If there’s no conflict between science and faith, why are Christians busy constructing websites arguing that the idea of incompatibility is wrong? BioLogos is one, of course, Templeton is another, and the latest site, “The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity,” is apparently the brainchild of Michael Dowd, who, with his wife/collaborator, travels around the country in a van preaching a form of “evolutionary Christianity.” Dowd’s idea is that if we truly appreciate and understand evolution, it can only deepen one’s faith in God and Christianity.
Although you can pay to get all the audio and written materials produced by this group, you can have free access to nearly forty audio clips simply by registering on the first link and then going here. Whether you want to listen to them is another question, since, as far as I can tell, all the speakers are accommodationists. Here’s the list of participants; note the second category:
Nobel Prize-Winning Scientists
Charles H. Townes, William D. Phillips
Ian Barbour, John Polkinghorne
Joan Chittister, John F. Haught, Richard Rohr, Ursula King,
Kenneth R. Miller, Ilia Delio, Diarmuid O’Murchu,
Gail Worcelo, Gloria Schaab, Mary Southard, Linda Gibler
John Shelby Spong, John Cobb
Matthew Fox, Joan Roughgarden, Philip Clayton
Karl W. Giberson, Denis Lamoureux,
Owen Gingerich, Edward B. (Ted) Davis
Emerging Church / Postmodern Evangelicals
Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt,
Spencer Burke, Sally Morgenthaler
Progressive and Integral Christians
Gretta Vosper, Tom Thresher,
Jim Burklo, Paul Smith, Ross Hostetter
Evolutionary Christian Mystic Naturalists
Kevin Kelly, Michael Morwood,
Bruce Sanguin, Ian Lawton, Michael Dowd
149 thoughts on “Evolutionary Christianity”
Accept evolution because it will enrich your life and make you feel good? I think I’ll pass….
Up next — how gravity was invented so Jesus could be born.
A weighty topic, indeed.
Heck yeah! If it hadn’t, the Ascension would have taken place immediately after the Nativity, and there’d have been no Crucifixion or Resurrection.
A couple of years ago I heard him speak at a local UU church. I pissed some attendees off when I asked him why he felt the need to create a new religion.
I also tried to ask why he felt the need to couch evolution in religious terms.
I was very polite, but never got answers beyond, “people will accept evolution more easily like this”.
I don’t think anyone was using the label accomodatist then, but it definitely fit this guy. His wife was pretty cool, her ideas seemed much more science-based, he was a religious preacher through and through.
In other words, most people are babies who will only take their medicine if it’s coated in sugar.
Lynn, your memory is mistaken. I’ve been asked the question you asked me dozens of times and I always answer it the same way. I’m not creating a new religion I’m trying to secularize or naturalize the existing ones.
I’m not trying to get religous people to accept evolution so much as I’m trying to get them to give up supernaturalism and wholeheartedly and passionately embrace big history.
Thanks for your comment about Connie. I agree. We share the same worldview.
We are both “reverse accommodationists”: were trying to get religious people of all stripes and colors to accommodate to evidence and thereby shed themselves of superstitious, otherworldly thinking.
And what is left?
Hm, is that like pacify war?
Where’d the plus sign go?
I’m sorry, if you take out supernaturality, where’s there room for god?
If you are trying to get people to base their relious beliefs on naturalism then it sure sounds like some new religion based on your naturalism.
Naturalism would definitely leave out Christianity as understood by most people.
I’m sorry Michael, I enjoyed meeting you then, but I cannot support your premise.
Neither would I, Lynn! If my premise were anything even remotely as you state I’d reject it as soundly as you do too.
The typos are confusing. I think “you can pay go get” is supposed to be “you can pay to get”, and “Here’s the list of participants; not the second category” is supposed to be “Here’s the list of participants; note the second category.”
Yes, the computer was slow this morning and I was typing faster than it registered. They’re all fixed; thanks.
Not this little black duck.
gee, they got me at “evolutionary Christian mystic naturalists” . What a load of….woo.
In general, if your intellectual position requires three modifiers, you’re doing it wrong.
QFT. I wish there was a like feature here.
That’s right,Tulse. Amacher’s modification of Turner’s Law states that: ‘Any hypothesis that requires more than one invocation of the Tooth Fairy is invalid.’
Only we Reformed Evolutionary Unitarian Christian Mystic Gnostic Sciency Pentecostal Naturalist Onanists will be admitted to Teh Kingdom, as everyone knows.
The cheerleaders for your church softball team must be exhausted at the end of a game. Gimme an “R”…
LOL – definitely a +1
Followers of Prophet Onan? There are two sects, Onan habilis (“the handyman”) or Onan dildoist (“the mechanics”) .. 😀
“If there’s no conflict between science and faith, why are Christians busy constructing websites arguing that the idea of incompatibility is wrong?”
I’m not defending these web sites or any of the views they espouse, but this line of reasoning makes no sense whatsoever. It boils down to “if thing X is true, why have they chosen to defend it?”, to which the answer is rather obviously, “precisely because they think it’s true”.
One might as well argue that the moon landing must have been faked because there are still people out there who insist that it was real.
I’m speculating, but I wonder if one facet of the motivation, particularly when it comes to religious proselytizing, is from a sense of insecurity, that one’s firmly held views on God, Jesus, etc., could turn out to be mistaken and the other schmuck was right after all. In the case of religion, such insecurity might be reinforced by observing that large numbers of people continue not to follow the path that you “know” is the correct one.
I still don’t see how this in any way justifies the statement made, which seemingly boils down to “the fact that people still defend compatibility between science and faith is evidence that they are incompatible”. It’s a complete non sequitir.
I can’t defend the particular statement that you’ve made, at least not without a lot more thought, but I was trying to suggest another reason for people’s defending religious faith.
Sorry for the typo. There may be a thousand reasons people might defend their faith, but that is completely beside the point. A bad argument is a bad argument, even if I mostly agree with the views of the person making it.
I do believe the argument would be that if the two areas were obviously compatible, then there would be no need for people to explain why.
IOW, at least at some level, there MUST be at least perceived incompatibility, or else nobody would bother.
I read it to mean that if religion and science are so obviously compatible why spend so much time and energy combating claims that they are not.
In terms of the moon landings its like saying NASA doesn’t spend any effort in counteracting the moon hoaxers claims because those claims are worthless. Accomodationists, if they felt our claims were worthless, would simply ignore them.
Fine. Substitute global warming, evolution, any given sports rivalry, or any other issue that people still continue to debate because both sides think they’re right. It’s still a bad argument. If arguing against a point of view validates that point of view, why on earth would it be a good idea to publish a book (or frequent a blog) named Why Evolution Is True? That only validates the creationist point of view, right?
Of course it doesn’t, because it’s a terrible argument. You don’t get to validate your opinions by just noticing that people still disagree with you. It’s not just nonsense, it’s the opposite of sense.
That would indeed be a bad argument, but I didn’t read Jerry’s opening sentence or Sigmund’s comment as amounting to that. I understood Jerry to be asking why, if Christians think that there’s no conflict between science and faith, are they wasting time building websites simply to assert this belief. My answer is that those same Christians recognize that there are others who think that there IS a conflict and as a result are moving away from the church. It’s an attempt to bring them back.
Conversely why, if atheists think that there is an obvious conflict between science and faith, are they wasting their time building websites simply to assert this belief? That would suggest that those same atheists realize that there are others who think there IS NOT a conflict and as a results are moving towards the church.
Both what you said and my inversion of it may be true. Neither is a valid or useful argument for or against either side. Acknowledging that people disagree with you and presenting your counterargument doesn’t constitute an admission that your opposition has a point. Nor does acknowledging that there are people in your own camp whose views are more tenuous then your own.
There’s not perfect symmetry between the two cases. I postulated that Christians are concerned that people who do not believe in compatibility will choose to go with science and not religion. If atheists believe that there are people who think there is no conflict, they presumably will conclude that those people won’t leave science for religion, rather they’ll stay with both. That’s not the opposite of the conclusion that the Christians may come to. Furthermore, would that conclusion alone actually motivate them to promote incompatibility? I don’t know the answer to that.
Anyway, perhaps Jerry didn’t mean what I’ve imputed to him.
In any case none of this addresses the merits of the arguments presented by either side of the compatibility v incompatibility debate.
I read it to mean that if religion and science are so obviously compatible why spend so much time and energy combating claims that they are not.
I think the key word Dan misses there is “obviously”.
this is an issue of perception.
Indeed, if two ideas are OBVIOUSLY compatible, there would be no need for explanation.
religion and science are NOT obviously compatible, at any level.
That is not the key to anything, and does not change the argument. If I stand out on your lawn and yell that the sky is red, do you validate my argument by telling me that it is blue? What if instead I’m yelling about flaws I perceive in the taxonomy of burying beetles? Do you legitimize my argument by telling me that I’m wrong? The answer in both cases is very obviously “no”. The fact that a counterargument exists and that someone is willing to make it is NEVER evidence of the legitimacy of your position, and to tout that as some sort of triumph is lazy and reeks of desperation.
Also I’d just like to point out that, by arguing with me, you have by your own logic admitted that I have a point. Q.E.D., I win, thank you and good night.
I’ve never heard of “Integral Christianity” before. Is there “Differential Christianity”, too?
If it’s continuous and has no “kinks”, then yes.
That rules out most evangelical preachers, then.
Like Francis Collins, Dowd is genuinely a nice guy. Nonetheless, empirical digestion requires more than sugar pills and fairy tales.
I’m going to ask one of those silly questions.
Nobel Prize in what?
Both in physics. Townes worked on masers, and Phillips for his work on laser cooling.
Gee, neither biologists. So this is exactly what I originally guessed. It’s nothing more than an appeal to authority where they’re not even authorities.
Polkinghorne is (was) also a physicist.
In their living room, I expect.
Both in physics it seems. Though Townes (who invented the maser) is 95 years old.
I wrote about a talk by Dowd here.
When you asked him what is the gift of the tuberculosis mycobacterium, for an instant I half-expected the response “Ah well, this is where my claim falls to the ground. There’s no possible way of answering that argument, I’m afraid. I was only hoping you would not make that particular point, but I can see that you’re more than a match for me,” as in the Monty Python “stake your claim” sketch.
Thanks for posting the link here, Jeffrey.
It was nice to read about the talk you saw as it’s been a while since I heard it. It sounds like the same tour.
I’d forgotten that Dowd likes(d) to equate reality with god.
I think this “Evolutionary Christianity” thing is newer as he’s pandering to the Christian crowd more now. He knows where the power is and that’s it not with the UUs.
I got regular email newsletters from him and Barbara Marx Hubbard for a while. I found nothing valuable in any of them but they kept asking for money. Used to be you needed to pay to subscribe to Dowd’s stuff. I finally unsubscribed.
Lynn- what was the general response to the Dowd talk at the UU church? I’m a UU myself, and, like many UUs, am also an atheist. UUs tend to be very pro-science, but we also have our share of New Age types (the price you pay for being diverse).
I got some flak from some folks who tried shush-ing my questions. Very politely, of course.
I was not a regular attender there then and found out later the members tend to include many newage and more christians than I expected. I’d like to really find the atheists there–I should start a group in my spare time :-).
In addition I was not such a vocal atheist then, but this talk and the group there moved me further in that direction. Religion is so ridiculous and to see part of the “birth” of a new one was intriguing.
By the way, Connie had spoken during the Sunday morning service then Michael spoke another evening. I was impressed with her but disappointed with him.
It sounds like Connie shoots straight and Michael bobs and weaves. From what he’s written here, it seems like he wants to remove all the supernatural stuff, but keep god (???). Anyhow, keep looking for those atheists. They’re bound to be there, and they’re probably real cool cats!
Townes, listed as a Nobel winner, also won the Templeton prize in 2005.
“Evolutionary Christian Mystic Naturalists”
The more I read that, the less sense it makes…
Yeah, just like “deep time values”. What the heck is meant by stuff like that?
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Evolutionary natural visions
Mystic Christian revelation
And the minds accommodation
I just double-checked on Wikipedia, and Joan Roughgarden is a biologist who has been critical of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection. I first heard about her as “the transsexual evolutionary biologist who writes about the evolution of sex,” and didn’t know about her involvement with religion, or Christianity in particular.
alas, Roughgarden used to be an excellent theoretical ecologist and lizard biologist. Now pretty much an iconoclastic crank, afaict.
I had no idea Joan R. and John R. were the same person. Thanks for the news!
“Dowd’s idea is that if we truly appreciate and understand evolution, it can only deepen one’s faith in God and Christianity.”
I’ve listened to several podcasts interviewing Dowd and he’s a bit of an oddball. He and his previous wife were part of a polyamorous community. He said something to the effect that being a public speaker makes him hypersexed and now when he feels to temptation to stray, he calls a friend to talk him out of it.
Meh, I’m not crazy about this line of argumentation. It reminds me of the old chestnut, “If Palin (or whomever) is so full of shit, why are libruhls so afraid of her?”
After all, Jerry is busy constructing a blo- er,uh, website, which among other things argues that the idea of incompatibility is right. If there is a conflict, why is he busy arguing that?
Was it you or their site that called John Shelby Spong a “mainline Protestant”?
I ask because he sure as hell isn’t one – he’s a deist or a pantheist.
i.e., an atheist trying to hold onto his franchise.
The reason why there is even any debate about whether a conflict exists is due to “equivocation”. People mean different things when they say “conflict” and when they say “religion”.
Religion and science may intellectually be in conflict, but particular people may hold to them both without disturbance. Likewise, particular instances of religious belief may conflict with particular views of science, but other instances of religion will be perfectly compatible.
Merely to say that religion and science conflict is a imprecise statement, so there’s no wonder that people want to argue about it.
Seeing all the categories tempts me to wonder if Dowd feels somewhat like a modern Noah, filling the boat with all the different kinds of accommodationists.
Anyway, these guys seem a bit late to the show, IMHO.
ooh, ooh, as a former post-modern, evolutionary, evangelical progressive roman catholic, now a mainline protestant emerging and integral, christian mystic naturalist, may I please be added the list? Pleeze…pleeze.
Oh, and I’m a partridge in a pear tree also. That’s gotta be worth a new category or something.
Thought I’d see Conway-Morris in the ring for the Catholics.
What a bunch of disrespectful comments! It’s enough to drive a person back to religion – at least there they tell you they love you whether they act like it or not!
It is not disrespectful to honestly speak your mind in clear, direct language.
What kind of love is it to beat about the bush and feign admiration?
I’d much, much rather be dealt with earnestly than with undeserved kid gloves.
yes, it seems Mae would rather be “respected” by being lied to, nicely, than by being told the truth, bluntly.
We like to treat grown adults as grown adults, not emotionally insecure fragile kiddies.
That would be arrogant and condescending.
“at least there they tell you they love you whether they act like it or not”
I don’t actually consider that a good thing…
It’s also funny to see Matthew Fox listed as a “mainline Protestant”. He’s mystic and former RCC priest who got run out of the Catholic church for being too radical, so he became an Episcopalian.
When I was a liberal Christian, I rather liked his books. I even met him at a theology seminar once, where he was presenting.
Spong is “mainline Protestant” by occupation (retired Episcopal bishop), but he’s hardly “mainline” in his views.
Anyway, all this dancing around the obvious and insoluble conflicts between science and religion eventually got old for me, and I eventually decided just to go with the science.
First para is wrong. This would be far more accurate:
Michael Dowd, who, with his wife/collaborator, travels around the country in a van preaching a form of “religious naturalism.” Dowd’s idea is that unless religion accommodates itself to scientific, historic, and cross-cultural evidence, we’re pretty screwed as a species.
Wouldn’t a better idea be to just get rid of religion? Isn’t all this accommodating mere ad hoc-ery of the most naked kind?
Sorry Michael, but I took your mission directly from the webpage:
“Religious faith and practice can be positively strengthened by what God is revealing through science!”
Ah, but Michael’s vocabulary needs translating: “religious faith and practice” means “secular values and goals” and “God” means reality. So he’s only saying that your values and goals will be strengthened by learning about nature.
Bottom line, Dowd’s strategy is to woo the religious away from woo by using traditional sacred terms and concepts to mean things they didn’t used to mean — but it’s what they must mean now, if they are to be relevant. He thinks the religious are fine with this because they tell him they are. And they are probably sincere — mostly I think because they misunderstand what he’s saying.
Fuzzy thinkers can’t really handle fuzzy language.
Sastra, nice translation. Thanks! However, you wildly underestimate how much joy most people feel when they realize they can get the emotional benefits their religious tradition used to give them (trust, gratitude, inspiration, etc) without needing to believe in anything otherworldly anymore. The shift from supernaturalist to naturalist was experienced as exhilarating for many (myself included).
So you ARE promoting atheism.
Not exactly. I’m promoting right relationship to reality, evidentially understood. I am neither a theist, nor an atheist; I’m a post-theistic religious naturalist — an emergentist, a neo-humanist. The concepts of theism and atheism came into use long before we had an evidential understanding of how the world, in fact, came into being, and before we learned that the Universe itself is creative at all levels: galaxies create, planets create, moving tectonic plates create, molecules create, organisms create, etc. Given what we now know about big history, the 14-billion-year epic of evolution, the theist-atheist dichotomy no longer makes sense to me. Both presuppose a trivial, unnatural god and a cosmos that is not itself creative. Reality is my God (my primary allegiance) and integrity is my religion. By this, I mean that what is real as evidentially known is my ultimate commitment and living in right relationship with reality and assisting others (and our species) in doing the same is my “calling” and deepest inspiration.
Yeah. That’s atheism.
Yeah, about that…
I don’t need them all. Any one of them will do…
• Religious naturalist
• Evolutionary humanist
Take you pick.
Again, I suspect it is you who wildly underestimate how much otherworldly, supernatural beliefs are still retained by your converts — disguised by ambiguous language.
So okay. I propose an experiment, one you can do yourself at your own discretion.
You are promoting religious naturalism. Consider then this definition of naturalism from Richard Carrier (one based on content rather than ill-defined limits):
“Naturalism” means, in the simplest terms, that every mental thing is entirely caused by fundamentally nonmental things, and is entirely dependent on nonmental things for its existence. Therefore, “supernaturalism” means that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things.
This tracks with Dennet’s distinction between skyhooks and cranes:
“ Let us understand that a skyhook is a ‘mind-first’ force or power or process, an exception to the principle that all design, and apparent design, is ultimately the result of mindless, motiveless mechanicity. A crane, in contrast, is a subprocess or feature of a design process that can be demonstrated to permit the local speeding up of the basic, slow process of natural selection, and that can be demonstrated to be itself the predictable (or retrospectively explicable) product of the basic process.” (Dennet, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea pg. 76)
The natural metaphysics revealed by science is one of cranes: mind emerges from matter — not the other way around. So I’m going to stipulate as a working definition of “supernatural” the following:
Supernatural: Non-material, irreducible mental Being, beings, or forces which exist apart from and/or ‘above’ the material realm, do not obey common physical laws, and which affect the natural world through the direct power of intentions or values.
Examples of supernatural phenomenon: disembodied souls, ghosts, ESP, psychokenesis, magical correspondences, vitalism, karma, prana, God, cosmic consciousness, mind as “energy force,” a universal tendency towards the harmonic balance of Good and Evil, progressive evolution towards Higher States, mind/body substance dualism, holistic nonmaterialistic monism, Idealism.
I do not think your Evidential Reformation/ Religious Naturalism causes people to renounce the supernatural because I suspect that they simply slide the above phenomenon in under the label “naturalism” — and they think you are doing the same.
So, try this, Michael. The next time you’re in a compatible group of people whom you think you have successfully shifted from supernaturalist to naturalist, say something like the following:
“Science has finally weighed in: there is no supernatural realm, for creativity and intelligence have turned out to be innate in nature itself. The shallow creeds of traditional religion fail to recognize the deep truth that we are all bound together, all connected, by the essence of love which lies at the foundation of reality. This force expresses itself in matter and energy — not random chemical reactions and blind physical chance, but constantly evolving expressions of the fundamental compulsion To Be and To Become. There is no conflict with science, because the ancient dichotomy between Mind and Matter is now resolved by being brought together: the mental aspect of reality cannot simply be reduced away. What is, is; Who is, is. It was there at the beginning: a purely natural mindful reality revealed by science.”
I more or less just made this up: you can make up something along the same lines. It’s pure woo — supernatural bullshit supreme. It doesn’t matter that I call it “natural.” It means nothing that “science” is invoked. It’s New Age spirituality and it’s wrong and I bet you can catch it.
Will your ‘converts’ catch it?
Be sure to give this little speech with a confident smile and relaxed demeanor. Don’t give anything away. Throw in some happy little buzzwords if you can: caring, environment, inspiration, unity. Nod along and pretend this is simply another way of expressing what you’ve already said.
If YOU are right (and you may be right), then reciting the above will lead to puzzled looks and incredulous stares. You’ll be interrupted, or at least questioned. Excuse me? What is this? “Love at the foundation of reality?” WTF — are you channeling Chopra? Wait, I don’t get this. This isn’t what I thought you meant. Hold on.
If I am right, however, they will smile and nod back at you. Yes, supernaturalism is bad, false. THIS is how we understand a natural reality. Thank you, Michael, for bringing science and reality back into religion.
Try it. I double dog dare you.
Sue, you can double dog dare me all you want, you keep forgetting (or perhaps you are incapable of realizing in the first place) that I have multiple desired outcomes based on what audience I speak to. But the program I delivered at TAM in Las Vegas two months ago, “Spirituality for Skeptics” is THE SAME ONE I deliver to Christians and New Age folk.
As I said in response to truthspeaker below, I frankly don’t give a damn whether someone is a theist, atheist, pantheist, deist, or whatever, so long as they have (A) deep-time eyes (i.e., an evolutionary understanding of reality), (B) a global heart (i.e., are committed to a just and thriving future for the larger body of life), and (C) they value evidence over ancient texts or religious dogma.
You even saw my presentation! Here it is again: http://www.thegreatstory.org/evolutionize-video.html
PLEASE, (in either my program or what I say on the public television documentary) tell me just ONE thing you think is harmful rather than helpful (from the planet’s perspective) in what I say.
If you cannot, then I invite you to consider that maybe, just maybe, what I’m doing is legitimate.
Sue, please forgive the “(or perhaps you are incapable…)” comment above. It came from my frustration. I get that you get this. And I also respect and admire your thinking and taking the time to engage with me.
Michael Dowd wrote:
No; I find it problematic, though. Remember, I once told you that you were a ‘shape-shifter’ — becoming the person you speak to (a Christian to Christians, a New Ager to New Agers, a gnu atheist to gnu atheists.) It’s an ability inspired by strong empathy and a passion for discovering common ground. You were pleased I think, but it’s not necessarily only a compliment.
This is the part where science conflicts with religion, though. You’re getting into this question. A thoroughgoing ‘evolutionary understanding of reality’ will include the God hypothesis into the model — or reject it as inconsistent and unnecessary. I still think it’s a bit disingenuous to purport have “conversations at the leading edge of faith” which apparently aren’t supposed to give a damn whether God exists or not, or what God is, or what it isn’t. I doubt very much if the people having those conversations in your forums are as indifferent to the topic as you are (and you don’t sound indifferent about the God issue: you sound involved — till we get down to specifics and rhetoric gets cut and suddenly it apparently shifts to getting people motivated to care about the environment.)
The planet doesn’t have a perspective: from the human perspective, I think it’s harmful to push the idea that the ends justifies the means. Method, method, method: do you really think gnu atheists are going to give up the principles of clarity and honesty for pragmatic improvement?
Pragmatic improvement is a legitimate goal, of course. I sincerely wish you well here. But you wouldn’t want us to cease criticism on that account, would you? You’re too honest yourself for that.
And honest enough to suspect how the experiment would probably go.
I’d say that religion would be screwed. The species would do just fine.
Michael, then why did you use the term “Evolutionary Christianity” if it’s not geared toward Christian views.
I agree with Tulse, why not let the science stand on its own? Why mix religion in with evolution?
My life’s work is showing religious and non-religous audiences alike how our best evidential understanding of big history, human nature, and death can inspire us to work together in service of a just and healthy future for humanity and the larger body of life.
Here is the program I’ve been delivering for the last two years in ALL religious and non-religous settings (from evangelicals to atheists):
I welcome critical feedback and suggestions for improvement.
So are you working on “Evolutionary Islam”, “Evolutionary Hindu”, “Evolutionary Judaisim”, etc.?
Off topic here: I do hope you are feeling well.
Yes, thanks, Lynne. I feel great now and the last two CT scans show no sign of cancer.
I’m supporting an amazing young Muslim man in his efforts to move Islam away from supernaturalism (encouraging secular Muslims, much the same as secular Jews), and I’m in communication with others who are involved in what could be called “Evolutionary Hinduism” and “Evolutionary Judaism”. But I’m only trying to bring Christians and New Age types into a naturalistic worldview. I must leave the secularizing or naturalizing of other faiths to others.
Lynn, in response to your question: Because in addition to the important work of attacking all forms of superstition and otherworldly religiosity that the Gnus do so effectively, I’m of the belief that there’s also a place for some of us to help evolve the tradition away from valuing old books and dogmas. You could consider my work in the realm of Evolutionary Christianity to be that of converting supernaturalists into naturalists, or perhaps trying to ensure that any Christianity that survives the 21st century is a secular Christianity (akin to the difference between secular Jews and fundamentalist Jews).
That sounds like exactly what the Gnus are doing, only being less honest with the targets of one’s work. Do you actually tell your religious audiences that you want them to stop believing in the supernatural and become secular?
Yes, if you care to you can watch the exact hour-long program I deliver to all audiences, “Evolutionize Your Life”. I doubt there’ll be much (if anything) that you disagree with, and I suspect you’ll probably wish me well in my endeavor. Most Gnus do when they see what I’m actually teaching and preaching.
I’m with Tulse, here Michael: if atheism is indeed your avowed goal, why on earth do you sell it on a website called “Evolutionary Christianity,” and include a lot of audio clips by people who are avowed theists? The vast majority of views conveyed by those clips are that we can have evolution AND God, too. That hardly seems a way to wean people away from supnaturalism!
Jerry, there’s way too much for me to type.
I’m happy to have a conversation with you about all this and we can record and post it afterwards.
if atheism is indeed your avowed goal,
I don’t see how atheism could be Dowd’s goal, when his sermon is filled with gems like these.
“One’s experience of God’s presence, God’spresence right here and now,
has an opportunity to blossom. Indeed, it may blossom—
as it has for me—to the point …”
“The bottom line is this: whenever we Christians
slip into interpreting scripture literally, we belittle
the Bible and dishonor God.”
His is just another new-agey brand of Christian woo, with acceptance of evolution mixed in.
Jerry, atheism is not my goal. Playing a role in helping humanity coming into right relationship to reality (i.e., the planet) in my lifetime — that’s my goal. And evidence suggests that many strategies and approaches – some complementary, some conflicting – will be needed to realize this goal. I appreciate your approach Jerry, and even though it sounds to me like you do not appreciate or respect mine, I can live with that. But I also know from experience that a conversation between us would be fruitful and would facilitate understanding. Let me know if you’re open to this.
“Jerry, atheism is not my goal. Playing a role in helping humanity coming into right relationship to reality”
Reality is atheistic. How is atheism not your goal if reality is?
See my comment two comments below, in response to truthspeaker.
“You could consider my work in the realm of Evolutionary Christianity to be that of converting supernaturalists into naturalists, or perhaps trying to ensure that any Christianity that survives the 21st century is a secular Christianity (akin to the difference between secular Jews and fundamentalist Jews).”
“Jerry, atheism is not my goal”
Make up your mind, Michael.
Truthspeaker, as I said above…
Atheism is not my goal. Frankly I don’t give a damn whether someone is an theist, atheist, pantheist, deist, or whatever, so long as they have deep-time eyes (i.e., an evolutionary understanding of reality), a global heart (i.e., are committed to a just and thriving future for the larger body of life), and they value evidence over ancient texts or religious dogma.
I myself am neither a theist nor an atheist; I’m a post-theistic religious naturalist — an emergentist, a neo-humanist. The concepts of theism and atheism came into use long before we had an evidential understanding of how the world, in fact, came into being, and before we learned that the Universe itself is creative at all levels: galaxies create, planets create, moving tectonic plates create, molecules create, organisms create, etc. Given what we now know about big history, the 14-billion-year epic of evolution, the theist-atheist dichotomy no longer makes sense to me. Both presuppose a trivial, unnatural god and a cosmos that is not itself creative. Reality is my God (my primary allegiance) and integrity is my religion. By this, I mean that what is real as evidentially known is my ultimate commitment and living in right relationship with reality and assisting others (and our species) in doing the same is my “calling” and deepest inspiration.
Totally OT, but I always wondered…
Does Connie bear any relation to George Barlow?
Not that she or I know about.
For anyone interested, here’s background on me and the role I’m playing in the “Evolutionary Christianity” movement: http://evolutionarychristianity.com/blog/about-michael/
Unfortunately, Mr. Dowd, you seem to be one more Christian who has created his own version of that religion, with no more evidence that he is right than the next theist. You pick and choose from your holy book and declare that you are the only one who knows what your god “really” meant. It’s nothing new, but you do use rather amusing phrases to make it sound viable.
Vel, you misread me. I suggest you read my sermon, “Thank God for the New Atheists”, recently published in Skeptic Magazine: http://thegreatstory.org/dowd-skeptic.pdf
Michael Dowd wrote:
Vel, you misread me. I suggest you read my sermon, “Thank God for the New Atheists”, recently published in Skeptic Magazine.
Nothing in that sermon, as you call it, contradicts what vel wrote. You invented your own version of Christianity, and your own definition of God. “God is a personification of one or more deeply significant dimensions of reality.” Really? Perhaps you could describe one or two of these significant dimensions of reality.
Tom, I find it hard to imagine that you honestly unaware of the fact that all gods and goddesses are personifications (projections) of human consciousness. If so, I recommend Michael Shermer’s latest, “The Believing Brain”, to you. Also here: http://www.thankgodforevolution.com/node/2010
Without understanding the human brain’s propensity to relationalize (personify), we can’t possibly understand religion other than perhaps to think of it as a virus.
Those who think that human beings would have been able cooperate at the scale of 10,000 or more people without religion is either smoking something or in deep denial. Kin selection and reciprocal altruism are simply not up to the job.
This is NOT an argument that religions in their current otherworldly, superstitious forms should not be attacked with all the ferocity as possible. They should be! This I one of the reasons I’m so grateful for Gnus like Jerry, PZ, RD, Sam, Hitch, Dan, and others. But some of us are playing a different role in the body of life, toward a similar end: getting millions of people to embrace science and evidence over ancient texts and mythtic beliefs.
Those who think that human beings would have been able cooperate at the scale of 10,000 or more people without religion is either smoking something or in deep denial.
You do have strong opinions, I’ll give you that. None of them are backed with evidence, of course, but that’s what makes them opinions. I’m still hoping to hear about those other significant dimensions of reality.
Last post of the day:
Tom, here’s what I mean by my claim that all concepts of God are “personifications of reality or some significant aspect of reality”:
God Is a Divine Personification, Not a Person
“What Reality in Human Experience Do We Point to with the Word, ‘God’?” http://thegreatstory.org/god-reality.pdf
“Would have” and “now need to” are two different things.
Religion is vestigial.
Michael Dowd wrote:
here’s what I mean by my claim that all concepts of God are “personifications of reality or some significant aspect of reality”
Sorry, those links are simply new-age maunderings, they explain nothing about your claims. I guess you have no answer.
really? you can’t imagine any other possibilities for fomenting and maintaining religious hierarchical structures?
It’s time you read more about religion, Michael.
I found Henrich’s work helpful:
and there are entire degree programs dedicated to studying the psychology involved:
In short, you should expand your horizons a bit before concluding that we can’t understand how religion works other than to think in terms of memes and viruses.
oh, btw, those same articles (heinrich) will also detail how cooperation can evolve in large social groups WITHOUT religion.
and, once you start on that trek… you probably will want to read about the evolution of cooperation in general.
great collection of review articles and commentary, all free at last check, though now a tad bit dated (5 years old).
Ichthyic, thanks for the links. I agree that Henrich’s work is most helpful on this. Nothing he has written, however, seems to contradict my basic claim that, “Anyone who thinks that the historic emergence of human cooperation at scales of 10,000 people or more would have happened without religion is either smoking something or in deep denial.” I even asked him about this in a recent email correspondence (spurred by your comment), just to be sure.
Do you honestly say this to your religious audiences, in precisely this fashion? If so, I’m very surprised that you get such a warm reception.
Michael, Just wanted you to know that I really appreciate the gracious way in which you’ve responded to this review and comment thread. Keep up the good work!
Tulse, yes, I say exactly those words in exactly that way. Often.
He didn’t ask you to define “personify”; I’m sure he knows what that means.
He asked you what “deeply significant dimensions of reality” are.
FYI… Background on my atheist science writer wife, Connie Barlow (we share the same worldview): http://www.thegreatstory.org/CB-writings.html
Perhaps her greatest contribution:
Evolutionary Curricula for Children and Youth:
Michael- if you really believe that god is a human projection, then it sure sounds like you are an atheist, no? Are you trying to have it both ways?
“It is not disrespectful to honestly speak your mind in clear, direct language.”
Absolutely! I agree with that statement completely. And your comment IS respectful. Unfortunately, however, there seems to be a large amount of sarcasm generously sprinkled with put-downs among many of the other comments.
My point was that I don’t find the comments on this thread disrespectful. When one commenter described Dowd’s writing as “new-age maundering,” I found it very apt and not at all gratuitous. That is what it is.
If that’s the kind of thing to which you’re objecting, I’d suggest that your bar for what counts as a put-down is too low.
Good. I enjoy sarcasm.
Washington Post Link
Evolution Threatens Christianity
I just read Paula Kirby’s article, very good. She has a gift with words! Thanks for the link ..
*Sigh* Such a biting tone! Can we not converse respectfully?
if you can agree that honesty is required for respectful communication, then you will find this place quite agreeable.
if you want to hide behind tone, then you don’t belong in an honest conversation.
This is quite mild. Another site I visit your “argument” would be met with an exhortation to perform physically rude acts with a dead porcupine. Sideways.
Attack content not tone. Incredibly vile things can be couched in polite language, which seems to be the modus operandi of most clergy
“…an exhortation to perform physically rude acts with a dead porcupine. Sideways.”
Seems to be a very primitive response coming from supposedly higly evolved beings. 🙂
There’s nothing disrespectful about a biting tone.
Michael’s book was one of the worst books I’ve ever tried to read. A watering down of science and a new and nuttier religion.
You’re not my intended audience, Michael. I challenge you to find one place in my book where I’ve watered down the science (please cite page number). Good luck! Even PZ could not point to a single thing wrong with my science, though he still trashed my book in a wonderfully humorous way. “Nuttier religion”, perhaps. But my science is impeccable, as many esteemed scientists and atheists have noted: http://evolutionarytimes.org/endorsements/index.html
Genesis 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
Genesis 2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
Grouping your speakers by denomination looks just plain weird to me. However, it makes me wonder… shouldn’t we be able to organize those categories into some sort of phylogenetic tree? Now that would be some Evolutionary Christianity 🙂 I wonder where “Templeton Prize-winners” will cluster…
Out on a Limb.
Some evolutionists might insist the existence of only one living thing, i.e. DNA or genetic material or etc., to survive in the very beginning as a result of natural selection and competition among multiple living things. Discuss.
Let’s assume that evolution is true and to proceed with the discussion below so as to determine whether it is justifiable to support this theory:
When the environmental condition and factors that would appear and deem fit for the generation of living thing in the beginning, it is irrational to support that there could be only one living thing, i.e. DNA or genetic material or etc., to be formed. This is due to the entire environment around the earth would have provided a condition to suit and even to ease the generation of living thing.
As there would be many living things that would be formed as a result of the environmental condition and factors would deem fit for the generation of lively thing in the beginning, there should be multiple generation of living things everywhere in the earth whether it would be in the North or West or South or East. As the environmental condition and factors would deem fit for the generation of living things in the beginning, there would turn up to be more than billions of living things, i.e. lively molecules or DNAs or genetic materials or etc., to be formed at that time.
It is irrational to suggest that all the living things (that would be generated at the same time whether in the North or South or West or East) would turn up to be only one left with the excuse of general selection or competition among them especially they might be very far distance apart and would have lost contact without any influence or relationship. Let’s give you an example. A specific kind of tigers, that would have turned up to be extinct in America due to its natural selection and competition among the living things, would not have any influence upon the tiger in Africa. This is by virtue of the place, in which the tiger in America is located, is so far distance apart from the same kind of tiger in Africa. As a result of the far distance between them, the tiger in America would not have any influence or connection with that is in Africa. It would turn up to be that the natural selection or competition, that would have affected the tiger in America, would not cause any influence for that would be in Africa. This has ended up that the tiger in America would have gone extinct and not so in Africa due to they are far distance apart. Let’s apply this to the generation of billions of living things in the beginning when environmental condition and factors that would deem fit for the generation of lively things. How could the living thing that would be generated in the very North of the earth would knock out the living thing that would be generated in the very South especially they are so far distance apart and their inability to contact with each other due to the far distance?
The above have placed evolution into query about its reliability and its existence.
Let’s furnish another mathematical formula below for the computation of age of fossils and the earth that could be located at the website address http://education.gsfc.nasa.gov/ess/Units/Unit4/U4L31A.html :
t = 1/delta In (1+D/P)
where t is the age of a rock or mineral specimen, D is the number of atoms of a daughter product today, P is the number of atoms of the parent product today, ln is the natural logarithm (logarithm to base e), and delta is the appropriate decay constant.
In order that the formula could apply for the computation of the age of fossils or rocks or the earth, the substance or objects or whatever must have established the relationship that one object must be the daughter of another. If the relationship between them could not establish to be one as parent and another as daughter, the above mathematical formula could not be used to compute the age of fossils or rocks or the earth.
Let’s use Samarium-147 and Neodymium-143 as examples for elaboration since scientists have linked up these two objects as parent-daughter relationship that would lead to the decay rate of 106 billion years. The following are the reasons why the computation by means of the above mathematic formula could not be used to compute the age of fossils or rocks or the earth:
a)What if Samarium-147 and Neodymium-143 would have been created in the very beginning and Neodymium-143 would not be the result of decaying from Samarium-147, the relationship between them to be parent and daughter could not be established. As the relationship could not be established in case if they would have been created simultaneously in the very beginning, the above mathematical formula could not apply. This is by virtue of the above formula could only be applicable when two objects have established with the parent-daughter relationship.
b)What if Samarium-147 and Neodymium-143 would be as hard as a diamond that there could be no way for them to decay, the formula could not be applicable to this condition since Both of these items could not be established to be parent-daughter relationship as one could not be the transformation from another.
c)Even if Samarium-147 could decay, how could scientists be so firmly that it could turn up to be Neodymium-143 instead of otherwise since nobody could live billion of years to witness the end-result of transformation for Samarium-147 to be Neodymium-143? As that could be so, to comment Samarium-147 and Neodymium-143 to be parent-daughter relationship and to use them to compute the age of fossils or rocks or the earth would lead to wrong age since they could have no relationship between them in the first place.
d)What if Samarium-147 could decay to Neodymium-143 and yet the decay rate could not be established to be billion of years instead, it could only be a few thousand years, it would certainly affect the figure that has to be used for delta. This is by virtue of the unreliable decay rate would affect the decay constant figure that has to be used in the formula above. As the unreliable decay rate of the above substance would affect the decay constant to be used in the formula above, the end-result of the computation of the age of fossils or rocks or the earth would not be reliable.
As it is hard to jump into the conclusion that one material or substance or whatever could be the daughter of another, this makes the computation to be unreliable and it is irrational to use radioactive dating method to jump into the conclusion that the age of fossils or the earth or rocks could be in billion years.
The reliability of percentage remaining (50% of the remaining rule) that has been used by scientists for the relative half-lives elapsed in responding to radiometric dating method is in question.
Refer to the right hand side of the table in the website address, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-life. A list of percentage remaining that corresponds to the number of the relative half-lives elapsed are presented as follows:
No. of half –lives; Fraction remaining; Percentage remaining
1—————————–1/2————-50% (=100% above x 50%)
2—————————–1/4————-25% (=50% as above x 50%)
3—————————–1/8————-12.5% (=25% as above x 50%)
———————–so on and so forth—————————–
Using the above principle, we could arrive with weird and illogical conclusion below that would place the reliability of radiometric dating method into question:
If anyone of atoms, let’s say, atom A, has been selected from a parent isotope, let’s say, lutetium, to test the radioactive decay, this atom would surely have 50% of its atomic nucleus to be activated in radioactive decay in accordance to the 50% remaining rule as mentioned above. The rule has turned up to find favour in selecting an atom if one would examine the possible decay from parent isotope since it might not be possible if there would be more than one atom is selected as mentioned below:
If any two atoms, let’s say, atoms A and B, would be selected to test the decay, atom A might not respond to radioactive decay due to the existence of atom B in accordance to the 50% remaining rule. Or in other words, there would only be one atom responds to decay if there are two.
If any three atoms, let’s say, atoms A, B and C, would be selected to test the decay, atom A might not respond to radioactive decay due to the existence of atoms B and C in accordance to 50% remaining rule.
If any four atoms, let say, atoms A, B, C and D, would be selected to test the decay, atom A would have much lesser chance to respond to decay due to the existence of atoms B, C and D. There would turn up to have 2 atoms to respond if there are four as a result of 50% remaining rule is applied.
If there is a piece of 10,000 kg big rock[, let’s say, 10^(a billion) atoms], 50% of the big rock (turns up to be 0.5×10^(a billion) atoms would not activate in radioactive decay and these would cause the above four selected atoms, i.e. atoms A, B, C and D, to have even much lesser chance to respond to decay due to the possible present of many half lives in the future as a result of the existence of numerous atoms. As a result of the wide spread of the 50% inactive atoms within this piece of big rock, it is easily to destroy a piece a rock so as to locate a small portion that does not respond to decay due to it might need to wait for many half lives later in order to respond to decay as a result of the present of numerous atoms in accordance to 50% remaining rule. This is not true since scientists could anyhow pick up any rock, let’s say, lutetium, and yet still could locate decay emitted from it and this has placed 50% remaining rule into query.
If there is a gigantic mountain with 5,000 km height, 50% of this mountain would not respond to radioactive decay. This mountain certainly consists of a huge sum of atoms when huge volume is covered. As 50% of inactive atoms would have spread throughout the whole mountain as a result of 50% remaining rule applied, it would turn up that it would be easily to locate a small portion of rock from the mountain that would not respond to radioactive decay. However, that is not true when scientists would pick up any substance, let’s say, Carbon-14, from environments for examination since they could easily locate a small portion that would respond to decay. This has placed the reliability of 50% remaining rule into question as a result of the ease in locating a small portion of substance that would respond to decay despite its immense size.
The main problem here lies on scientists have placed 50% remaining rule on each half life and that half life is meant to be a very long years. For example, for Carbon-14, it would take 5730 years for the 50% of the initial remaining to turn up to lose its capability in radioactive decay in order to have 50% of what has remained after the initial remaining to activate radioactive dating. What if actual result of decay would not follow the sequence of 50% remaining rule in which it would take a shorter period to become inactive in decay instead of that 5730 years, using 5730 years as a base to presume that the decay would last in every half year would simply falsify the age that would be computed through radioactive dating method. What if the so-called, radioactive decay, would not cause any decay but it would restart its initial operation after numerous years later, the reliability of radiometric dating method is in question.
The following is the extract from the last paragraph that is located in the website address, http://www.askamathematician.com/2011/03/q-are-all-atoms-radioactive/:
[…But in general, the heavier something is, the shorter its half-life (it’s easier for stuff to tunnel out).]
The percentage remaining (50% of the remaining) to the responding to the number of half-lives elapsed contradicts the phrase, the heavier something is the shorter its half-life, as stated above. This is by virtue of the biggest the rock the heaviest it is and the biggest the rock the wide spread will be the 50% of the non-activation of nucleus to be in decay and it would lead to the longer the half-life due to the application of 50% remaining rule as spelt out above and this leads to the contradiction of the statement as stated in this website in which the heavier would lead to shorter half-life.
What if this 50% remaining rule as mentioned above would have applied to Carbon-14 (the Parent Isotope), the following condition would appear:
Years —————Half lives—Percentage Remaining
11460 (=5730*2)–2———-25% [50% (the above)*50%]
17190 (=5730*3)–3———-12.5% [25% (the above)*50%]
22920 (=5730*4)–4———-6.25% [25% (the above)*50%]
——————and so on and so forth—————————
Note that the above years have been computed up to 4.5 billion years due to the scientists suggest the age of the earth to be that.
From the 50% remaining rule that has been computed for Carbon-14 above, it could come to the conclusion that 50 atoms out of 100 would remain active in radioactive decay in 5730 years and the rest would turn up to have lost their value in radioactive decay. 25 atoms out of 100 would remain active in decay by 11460 years and the rest would turn up to have lost their decay. 12.5 atoms out of 100 would remain active in decay and the balance would turn up to have lost their decay by 17190 years. 6.25 atoms out of 100 would remain active in decay and leaving the balance to have lost their decay by 22920 years. 1 atom out of 8×10^(251397) would remain active in decay and the balance would have lost their capability in radioactive decay by 4.5 billion years. As 1 atom for Carbon-14 out of 8×10^(251397) would remain in active by 4.5 billion years in accordance to 50% remaining rule, it implies that it would need to get large amount of atoms from Carbon-14 so as to detect the existence of radioactive decay. This is not true in science since it is easily to locate Carbon-14 that would emit radioactive decay and this has put the reliability of 50% remaining rule into query.
Some might support that the 50% remaining rule is subjected to exponential progress. Let’s assume that what they say is correct and presume that the half lives for Carbon-14 in 4.5 billion years would be shortened by 80% as the result of exponential progress. The percentage remaining would turn up to be (100-80)%x8x10^(251397) and that is equal to 16×10^(251396). Or in other words, only 1 atom would respond to decay out of 16×10^(251396) and the rest of them should have turned up to have lost their value in decay. The ease to locate Carbon-14 that would respond to decay currently has put the reliability of radiometric dating method into question.
Well, Dowd’s traveling road show hits Boulder this coming week. If it’s free, I am going. He is now ‘an evolutionary theologian.’