Monday, June 8, 2009

Interviewing Robert Wright: Help Needed and Contest

Tripp and I have been lucky to land a podcast interview with the brilliant Robert Wright, author of the new book The Evolution of God. I have have been a long-time fan after reading his books The Moral Animal and Nonzero, and although I am still not very far in The Evolution of God, I have been impressed so far.

Tripp and Chad at Homebrewed Christianity have a weekly podcast where they interview theologians and scholars about their theological systems and world views (archive here). They have had some big names on their podcast, and a listenership that literally spans the globe. I am thankful to Tripp, Chad, and Robert Wright for this opportunity.

We are going to be interviewing Robert Wright next Wednesday. Importantly, we are soliciting questions from you to ask him. Mr. Wright and his publicist have been gracious enough to give us several copies of his new book, so those who offer the best question will not only get their question asked in our podcast interview, but will receive a new copy of The Evolution of God. Importantly, you can ask your question here, you can email me your question (email on the top-right of blog) or you can call into the Homebrewed Christianity caller hotline and ask it there (210.787.1057). Please remember to leave your name and contact information so that we can contact you if/when you win.

If it helps, we have discussed Robert Wright several times on this blog before. We discussed an article on religion and globalization, pointed out a great quote of Andrew Sullivan in Sullivan's review of The Evolution of God, and we highlighted a NYT's Q&A with Wright. Please read through these previous posts for more sources and information.

Do you have any questions that you would like to ask Robert Wright?


matt said...

ooh ooh, me me me!

"In Andrew Sullivan's review of your book, he compares the "darkness" of the Taliban to the darkness of the religious right and each's presumable equal capacity for "mass destruction". Do you think they are equal in darkness and/or equal in the magnitude to which they need reformation?

Anonymous said...

Here's my first question (I've already made it through half the book and don't need a free copy, but some answers would be nice): If the non-zero sum relationship is key to the Wisdom, the "logos" of God, and the expression and embodiment of that relationship leads to the divine, why is God's relationship with man not a non-zero sum one (a non-zero-sum relationship requires lose-lose to be a possible outcome)?

Thanks. Amanda

Anonymous said...

Here's my 2nd question: The book contains several implications that the long term outcome has been good even if the process of getting there has been less than good (empiric war leads to greater tolerance, never mind the deaths involved, etc.). If non-zero-sumness got us to where we are today, with our comparatively superior moral code and expanding moral circle, that does not necessarily mean that this was the intended destination all along, nor even that it is good. Good is relative. What if, 2000 years from now, the world consists of 100% females and a bunch of clonable frozen XX sperm, and the "humans" live in a world of peace and harmony and almost no violence, and they declare this evolved gender ratio to embody the divine wisdom, because of the peace and order and improved morality and reduced violence that have become evident as a result of this evolution. Would you describe that state of affairs as the expression of divinity and of God's "logos"? If that state of affairs were attained through genetic engineering rather than natural evolutionary processes, would your evaluation of it be the same? The state of affairs would not have changed, just the means by which it was attained. If ends justify means (which seems to be the case if we're going to be praising the evolutionary process for the ends it achieves regardless of the means by which it achieves them), then do any means justify sufficiently divine ends?

Thanks. Amanda

Anonymous said...

Here's my third question: I don't understand why the existence of a moral order in the universe gives you pause to consider that something divine might be behind it, yet the existence of the human eye, or consciousness, or any of the many other impossibly complex and difficult to understand aspects of life do not. If you can explain the latter without resorting to "god", why not the former? And if other people see evidence of "god" in an eye or in the existence of humans, is that not as legitimate as your seeing evidence of "god" in a moral order? I know you state that a moral order is different from something as mechanistic as the eye and therefore leads to different conclusions regarding the meaning of its existence, but I can't find where you make the case for why this is so - it seems to be just your opinion. In short, I don't really see how what you offer is all that different in legitimacy from what intelligent design people offer. And, really, the costs paid for getting life to the point where moral order could unfold seem to me to be unreasonably high for there to be anything good behind it. Isn't it rather anthropocentric to state that because humans have reached a point where we are capable of choosing to rise above the forces that normally drive natural selection, we are also supposed to do so? That seems to be deriving an "ought" from and "is" and opens the door to lots of problems. You happen to be a fan of moral order. Others may be fans of power and fortune. Others of intellectual superiority. Others of democracy. Others of male superiority. Why would the ought from is argument be permissible for lovers of the moral order but not for lovers of these other things?

Thanks. Amanda

Greg said...

I read the 'Decoding God' article and wondered if the development and possible new developments occurred because people understood God better over time or if God changed over time?

thanks for doing this drew

Anonymous said...

Here's my fourth question: In your NYTimes interview with Deborah Solomon, you state, "the drift of history, however materially driven, has enough moral direction to suggest that there’s some larger purpose at work." Since morality is the exclusive purview of humans, and perhaps some primates, as far as we know, your theory requires the existence of intelligent, sentient beings like humans for it to operate on. Do you think such beings (humans) were thus an inevitable, or even intended, outcome of natural selection? If so, does that not require explanations of evolutionary inevitability that "produce a regress of increasing unlikelihood" as Jerry Coyne puts it?
Thanks. Amanda

Anderson Pugh said...

In what ways would you or could you speak about revelation in your framework? What do you think is the most pressing or difficult question(s) for traditional theists to respond to?

Anonymous said...

Here's my fifth question: Bob makes a lot of reference to moral order and moral progress. These concepts are difficult to fully understand unless one has first defined what one's philosophical position is regarding morality. So, I am interested to know what Bob's philosophical position is regarding morality - is he a moral realist? If so, what is the source of these moral truths, how can we know them, and what are they? If not, what is his philosophical position regarding morality and how does he derive his sense of moral truths from that position?
Thanks. Amanda

Anonymous said...

Here's my sixth question: If you have as a goal a future in which there is greater tolerance among the 3 abrahamic religions, how do you reconcile this goal with human rights that may be in conflict with the practices of some religions? I presume that, if a religion were to practice human sacrifice as a religious sacrament, for example, you would not be in favor of tolerance. Where do you draw the line on tolerable and intolerable religious practices, and what is your basis for deciding where to draw that line?
Thanks. Amanda

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Here's my question after reading the Time Magazine piece (which I've already blogged).

It is often suggested that monotheism is by definition exclusivist and that monotheists can't live peacefully with their neighbors. You seem to suggest that this is not necessarily true, but you seem to believe (from reading the Time piece) that context is key. How then can monotheists live peacefully with others in times of crisis?

Crystal said...

How do you think you own personal spirituality impacts your writing?

brandn said...

Maybe my question is too late: Do you think many critics of religion know very little about it? Therefore, their criticisms are levied against their own ideas more than they are against religion as practiced?

Matt Bankert said...

Dang, it's hard to follow up those questions, especially that Amanda person, but what the heck, I'll throw my own question into the ring. I haven't had the pleasure of reading his book, so hopefully my question isn't irrelevent and I'm not misunderstanding his ideas... here goes:

Can concept of the "evolution" of God be reconciled at all to the concept of God's unchanging nature found in both the Jewish and Christian scriptures? For example, Malachi 3:6 says, "For, I, the Lord, do not change," and Psalm 102:27 says [addressing God], "But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end." So while different ideas about the divine being change throughout history, if God does exist is there anything about him/her/it that stays constant independent of humankind's perception?