Robert Wright: “The Evolution of God”
So I just finished Robert Wright’s 2010 book “The Evolution of God.” And I’ve gotta say, wow. 500 pgs, and I can’t say I got bored. Damn good book, and I learned a TON of stuff. It really reminded me of reading Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” Wright’s book is massive in scope, full of erudition, and full of great insights that can be really useful for a philosopher and cultural critic to know.
Wright, an evolutionary psychologist by training, traces the evolution of people’s ideas of god/religion from shamanism in hunter-gatherer societies to early states. He spends the bulk of the book, however, tracing the historical, archaeological, and textological evidence in relation to the ‘scriptures’ of the three Abahamic religions, in order to set the record straight. He shows the difference between the histories of development these books describe, and what other evidence seems to point to. The payoff of some of these details seems to me incredibly profound, because Wright ends up deconstructing so many of the myths of the histories of these religions put forth by believers, yet contradicted by other sorts of evidence that seems pretty reliable. Including evidence hidden within the clues of the relevant scriptures themselves, for those with the eye to see what these clues mean.
Wright’s book is meticulously researched, and seems to lay out minority opinions in the field, etc. And it was a damn page turner.
So, highly recommended. While I do find some of Wright’s teleological notion of ‘cultural evolution’ a bit too simplistic, with a few philosophical caveats, I think he’s on to quite a lot.
Here’s the link.