Robert Wright (journalist)
January 15, 1957 |
|Other names||Bob Wright|
|Notable credit(s)||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, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times Magazine; runs websites Bloggingheads.tv and MeaningofLife.tv|
Robert Wright (born January 15, 1957) is an American journalist, scholar, and prize-winning author of best-selling books about science, evolutionary psychology, history, religion, and game theory, including The Evolution of God, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, The Moral Animal, and Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bloggingheads.tv. He is a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, a think tank that has been described as radical centrist in orientation. Additionally, Wright teaches an undergraduate seminar at Princeton University on the connections between modern cognitive science and Buddhism, in addition to an online course on the same subject.
Life and education
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.
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.
Wright served as a Senior Editor at The Sciences and at 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.
In late November 2011, The Atlantic announced that Wright had been named a senior editor effective January 1, 2012. As of February, 2015, the magazine's author page describes him as "a former senior editor at The Atlantic."
In 2002, Wright ventured into video-on-Internet with his MeaningofLife.tv website, developed by Greg Dingle, in which he interviews a number of scholars, theologians, scientists and cosmic thinkers about their ideas and opinions regarding religion and spirituality, including Karen Armstrong, Daniel Dennett, Freeman Dyson, and Steven Pinker among others. Meaningoflife is sponsored by Slate Magazine, and made possible through funding by the Templeton Foundation.
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 and Kaus, other regular participants at Bloggingheads.tv include Rosa Brooks, Conn Carroll, Jonathan Chait, Joshua Cohen, David Corn, Timothy Noah, Ross Douthat, Daniel Drezner, Garance Franke-Ruta, John Horgan, Heather Hurlburt, George Johnson, Mark Kleiman, Ezra Klein, Jeffrey Lewis, Glenn Loury, Megan McArdle, John McWhorter, James Pinkerton, Jacqueline Shire, Mark Schmitt, Will Wilkinson and Matthew Yglesias. They represent diverse political viewpoints, and Wright and Kaus differ politically as well.
Wright has also used Bloggingheads.tv to conduct interviews with, among others, the political scientist Francis Fukuyama about his book America at the Crossroads; the Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg on his book The Accidental Empire (about the history of the settlements); the weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis; the Washington Post columnist Joel Achenbach on an article of his about global-warming skeptics; and Andrew Sullivan on his book The Conservative Soul.
Wright has written extensively on the topic of religion, particularly in The Evolution of God. In 2009, When asked by Bill Moyers if God is a figment of the human imagination, Wright responds: "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."
Wright described himself as agnostic when he appeared on The Colbert Report, and 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 New 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 the New Atheists 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.
- 1989 Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information. ISBN 0-06-097257-2
- 1994 The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. ISBN 0-679-76399-6
- 2001 Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny. ISBN 0-679-75894-1
- 2009 The Evolution of God. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-73491-8
- 2017 Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment. ISBN 1439195455
The Evolution of God was one of three finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. The New York Times Book Review chose Wright's The Moral Animal as one of the 10 best books of 1994; it was a national bestseller and has been published in 12 languages. Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny was a The New York Times Book Review Notable Book in the year 2000 and has been published in nine languages. Fortune magazine included Nonzero on a list of "the 75 smartest [business-related] books of all time." Wright's first book, Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information, was published in 1988 and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Wright's column "The Information Age," written for The Sciences magazine, won the National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism.
- "Robert Wright - Senior Future Tense Fellow". newamerica.net. The New America Foundation. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- Morin, Richard; Deane, Claudia (10 December 2001). "Big Thinker. Ted Halstead’s New America Foundation Has It All: Money, Brains and Buzz". The Washington Post, Style section, p. 1.
- Debold, Elizabeth. "Suggestions of a Larger Purpose An interview with Robert Wright". enlightennext.org. Enlightennext Magazine. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
- "Does History Have A Purpose?". THINK TANK. April 1, 2000. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
- "Previous Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellows". uchv.princeton.edu. Princeton University. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- Wright, Robert (2009). The Evolution of God. Acknowledgments: Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group. p. 576. ISBN 0-316-73491-8.
- Robert Wright, Mickey Kaus (June 11, 2008). Scarlett Johansson Edition (SWF/FLV/Flash) (Webcam (recorded)). bloggingheads.tv. Event occurs at 2:15. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
- Robert Wright, Mickey Kaus (June 3, 2008). Puppies!!! (SWF/FLV/Flash) (Webcam (recorded)). bloggingheads.tv. Event occurs at 0:15. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
- "Robert Wright". tnr.com. The New Republic. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- "Articles by: Robert Wright". wilsonquarterly.com. The Wilson Quarterly. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- Wright, Robert (December 19, 1994). "TRB from Washington: The Gay Divorce". The New Republic. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- "Articles by: Robert Wright". search.time.com. Time Magazine. 26 April 2004. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- "Articles by: Robert Wright". slate.com. Slate Magazine. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
- "Robert Wright". theatlantic.com. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- "Articles by: Robert Wright". newyorker.com. The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- Wright, Robert. "The Opinionator - All Posts by Robert Wright". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
- Robert Wright, Mickey Kaus (November 30, 2011). Dunkirk (Videotaped). Retrieved January 26, 2012.
- Meaningoflife.tv at the Wayback Machine (archived March 5, 2002)
- "About Us". meaningoflife.tv. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- "About Us". bloggingheads.tv. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- "Robert Wright interview". Bill Moyers Journal. (transcript link). New York. July 17, 2009. Event occurs at 33:29 (3:40 minutes in). PBS. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- "The Colbert Report - Robert Wright". colbertnation.com. Comedy Central. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- "Robert Wright interviews Daniel Dennett (1 of 8)". YouTube.com video. (transcript link). Meaningoflife.tv. December 16, 2008. Event occurs at 6:44. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- "The Evolution of God". YouTube.com video. evolutionofgod. June 2, 2009. Event occurs at 4:27. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- "Authors@Google: Robert Wright". YouTube.com video. Google. June 30, 2009. Event occurs at 5:11. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- Robert Wright, Sam Harris (October 9, 2010). Sam Harris vs. Robert Wright - Council for Secular Humanism conference 1/10 (SWF/FLV/Flash/H.264) (Videotaped). Los Angeles: Council for Secular Humanism. Event occurs at 11:40. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- Robert Wright, Sam Harris (October 9, 2010). Sam Harris vs. Robert Wright - Council for Secular Humanism conference 1/10 (SWF/FLV/Flash/H.264) (Videotaped). Los Angeles: Council for Secular Humanism. Event occurs at 13:50. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
- "Finalists have been announced since 1980.". pulitzer.org. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- "Editors' Choice 1994". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- Useem, Jerry (21 March 2005). "The Smartest Books We Know". money.cnn.com. Fortune Magazine. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- "All Past National Book Critics Circle Award Winners and Finalists". bookcritics.org. National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
- Robert Wright on Twitter
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- EvolutionofGod.net - A website for Wright's book, The Evolution of God
- Nonzero.org - A website for Wright's book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
- MeaningofLife.tv - Wright's website recording his interviews of noted philosophers and scientists including Daniel Dennett, John Maynard Smith, Steven Pinker, John Polkinghorne, and Francis Fukuyama
- Contributions to Slate magazine