He explains why spirituality has a role today and why science, contrary to conventional wisdom, affirms the validity of the religious quest. And this previously unrecognized evolutionary logic points not toward continued religious extremism but to future harmony. Nearly a decade in the making, The Evolution of God is a breathtaking reexamination of the past and a visionary look forward.
©2009 Robert Wright; (P)2009 Tantor
"[An] in-depth approach yields original insights." (Kirkus)
While this audio book isn't likely to change my beliefs one way or the other, it certainly has be thinking. It details, sometime with hard evidence, sometimes with conjecture, the evolution not only of God (or gods), but the evolution of religion. From the views of the hunter-gatherer to modern man, there's a logical progression of man's view of religion, and God/gods that parallels the natural progression of society.
One of the questions this audio book hints at is whether God created man, or man created God. The latter seems the obvious answer after listening to this book. This does not negate the existence of God, but rather puts Him in perspective. Does Him being different than you imagined make Him any less important to you? If so, you probably shouldn't listen to this one, and instead read something that reinforces your beliefs.
I will soon be eighty one years young. I have had a very interesting life learning from it as well as enjoying it. I just published a book.
Perhaps better titled "What Man sees though his culture,history and intellect as God." Not what IS or is not God. Never the less well researched with plenty of interesting information. Roberts comes to many conclusions true or not true, but with food for thought.
I'm a freethinker with a never ending desire to learn! Born a Texan, a Californian by choice.
This is a fantastic book. If you find the evolution of religious thought interesting, you will enjoy this publication. Anyone that takes the time to read this offering will understand why religions have been with us throughout history. Although, the author may not see religions in a positive light, he does believe they can help people to learn to live in harmony. Read, learn, and enjoy.
This book is not for the casual reader of religious propaganda. Nor, in my opinion, is it for someone who staunchly believes the Torah, Bible, or Koran to be literally true. On the other hand, if one is prepared to listen with an open mind the author has much to intellectually stimulate you. Or to put it differently, if you are willing to concede that your Sunday school teacher didn't exactly tell you the whole story, and even if the theory of evolution appeals to your intellect a lot more than Intelligent Design, you may still not prepared to believe that we are just a fortunate accident of electro-chemical actions in a primordial soup. If so, Robert Wright wrote this book for you.
He begins as other have by systematically destroying the credibility of all 3 Abrahamic religions as the inspired word of a creator God. He details, as others have, the human editing of the message to fit the political and economic needs of the era in which the text was written. Then when other authors end their book with the demotion of God to god --as if no more needed to be said -- he begins a cautious, although compellingly plausible, case for seeing the finger prints of a designer in the development of mankind. Personally, I don't need a teddy bear god to help me sleep at night, but if you are like some of my very intelligent and scientifically literate friends who are just not emotionally prepared to believe that there is no purpose whatsoever in our existence or in the creation of the universe then I highly recommend that you listen to Robert Wright's The Evolution of God. The narration was professional and moved along without delay.
Letting the rest of the world go by
They're are two different schools of thought about a book like this. One, there was something in this book to offend almost everyone from each of the three Abrahamic religions (Christian, Jew, and Muslim). Or, two, by understanding the historical context and development over time of the major ideas about man's image of God and morality helps the listener better develop his own spiritual growth. Put me down in the second school.
After listening to this book, I'll never look at the bible the same way again. For me, the bible has always been inaccessible since I didn't understand its proper historical context. This book has really motivated me to revisit the bible and subsequently I've started listening to "The Word of Promise", the bible read by actors and with dramatization and so far very listenable (and it only cost one credit!).
The author is gifted at explaining generalities by first looking at specific events. One way of further understanding man's image of God is by first understanding the historical events surrounding the times the religious documents were first written.
The author quotes one of the early religious founders as saying that "God loved man very much by giving him an earth that was suited for man". The author would say that man was suited for earth so well because he evolved into this environment. From that point of view, man's image of God has also changed over time.
One note about the reader. Arthur Morey (the reader) is one of my favorite readers and he's one of the few readers who I would buy the book just because he's the reader. As usual, he doesn't disappoint in his reading and he makes me feel like I'm listening to an old friend.
Clear thought and opinion, the author steps through the evolution of God and history with remarkable insight. I was worried this might be a "Religious" book, but I was pleasantly surprised with the author's thoughtful treatment of all of the Religion discussed.
About two thirds of this book is great. The author starts by describing early forms of superstition and then goes on to give the history of the Abrahamic religions, explaining how they've evolved from ancient forms of religion into what they are today, and speculating about what may have motivated each change. I found this very enjoyable to listen to and if this was the whole book I would have given it five stars.
It stumbles for me in the other third of the book, where the author gets into what he believes are the theological implications of the history that he describes in the more interesting parts of the book. It becomes clear that the true purpose of this book is not to be a history book, instead it is about promoting the author's theology. Some might find this just as interesting as the rest of the book if they're inclined to agree with it. The problem for me is that it's entirely based on the idea that human civilization's moral progress of the last few thousand years is hard evidence that the universe has some sort of divine purpose. If, like me, you don't buy into this premise then everything that follows is pretty much worthless and quite a chore to get through.
Although if you agree with the author's theology, or are able to work your way through it, (or just fast forward to the good bits) the majority of the book is a worthwhile listen.
The book is the author's theories on how man develped the concept of god(s). It is a very ambitious undertaking and he begins with when 'man' first walked the earth. His approach is scholarly but due to the nature of his topic, he presents portions of his research , study and experiences to try and describe how the concept of god evolved. Unfortunately, although I take his findings at face value, their interpretation is his. He picks and chooses anecdotes from different 'primitive' tribes to makes his case on how god 'evolved'. As a scientist, this is a frustrating approach as he appears to select 'random' facts he has found into a theory. He provides no rationale on how he chose which findings to include and which he did not include. Data is not the plural of anecdote. The presentation is also extremely detailed in parts and it easy to lost in the narrative. He also uses primitive words and names, which I could not even venture a guess on how they are spelled. On one level, the use of primitive vocabularies is interesting but it also makes it hard to follow. The depth of his discussions required my full, undivided attention. This made it very difficult to listen to while driving, and required that I regularly rewind sections. I am not a theolgian or particularly well versed in the history of religions and found this a very difficult book to get through. I confess that I only listened to the first of 3, 4 hour segments and gave up.
I’m probably more of a splitter than a lumper at heart, but even a died-in-the-wool splitter would probably find it difficult to read Robert Wright’s new book, The Evolution of God, without thinking often of his prior book, Non-Zero. In fact, it would be fair, I think, to call EoG a sequel... something like, Non-Zero Sum: Deus.
Okay, if that little play on words doesn’t get you rolling on the floor, it’s perhaps because you hadn’t taken on board that the sequel is about god -- you know, deus. Ok, that done...
This will be a short review, because there are plenty of longer ones, including those by illustrious scientists like Paul Bloom. Also, this book’s a couple years old, so probably no one really cares anymore.
But I never wrote a review of Non-Zero, and if I could persuade you to do that, I would consider it a job well-done. Then I would say, So, take the primary ideas in non-zero, imagine that religions tend to follow the growth of non-zero relationships through into greater civility, and there you have EoG.
So, there you have EoG.
He adds a bit of stuff I don’t so much like, more about which in a few paragraphs.
Non-zero is the more academic version of win-win. An exchange is a non-zero sum exchange both parties benefit. I have something you want, you have something I want. We exchange and there is a non-zero sum outcomes. Humans, being more or less rational creatures, tend to like non-zero sum outcomes and the parties who participate in them with us. So, we don’t war with or kill those folks. Wright’s famous quip is that the reason he doesn’t want to kill the Japanese is that they make his mini-van.
The upshot of non-zero summing is that the more people one does business with on a global level, the fewer people there are whom one wants or is willing to kill or even badly exploit. It’s an argument that global commerce results in fewer wars and less bad feeling among people of different nations. That’s not an idea that many in the developed intellectual West find intuitively easy to digest, but there seems to be a good deal of evidence to support the claim, and that evidence is summed up very nicely in Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature.
So, when we do business with another nation (in a non-zero sum way), we are not likely to go to war with them.
How transactions get to be non-zero sum transactions can vary. Often in the course of history, transactions began as zero (I win, you lose) or negative (lose-lose) sum. Think of slaverly (zero or negative), empire (zero), etc. But, over time, as oppressed people fight back, as resources dwindle, relationships may change such that the zero’s are no longer possible (oppressors can’t get away with it, it becomes to expensive to maintain empires) and non-zero relationships evolve.
So, non-zero sum transactions were a rather late development in human history, coming into grand fashion only in the last several thousand years. When they did arise, they spread rather quickly.
That’s non-zero sum. The Evolution of God is basically this: as non-zero sum relationships grew more common throughout the middle east, the homeland of the Abrahamic religions, the religions mellowed and grew more tolerant. As Jew traded with Gentile, with Christian, etc, the religions themselves become less marshall.
What I like and agree with: cultures and circumstances cause religions to adapt. Externalities alter religious morés, not vice versa.
What I don’t like: Wright spends a good deal of time mumbling about a direction of history toward more enlightened moral/ ethical relationships (more non-zero sum), which he claims supports the idea that there is some underlying moral order to the world, and that this moral order could be some fuzzy version of god.
Whatever, didn’t need that bit and it does no good. It seems a pretty heavy-handed tactic to get the religious to buy into non-zero sum and the idea of an evolving morality. But, I don’t think EoG will be read by too many people who would entertain that idea. It weakens (and lengthens by a good deal) the important argument of the book.
Also, I think you can read a two-pager on Fiske’s relational models theory (RMT) and come away with a somewhat more complete understanding of how economic models of relationships inform morality. But, together, RMT and NZS explain a lot about the directionality of morality social relationships.
I am a retired Histology Technician. My time is spent caring for my grandchildren, my dog, cat, and blue & gold macaw.
This book is a must read for anyone seeking the elusive realm of God. It is both abstract and concrete in it's exploration of man and his religious and spiritual quest. I have listened to it several times and will continue to go back to it as it is a pleasure to listen to the narration by Arthur Morey, and for the clear, well researched and well written information that Robert Wright has so wonderfully given us. Thank you Robert Wright for such a great work!
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