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Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here. 
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
Chris OConnor wrote:
Robert Wright answered all of the email questions! I'll post them soon. :-)

Yes, even yours Stahrwe. :P


Glad to hear it. Perhaps my opinion of him will change, but I doubt it.


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Wed Nov 10, 2010 1:45 pm
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
I have to say that I didn't expect much from Robert Wright in terms of an answer to my question but his response surprised me in that it was even less than I expected. TEoG is about changes in the perception of god over time. Certainly the story of Abram/Abraham is second only to the story of Jesus in importance with respect to that perception. Wright ignored the story in his book and he ignored my question. His answer was no answer and those reading this who have an honest disposition regardless of their personal beliefs will agree with me.


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“You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true – then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”
- G.K. Chesterton


Fri Nov 12, 2010 9:11 am
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
He gave you the same answer others gave you Stahrwe:

"If the revelation to Abraham didn’t happen, then how could it be the origin of monotheism?"

Your starting position is that the story is true. That is an axiom to all your further reasoning. But there is no support for the story. How can you build up an explanation of historical happenings based completely on an unsupported story? This is an instance of faith not mixing with reason.



Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:09 am
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to Robert Wright for going to the time and trouble of answering our questions and to Chris for setting this up.


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Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:56 am
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
Interbane wrote:
He gave you the same answer others gave you Stahrwe:

"If the revelation to Abraham didn’t happen, then how could it be the origin of monotheism?"

Your starting position is that the story is true. That is an axiom to all your further reasoning. But there is no support for the story. How can you build up an explanation of historical happenings based completely on an unsupported story? This is an instance of faith not mixing with reason.


In TEoG Wright makes references to many things in the Bible which he said did not happen. Some of the things he said weren't in the Bible actually were. I pointed out a number of those errors before I was censored. In the case of Abram/Abraham the fact that Wright did not believe the Biblical story is NO excuse for his failure to address it. Abraham is one of the Five major people central to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In fact, I believe that the reason he omitted it was because it negated the need for 300 pages of his book.

Wright's answer was worse than lame.


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“You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true – then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”
- G.K. Chesterton


Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:57 am
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
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In the case of Abram/Abraham the fact that Wright did not believe the Biblical story is NO excuse for his failure to address it.


Actually, it's not only an excuse, but an unassailable reason. The story of Abraham never happened. Therefore, there is no reason to address it. That's all there is to it Stahrwe. The true criticism should be against yourself. Just because you believe the story, doesn't mean Wright must address it. Only if you believe it based on evidence and reason would Wright not be justified in ignoring it. But that's not the case. You only have faith.



Fri Nov 12, 2010 12:58 pm
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
Interbane wrote:
Quote:
In the case of Abram/Abraham the fact that Wright did not believe the Biblical story is NO excuse for his failure to address it.


Actually, it's not only an excuse, but an unassailable reason. The story of Abraham never happened. Therefore, there is no reason to address it. That's all there is to it Stahrwe. The true criticism should be against yourself. Just because you believe the story, doesn't mean Wright must address it. Only if you believe it based on evidence and reason would Wright not be justified in ignoring it. But that's not the case. You only have faith.


How does Wright know that Abraham never existed? And even if he didn't I addressed that in my complaint. What fallacy is it when YOU ignore the obvious?

By your logic Wright should have not included anything about Jesus either.


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“You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true – then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”
- G.K. Chesterton


Fri Nov 12, 2010 1:52 pm
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
Stahrwe would have a point, that the Western religions are known as the Abrahamic faiths, yet Wright does not discuss Abraham much in his book, except Abraham has 15 index mentions and Abrahamic tradition has 36.

If we think of Abraham and Sarah as mythic mutations from the Vedic Brahma and Sarasvati, among a population who moved to Israel after the change of direction of the Sarasvati River sent refugees west from India in about 2000 BC, then it opens up big questions about the evolution of God.

Especially, if Hebraic religion came from India, it reflects that linguistic connections between different Indo-European faiths have a deep root in common ancestry, and we may be able to trace some of the monotheistic impulse to Hindu origins.



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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
Quote:
How does Wright know that Abraham never existed?


Does Wright claim Abraham never existed? I wouldn't make that claim, but I would certainly make the claim that much of the story attributed to him was fabricated. Where is the evidence that the revelation to Abraham happened?

Quote:
Stahrwe would have a point, that the Western religions are known as the Abrahamic faiths, yet Wright does not discuss Abraham much in his book, except Abraham has 15 index mentions and Abrahamic tradition has 36.


The question was specifically about the call of Abraham. Wright says: "And, anyway, the story of Abraham seems to have been handed down through the generations orally for a long time. And stories like that tend to be unreliable." What more of an answer could you ask for? The story is unreliable, thus is not a more parsimonious explanation. I think it's a good idea to scale back the use of parsimony as well.

From Wikipedia:
"When scientists use the idea of parsimony, it only has meaning in a very specific context of inquiry. A number of background assumptions are required for parsimony to connect with plausibility in a particular research problem. The reasonableness of parsimony in one research context may have nothing to do with its reasonableness in another. It is a mistake to think that there is a single global principle that spans diverse subject matter.[10]
As a methodological principle, the demand for simplicity suggested by Occam’s razor cannot be generally sustained. Occam’s razor cannot help toward a rational decision between competing explanations of the same empirical facts. One problem in formulating an explicit general principle is that complexity and simplicity are perspective notions whose meaning depends on the context of application and the user’s prior understanding. In the absence of an objective criterion for simplicity and complexity, Occam’s razor itself does not support an objective epistemology.[9]
The problem of deciding between competing explanations for empirical facts cannot be solved by formal tools. Simplicity principles can be useful heuristics in formulating hypotheses, but they do not make a contribution to the selection of theories. A theory that is compatible with one person’s world view will be considered simple, clear, logical, and evident, whereas what is contrary to that world view will quickly be rejected as an overly complex explanation with senseless additional hypotheses. Occam’s razor, in this way, becomes a “mirror of prejudice.”[9]



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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
stahrwe wrote:
I have to say that I didn't expect much from Robert Wright in terms of an answer to my question but his response surprised me in that it was even less than I expected. TEoG is about changes in the perception of god over time. Certainly the story of Abram/Abraham is second only to the story of Jesus in importance with respect to that perception. Wright ignored the story in his book and he ignored my question. His answer was no answer and those reading this who have an honest disposition regardless of their personal beliefs will agree with me.

Honesty=agreeing with stahrwe.


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Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:13 am
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Stahrwe would have a point, that the Western religions are known as the Abrahamic faiths, yet Wright does not discuss Abraham much in his book, except Abraham has 15 index mentions and Abrahamic tradition has 36.

If we think of Abraham and Sarah as mythic mutations from the Vedic Brahma and Sarasvati, among a population who moved to Israel after the change of direction of the Sarasvati River sent refugees west from India in about 2000 BC, then it opens up big questions about the evolution of God.

Especially, if Hebraic religion came from India, it reflects that linguistic connections between different Indo-European faiths have a deep root in common ancestry, and we may be able to trace some of the monotheistic impulse to Hindu origins.


Check the indexed mentions of Abraham in the book. They actually make Wright's omission of the story of Abraham from Genesis an even bigger crime. The references are not substanative. They are hardly more than the mention of the name. RT you should have checked them before your posted this. TEoG is what it was intended to be - a money maker, it was not intended to be a serious work and Wright punted my question.


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- G.K. Chesterton


Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:06 am
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
stahrwe wrote:
Check the indexed mentions of Abraham in the book. They actually make Wright's omission of the story of Abraham from Genesis an even bigger crime. The references are not substanative. They are hardly more than the mention of the name. RT you should have checked them before your posted this. TEoG is what it was intended to be - a money maker, it was not intended to be a serious work and Wright punted my question.


Wright's main theme is the evolution of the Abrahamic tradition. However, the identity of Abraham, putatively at the source of the tradition that bears his name, is a mystery, shrouded in myth. We have the story of Ur of the Chaldees, but who is to say if it is true? It is rather pointless to delve into the detail of Biblical stories if we can't put them in a bigger frame of reference that starts to give them a scientific explanation.

One excellent book in this regard is Out of Eden - The Peopling of the World by Stephen Oppenheimer. It goes back to the exodus from Africa 85 thousand years ago, with the biological Adam and Eve in the human genetic tree, and tells the story of human expansion through the world. If a Bible story is not compatible with the DNA evidence revealed in this book it is probably untrue.



Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:39 am
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
Robert Tulip wrote:
stahrwe wrote:
Check the indexed mentions of Abraham in the book. They actually make Wright's omission of the story of Abraham from Genesis an even bigger crime. The references are not substanative. They are hardly more than the mention of the name. RT you should have checked them before your posted this. TEoG is what it was intended to be - a money maker, it was not intended to be a serious work and Wright punted my question.


Wright's main theme is the evolution of the Abrahamic tradition. However, the identity of Abraham, putatively at the source of the tradition that bears his name, is a mystery, shrouded in myth. We have the story of Ur of the Chaldees, but who is to say if it is true? It is rather pointless to delve into the detail of Biblical stories if we can't put them in a bigger frame of reference that starts to give them a scientific explanation.

One excellent book in this regard is Out of Eden - The Peopling of the World by Stephen Oppenheimer. It goes back to the exodus from Africa 85 thousand years ago, with the biological Adam and Eve in the human genetic tree, and tells the story of human expansion through the world. If a Bible story is not compatible with the DNA evidence revealed in this book it is probably untrue.


Why add another waste of time book to the list. Your attempt to defend Wright is as baseless as the others. The only person who has been honest about it is DWill. Shrouded in myth, your words, who cares, Wright didn't even bother to discuss the 'myth'.


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“You cannot evade the issue of God, whether you talk about pigs or the binomial theory, you are still talking about Him. Now if Christianity be. . . a fragment of metaphysical nonsense invented by a few people, then, of course, defending it will simply mean talking that metaphysical nonsense over and over. But if Christianity should happen to be true – then defending it may mean talking about anything or everything. Things can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is false, but nothing can be irrelevant to the proposition that Christianity is true.”
- G.K. Chesterton


Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:01 am
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
Quote:
It goes back to the exodus from Africa 85 thousand years ago, with the biological Adam and Eve in the human genetic tree, and tells the story of human expansion through the world. If a Bible story is not compatible with the DNA evidence revealed in this book it is probably untrue.


The book traces DNA back to two people? Or do you mean Adam and Eve figuratively?

Quote:
Shrouded in myth, your words, who cares, Wright didn't even bother to discuss the 'myth'.


What you're saying is a story, told orally, is a more likely candidate to the change of zeitgeist than politics, economics, and demographics? I wonder what the story resembled at that time. It was likely one of those fables that morphed across the generations with only the core points resembling each other. Until someone decided to make the story official and place it in a religious book. They would have to have filled in a tremendous amount of blanks.

Nationalist pride at the time, with Yahweh as the state god, mixed with a rejection of internationalism, seems to me a much stronger force and likely candidate. For example, why would the story of Abraham influence someone who believed in Ba'al or Krishna? Demographics must have had a lot to do with it, even if it were to isolate a population as Wright says, to polarize them away from another nation's polytheism.



Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:49 pm
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Post Re: Email interview with Robert Wright! Ask questions here.
Interbane wrote:
Quote:
It goes back to the exodus from Africa 85 thousand years ago, with the biological Adam and Eve in the human genetic tree, and tells the story of human expansion through the world. If a Bible story is not compatible with the DNA evidence revealed in this book it is probably untrue.


The book traces DNA back to two people? Or do you mean Adam and Eve figuratively?

Quote:
Shrouded in myth, your words, who cares, Wright didn't even bother to discuss the 'myth'.


Out of Eden - The Peopling of the World is a superb book, and I would recommend it for non-fiction discussion at Booktalk.

Information on the findings of mitochondrial DNA research regarding the last common female ancestor of all humanity is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrial_Eve. It states

"In the field of human genetics, Mitochondrial Eve refers to the most recent common matrilineal ancestor from whom all living humans are descended. Passed down from mother to offspring, all mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in every living person is directly descended from hers. Mitochondrial Eve is the female counterpart of Y-chromosomal Adam, the patrilineal most recent common ancestor, although they lived thousands of years apart.
Mitochondrial Eve is generally estimated to have lived around 200,000 years ago,[2] most likely in East Africa,[3] when Homo sapiens sapiens were developing as a species separate from other human species.
Mitochondrial Eve lived much earlier than the out of Africa migration that is thought to have occurred between 95,000 to 45,000 BP.[4] The dating for 'Eve' was a blow to the multiregional hypothesis, and a boost to the hypothesis that modern humans originated relatively recently in Africa and spread from there, replacing more "archaic" human populations such as Neanderthals. As a result, the latter hypothesis is now the dominant one."

This diagram shows current scientific understanding of the origin of humanity. We see the exodus from Africa across the Red Sea mouth. Another important consideration here is that sea level has risen and fallen considerably over the 21,000 year ice cycle, so there used to be a lot of land that is now under the ocean, including at the shallow waters at the mouth of the Red Sea.

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HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

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