Friday, July 03, 2009

Note to NY Times: Proofread you Book Review Section

"Wright tentatively explores another claim, that the history of religion actually affirms “the existence of something you can meaningfully call divinity.” He emphasizes that he is not arguing that you need divine intervention to account for moral improvement, which can be explained by a “mercilessly scientific account” involving the biological evolution of the human mind and the game-theoretic nature of social interaction. But he wonders why the universe is so constituted that moral progress takes place. “If history naturally pushes people toward moral improvement, toward moral truth, and their God, as they conceive their God, grows accordingly, becoming morally richer, then maybe this growth is evidence of some higher purpose, and maybe — conceivably — the source of that purpose is worthy of the name divinity.

It is not just moral progress that raises these sorts of issues. I don’t doubt that the explanation for consciousness will arise from the mercilessly scientific account of psychology and neuroscience, but, still, isn’t it neat that the universe is such that it gave rise to conscious beings like you and me? And that these minds — which evolved in a world of plants and birds and rocks and things — have the capacity to transcend this ­everyday world and generate philosophy, theology, art and science?

So I share Wright’s wonder at how nicely everything has turned out. But I don’t see how this constitutes an argument for a divine being. After all, even if we could somehow establish definitively that moral progress exists because the universe was jump-started by a God of Love, this just pushes the problem up one level. We are now stuck with the puzzle of why there exists such a caring God in the first place.
quote (bold faced my emphasis) by Paul Bloom in his book review that appeared in last Sunday's New York Times.

Um. You cannot disprove an argument by conceding to the material fact that "proves" it nor can you undermine it by objecting to an argument that was not raised.

"Also, it would be a terribly minimalist God. Wright himself describes it as “somewhere between illusion and imperfect conception.” It won’t answer your prayers, give you advice or smite your enemies. So even if it did exist, we would be left with another good news/bad news situation. The good news is that there would be a divine being. The bad news is that it’s not the one that anyone is looking for." - more from Paul Bloom's book review.

Um. but I do not get the impression from your critique that Mr. Robert Wright is attempting to answer this particular question concerning "God's" real nature so this objection has no relevance. Mr. Wright is, as you have previously noted, has written a book focused on why the attributes we ascribe to a god evolve as our attributes evolve. (We were jealous; hence God was jealous. We began to love, so God loved, etc. etc.)

But then again, perhaps Bloom is proving Mr. Wright's point by objecting to the notion of a "minimalist God" that "won't answer your prayers, give you advice or smite your enemies," leaving you and me with a "good news/bad news situation."

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