Michael Dowd on science and faith


Michael Dowd is a former evangelical minister who argues that evolution points to the existence of God. Those who are interested in this topic may want to check out his interview on Wired.com.

I liked his answer to this question in the interview:

WN: Won't evolutionary theology leave a lot of scriptural truths behind?

Dowd: God didn't stop communicating truth vital to human well-being thousands of years ago, when people preserved insights on animal skins. God communicates through science. Facts are God's native tongue. Who of us would let a first-century dentist fix our children's teeth? Yet every day we let first-century theologians fill our children's brains.

There's a difference between flat-earth faith and evolutionary faith. In flat-earth Christianity, the core insights -- sin, salvation, heaven and hell -- are understood in the same way as when people first formulated ideas. I still value the same concepts, but interpret them in a radically different way.


Matthew said...

>>WN: Won't evolutionary theology leave a lot of scriptural truths behind?

Dowd: ...Facts are God's native tongue. ...Yet every day we let first-century theologians fill our children's brains.

There's a difference between flat-earth faith and evolutionary faith.<<

Dowd apparently has little or no spiritual expertise, claiming in his own biased way, that God's language is FACT (how bizarre!) and that FAITH is dependent on the paradigm one holds about the earth's shape!!!

I find it sad that some scientists have 'come out of their labs', claiming to be THE arbiters of truth. If these same 'scientists' would study religion, as thoroughly as they have studied their precious science(s), they wouldn't fall under the sway of their own pride.


Mystical Seeker said...

On the contrary, Dowd is a scientist who is also very religious. What makes his work so interesting is that he has worked to bridge the gap between science and religion. The important point is that he is opposed to an ignorant religion that denies science--specifically one that denies evolution, but in general one that does not take into account what God has shown to us through nature.

Matthew said...

Mystical seeker,

There seems to be a common misunderstanding about the natures of science and religion.

Religion IS NOT beliefs or theories. Buddhism is much clearer in this regard than is Christianity (due, mainly I believe, to the effect of the Enlightenment on Christian thought).

Science IS about beliefs and theories, which are CREATED from 'facts'. Things get messy when we consider how theories develop. A scientist's world view, which rely on assumptions about reality, plays a major role in interpreting fact. It does not make sense to speak of fact apart from the viewer; since the interaction between viewer and event is the basis for the creation of theory. How could one study an event that could not be experienced? And what's the point of having 'facts', without the ability to integrate them into a useful theoretical framework?

Unfortunately interpretation breeds distortion, and distortion 'fathers' (or 'mothers', if you will) the reason to re-evaluate a particular theory...thus causing 'paradigm' shifts in science.

When you mention 'bridging the gap', between science and religion, I believe a more accurate description would be 'attempting to reconstruct scientific religion'.

The Enlightenment has had a very pronounced effect on religious thought in the West. I've found conventional Christianity so highly tainted by scientific thought that it mearly 'looks' like religion, but has little, or none of it's transformative power. What we get is essentially a 'fast food' version of religion. It 'tastes' like religion, but has little or no of it's nutritional value.

Interestingly, Process theology continues this redustionistic process, attempting to strip religion of it's 'mystery', in order to make it 'play nice' with scientific thought. If the current scientific framework rejects religion's statements they are reformulated to be more appealing.

As the reductionistic process continues, people will become more fearful and anxious (nonspecific- towards anything and everything). The result will be more conflict, wars and rumors of wars (rumors because of people's inner focus on conflict.)

You claim Dowd to be a religious man who is also a scientist. In your quote from him I see only his attempt to squeeze religion into a scientific box. His comment about "Facts are God's native tongue" makes this point very clear. Have you ever heard, "God's language is silence"? If God's language is 'fact', then scientists will be the authorities who will tell God where 'He' went wrong...all they need is more 'facts'!

I believe we will find scientific, reductionistic thought continue to dominate and corrupt religion. People are too addicted to immediate gratification to let go of it's ability to manipulate physical matter. Conflict will continue between science and religion, since religion, which 'calls' to us at a 'being' level, can never be totally reduced to fit any reductionistic world view.

As reductionism continues to expand it's influence we will see more people 'go crazy', losing any sense of connection and love. I have seen renewed hope that scientific thought would save the 'world' by freeing people from emotional and idealogical instability; but I sense it will create more instability by 'removing' access to the realities of compassion and love that are found in true religion/reality.

Strangely this pattern of conflict is similar to what Jesus encountered with the temple cult authorities of his time. His antagonists pushed reductionistic alienation through the codified law, while he taught wholeness through personal connection. His death at their hands, shows where the true danger lies.

If we don't mind annihilating each other, the current reductionistic path should work fine ;


Mystical Seeker said...

I think you are mischaracterizing Dowd's views. I only posted a snippet of a longer interview. Reading the entire interview and the article that contains it gives a better insight into his views.

Dowd is not a scientific reductionist (nor is process theology, for that matter.) He points out that religion often falls into the trap of trying to make statements about the physical world that are scientifically untrue, such as when some people deny the science of evolution. He also points out that the way that the world operates tells us something about the way God acts in the world. That is not "reductionist" in the least. A reductionist would claim that religious statements are trie if and only if they are derivable strictly from the physical world, something that I don't see Dowd arguing (and process theologians certainly don't argue that.) The existence of God per se, for example, is not derivable from scientific or empirical knowledge, something that most people who believe in both science and religion understand.

The fact of evolution tells us something about how God operates in the world. To deny this is to live in a fantasy world. Dowd correctly points this out.