change is real and that humans are the biggest cause, there are are still a lot of people who don't believe it. Dowd says he doesn't need to argue with climate change deniers. He says their own children and grandchildren are doing that because they'll have to live in the world their parents and grandparents made.

Dowd, who is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, has been a self-described "itinerant evangelist" for faith based in scientific reality for several years. He's written several books including Thank God for Evolution, which appeared in 2008. But Dowd's journey to his current position has had its twists and turns. Born Roman Catholic, Dowd converted to evangelical Protestantism as a young man before becoming a "young earth creationist" - someone who believes that the Bible teaches that our planet and everything on it is only a few thousand years old. But then he was exposed to the teaching of evolution "in a God-honoring way" in college and began shedding his hostility to science.

Some at Dowd's alma mater Evangel College have criticized his message as being fundamentally un-Christian. Another critic said Dowd "gives even heresy a bad name." Dowd says he's found broad acceptance of his message among people of all faiths. But he admits that not everyone is on board with it.