The Evolution of God

Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God was on the agenda (for a brief presentation for my class tomorrow). Filled with all kinds of odd and problematic stuff, but engaging. I admit, I enjoy him on blogging heads and elsewhere and found Non-Zero (an earlier book) interesting.

Here, he argues that the idea of God has evolved (the God evolving is actually illusory), that due to increasing non-zero-sum interactions with a broader range of peoples a general trend toward a more inclusive and loving way of life has arisen, and that this general trend is evidence in favor of some sort of higher power (he’s agnostic on the “God” question, but willing to accept the possibility of some vague impulse toward some sort of higher moral order). Plus, some people seem to need “god” to live fully moral lives.

A few quick observations:

  1. His approach is confessedly materialistic, which is reductionistic and leads to somewhat strained hypotheses (e.g., Paul as entrepreneur of a more ethnically inclusive religion)
  2. The evidence for his historical reconstruction of the evolution of God is frequently a bit thin (e.g., he really can’t demonstrate his reconstruction of ancient notions is true, relying instead on modern accounts of hunter-gatherer culture and on more than a couple of occasions he admits his reconstruction is speculative)
  3. His approach to biblical texts and early Christian history is on the extremely skeptical side (e.g., historical critical on the Old Testament; Jesus seminar-ish on the NT). He doesn’t consider the possibility, for example, that some of Jesus’ miracles might have really happened (see p. 255, where he gives at least three other theories for the miracle accounts).
  4. The notion of God which might conceivably remain is only possibly personal and the moral order toward which history moves seems to be a vision which is a remarkable match for his political views.

I’m sure there is more I could say, but that’s enough for now.


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