Robert Wright (journalist)

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Robert Wright
Robert Wright journalist.jpg
Born (1957-01-15) January 15, 1957 (age 63)
Other namesBob Wright
EducationPrinceton University
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, HuffPost, and The New York Times Magazine; runs websites Bloggingheads.tv and MeaningofLife.tv
Spouse(s)Lisa Wright
Children2
Websitebloggingheads.tv
meaningoflife.tv
mindfulresistance.net

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.[1] He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bloggingheads.tv and the founder and editor-in-chief of Meaningoflife.tv.

Early life and education[edit]

Wright was born in Lawton, Oklahoma to a Southern Baptist[2] family and raised in (among other places) San Francisco. A self-described "Army brat",[3] 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.[2] 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.

Career[edit]

Journalism[edit]

Wright served as a Senior Editor at The Sciences and The New Republic,[4] and as an editor at The Wilson Quarterly.[5] He has been a contributing editor at The New Republic (where he also co-authored the "TRB" column),[6] Time,[7] and Slate,[8] and has written for The Atlantic Monthly,[9] The New Yorker,[10] 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,[11] a web-only opinion page in 2010. Wright became a senior editor of The Atlantic on January 1, 2012.[12] As of February, 2015, the magazine's author page describes him as "a former senior editor at The Atlantic."[13]

University teaching and research[edit]

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[14] and began co-teaching a graduate seminar with Peter Singer on the biological basis of moral intuition.[15] In 2014, Wright taught a six-week Coursera MOOC on "Buddhism and Modern Psychology".[16] As of 2019, Wright is a Visiting Professor of Science and Religion at Union Theological Seminary, New York.[1] Also as of 2019, Wright is a Senior Fellow at the think tank New America.[17]

Meaningoflife.tv[edit]

In 2002, Wright ventured into video-on-Internet with his MeaningofLife.tv website, developed by Greg Dingle,[18] 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.[19] Other hosts include John Horgan, Daniel Kaufman, Nikita Petrov, and Aryeh Cohen-Wade.

Bloggingheads.tv[edit]

Wright and Mickey Kaus comparing stuffed moose visual aids on Bloggingheads.tv.

On November 1, 2005, Wright, blogger Mickey Kaus, and Greg Dingle launched Bloggingheads.tv,[20] 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.

Views on religion[edit]

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 responded:[21]

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.[22] 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,[23] in the context of teleology.[24] 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.[25]

Wright has also been critical of organized atheism and describes himself more specifically as a secular humanist.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28] He believes Buddhism's diagnosis of the causes of human suffering is vindicated by evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology.[29] He further argues that the modern psychological idea of the modularity of mind resonates with the Buddhist teaching of no-self (anatman).[29]

Personal life[edit]

Wright lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife Lisa and their two daughters.[3] They have two dogs named Frazier[30] and Milo,[31] who are featured in a few Bloggingheads.tv episodes.

Books[edit]

  • 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
  • 1999 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

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • The Evolution of God was one of three finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction.[32]
  • The New York Times Book Review chose Wright's The Moral Animal as one of the 10 best books of 1994;[33] 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."[34]
  • 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.[35]
  • Wright's column "The Information Age," written for The Sciences magazine, won the National Magazine Award for Essay and Criticism.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Robert Wright". Union Theological Seminary. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b Debold, Elizabeth. "Suggestions of a Larger Purpose An interview with Robert Wright". enlightennext.org. Enlightennext Magazine. Archived from the original on 3 October 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Does History Have A Purpose?". THINK TANK. April 1, 2000. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
  4. ^ "Robert Wright". tnr.com. The New Republic. Archived from the original on 8 January 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  5. ^ "Articles by: Robert Wright". wilsonquarterly.com. The Wilson Quarterly. Retrieved 26 August 2011.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ Wright, Robert (December 19, 1994). "TRB from Washington: The Gay Divorce". The New Republic. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  7. ^ "Articles by: Robert Wright". search.time.com. Time Magazine. 26 April 2004. Archived from the original on 4 February 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  8. ^ "Articles by: Robert Wright". slate.com. Slate Magazine. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  9. ^ "Robert Wright". theatlantic.com. The Atlantic Monthly. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Articles by: Robert Wright". newyorker.com. The New Yorker. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  11. ^ Wright, Robert. "The Opinionator - All Posts by Robert Wright". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  12. ^ Robert Wright, Mickey Kaus (November 30, 2011). Dunkirk (Videotaped). Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  13. ^ Robert Wright. "Robert Wright". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  14. ^ "Previous Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Fellows". uchv.princeton.edu. Princeton University. Retrieved 26 August 2011.
  15. ^ Wright, Robert (2009). The Evolution of God. Acknowledgments: Little, Brown and Company, Hachette Book Group. p. 576. ISBN 0-316-73491-8.
  16. ^ "Buddhism and Modern Psychology". Coursera. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  17. ^ "Robert Wright". New America. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
  18. ^ "Meaningoflife.tv". Archived from the original on March 5, 2002. Retrieved 2006-11-10.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  19. ^ "About Us". meaningoflife.tv. Archived from the original on 11 August 2011. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  20. ^ "About Us". bloggingheads.tv. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  21. ^ "Robert Wright interview". Bill Moyers Journal. New York. July 17, 2009. Event occurs at 33:29 (3:40 minutes in). PBS. (transcript link). Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  22. ^ "The Colbert Report - Robert Wright". colbertnation.com. Comedy Central. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  23. ^ "Robert Wright interviews Daniel Dennett (1 of 8)". YouTube.com video. Meaningoflife.tv. December 16, 2008. Event occurs at 6:44. (transcript link). Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  24. ^ "The Evolution of God". YouTube.com video. evolutionofgod. June 2, 2009. Event occurs at 4:27. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  25. ^ "Authors@Google: Robert Wright". YouTube.com video. Google. June 30, 2009. Event occurs at 5:11. Retrieved August 27, 2011.
  26. ^ 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.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ Illing, Sean (12 October 2014). "Why Buddhism is true". Vox. Retrieved 30 October 2017.
  29. ^ a b "Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation | Kirkus Review". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Robert Wright, Mickey Kaus (June 3, 2008). Puppies!!! (SWF/FLV/Flash) (Webcam (recorded)). bloggingheads.tv. Event occurs at 0:15. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
  32. ^ "Finalists have been announced since 1980". pulitzer.org. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  33. ^ "Editors' Choice 1994". nytimes.com. The New York Times. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  34. ^ Useem, Jerry (21 March 2005). "The Smartest Books We Know". money.cnn.com. Fortune Magazine. Retrieved 27 August 2011.
  35. ^ "All Past National Book Critics Circle Award Winners and Finalists". bookcritics.org. National Book Critics Circle. Retrieved 27 August 2011.

External links[edit]