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, Why Buddhism is True, 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.
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 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.