|Other names||Bob Wright|
|author of The Moral Animal, Nonzero, The Evolution of God; editor for Time, Slate, The New Republic, The Wilson Quarterly; has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, HuffPost, and The New York Times Magazine; runs websites Bloggingheads.tv and MeaningofLife.tv|
Robert Wright (born January 15, 1957) is an American journalist and author who writes about science, history, politics, and religion. He has written five books: Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information (1988), The Moral Animal (1994), Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny (1999), The Evolution of God (2009), and Why Buddhism is True (2017). As of 2019, Wright is a Visiting Professor of Science and Religion at Union Theological Seminary, New York. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bloggingheads.tv and the founder and editor-in-chief of Meaningoflife.tv.
Wright was born in Lawton, Oklahoma to a Southern Baptist family and raised in (among other places) San Francisco. A self-described "Army brat", Wright attended Texas Christian University for a year in the late 1970s, before transferring to Princeton University to study sociobiology, which was a precursor to evolutionary psychology. His professors at college included author John McPhee, whose style influenced Wright's first book, Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information.
Wright served as a Senior Editor at The Sciences and The New Republic, and as an editor at The Wilson Quarterly. He has been a contributing editor at The New Republic (where he also co-authored the "TRB" column),Time, and Slate, and has written for The Atlantic Monthly,The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. He contributes frequently to The New York Times, including a stint as guest columnist for the month of April, 2007 and as a contributor to The Opinionator, a web-only opinion page in 2010. Wright became a senior editor of The Atlantic on January 1, 2012. As of February, 2015, the magazine's author page describes him as "a former senior editor at The Atlantic."
In early 2000, Wright began teaching at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, teaching a graduate seminar called "Religion and Human Nature" and an undergraduate course called "The Evolution of Religion." At Princeton, Wright was a Laurence S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellow and began co-teaching a graduate seminar with Peter Singer on the biological basis of moral intuition. In 2014, Wright taught a six-week Coursera MOOC on "Buddhism and Modern Psychology". As of 2019, Wright is a Visiting Professor of Science and Religion at Union Theological Seminary, New York. Also as of 2019, Wright is a Senior Fellow at the think tank New America.
In 2002, Wright ventured into video-on-Internet with his MeaningofLife.tv website, developed by Greg Dingle, in which he interviews a range of thinkers on their ideas about science, philosophy, meditation, spirituality, and other topics. Meaningoflife.tv is sponsored by Slate magazine, and made possible through funding by the Templeton Foundation. Other hosts include John Horgan, Daniel Kaufman, Nikita Petrov, and Aryeh Cohen-Wade.
On November 1, 2005, Wright, blogger Mickey Kaus, and Greg Dingle launched Bloggingheads.tv, a current-events diavlog. Bloggingheads diavlogs are conducted via webcam, and can be viewed online or downloaded either as WMV or MP4 video files or as MP3 sound files. New diavlogs are posted approximately 5-10 times a week and are archived. While many diavlogs feature Wright, other hosts at Bloggingheads.tv include Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, Bill Scher, Matt Lewis, Kat Rosenfield, Phoebe Maltz-Bovy, and Aryeh Cohen-Wade.
I would say so. Now, I don't think that precludes the possibility that as ideas about God have evolved people have moved closer to something that may be the truth about ultimate purpose and ultimate meaning... Very early on, apparently people started imagining sources of causality. Imagining things out there making things happen. And early on there were shamans who had mystical experiences that even today a Buddhist monk would say were valid forms of apprehension of the divine or something. But by and large I think people were making up stories that would help them control the world.
On The Colbert Report, Wright said he was "not an atheist" but did not believe in any of the three Abrahamic religions. He opposes creationism, including intelligent design. Wright has a strictly materialist conception of natural selection; however, he does not deny the possibility of some larger purpose unfolding, that natural selection could itself be the product of design, in the context of teleology. Wright describes what he calls the "changing moods of God", arguing that religion is adaptable and based on the political, economic and social circumstances of the culture, rather than strictly scriptural interpretation.
Wright has also been critical of organized atheism and describes himself more specifically as a secular humanist. Wright makes a distinction between religion being wrong and bad and is hesitant to agree that its bad effects greatly outweigh its good effects. He sees organized atheism as attempting to actively convert people in the same way as many religions do. Wright views it as being counterproductive to think of religion as being the root cause of today's problems.
In Why Buddhism is True, Wright advocates a secular, Westernized form of Buddhism focusing on the practice of mindfulness meditation and stripped of supernatural beliefs such as reincarnation. He believes Buddhism's diagnosis of the causes of human suffering is vindicated by evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology. He further argues that the modern psychological idea of the modularity of mind resonates with the Buddhist teaching of no-self (anatman).