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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Wonders #7: Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd

I’m a real sucker for people who make a conscious choice to really live their convictions, and this week’s Wednesday Wonders are real examples of that. Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd are a husband-wife team who feel so strongly that science and spirituality are not in conflict with each other, but instead complement each other, that they have spent the past seven years roaming the continent giving talks about their findings. Barlow spoke at my UU church on Sunday, and Dowd did a talk there last night.

What they have to say is interesting, and you can read about it on their website or in their books. I didn’t find anything they said terribly new or different, since it was straight up and down how I look at life, the universe and all that, but as Lee pointed out, they said it well—better than either of us could have.

The main point Dowd (author of Thank God for Evolution) made last night is that the language of religion is needed, because humans need some metaphoric way to look at things they don’t understand (he called it night language—the language of dreams). He then said that, as humans uncover how things work (atoms, galaxies, evolution and such) the night language gets replaced by the day language of facts. The deal is, both are ways of looking at the same thing that help humans make sense of their world. We have a drive to do that. We’ll always need the “night language” because we’ll never run out of stuff we don’t understand yet. But the two aren’t at odds—instead they work together. Knowing how things work doesn’t make them any less wonderful, doesn’t make our world less something to revere, and so on.

There’s plenty of other interesting stuff they talk about, but I encourage you to go see them if they come to your town. They speak at liberal churches and other such places (including Christian ones—what they say is not incompatible with most Christians’ cosmologies). And they are very intelligent people—when asked hard questions, each had excellent, in-depth answers that showed that they had put a lot of thought into every aspect of their work.

The reason I want to honor these two is that they act on their beliefs, not just talk about them. They drive a van (with their cute logo of Jesus fish and Darwin fish kissing) that’s their office and home, and stay with strangers as much as possible. They obviously spend hours and hours developing presentations, making videos, writing books (not just popular ones—Barlow is a well known scholar as well), and marketing their stuff. It is obvious they aren’t out for personal glory—they deeply care about the future of humankind. They truly want to share their sweetly optimistic view that in the long run, we are moving toward a more globally cooperative and tolerant society, yet acknowledge that any great leap like this will be born on the ashes of some awful times (like now! They have a chart!). Like any evangelist, they truly believe that if people just hear their good news/gospel, they will join the movement.

Now, I don’t know if the above is true, but I certainly admire them for working so hard to see if they can make it so. They are doing their part to manifest their vision. They’re being the change they want to see (how unoriginal of me, but hey, it’s a good line). In sort of envy this. I felt like that’s what I was doing in my previous career—working to create a world where people parent their children naturally and respectfully. Now, well, I edit courses on how to use blade servers. Not the same.

I think we need more Barlow and Dowds, and we need to inspire people like me to get fired up about something important and DO something about it. At least I have shared the Thank God for Evolution campaign with a few of my friends. It’s a start.

More on Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow

Their book site, all professional and snazzy, where you can see videos and read reviews of Thank God for Evolution and order assorted merchandise I notice that on their Café Press stuff, they don’t take a profit. (They also don’t charge for their talks—just take donations.)

Thank God for Evolution on Amazon

The Great Story: simple website with educational information on how they view the creation story

Michael Dowd bio

Connie Barlow bio

1 comment:

Lee said...

I was gonna post on this, but, like Dowd and Barlow, you said it better than I could.