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Friday, March 11, 2011

Thank God for Evolution, by Michael Dowd

An on-line contact of mine recommended that I read Michael Dowd's Thank God for Evolution. (The book has its own web site, here.) I got a copy from my local library.

Let's put it this way -- when I see a movie being hyped on all the morning talk shows, I'm suspicious that it can't stand on its own merits. When I read that a book has been endorsed by six Nobel Laureates, and find that the first six pages, after the title page, and the last four pages, are devoted to endorsements, by about 100 people, I also get suspicious. This book is nothing if not endorsed.

In a nutshell, the title is a fair summary, with one exception. That exception is a very important one, namely, what God is Dowd talking about? Back to that in a bit.

Dowd's project is, in my view, largely commendable. That is, it would be a good thing if credible scientific evidence that the earth is very old, and that organisms share common ancestry, would be taken as proof of the goodness, omniscience, and omnipotence of God, rather than, as too often happens, as an attack on belief in these qualities. God has spoken to us through nature, and in other ways. We should not ignore the way God speaks to us through nature. (See here if you want to know more about what I believe about origins, and see Biblical references to God speaking through nature.)

OK. What kind of God? I am a conservative Christian. That is, I believe that if the Bible can be clearly shown to say something, we need to pay attention to it. And I further believe that the Bible has something very important to say about sin, and the remedy for it. Dowd doesn't seem to share these views. For example, about the resurrection, which I take as the proof of Christ's miraculous power over sin, he writes: "Whether one interprets Christ's resurrection and ascension as literal, historic occurrences (as many conservative Christians do), or as meaningful night language expressions of experiential insight (as many liberals do) makes little difference in the ability of these stories to transform people's lives and relationships." (p. 363) I think it does make a difference.

In his Chapter 10, Dowd discusses the nature of sin, which he attributes to inner drives, derived from the instincts of the animals that we descended from. Even if that were true, which I will not argue here, it leaves something out, namely that Christ's death and resurrection is the only satisfactory solution for the sin problem.

Dowd's idea of God is some sort of vacuous spirit being, who may or may not actually exist outside of human imagination. I don't agree, and, of course, I am not alone.

Could I be wrong in my conservative Christian views? Yes, I could. I realize that. But I'm not going to embrace any program that denies them.

Thanks for reading.

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