New York Times Magazine has a brief on Michael Dowd, a UCC pastor who has decided that Christians should not just accept the fact of evolution – they should embrace it. Based on the article, and a quick perusal of the website for Dowd’s upcoming book Thank God for Evolution, Dowd’s gospel seems center on the idea that we can better come to terms with our sinful nature if we understand its evolutionary origins. It also has more than a hint of Teillardian influences:
When I speak of evolutionary emergence I’m referring to the fact that ‘the Universe’ (Nature/Time/Reality/God) has consistently, though not without setbacks, produced larger and wider scales of cooperation and complexity over time. [emphasis Dowd’s]
It’s inaccurate, at best, to say that biological evolution has some sort of grand purpose behind it – there may be trends that are visible in retrospect, but these are the emergent result of undirected processes, not evidence of a divine plan. It feels a bit churlish to make that kind of objection, though. Even liberal Christians don’t usually know what to do with evolution, beyond accepting it as fact. No other modern thinker, as far as I know, is actively grappling with the ways in which evolutionary thought might actually inform Christian theology. (The closest I know of is Michael Ruse’s Can a Darwinian be a Christian?, which is excellent, but resolutely agnostic.) If Dowd’s ideas are less than perfect, they do make a good starting point. And Christianity could use a good starting point for thinking about evolution. I might have to track down a copy of Dowd’s book.