Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
An ever- evolving life view BY AD CRABLE, Staff Writer
Michael Dowd remembers the days when he used to show up at events where evolution was the topic and hand out religious tracts railing at anyone who dared believe the Earth was more than 6,000 years old.
Today, the former United Church of Christ minister is a self-described "evolutionary evangelist" -- and one of the most visible ambassadors of a belief that embracing the reality of a constantly evolving universe is a sacred path to uniting all religions into a spirit of cooperation while offering hope for the future here on Earth.
"Evolution is how God is speaking to us today," he said.
Dowd, author of the book, "Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion will Transform your Life and our World," gave a public lecture Sunday night at a crowded Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster.
In his talk, "The Salvation of Religion: Evidence as Modern-Day Scripture," Dowd maintained that rather than reject evolution and other realities of science that cannot be denied, religions can embrace them as the now-revealed and ongoing sacred work of God -- or any other deity.
The Bible and other ancient sacred texts reflected perceived realities and what was important at a moment in time. But the word of God, Dowd suggested, is not frozen in time.
Now we know irrefutably more about our world, how we came into it and how the human mind works, Dowd said. "Now we know things we just believed."
He said he thinks the world is in the early stages of an "evidentiary reformation" that will lead to a realization that all people are connected; came into being, literally, from the formation of the universe; and can control their future.
"If that's not a divine creation, then what is?" said Dowd, whose vision, shared by his wife, science writer Connie Barlow, has been praised by six Nobel laureates.
What we have learned about our deeply ingrained instincts and behavior is encouraging, even as we realize we are flawed, Dowd suggested. Studies of the brain show that humans come wired with a spirit of cooperation, empathy and compassion. But strong survivalistic instincts of "safety, sustenance and sex" also tempt us with self-deception, he said.
"Original sin we can now understand," Down said in summary.
Among the evolutionary truths we need to accept is that death of all living things, even humans, is necessary.
"Death is absolutely essential on a finite planet," he said. "Death is as sacred as life."
He said artificially extending life comes as a detriment to the living.
"If we think the system can afford to keep us alive as long as we can technologically be kept alive at whatever cost, we will bankrupt the next generation," he said.
An equally vital test, he said, will be whether the world's societies realize the threat of global warming and demand action in time to avoid irreparable damage to the Earth.
Referring to his own baby-boomer generation, Dowd said, "If we think we can delay action on climate change for another five, 10 or 15 years and hope our children will figure out how to do it, we will be remembered as one of the most evil generations."
Dowd sees the constant chaos and breakdowns in mankind's trajectory as ultimately a good thing, part of a faith in continuing evolution that will make us wiser, more advanced and, hopefully, more visionary.
He predicted global democratic revolution, an environmental revolution and transformational advances in medicine and economics in the next 40 years.
"And a worldwide spiritual revival of all religions," he said, "coming together in greatness as a result of not just tolerating an ecological, evolutional world view, but wholeheartedly embracing it."
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