In Memoriam: Michael Dowd

After a life of convention-challenging thought and leadership, Michael Dowd has left us, quietly in his sleep last Saturday.

There is a lot to say about Rev. Dowd. He was certainly a big thinker and he, with his wife Connie Barlow, was a pioneer in the framing of the very story of the Universe and evolution themselves as a grand spiritual narrative.

He was also a “post-Doomer”, believing that climate change, ecological and civilizational collapse are inevitable and promoting a philosophical position that eschewed big-picture hope, but rather chose small acts of bettering the world immediately around us.

I disagreed with him on this, and we had a couple of go-rounds of debate. My position is that of chaos mathematics and emergent complexity themselves: that we cannot predict with any certainty the outcome of extremely complex processes, and it is therefore premature to simply take on faith that Doom is inevitable.

But he was certainly a worthy opponent in these discussions, and an interesting and thoughtful man. He didn’t exactly “give” us The Great Story, but he promoted it as an alternative to theological narratives like Sin and Salvation, and he was thus, though perhaps not an atheist himself, an early articulator, like Carl Sagan, of the idea of scientifically confirmed history as a religious text.

He left us too soon, and will be sorely missed.