Coffee!! Robert “Non-Zero” Wright explains his conversion to evolutionary psychology

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Here. He was briefly a born-again Christian as a youth, but

… my sister’s husband (an aspiring psychologist whose preference for graduate school over employment my father wasn’t wild about) suggested I read Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner. As intellectuals go, Skinner was pretty dismissive of intellectuals — at least the ones who blathered unproductively about “freedom” and “dignity,” the ones he considered insufficiently hard-nosed and scientific.Look, he said, people are animals. Kind of like laboratory rats, except taller. Their behavioral proclivities are a product of the positive and negative reinforcements they’ve gotten in the past. Want to build a better society? Discern the links between past reinforcement and future proclivity, and then adjust society’s disbursement of reinforcements accordingly. No need to speculate about unobservable states of mind or ponder the role of “free will” or any other imponderables. Epistemology, phenomenology, metaphysics, and 25 cents will get you a ride on the New York subway.

This was my kind of intellectual — an anti-intellectual intellectual! I became an ardent Skinnerian.

However, that wore off, so then this:

In high school, I bought into this view, but in college, a reference to the “socio-biology” controversy on the cover of Time magazine caught my eye, and I started looking into the Darwinian underpinnings of human behavior. This train of thought culminated — about two decades after I encountered Skinner — in my book The Moral Animal, a full-throated defense of evolutionary psychology.

Full-throated defense of what, did you say? From the malign to the ridiculous, in one swift descent … He ended up saying that we evolved for adultery, in Time Magazine (but could somehow help it anyway).

That’s interesting. As I understand the meaning of the word “evolved”, the whole point is that you can’t help it. If I tell you that I evolved to have ten fingers, walk upright and see in binocular vision, the point is that I didn’t and don’t just choose this stuff.

The least the committed Darwinist could do (but of course he won’t) is not to make nonsense of the meaning of words in common use.

He insists that Dawkins buddy Jerry Coyne misunderstands his most recent Evolution of God. Coyne thinks Non-Zero isn’t a “materialist” and, amazingly enough, Non-Zero affirms that he is one. Gosh, I wonder who can be right?

Non-Zero?: He also wrote a book explaining how the universe could have arisen from the interplay between positive and negative forces, equaling zero. Bill Clinton praises it here.

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