Thank God For Evolution

I just read an interesting article on Wired News. Former evangelical minister Michael Dowd is now touring the United States in a van with an image of the Jesus and Darwin fishes kissing on its side.

Dowd is a proponent of evolutionary theology, which embraces the science of evolution while maintaining faith in God as the “ultimate reality” behind the process. The article refers to the work of Thomas Berry, whom I am eager to check out. The wikipedia article refers to him as following in the footsteps of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a fascinating thinker who was proposing this sort of understanding back when evolutionary theory was only a few decades old.

I’m sure I’ll be driven back to these thinkers after I finish reading the free PDF download of Dowd’s latest book, entitled Thank God for Evolution. I get the impression this guy likes to shake people up. Growing Fast is growing fast and now offers social networking and live streaming, in addition to Christian-themed videos

This is interesting in light of some of the issues we discussed at our panel at SXSW Interactive this past spring. You can listen to the podcast here. I wonder if there’s a way to measure if more people are actually “attending” church online than offline. They certainly seem to be indulging their curiosity at this new site.

Of course, my fear is always that online “community’ is often just an invitation to flame others with views different than your own. The internet makes it much easier to express views you wouldn’t feel comfortable expressing to a stranger IRL, but it also makes it easier to trash someone else’s views without getting to know them first.

Must keep an eye on this GodTube thing…

SXSW 2007 Wrapup

I know this post is long overdue, but it’s actually taken me this long to recover physically and mentally and catch up a bit at work. This year’s SXSW was even bigger than last year, and despite the fears of my friends and I, it was actually somehow a bit more manageable. This was probably due to a few factors. First, I had a panel to prepare for and that allowed me to focus on that to the exclusion of almost everything else on the Saturday. Another sadder reality was that Brooke’s father passed away just a week before I was to fly to Austin. We spent almost the entire next week with her mum in Collingwood, about an hour and a half north of Toronto. That made it pretty impossible to think about or plan my week too carefully. For a few days, it wasn’t even clear I’d be able to make the trip at all. But in a strange way, it made me less anxious about the panel and about figuring out what I wanted to do every hour of every day. I was just happy to be there. And just so you know, Brooke was able to spend some quality time alone with her mum that week and sent me on my way with her blessing. She’s amazing like that.

I didn’t attend a lot of panels, or take a lot of photos or notes, so I thought I’d just give you a list of highlights and lowlights:


  • My panel was great. It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet some very sharp people who also happen to be warm and genuine about their faith. I’m really hopeful that I can be involved in something like it again next year.
  • Sticking around a few days was a great idea. Although I didn’t buy a Music badge, there were heaps of free day shows. I got to see The Buzzocks(!), The Polyphonic Spree, Apples in Stereo, Peter Bjorn and John, Robyn Hitchcock with Peter Buck and Okkervil River. There was even free food and beer.
  • During one of the parties during Interactive, I was chatting with my friends Kevin and Baratunde when we were joined by a personable young guy talking about films. He introduced himself as Joe and said he was acting in a film that was at the Film festival. During our 40 minute conversation, it dawned on me that we were hanging out with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of The Lookout. He turned out to be a great guy, smart and interesting but completely unpretentious.
  • As a panelist, I got a complimentary Gold badge which allowed me to attend both Interactive and Film events. I took the opportunity to see a few films (Reign Over Me, Exiled, and Eagle Versus Shark) and this was a great break from the intensity of hanging around with smart geeks or rocking out at concerts.
  • The panels and keynotes I did attend were almost all interesting and valuable.
  • I focussed more on my writing about film and made a number of useful contacts. My decision to launch Toronto Screen Shots was based on attending a great panel called “Blogging About Film.”


  • The weather in Austin this year was kind of crappy. It rained for several days, which made getting around fairly miserable.
  • Hotels were expensive and filled up really early. Despite sharing with my friends Neil and Kevin, which involved spending five of my eight nights on either an air mattress or a rollaway bed, it still cost me more than US$1,000. I’m going to book my room by July or August next time.
  • Almost everyone I know had some travel snafus on the way home. I wasn’t immune. I flew back Saturday from Austin to Detroit without incident, but my flight from Detroit to Toronto was cancelled for “unscheduled maintenance.” Despite the fact that it’s a one hour flight, there were no flights available until Monday or Tuesday, and the airline would only pay for one night’s accomodation. I banded together with a few other Torontonians and we took a taxi across the border to Windsor and jumped on the train. I got home about seven hours late, and it cost me more money, but there was no way I was staying two days in Detroit, especially at my own expense. Boo airlines!
  • As always, the week went by far too quickly and I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with people. There were a few people whom I’d wanted to meet for the first time, and didn’t get the chance. Ah well, I’ll be back next year!

Welcome To Our Panel

Ghost In The Machine

Ok, this entry is really just for those folks who are sitting in the Austin Convention Center Room 9C between 5:00 and 6:00pm Central Standard Time today. Welcome! I hope you’ll enjoy our panel “Ghost In The Machine: Spirituality On The Web.” I hope you’ll leave me a comment with some feedback on the panel. I hope we can do this again next year, and I know we’ll learn a lot. I want to thank Hussein, Rachel, Kevin and Gordon for agreeing to be the “smart guys” on the panel and am so glad to have finally met them in person.

And oh yeah, if you’re wondering about why I’m moderating a panel on spirituality, you might want to look here and maybe here.