Guest: Michael Dowd
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Michael Dowd is a bestselling author and an Evangelist. Michael’s best selling book, Thank God for Evolution, was endorsed by 6 Nobel Prize-winning scientists and by various religious leaders around the world as well. Jason Hartman and Michael sit down to talk about climate change, why evolution is necessary towards a better relationship with God, and more on today’s show.
1:20 – Michael has been traveling for 12 years with his wife.
3:00 – Many people first think of evolution as the devil.
6:00 – Michael teaches how you can honor God with everything science has been teaching.
11:30 – Since humans started taking oil and coal out of the ground, there’s now a lot of carbon dioxide and methane being released into the air.
15:20 – Jason asks why is all of this bad?
19:00 – Any system that makes it easy for people to destroy our future is a demonic system.
22:00 – After Michael’s Tedx talk, many evangelicals realized evolution was a good thing.
24:10 – Michael encourages you to search for The Future is Calling Us to Greatness.
Mentioned In This Episode:
The Wealth of Nature by John Michael Greer
The Future is Calling Us to Greatness.
It’s my pleasure to welcome Reverend Michael Dowd to the show. He is author of the New York Times bestseller Thank God For Evolution: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World. He’s also author of Earth Spirit: A Handbook for Nurturing an Ecological Christianity and it’s great to have him here to join us today. Michael, welcome, how are you?
Michael B Dowd:
Thank you, Jason, I’m doing really well.
Good. I always like to give our listeners a sense of geography and with you, that’s going to be interesting question, because you’ve been traveling for 12 years is it?
Exactly. For 12 years my wife, Connie Barlow, she’s a science writer and science educator and the two of us have lived on the road traveling all over North America. We’ve spoken to about 2,000 and speaking to your from Florida, Lakeland, Florida.
Lakeland, Florida today. Okay, I always like to tell our listeners where you’re located. No body ever knows nowadays. It’s good. Talk to us about the book, you know, I love the title by the way, and I think there’s been a pretty big lack, I mean, there’s, you know, some have alluded to it over the years of course, but there’s just not a lot of mixing of science and religion and I think they do blend pretty well. What are your thoughts, what’s your thesis on that?
Sure, the bible line is that I think most Christians have given God glory, to use religious language, for the discoveries of science. We think of it as secular, we don’t think of it as divine revelation and yet every fact that we discover, every fact that any scientist will discover is a revelation of God. It’s God revealing truth, so I think the facts are God’s native tongue and so I used to be, I was raised Roman Catholic, I had a born-again experience in my late teenage years, because I struggled a lot with drug and alcohol issues and was disciplined in the Assemblies of God context and it was really there at an Assembly God college at the end of college is Springfield, Missouri that I first encouraged evolution in a God honoring way.
I actually went to that school thinking that evolution is the devil and all the evils of the world could be attributed to Darwin, so I was unprepared for them teaching evolution at an Evangelical kind of coastal college. Well, I went on to discover almost all Evangelical colleges, they teach evolution, they just do it in a God honoring way. So, I ended up accepting evolution then, but it really wasn’t until 1988 when I met Father Thomas Berry. He died a few years ago at the age of 94 and he became my main mentor and basically where science, inspiration, theology, and sustainability intersect is what my passion is and has been and my book, Thank God for Evolution.
I think one the reasons why my book was endorsed by 6 Nobel prize winning scientists as well as dozens of religious leaders of all different kinds is it gives voice not just to my ideas, but it gives voice to God’s evidential revelation and it’s what’s God is going to reveal through science for several hundred years and it’s time to give God glory for that and it’s profound because what it does it builds a bridge to create head and heart. It builds a bridge between evidence and inspiration.
Yeah, good stuff. You know, Michael, I don’t really understand. I’ve always struggled with this question of understanding why these two would be mutually exclusive, I mean, it seems pretty obvious that evolution is real and it seems pretty obvious that creation is real. Why do they have to be mutually exclusive? Look, something had to create the universe. You know, if you look at the whole thing about the God particle, right, and I remember watching that documentary a few months ago about Higgs Boson. That had to created! I don’t get it. We know that evolution occurs, we know that Darwinism does occur. I mean, no body can deny that; that happens, things evolve, organisms evolve, but they had to come from some where.
Well, yeah, absolutely. I’m so glad you framed it that way, Jason, because I’ve – it’s challenging at times, because so many of us were taught, I mean, the people we trusted most deeply, our pastors and our parents had taught us of this binary, this, you know, it’s either theology and religion and spirituality and God and Jesus and the Bible on the one hand or it’s like this atheist secular chauvinist evidence, evolution, all that kind of stuff over on that end and what are the great challenges that many Evangelical and just, not even Evangelical, conservative Catholic student face when they go to college or university and even when they go to seminary is the discovery that, wait a second, there’s so much evidence and support of so many of these things that their pastors or their parents taught them to be fearful of.
So, that’s why I see it as my mission to show that God honoring, Christ-edifying scripture-honoring with thinking about everything that science has been revealing, so not only do we see it as not polar opposites, but we see them enriching each other. In fact, on the side of my van, we’ve got a big Dodge Sprinter white van and on the side of it very prominently on both sides it has the Jesus and the Darwin fish kissing with hearts between them and it definitely gets some interesting looks in Conservative parts of the world.
Yeah, I bet you do, I bet you do. Now, it seems like the whole debate over global warming and climate change, you’ve got the conservatives on the one side and the liberals on the other is it kind of odd you’re a believer in the climate change issue?
Well, it’s not a matter of believe. I know what God has been revealing now for long times through evidence that climate change has changed radically over millions of years and we humans because of our activities, our industrial activities over the last 200 years, especially we’ve added so much carbon that we know through God’s evidential work that the last time that there were 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we had alligators and crocodiles up in the Arctic.
We don’t believe this, we know this. There’s no kind of scientist will debate it and so, yeah, I’m very much in favor of having a God honoring way of thinking about everything including climate change and we are now in the place in what we do, I mean, one of my heroes is a republican, Bob Inglis from South Carolina and he says it more distinctly, because you’ve got to realize one of the reasons why so many conservatives reject climate change is because it’s often framed in liberal terms and it’s just really unfortunate, that’s why I love Bob Inglis.
First of all, he talk..well, let me back up, from 2001 to 2012 the largest and most prestigious science body in the world, Triple AS – The American Association for the Advancement of Science, came out 8 months ago with a very uncharacteristically prophetic, I use that word prophetic exactly, campaign called What We Know and one of the things they focused on and if you just put What We Know campaign in Google, you’ll get there, they’ve got these great videos, short little videos.
One of the things they talk about was that between 2001 and 2012, 97% of the papers that were published, 97% of the scientists agree that climate change is range. Humans are the main cause and we must take immediate action to avoid commending our children and grandchild to hell and high water and that was up to 2012. From 2012 to the end of 2013 it’s now 99.9% and yet because the issue is often framed in terms of like bigger government regulations, many conservatives understandably, I think rightly, reject that.
That’s why Bob Inglis is my hero. Here’s a direct quote, again, this is a republican from South Caroline Evangelical conservative, he says, I favor a conservative approach that marshal the (#8:55?) market and doesn’t increase the size of government. Here it is in a nutshell, put all the costs and all the fuels and eliminate all the subsides and watch the free enterprise system solve the planet and energy problem. Bam! He nails it. That’s exactly what everybody says we need to do and he’s saying it in a way that conservatives can get it.
Another one of my heroes is Katharine Hayhoe. She’s an evangelical woman climate scientist from Texas. Her husband is a mega church pastor and she goes into, she’s one of the most articulate people on the world on climate..in fact, she was featured in the showtime series called The Years of Living Dangerously and she can go into a room of 400 Evangelical conservative republicans in Texas and win them over. It has to be framed in language that conservatives can appraise.
Well, language and regulation or incentive too.
Exactly, but if you put all the costs and all the fuels, it’ll eliminate all the subsides, you don’t need the regulations. The market itself will take care of much.
The market does a pretty good job at thing. It does a better job than government, it’s about far from perfect, but it’s about the best thing out there. So, look it, there are so many layers to this issue, it’s like an onion that you could peal for hours and I just want you to know when I ask these questions, I’m not taking a position. I just want to know what your thoughts are on it, okay, and the reason I have to say that is because I was interviewing a very staunch climate change advocate, not that she was an advocate for it, but she’s a reporter for the New Yorker and she hung up on me during the interview! All I was doing was asking questions, I mean, I just wanted to drop her out and get her, but she was like so staunch about the whole thing, she said, global warming is happening, if you don’t believe it, you’re an idiot. It’s my way or the highway and I mean, you’re not going to win anybody over with that.
But okay, the first layer, you talked about industrial activities and it seems to me that the climate change people think the problem is exhaling. It’s breathing. You know, it’s the Co2. It’s not carbon monoxide, it’s not even pollution, they just talk about breathing. It’s the fact that we exhale and there aren’t enough trees to process that and so, now we’ve got more carbon dioxide than oxygen, right.
Yeah, it’s not..that’s not quite it, Jason. It’s not a matter, you know, you’ve already got 7 billion human beings now breathing, you know, there’s tens of billions of other animals that are breathing too, but the issue is that since we started non-renewable resources, namely first coal and then oil and natural gas, these are now putting what was stored carbon in the ground, now putting carbon dioxide and methane, especially, the methane maybe actually is a bigger problem with the carbon dioxide, because it’s not being released up in the Arctic in massive amounts, but the last time we saw this level of methane release was when, you know, the end of Permian extinction.
So, we’ve got some serious issues, but it’s not a matter of people breathing, it’s a matter of taking carbon that was locked in the ground and putting it in the atmosphere at a faster pace. I mean, it’s just been happening over thousands or tens of thousands of years, this is happening in a matter of, you know, one or two hundred years and now decades. I mean just if you look at since 1950. So, it’s the speed of it that’s the issue, it’s not…climate change of course has happened in the past, I mean, in the last 2 million years this is, again, God’s revelation, God’s evidential revelation.
In the last 2.5 million years, 17 times the glaciers came out south and the glaciers went back. That’s a lot of climate change, glaciers coming and going 17 times in 2.5 million years, but it’s happening now so fast and we’ve got so much of civilizations. I mean, every time the glaciers are big the oceans are down and when the glaciers melt, the oceans come up. This is just basic physics, I mean, you know, water freezes at 32 degrees whether you’re a republican or a democrat.
The problem is we’re now alluding almost half of the world’s population is living close to the ocean and so, you know, if ocean rise, which they will, I mean, it’s just one of the things. Just yesterday, actually a few days ago we had one of the world’s experts, the former head of the Jacques Cousteau society, Gerald Desous (#13:10?) and we ended up spending a day just talking. His name is John Englander and he wrote a book called High Tide on Main Street. One of the things he talked about is that even if we, like if a virus wiped out all of Shenary (#13:20?) tonight, the seas would rise for the next thousand years regardless. There’s that much already locked into the system.
So, it’s a matter of compassion and wisdom. I mean, this is one of the things I’m so appreciative about your work. Your really focusing not just on the spiritual, but the practical in bring Solomon wisdom to the equation. I think that’s what we need, we need wisdom to help us see the speed, so we really do step into being Christians, saviors of the future, little Christs.
The next question I’d like to ask you about climate change is and this is sort of a weird one. Are we talking about climate change or warming?
It’s really climate chaos, because some parts of the world..the jet stream, for example, normally goes around like a tire and then it’s got loopier, because when we lost..the ice is becoming thinner and thinner and smaller up in the Arctic and it’s creating this loopiness, this sort of waviness, that allows cold ice like, for example, the United States, the eastern part of the United States had a colder year last year than the last 40 years and yet Alaska had the highest in a 150 years. So, you’ve got this loopiness that brings hot air way north and cold air way south, so it’s really global weirding, it’s global chaos. It’s not, yes, there is this warming every decade for the last 50 years, actually, longer than that, has been warmer than the previous decade, that’s fine, that’s easy to verify, but it doesn’t impact every part of the world the same way. Some places have more drought, some places have more intense weather of all different kinds.
So, say for example someone is an area where it’s warming, okay, the question I think we need to ask ourselves and this may sound crazy, is that even bad? I mean, maybe it would make farm land air able that it could produce food. I don’t know if it’s bad even.
Well, what’s bad about it is, again, this is just my world view, there’s nothing that we discovered about reality that isn’t God revealing truths. So, I use the word God and reality interchangeably. God is being it’s revealing a lot of the evidence that we now have lots of really good evidence about how climate has changed over millions of years, especially the last 600,000 years and the fact of the matter is, we now have evidence about what happens when climate shifts up and down and most parts of the world that are now growing food. Most of where the fertile soil is will be drought conditions and some of the places that would have good rainfall will have almost non-existent soils.
So, it’s not a matter of yes, you know, wouldn’t that be great from the middle of Canada. We can just start growing food there instead of the United States. The problem is the middle of Canada doesn’t have squat when it comes to soil, because of the glaciers.
Okay, alright. What else do you want people to know about climate..I mean, how can we fix it? What should we do? You talked about the free market, which I think is great.
Well, the biggest thing is, again, the biggest thing has Bob Inglis, you know, again, a republican conservative from South Carolina said this, the biggest thing is we can no longer allow the free or subsided polluting of commons. The fact that we allow corporations or individuals to get wealthy are polluting the air, water, soil, life upon which we all depend is literally collective insanity. That can no longer be allowed. That’s the biggest shift.
Those are called externalities. So, what you have is you have businesses that in the olden days people would think, okay, here’s a corporation and it produces widgets and it charges x amount for the widgets and then it sells them to people and it keeps x amount as a profit and everything is well and good assuming they’re not scamming everybody on Wall Street, which they probably are, but that’s a whole other discussion. Wall Street the modern version of organized crime as I always say.
So, you’ve got that, but then there’s this external cost which people are just starting to account for, you know, what does that company take out of the commons? Does it pollute rivers and there are all sorts of laws to stop them from doing that. It’s funny because I have a friend who owns a bunch of bars and restaurants and he considers himself to be this total environmentalist and I think he’s out of his mind, because I just look at the amount of trash those institutions produce and, I mean, it’s mind boggling the amount of trash they produce, you know? But, there are externalities, right?
Well, Jason, I’m so glad you brought up the whole issue of externalities, because people often don’t think in terms of cycles. You know, you go to your supermarket, you buy food, you don’t think about where did that food come from, where does the waste, the packaging and things like that, where does this all go? And yes, by internalizing true costs what happens is we create a system where the cheaper, easier, more convenient thing to do becomes the right thing to do. Right now, by externalizing those costs we have a system where the cheaper, easier, more convenient to do is usually the wrong thing to do and people are going to do, you know, they’re not going to think deeply about things often that’s why we have to shift the systems.
We currently have systems and I’m going to use religious word some of your listeners may think what’s this guy talking about, I’m going to use the word demonic. For any system like a governmental or economic or political system that makes it easier or inevitable for millions of people to do things that are harmful to the future, if that doesn’t count as demonic, nothing does and yet that’s what we got is a system that makes it almost inevitable for millions of us to do things that future generation will look back and condemn us for. That’s crazy.
Yeah. So, externalities. I mean, the laws don’t solve the problem?
Well, unfortunately no, because the laws are operating within a system itself that sees as a good a very narrow understanding of progress. We’ve defined progress in ways that are totally inaccurate, because if you’ve got a declining earth, if the air, water, soil, and live upon it, everything depends is actually degrading. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a gross national product or gross domestic product that’s increase, it’s suicidal. It’s insane, God condemns that. Reality condemns that.
Okay, good, good stuff. That’s a good conversation on that, of course we could go on for days about this topic, it’s definitely a very complex and many layered topic. If we can circle back just before we wrap up here to Thank God for Evolution and I’m looking at your table of contents and you’ve got some interesting entries in here talking about how evolution is not meaningless, it’s not a blind chance and I think that’s what a lot of people think of it. It doesn’t have any meaning to it. Like, like, creation would.
Exactly, I mean..I used to be an anti-evolution fundamentalist. I actively opposed people who taught evolution. In fact, 35 years ago, Michael Dowd of 35 years ago would have been standing outside the venues that I now speak handing out tracts telling you what a heretic that guy in there is. So, I know that world really well is to be threaten and fearful of that and yet what I’ve come to see is first of all, if you ask the average America, especially those in middle America, moderate to conservatives, what they think of evolution, most of them will say they think of evolution as meaningless, boring, chance, Godless, purposeless, so it’s not a surprise if that’s the way they think about evolution, it’s not a surprise that they’re not climbing over each other to celebrate evolution.
So, I think the owners of responsibility is on those of us who do accept evolution, the facts of evolution and do so in a God honoring, Christ-edifying way, it’s our responsibility to get better at telling this story so that conservatives can see, oh! Like for example, when I did my first Tedx talk two years ago, it’s on evolutionary psychology and brain science, meaning what God has been revealing about our inner nature, why we struggle with temptation, why we and our kids and our grand kids get addicted and all this kind of thing. Any young man, for example, who thinks the reason he’s been tempted by internet porn is because his great, great, great grand mother ate an apple is going to be clueless about how to live in integrity.
So, when you understand what God is going to reveal into science about our nature it becomes much easier. In fact, I had three Evangelicals, because this Tedx talk was done in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is a pretty conservative part of the world. I had three Evangelicals come up to me independently within about 2.5 hours period after my program and all three of them said basically the same thing, which was I was a young earth creationist until I heard your program. Now, I’ve got to accept evolution, I just got to do it in a God honoring way.
In fact, one young man, he was probably in his mid 20s, he said, I always thought that evolution was about Darwin, DNA, and Dinosaurs. I didn’t know it was about how to live a more Christ-like life and have healthier relationships just as the practical side of an evolutionary world view and that’s what I love about your work, bringing together this timeless wisdom, this practical wisdom in a modern age. So, blessings on your ministry, brother.
Well, thank you for that. I appreciate it. I just thought there’s so much wisdom, really financial wisdom, business wisdom in the bible. I love Ecclesiastes and Proverbs too, but Ecclesiastes far and away my favorite and, you know, you gotta bring this stuff to people, because few people look at it that way and see that there’s actually a profit. There’s some profit tips here.
Profits dealt both ways, exactly, but you know it’s interesting because when you realize that evidence is modern day scripture and God is also revealing evidence, then God has been revealing some pretty amazing things there too and the one resource that I would recommend to your listeners and certainly recommend to you, I think it’s one of the best books on economics I’ve ever read and it’s about really sort of taking this wisdom, it’s called The Wealth of Nature, of course playing on The Wealth of Nations, but The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered and it’s written by John Michael Greer.
Looking it up now. That’s fantastic. Yeah, I’ll check that out. Maybe we’ll get him on the show too. Well, Michael, give out your website and tell people where they can find out more about you, of course the book is on Amazon.
Yes, it’s amazing now, I just spend the last year speaking along the route of the Great March for Climate Action where there were 50 marchers from LA to DC and so I was preaching/teaching along that route, but I also was interviewing some of the world’s top experts in climate change, peak oils, sustainability, and how to hold all the scary stuff in ways that inspire us to be action and so, all of that goes live, it’s all free, if people just put The Future is Calling Us to Greatness in Google you’ll get there. I think it’s the top thing. The Future is Calling Us to Greatness, you might want to put my name, Michael Dowd, but just that and you’ll see there’s 55 and I mean literally the top of the most respected people on these issues and literally about 8-10 of these interviews were so inspiring at some point I was brought to tear. It’s just amazing. So, I highly recommend these interviews that are free up online. The Future is Calling Us to Greatness.
Fantastic. Good stuff, good stuff. Do you want to give out any of these other websites like Evolutionary Christianity or?
Sure, I mean, the main one, sort of our home website that my wife is actually the web master for, it’s not as fancy and doesn’t have all the smells and bells, but its certainly got more of the content than any of the others is TheGreatStory.org and from that website you can link it..I mean, everything that we’ve created, it’s all there.
Fantastic. Well, Reverend Michael Dowd, thank you so much for joining us today.
Thank you, Jason.