You may know him as the Felix Unger of Bloggingheads TV. Or you may know him as the author of big-think bestsellers like The Moral Animal and Non-Zero. Today Robert Wright’s years-in-the-making The Evolution of God hits the bookstores and the new issue of Cato Unbound offers you a taste with an essay adapted from one of the later chapters of The Evolution of God on the moral imagination. Here’s the summary:
by ROBERT WRIGHT
June 8th, 2009
This month’s Cato Unbound features an essay drawn from The Evolution of God, the ambitious new book by Robert Wright, author of Nonzero and The Moral Animal. In this essay, Wright explores the relationship between “moral imagination” and the possibility of religious tolerance and social cooperation. Wright argues that moral imagination is part of our evolved mental machinery. When we see others as potentially cooperative, moral imagination is awakened to better grasp the needs and interests of partners and allies. But when we see ourselves caught in a zero-sum game with others, moral imagination, and thus sympathy and the spirit of toleration, shrinks as we prepare for a fight. Wright argues that the widespread perception that “the West” and “the Muslim world” are playing a zero-sum game is an illusion created by a misfire of moral imagination. The media’s relentless focus on the truculent acts of a small minority of Muslim extremists encourages the sense that the larger, more moderate Muslim world is much more hostile than it really is. But this sense narrows moral imagination, making it harder still to grap the possibility of cooperation and the point of toleration.