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THE EVOLUTION OF GOD: In the contemporary debate on God's existence, intelligent design and natural evolution, Robert Wright stays somewhere in the middle - there is evolution, he says, and God is evolving. In his latest book, "The evolution of God", Wright examines the moral evolution of Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He does not accept the truth of their revelations, but embraces the idea of God's existence or, in his words, the existence of higher purpose behind the human progress.
In the book Wright tries to trace the changes of God's moods as they happen in different times and historical periods: when God was belligerent, and when He was peaceful.
The Holy Scriptures offer both options: wrath and tolerance. Under different circumstances people choose one of these options. For example, God of Israel in the Old Testament was belligerent before the Babylon exile and peaceful after it. Wright says that people, historically, choose how to interpret the Scripture and surrounding world from the "menu" of the holy books.
Wright observes that all religions have the ability to adapt to the political, social and material environment. Thus they are constantly changing.
There are two kinds of evolution - biological and cultural. Wright's view is that historically the world is passing from zero-sum situations (where everyone fights with everyone; or
if one gains, another loses) to win-win situations (where everybody helps everybody; or cooperation and mutual profit). For example, nowadays the globalization and trade make the nations much less belligerent. Social and material environment influences the religious views toward tolerance and peace. In different times people read the Holy Books in different way. The external circumstances influence the internal world of faith. And the world is growing more peaceful, more just, and more complex.
This is a kind of materialistic view, but Wright believes that behind this evolution towards tolerance and peace there is a larger purpose. There is moral progress; historically people are more and more acknowledging that human differences should not be reason for conflict. This moral evolution helps the expansion of social organization. This moral direction of humanity is the evidence, according to Wright, that there is some larger purpose unfolding in the world.
Many intellectuals see religion only as a source of evil. Some scientists, like Richard Dawkins, say that if there was no religion there wouldn't be a war in Palestine, for example. Wright says that in Palestine people actually fight for land, and they would continue to fight without the religion. Religion always can be replaced with nationalism or something else.
In his optimistic view Wright even sees modernization in the religious dogma that allows the idea of salvation to infidels. Islam, for example, accepts the idea for Christian and Jewish salvation.
God, Wright insists, is the major purpose behind the progressive development of human culture and the Creation as a whole. (read in depth)
Wright's ideas have been criticized by prominent "evolutionists". Daniel Dennett, American philosopher of science, doesn't see special purpose behind evolution. The so-called "moral evolution" is based on good natural selection (in culture) as everything in this world. The best culture or social organization survives. And the natural selection happens because it is possible to happen.
Dennett says that the soul exists, but it is just a result of the work of countless soulless neurons. The soul is the tip of a super-complex biological machine. How the dead matter evolves into a living creature is a mystery that science wants to understand.
We, the humans, are the Planet's neuro-system, said in an interview Dennett. With this hypothesis he somehow accepted Wright's the basic idea. (watch the interview with Daniel Dennett)