Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Thank God for Evolution, Part 1

Recently I wrote about "evolutionary evangelists" Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow.

I am now working through Dowd's book, Thank God for Evolution! Dowd was a UCC minister. I think he still is. Dowd and Barlow now make their living traveling around the country arguing for a "marriage of science and religion" based on an appreciation of the cosmic grandeur of evolution.

At an early point, Dowd distinguishes between Evolutionary Christianity (and Evolutionary Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) and "flat earth faiths." Flat earth faiths may not literally believe in a flat earth now, but they revere scriptures, and interpretations of scriptures, that were written when flat earth beliefs were indeed the norm. Dowd names this as the problem he is trying to solve: "today's continuing use of flat-earth commentaries to interpret flat-earth scriptures is the most problematic of all."

Dowd is going to try to thread a middle way. He does not reject scriptures (any of them), but accepts them as good-faith efforts to understand the meaning of the cosmos. As his phrasing of what is "most problematic" makes clear, it is our interpretation of scriptures as literal theories of the cosmos that he is going to tweak, if not utterly transform.

What I like about Dowd and Barlow's project is their attitude of humility, wonder, and, most of all, gratitude for the cosmos -- and their commitment to understanding the evolution of the cosmos as a meaningful story.


Marty said...

You know, I can appreciate what Dowd is trying to do here, but I've always taken a bit of an issue with those who insist that it is a "really serious problem(TM)".

I mean, so what if some people believe the world is flat? So what if some people believe in creationism over evolution? What exactly is the downside -- the cost to the rest of us -- of their holding onto this belief?

For such a "really serious problem(TM)", it sure seems rather harmless to me.

Anonymous said...

I think to say that creationism is harmless is on an individual believer's level is safe if slightly understated. However, to say that it is harmless as a movement is an obvious falsehood. Delaware should have made it obvious, and now with Mike Huckabee's opportunity to become Vice President it should be terrifying. To discourage science on a governmental level is to discourage progress, and that is exactly why creationism isn't harmless.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting when you start poking around in early modern history how little traction the idea that the earth was flat has ever really had.

Anonymous said...

I foolishly said Delaware in reference to 2005's Kitzmiller V Dover (even when I knew better I always thought of it as dover delaware), the case of course took place in Dover PA

Marty said...

Yes d-drew, it is absoluttely TERRIFYING to think that any alternative to the theory of evolution might be offered to schoolchildren.

The Horrors!

(thanks for proving my point)

virginia said...

If you can identify an alternative theory to evolution that has undergone the same scientifically rigorous process of hypothesis and investigation that evolution has faced, it would be welcome in a classroom setting. However, creationism does not come from the scientific process - it is born from an assumption ("God created the world - and that's the only way it was created") and often flies in the face of scientific evidence (particularly when "scholars" try to distill millions of years worth of fossil record into the few thousand that have supposedly passed since Creation).

Creationism is better suited, academically, for theology class, not biology class. People who believe in creationism as a matter of personal faith do not offend me. But the idea that it holds the same scientific weight as evolution and should be taught with equal credibility is ludicrous.

There are thousands of creation myths in existence - do you propose we teach them all as scientifically possible, or only the one which you believe?

Anonymous said...

"Yes d-drew, it is absoluttely TERRIFYING to think that any alternative to the theory of evolution might be offered to schoolchildren."

When it is based upon blatant falsehoods and/or bad science yes it is bad for children and it is frankly foolish to think otherwise. As the over-used joke/political cartoon states, if we teach the 'alternatives' to evolution why not teach astrology (for astronomy), phrenology (for psychology), and alchemy (for chemistry). They are just as supported by the evidence and scientific community. You may not care about offering truth and reality in science class, but I (and thank goodness our courts) do! As I said/implied in my original post, on an individual level you can believe in fairies for all I care, but to act as though opnions imply truth is absurd. Only reality, as witnessed by empirical evidence, should be permitted.