THE EVOLUTION OF GOD
“Wright shows that, however mistaken our traditional ideas about God or gods, their evolution points to a transcendent prospect: that the religious quest is valid, and that a modern, scientific worldview leaves room for something that can meaningfully be called divine.
Vast in ambition and brilliant in execution, The Evolution of God will forever alter our understanding of God and where He came from—and where He and we are going next.”
The above from: http://www.evolutionofgod.net/about_book/
I heard Robert Wright on Bill Moyer’s program and came away thinking he has a penchant for making mystery out of the obvious. To be fair, he was trying to sell his book and would no doubt be reaching for the largest audience he could and keeping in mind that he clearly states that the god he refers to is the god that culture has produced, not an actual entity of any sort. But, as I see it, Robert Wright’s insistence on referring to “god” throughout the conversation, rather than the “god concept” or the “god idea.” suggests to me that he is slyly trying to imply that a deity is leading us towards a moral life by modifying its own characteristics to lead us on.
In talking about his book, “The Evolution of God“, he starts off by wondering why tribes in so many different locations all came up with the god concept to explain things they did not understand. But how else would they explain the dynamics of lightning without a knowledge of static electricity? Even then, as now,we humans would have tried to make sense of the mysterious phenomena we were subject to, and thunderous unseen forces would\ be explained away by anthropomorphizing such forces . Let’s face it we, personify every thing in sight, including our pets.
Even after science became a recognized practice, a lack of available information did not deter us from filling in the blanks whenever needed. Hard headed scientists of an earlier day, faced with an anomaly in chemistry, created something called “phlogiston” which lasted ’till Joseph Black 1728-1799), quantitatively explained all the changes in weight for these processes without needing to invoke this mysterious phlogiston.
It does not seem to occur to Robert Wright that defenders of theism have been forced, step by step, to back away from the original concept of a deity as science keeps unveiling ever more information about this universe we live in. Even the Vatican, faced with a man standing on the moon had to finally concede to Galileo or be seen as a bunch of goofy morons.
Indeed, while the bible is still used as a reference by much of society, its
interpretation by religious leaders has been modified to suit our secular society, For it has been our emerging secular society, enlightened by science that has, over the last century or so, forced preachers to focus their attention on those aspects of the bible that could best promote nurturing and cooperation.
Christ has become a kind father figure, teaching compassion, but compare this with the Christ who says, in St. Matthew: 10:34 “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I am come not to send peace but a sword”. Hardly a good image for today’s world and our secular society assiduously avoids focusing on such passages. We read the bible selectively and with good reason.
The point is that it is our secular society, prodded by science and universal education that has promoted those aspects of morality that encourage self respect instead of self abnegation, free expression instead of blind obedience, and not the evolution of some deity. This supposedly changing god is just a by product of a society that has evolved over time. Religious apologists have simply been forced to backtrack as new knowledge, new discoveries, flooded over ancient lore.
Then Mr. Wright goes into the last bastion of theism. Now that science
has destroyed the foundations upon which the bible was built, along with similar myths of the past, the definition of god has gradually been morphed into some kind of a vague, ethereal entity, the better to withstand the thrust of scientific enquiry. Now god is within oneself, or god is love, or god is the universe, etc. Much is made about the fact there is something bigger than ourselves. There IS, of course. We call it the universe.
The feelings about our place in it are not in themselves a mystery–nor are they divine. While that sense of oneness with the universe is probably more intrinsic to wild animals, there is evidence– as the author points out– that we too, when temporarily free from the torrent of thoughts that rush through modern man’s mind– are capable of becoming acutely aware of our immediate environment, free of all abstractions. An emotional high, perhaps, but nothing divine about it.
I came away with the feeling that Robert Wright has joined those fellows who often wear the agnostic mantle in a desperate attempt to keep the religious view of humanity from sliding into oblivion. While he is obviously a brilliant scholar, the fact remains thatmost all the reviews of this book champion the idea that he has restored religion to its proper place as our guide into the future– see the blurb which preceded this rant of mine.
“Life is but a momentary glimpse at the wonder of
this astonishing Universe and it is sad to see
so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasies