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Michael Dowd, part 2: Original sin

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Evangelist of evolution Michael Dowd is not content to promote a worldview devoid of the supernatural using the language of atheism. His mission is to appropriate religious language and redefine it.

He calls the words related to faith — words like reverence and holiness, and theological terms like living in Christ — "night language," apparently because they obscure what sees as the truth. (His truth is that there is no supernatural order; he even prefers the term "unnatural" to "supernatural.") The goal, which he states explicitly, is to redefine "night language" in purely secular terms.

Original sin

In one of the two Point of Inquiry interviews, Dowd explains how and why he redefines one particular theological term, original sin. (The orthodox Christian definition of original sin is that first human sin committed by Adam and Eve. This sin is inherited by all humans, and its effects include separation from God, which is healed at baptism, and a "fallen nature" or tendency toward sin, also known as concupiscence.) Dowd does not believe in a spiritual world and thus not in a universal spiritual wound; he would like to redefine original sin to be merely an artifact of human evolution.

In the interview, Dowd seems at times desperate to gain the atheist host's approval. He brags about his secular "street cred," obtained when he and his wife had a polyamorous relationship with another woman. Being disfellowshipped from the United Church of Christ (one of the most liberal Protestant denominations) was not enough for him to change his ways, but he is now in a strictly monogamous relationship because (I'm not making this up) he is afraid of papparazzi.

So "living integrously" for Dowd does not require monogamy, but it does seem to require honesty; in his worldview, adultery is only wrong if your spouse disapproves.

This is the evolution evangelist's explanation of original sin:

When a person's social status changes dramatically for the better, such as upon being promoted or elected into office, Dowd says one experiences a boost in testosterone. (I'll take his word for it.) A high level of testosterone leads to a preoccupation with sex. He says that an orthodox Christian's response to this experience is to assume that "sex on the brain" means that it is God's will for him to commit adultery. It would be a sorry understatement to call this statement disingenuous.

Recognizing that a preoccupation with sex in this situation is just a natural response related to human evolution, rather than a result of a spiritual fall, gives a person the "tools" to live "integrously" by not acting on those urges, while a spiritual view of original sin does not do so, says Dowd.

It is true that a purely spiritual view of original sin does not by itself give one all the "tools" they need to avoid actual sin. Catholics and most Protestants agree that people cannot avoid sin entirely by relying on themselves. God's grace always a necessary weapon in the war against concupiscence.

Still, there is no denying that insight into one's psyche helps one make good choices. But it is not necessary at all to believe in human evolution in order to understand how hormones affect thinking. Psychobiology is not the same as evolution; this example would be better suited to a "gospel of psychiatry" rather than a "gospel of evolution."

Michael Dowd Series:

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