Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dowd Discovered

by Paul West

The next time you’re passing by your local newsstand, make sure and pick up a copy of the March 2009 issue of Discover magazine that asks the question, “Are we still evolving?” and refers to the role of America’s Evolutionary Evangelist, Michael Dowd.

“Harnessed to a supernatural dimension, the belief in evolution could itself evolve into a kind of religion. Witness the case of one Michael Dowd, an itinerant minister who calls himself an “evolutionary evangelist” and preaches the “holy trajectory” of evolution. “I thank God for the entire 14-billion-year epic of cosmic, biological, and human emergence,” he notes on his Web site. “Ironically, evolution gives us a more intimate and personal relationship with God because God is no longer far off, unnatural, and impotent. And it gives us a way of thinking about religion that helps us understand how and why religions are different, and how we can cooperate together. Both of these are, to my mind, really Good News.”

In imbuing science with a sense of personal meaning, Dowd resembles Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit priest and paleontologist who envisioned humankind and the universe evolving in the direction of a divine, infinitely complex consciousness he called the Omega Point. But the two remain an extremely rare breed: devout believers in science whose teleological claims flout the rigors of scientific verification. Unlike Dowd and Teilhard de Chardin, Wilson espouses a strictly secular enthusiasm. However much they may disagree about the ends, though, these very different Darwinian thinkers agree on the means.

“Organisms evolve, and at the end of the day, we are organisms,” Wilson says. “You just can’t deny that.”

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