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.
Early 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''.
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),
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''."
University teaching and research
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
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
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:
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
Wright lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with his wife Lisa and their two daughters.
They have two dogs named Frazier
who are featured in a few Bloggingheads.tv episodes.
* 1989 ''Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information''.
* 1994 ''The Moral Animal
: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology''.
* 1999 ''Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny
* 2009 ''The Evolution of God
''. Little, Brown and Company
* 2017 ''Why Buddhism is True
: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment''.
Awards and recognition
*''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 usiness-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
* Wright's column "The Information Age," written for ''The Sciences
'' magazine, won the National Magazine Award
for Essay and Criticism.
- A website for Wright's book ''The Evolution of God''
- A website for Wright's book ''Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny''
Bloggingheads.tvMeaningofLife.tvWright's Mindful Resistance newsletter
Category:American male journalists
Category:American religious writers
Category:American science writers
Category:Critics of atheism
Category:Critics of creationism
Category:Douglas MacArthur High School (San Antonio) alumni
Category:People from Lawton, Oklahoma
Category:People from Princeton, New Jersey
Category:Princeton University alumni
Category:Radical centrist writers
Category:Texas Christian University alumni
Category:Writers from Oklahoma
Category:New America (organization)