Baha’i Reaction to Robert Wright
Shubha Bala, associate producer
Several listeners, including Dan Haghighi, have commented on the Robert Wright show and how it reminded them of the Baha’i view towards science and religion. Dan sent us a link to the Baha’i Topics website, containing a beautiful quote by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of the head of the Baha’i Faith:
“Religion and science are the two wings upon which man’s intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone! Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the despairing slough of materialism.”
—from Paris Talks
Another listener, Bill Thompson, explained how Baha’i understanding overlaps with the Robert Wright conversation:
“Each One, limits Their revelation to what can be understood and benefit at the time. For example, look how the simple Genesis story of creation describes how the universe became, but in “seven days” (approx.: dark, light, form, water, life) and for apt for a rudimentary human understanding. No Prophet is less than or would repudiate Those before, but are Themselves dependably denied by leaders of belief of their time.
Science now tells it accurately, and a teaching today is that true science does not contradict God — unimaginable that it would. So all “errors” between them have some base to look over. Above it all, God and religion are one, and in this revelation we are told — and ordered, I guess — that man is one and the virtues, again being revivified, are this time to realize the oneness of humanity and practice it.
To avoid the man-made divisions, Baha’u’llah said we approaching the maturity of humankind, and all must be educated (girl child in preference to boy child if the resource is limited!), and each person must understand God’s will individually and now have no priests, pastors, or other interpretations. And obviously, there will be more guidance every millennium or so as God guides us out of the next deterioration of the message, and according to conditions and readiness due to our advancement.”
(“Bahai star” by pourquoitesla/Flickr)
The “Residue” of God’s Image
Andy Dayton, associate web producer
I was lucky enough to have the best seat in the house for Krista’s live interview with Robert Wright (in the very front, manning the video cameras), and this was probably my favorite part of the entire conversation. I was fascinated by Wright’s intersection of belief in physics and belief in God, which he sums up in the afterward to The Evolution of God:
“Maybe the most defensible view — of electrons and of God — is to place them somewhere between illusion and imperfect conception.”
Reading Wright’s 1988 book, Three Scientists and Their Gods, I saw a role reversal from his conversation with Krista. In 2010, he played the part of the “relentlessly logical” theorist, but in ‘88 he was the questioner who was probing rationalistic scientists like Edward Fredkin and E.O. Wilson with his own challenging questions.
For instance, Wright talks to digital physicist Edward Fredkin about his conception of the universe as a computer. Fredkin seems resistant to any conversation of the theological implications of this idea, but Wright probes him until he gets this response:
“‘I guess what I’m saying is: I don’t have any religious belief. I don’t believe that there is a God. I don’t believe in Christianity or Judaism or anything like that, okay? I’m not an atheist … I’m not an agnostic … I’m just in a simple state. I don’t know what there is or might be. … But on the other hand, what I can say is that it seems likely to me that this particular universe we have is a consequence of something which I would call intelligent.’
‘You mean that there’s something out there that wanted to get the answer to a question?’
‘Yeah. Something that set up the universe to see what would happen? In some way, yes.’”
Wright challenges sociobiologist E. O. Wilson as well, asking:
“‘The knowledge that we are all related to bacteria makes it no easier to swallow the harsh facts of hard work, brief retirement, and death. How can scientific materialism give meaning to our lives?’”
Even though Wilson shares Wright’s (and Krista’s) Southern Baptist upbringing, he seems to have completely avoided the same “residue.” Or at least, almost completely avoided it:
“Still, a funny thing happened a couple of years ago. Harvard was honoring Martin Luther King, Sr., and Reverend King, as part of the festivities, was preaching at the Harvard Memorial Chapel. Wilson, being a southerner, was invited to the service. There was a large turnout. The reverend preached fervently, and the congregation sang richly, and one of the hymns hit home with Wilson — ‘one of the good, old-timey ones that I hadn’t heard since I was a kid.’ Partway through it, E. O. Wilson — scientific materialist, detached empiricist, confirmed Darwinian — started crying.
As if in atonement, he has a perfectly rational explanation. ‘It was tribal,’ he says. ‘It was the feeling that I had been a long way away from the tribe.’”
Are You a Philo Fan?
Colleen Scheck, senior producer
Are you a Philo fan? Robert Wright is, as you can see in the video above.
Wright devotes a couple of chapters in The Evolution of God to exploring the Hellinistic Jewish philosopher’s influence on religious philosophy. Here, Wright illustrates his view that Philo helped give us both a morally and an intellectually modern God:
“…it’s worth taking a look at the ancient Abrahamic thinker who tried supremely to have it both ways: to see divinity abstractly, as a kind of logic running through history, yet to do so in a way that preserved the emotional satisfaction of traditional religion.”
My introduction to Philo came through a quote that’s posted on the desk of our managing producer: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle” (a quote apparently often wrongly attributed to Plato or Socrates).
After hearing Wright talk about Philo, I’ve been digging around to learn more about this man who straddled two worlds, and why, though not widely accepted in his time, he holds resonance for ours. Are you a Philo fan?
Checking your Amazon ranking every 7 minutes would qualify as what Buddhists call ‘attachment.’ And attachment is bad. (Oops: I just made a judgment about attachment.)
—Robert Wright, in “Self, Meditating” on his NYT blog.
We’re experiencing some of the same “attachment” now that Krista’s new book is out. Several minutes of this morning’s staff meeting was dedicated to some impromptu analysis of the Einstein’s God ranking on Amazon.
The short: the book seems to be doing well, but the ranking system is a mystery in itself.
Andy Dayton, associate web producer
Approaches to the Question “Is Religion Potentially Dangerous?”
Andy Dayton, associate web producer
In “No More Taking Sides” Krista describes her conversation with Robi Damelin and Ali Abu Awwad, who both have lost a loved one in the conflict:
“…this is not another version of the tragic Israeli-Palestinian story to which we’ve all become accustomed from the news. Neither is it a touchy-feely story of isolated good will. This story is fiercely human, admitting grief while also yielding to joy, and it is all the more hopeful for its origins in the hard ground of reality.”
Updating the site for rebroadcast, we’ve also been editing our video footage from Krista’s live conversation with Robert Wright earlier this month. His answer to the audience question, “Is religion potentially dangerous?” is one that’s often asked in the context of the seemingly intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
As we produce this interview for air, the most recent script characterizes Wright as “relentlessly logical” — and you might say that Wright’s assessment of religion’s role in this conflict is relentlessly logical in the best sense. But, while logic can be extremely helpful in understanding the forces behind human conflict, it says very little about the experience of those conflicts.
That’s where Robi and Ali come in. When Wright tells us that “human life is potentially dangerous,” their stories show us this on a gut level. Their partnership is a living example of why we’re all in this together is an idea really worth considering.
Ali Abu Awwad, from the transcript:
“When I get to the library that [Robi’s son] David was preparing for the student, a good library, and I saw Robi start crying there, I don’t know, it’s strange, that feeling that I got at that moment. I have that feeling that David is telling me, ‘Take care of my mother.’ This is the first time I’m telling that. I never told Robi that.
And I think [my brother] Yousef was so happy that Robi was taking care of me and I really don’t feel this identity when I feel about David, when I feel about Yousef. I don’t feel that.
They just put us — by passing away, they put us in this deeply feeling with our humanity. And if people appreciate and if politicians appreciate the life as they appreciate the death, peace will be possible.”
SOF Live! Krista in Conversation with Robert Wright
February 2nd, 2010 ~ 7:00–8:30 pm CST
Cowles Auditorium, University of Minnesota HHH Institute (get directions)
» watch online | » RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
We will be live-streaming video of Krista’s interview with New York Times best-selling author, Robert Wright. He’s the author of The Evolution of God, Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny, The Moral Animal, and Three Scientists and Their Gods. Professor Michael Barnett will moderate the question-and-answer session with our in-house and online audiences. The program will be followed by a reception in the Humphrey Center atrium.
We will start broadcasting video of the event at 6:45 pm CST, 15 minutes before the start of the interview. If you plan to attend in person, please RSVP by sending an email to email@example.com. There’s a hard start time of 7 pm for this event. And, please stop by and say hello!