Evolution for Everyone

Inspiring Naturalism

Meet Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd, who deserve the “odd couple” award in the most charming possible way. Connie was a science writer in her earlier life whose books include Green Space, Green Time and The Ghosts of Evolution. Michael was a born again Christian in his earlier life who was born yet again to become the world’s first evolutionary evangelist, as he recounts in his book Thank God for Evolution. Together, they live like the itinerant preachers of old, permanently on the move in a big van with a picture of a Darwin fish kissing a Christian fish painted on the side. You can’t get more odd and charming than that!

Michael and Connie’s mission is more than charming–they want to create a meaning system that fully respects naturalism and also inspires in the same way that religion does. Their respect for both science and religion stands in refreshing contrast to the intolerant and thoroughly uninspiring new atheism movement (see my “Atheism As a Stealth Religion” series for more on that subject).

Their newest venture is a series of podcasts called “Inspiring Naturalism” and I am honored to be their first guest. Check it out on their website, which also provides a guide to their other activities. Perhaps you can even persuade them to include you in their circuit if you arrange a venue for them to speak ☺

Comments

  1. #1 Bob Carlson
    May 10, 2010

    After reading your “Beginners Guide” I was left with many doubts about your premises. As for the premise that the theory of evolution should be applied to the study of religion, I was left wondering if the theory of evolution is needed to explain How Sweden became so secular. Six explanations for Swedish secularism are summarized at the end of the paper, including:

    4. Lutheranism, particularly in its Swedish form, has had a highly educated clergy with a highly intellectualized and rational theology. With the triumph of modern values in the society and in a relatively short period of time, this educated clergy gave up their reactionary positions on social issues and came to accept participatory democracy in the Church and in society, the welfare state, and a pervasive humanitarianism dressed in liberal Christian garb. In a sense, the Church itself had become more secular. The opposition of the clergy to the ordination of women in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s was a reversal of this secular trend which enhanced alienation from the Church and religion. And Sweden is the Nordic country where the struggle for gender equality has been most intense.

    And then I couldn’t help wondering about the extent to which your desire to take a stand in contrast “to the intolerant and thoroughly uninspiring new atheism movement” is related to the the fact that some of those “new atheists” seem to find your ideas on group selection thoroughly uninspiring. And how is the source of the funding for this project going to enhance the chances that your ideas on group selection will gain broader acceptance in the scientific community?

  2. #2 darwinsdog
    May 10, 2010

    …in refreshing contrast to the intolerant and thoroughly uninspiring new atheism movement…

    Careful. Myers will sic his “attack cephalopods” on you for saying that. I’m a naturalist (as opposed to a supernaturalist) who isn’t superstitious, religious or ‘spiritual’ one bit, but I simply can’t stand that pompous prick.

  3. #3 cgauthier
    May 10, 2010

    You’re right, of course. Methodological naturalism isn’t at all at odds with the idea of god’s own son being tortured to death, too long ago to verify, so that he could kick his blood sacrifice habit for good this time and forgive us for all the irrational resentments he harbored that kept us out of heaven, should we believe in his zombie son’s everlasting, unconditional love for all those who believe in said zombification and unconditional love.

    Why don’t those “new atheists” get it? What is there in this beautiful narrative that a naturalist might find hilariously delusional, even in a methaphorical context? I mean, great-god-fucking-baby-jesus, what sniveling party-poopers.

  4. #4 Michael Blume
    May 14, 2010

    Thanks for the wonderful dialogue over there! From the perspective of religious studies, this emergence of evolutionary theism as represented by (e.g.) Teilhard de Chardin, Theodosius Dobzhansky or now Michael Dowd is a fascinating process. At the very least, they are helping other religious peoples to lose their fears about sciences (and maybe the same with those fears of some scientists about “those religious”). I thus enjoyed “Thank God for Evolution” – and the podcast! :-)

  5. #5 Michael Blume
    May 14, 2010

    @cgauthier

    You asked with wonderful irony: Why don’t those “new atheists” get it? What is there in this beautiful narrative that a naturalist might find hilariously delusional, even in a methaphorical context?

    Well, I think these are good questions! And if someone is deeming himself as being rational and interested in scientific answers, he (or she) should seek them! How do religions manage to gain so much support? Why did Monotheism catch on, and how did this peculiar branch named Christianity survive campaigns of persecution, winning over the Roman Empire within centuries? How could mere “delusions” have been so successful, contributing e.g. today in the US and Europe to higher fertility and evolutionary fitness among devout believers?

    No methodological naturalist would expect you to share the religious worldviews of Christians or any other tradition just for the sake of being nice. But if you don’t understand their history and successes, you could be curious about that one at least from a scientific perspective.

  6. #6 red pepper
    May 31, 2010

    I think these are good questions! And if someone is deeming himself as being rational and interested in scientific answers, he (or she) should seek them! How do religions manage to gain so much support? Why did Monotheism catch on, and how did this peculiar branch named Christianity survive campaigns of persecution, winning over the Roman Empire within centuries? How could mere “delusions” have been so successful, contributing e.g. today in the US and Europe to higher fertility and evolutionary fitness among devout believers?

  7. #7 fix it pro
    June 1, 2010

    Well, I think these are good questions! And if someone is deeming himself as being rational and interested in scientific answers, he (or she) should seek them!

  8. #8 J. A. Le Fevre
    June 1, 2010

    I would suggest that socialization is the most significant effect of religion. If we take a very rough cut at the data (in ‘War Before Civilization’, Lawrence H. Keeley itemizes statistics over a wide spell of historic and pre-historic peoples most of whom have a tradition of spirituality, but not of religion – where religion traditionally has professional priests/monks and dedicated structures as temples or ritual buildings). The data shows a 40% homicide rate among Neanderthals (pre-spiritual by and large), and a 30% homicide rate among the pre-civilized ‘modern humans’ (spiritual). The worldwide rate of homicides among peoples with a religious heritage (all civilizations have a religious heritage, most going back 6 or more thousand years) is roughly 0.1%. Additionally, the frequency of war drops by a factor of 3 among communities (states) with a religious heritage. That is a fairly dramatic advantage in socialization.

  9. #9 Atheist.pig
    June 13, 2010

    It always great when you visit one of your favorite evolutionary biologists blog only to realize your part of an intolerant and thoroughly uninspiring movement. Less of the politics and ideology please David.

  10. #10 Steve Dickinson
    July 9, 2010

    Please, please leave the religious Hoohah for some other blog — certainly not Scienceblogs!

  11. #11 jeremy
    August 14, 2010

    I have found the New Atheist movement extremely inspiring. I am interested to hear how you arrived at the opposite conclusion.

  12. #12 air max 2009
    September 6, 2010

    Xana eu adoro malancia mas só eu simplesmente este ano tenho comido muito pouca mas gostei muito da idéia feita dessa maneira! Mil beijos da Tia.

  13. #13 popdarwin
    October 24, 2010

    I read somewhere that there is no tool without a task in evolution. Religion is so pervasive it must have bestowed some advantage.

    It makes sense to leave religion in place, and like an appendix, only cutting it out when it becomes infected.

    I have no problem with a religious darwinist, any more than I have a problem with amphibians, who can breathe water, or air.

  14. #14 Parmak izli geçiş
    December 13, 2011

    CCTV camera systems, access control systems, employee time attendance systems, fingerprint reading systems, X-ray devices and metal detectors.

  15. #15 Üsküdar evden eve nakliyat
    December 22, 2011

    very good

  16. #16 çadır
    January 2, 2012

    bu sitenin blog’unu çok beğendim

  17. #17 Rent a car
    January 3, 2012

    Michael ve Connie misyonu büyüleyici daha natüralizm tam saygı gösterir ve aynı zamanda din aynı şekilde ilham veren bir anlam sistemi oluşturmak istiyorum. Hem de bilim ve din için onların saygısını, hoşgörüsüz ve iyice uninspiring yeni bir ateizm hareketi (“benim görm