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Thank God for Evolution

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Thank God for Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World is a unique impersonal-God pantheist book written by theologian Michael Dowd and published by Plume in 2009.


The book merges religion with science and claims that religious traditions and spirituality are fully compatible with the scientific evidence for evolution.[1] Dowd does this by a process he calls REALizing. To REALize is to make real -- "that is, to suggest day language referents for traditional night language insights." (p. 140) The distinction between day and night language is important to Dowd. Day language is "normal everyday discourse" and should be used to describe "what's so: the facts, the objectively real, that which is publicly and measurably true." (p. 113). Night language is "grand metaphors, poetry and vibrant images." (p. 114) It can be used to describe what is "subjectively real, like a nighttime dream, though not objectively real. Night language is personally or culturally meaningful. It nourishes us with spectacular images of emotional truth." In other words, night language is fiction used to inspire while day language is non-fiction used to inform. To REALize is to reinterpret traditional religious concepts as poetic descriptions of what science tells us really happened. To REALize is to interpret the entire scripture of a religion as metaphorical and salvage those portions which can be used as metaphors for things that really happened and to add an inspirational layer to those events told as stories.

According to Dowd “Many devout religious believers have rejected evolution because the process has been depicted as random, meaningless, mechanistic and godless,” however Dowd writes that many scientists are moving away from this earlier approach into what he calls “an emergent, developmental worldview.”[2] Dowd further writes that evolution is meaningful.[3] By meaningful he does not mean teleological. He means that the story is inspirational and can be used much like a book of fables to teach morality. Although he talks about God a lot, what he means by God is quite different from the meaning used by a theistic evolutionist or even a personal-god pantheist. He says, "God is not a person; God is a mythic personification of reality. If we miss this we miss everything."[4] A personification is a metaphor created by an author. In other words, although God, the non-personal real universe, created humanity (not teleologically out of clay but through a random emergent creative entirely natural process of evolution through natural selection), humanity created God, the person. This usage of the word God is useful because it allows us to create a relationship with something rather than someone. A relationship we desperately need if we are to motivate ourselves to solve problems in our relationships with things like the climate. He says, "Think of the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks. The personified volleyball, Wilson, was the only thing that kept Hank's character sane."