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uncle ebeneezer
06-11-2009, 03:36 AM
So I just got back from Bob's lecture in Westwood. I got there and took a seat on the side and noticed that lo-and-behold, Mickey was in the center aisle of my same row.

The talk itself was good. Bob makes a couple funny jokes and basically lays out his theory through the example of Judaism. A lot of the same ground he covers in the recent articles he's been doing.

I wasn't able to get in a question in the auditorium but there was a reception upstairs afterwards. I can't imagine how weird it must be to be surrounded by people you don't know asking questions, leaning in etc. I can definitely see how the whole thing must get annoying after several stops on the tour. Some of the people obviously had very strong views on religion and almost were coming at Bob with a not-too-friendly or receptive approach.

While I was waiting Mickey walked by and said "I'm leaving. Give me a call" to Bob. I went over to Mickey and introduced myself as Uncle Ebeneezer and told him to keep up the good work. As much as I love to goof on him, I do appreciate his appearances. He seemed to take a second or two to figure out my name and the reference. I had a dark leather jacket on and haven't shaved in awhile so perhaps he thought i was gonna mug him ;-)

When I finally got to Bob he saw that I was holding a copy of 3 Scientists & Their Gods and said "Wow that one goes back a ways." I introduced myself and he said "THE Uncle Ebeneezer?" And I answered "The one and only." he had to explain to the people around us what we were talking about and said that I'm his most supportive commenter.

I thanked him for the great work (he said something like "just trying to keep it afloat") and I made a reference to his ongoing feud with Bloggin' about altruism.

I raised the the point that since Nonzero was famously endorsed by Clinton, was there any plan to get EOG into Obama's hands, and would there be anything useful that Obama could take out of it on the foreign policy side? He said that this wasn't really that kindof book and that any politician wouldn't go anywhere near this book seeing as how he shines some pretty skeptical light on all 3 major religions. As he was signing my book I offered him 25 cents (he once said in a diavlog that you could get a signed copy for 25 cents.) He sorta laughed and told me to keep my money. I also told him that I wanted to have him sign that book because it was his first even though the Moral Animal was still my favorite, at which point he added "for teaching you why you're an asshole." I think this was either a reference to his Sullivan interview, or possibly something I said in my back and forths with LemonSorbet about dating etc., but he was obviously joking and I believe my response was "well an explanation is at least something." I hung around for a few more minutes while he fielded another persons question and then took off.

As I was walking away a rather upscale, attractive woman asked me "did you say you are Uncle Ebeneezer?" Turns out she just started watching Bhtv but has never commented. She asked me what I said about Bloggin' and I told her. I mentioned that I loved some of his stuff but that these philosophy arguments were tough for me to follow and ponderous at times. I mentioned that he used to be the most prolific commenter and she said "I thought that was BJKeefe." At which point I emphasized "used to be."

Anyways, if you get the chance it's worth checking out his talk in person. Bob was very genuine and nice to everybody and very gracious with his time and answering people's questions fully. And he is definitely tall.

[Added: I think it would be cool if Bob does a book monovlog at some point where he can address all the questions/critiques of the book, whether they are from Richard Joyce, Me&theBoys or whomever. I'd like to hear some of his defenses of his view.]

bjkeefe
06-11-2009, 05:51 AM
As I was walking away a rather upscale, attractive woman asked me "did you say you are Uncle Ebeneezer?" Turns out she just started watching Bhtv but has never commented. She asked me what I said about Bloggin' and I told her. I mentioned that I loved some of his stuff but that these philosophy arguments were tough for me to follow and ponderous at times. I mentioned that he used to be the most prolific commenter and she said "I thought that was BJKeefe." At which point I emphasized "used to be."

Anyways ...

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up. Did this upscale attractive women say prolific like she thought it was a good thing?

But (more) seriously ...

A great piece. Thanks for sharing it.

Me&theboys
06-11-2009, 12:12 PM
Excellent report! I'm envious. I guess it's beyond reasonable to think Bob would come to Dallas to talk about his book. That would be a zero-sum proposition for sure. He'd probably need body guards! Although there would be some delicious irony in it, since he grew up in Texas. That alone should be worth the trip for him, in my mind. I read in an interview that Bob first learned about evolution in 10th grade in Texas. That quite surprises me, since, when my husband was in 10th grade in Texas, about 8 years after Bob, he didn't even know evolution was a concept. My husband first learned about evolution in his junior year at Harvard. That's how backward the state of education was (and still is) in Texas. The teaching of evolution in Texas schools held its own this year and remains on the curriculum (for now).

PS - The latest from the Texas 10 year old faithful is that primates evolved into Neanderthals, which become extinct, after which God created Adam and Eve. I kid you not. Texans NEED Bob to come down here and set them straight.

Me&theboys
06-11-2009, 12:44 PM
[Added: I think it would be cool if Bob does a book monovlog at some point where he can address all the questions/critiques of the book, whether they are from Richard Joyce, Me&theBoys or whomever. I'd like to hear some of his defenses of his view.]

Uncle Eb - I found a web site/blog site that is conducting an interview of Bob on Wednesday - they are requesting suggested questions for the interview. All the ones I've posted here I've also posted there. If you or anyone else has any questions for Bob, you could post them there or email them to the interviewers. Not sure if he'll actually answer them - I am not familiar with the blog, but I get the sense that most of their followers are religiously inclined so my questions may not be well received. Here's the post about the interview and the questions and a link to the site that will eventually post the podcast of the interview itself: http://dembones-dembones.blogspot.com/2009/06/interviewing-robert-wright-help-needed.html

nikkibong
06-11-2009, 01:00 PM
Awesome, eb! Count me among the jealous!!!

uncle ebeneezer
06-11-2009, 03:22 PM
Hey Guys, glad you liked my report. Actually my conversation was a bit longer and covered some other topics and some chimed in questions/comments from other people around us, but I can't remember the details well enough to make it worth recounting.

(Oh I just remembered, I asked if he had considered including Buddhism in his framework and he said he wrote a little about it in the book but that largely it's spread wasn't as easily traced or matched to the nonzero idea. I added that Buddhism also isn't nearly so exclusive as the Abrahamic faiths are which he agreed with. He did say that he thought Buddhism is really on the mark as far as just teaching people how to deal with stuff and have healthy, happy lives and not get caught up in our mental shackles that the brain so naturally provides us and mentioned the retreat he did (at Sharon Salzberg's center I added, and he nodded but continued on for the rest of the people around us. Did I detect a little mini eyeroll...that woulda been pretty cool.) And he pointed out the challenge between being mostly designed to look out for our personal interests, and yet realizing when it's better to see things from another person's perspective (something that I really agree with.) And he suggested the exercise of going into a crowded place like a subway station etc., and rather than focusing on the people normally I would (in my case the cute girls or the rival dudes), to pay attention and be aware of the ones we usually are oblivious to (like the elderly and children.) This happens to be an exercise I try to do on a somewhat regular basis, though I look at it simply as trying to be "mindful." I mentioned at that point whether perhaps the fact that the elderly/young are not direct competitors for most of us, would help explain our more affectionate and positive feelings towards them relative to the way we approach our peers. Although I would bet that the fact that they are also people that generally need our assistance plays a huge role as well. But an interesting question.)

Me&TB, stories like yours about Texas really irk me. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, but you know, Dallas hasn't been a good place for visiting liberals ;-)

BJK you'll be happy to know when she said "I thought that was BJKeefe" I responded "you mean Brendan."

She also mentioned how she was surprised that Bob hadn't mentioned his book tour appearences on Bhtv and didn't I actually suggest that he do that? I said, yes and told her that I wouldn't have known about the lecture if Nikkibong hadn't posted the "appearances" message. And she said "Ahh, Nikkibong." Which just sounded funny. She was very nice and seemed pretty sharp. i encouraged her to drop some comments in sometime and assured her that most of us don't bite. The man she was with mentioned the recent diavlog Bob did with the religious dude, and i mentioned that the Percontations series was great but that I'm ready to get back to more policy driven stuff. he said something about how the Templeton Foundation was going to fund something that they were involved in but it didn't go into any further detail.

The overall experience reinforced the idea that we are still a very small group who love bhtv. When the announcer mentioned it in the introduction there was no noticeable response from the crowd. I almost hooted but it was a pretty upscale crowd (with a good smattering of attractive UCLA females no doubt) so I kept quiet. There was one point where Bob made a point of how when we want to diss some other God or cultural thing we attribute it to foreigners out of an overemphasis on Nationalism. IE- "This God is so silly that THOSE people believe in it." I wish I could have seen Mickey's reaction to that. I was ready to hear him interrupt "But Bob, you just said yourself..."

I look forward to reading EOG by the way. There's been alot of criticism of it from many different angles and I'm curious to see how I will feel about the book.

Me&theboys
06-11-2009, 05:40 PM
I look forward to reading EOG by the way. There's been alot of criticism of it from many different angles and I'm curious to see how I will feel about the book.

I cannot wait to hear what you think of it, Uncle Eb. After a 3 day hiatus, I've started back in, have now finished all but the 5th Section, God Goes Global (Or Doesn't), where I guess Bob presents his hypothesis in full. That section is only about 35 pages long, unfortunately. I'm starting to wonder if Bob's evolving view of God and the divine is a reflection of current "facts on the ground" as he likes to say, specifically, 9/11, getting married, having kids, the Iraq war - all of which happened since he wrote The Moral Animal. I would never have predicted that the person who wrote The Moral Animal would write The Evolution of God. Would be interesting to know how he got from there to here, philosophically.

I'm very interested to hear what the other people at the book event said, especially the ones who were religiously inclined, and what Bob said in reply to their comments. Do you recall any of that?

Thanks.

uncle ebeneezer
06-11-2009, 06:22 PM
Me&, They were pretty specific questions about scriptures, for the most part. It was pretty hard to hear because it was a loud room. And not being very well versed in that stuff I didn't make a tremendous effort to get within earshot of the conversation (which pretty much required a person to be within 3-5 feet of Bob and the person asking.) Plus I was trying to gather my nerves and figure out what I was going to ask/say.

I believe Bob mentioned being basically an agnostic leaning towards atheist, and certainly a materialist, in the talk. And judging by the talk he certainly did not come across as someone pushing the idea that God is behind anything. More like, if viewed through this lens, one could argue that there is directionality and purpose to the patterns he's seen (like Nonzero) but he wasn't eager to make the next step of attributing that to a higher power of any sort. It seems like alot of the criticism of the book takes him to task for that suggestion. From the small portions I've read so far (articles) I haven't gotten the impression that that is the big point Bob is trying to make. But again, I still have to read the book itself. i will say however that in the past, whether it was with Moral Animal (EP) or Nonzero (game theory) I have often felt that Bob's critics seemed to be missing his point or attributing points to him that I didn't feel he was really pushing. I have never been adept enough at trying to illustrate why I think they are wrong (and I often just don't feel like putting in the effort) but I wonder how much of that sortof thing is going on now. IE- how much of it is my ignorance, and how much is people misinterpreting what he's getting at. Hence, that's why I'll be curious to read it myself. I can see how people are getting riled at Bob based on the promotional interviews and jumping to the conclusion that he suddenly abandoned rationality or is trying to sneak "something bigger" into the discussion, but that was not the impression I got at all through the lecture and the discussions afterwards.

Coverage here:

http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2009/06/last-night-robert-wright-on-the-evolution-of-god/#more-5084

Video of the talk here:

http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/zocalo_video_podcasts/media/zocalo_090610.mp4

Me&theboys
06-11-2009, 07:13 PM
Thanks, Uncle Eb. You should read the book and judge for yourself, but it sounds to me like Bob was backing off points he makes quite clearly and strongly in his book. I suggest you read pages 300-302, or pages 400-405, or pages 213-241 - I've written so much all over the margins of that last section I can barely read what is printed on the page. Or read the Afterword. Getting to the above pages the usual way is some serious work through some dense factual history.

Bloggin' Noggin
06-11-2009, 08:03 PM
Let me add my thanks for the report as well, Uncle. Sounds like it was a lot of fun. Wish I'd been there, myself. Thanks for bringing me into the conversation! I suppose I've already missed Bob's talk in Boston, if he's coming here at all....

Ocean
06-11-2009, 08:24 PM
Great advertisement for Bob's talk!

I'm planning to attend his presentation in Princeton next week. If I make it, I can add my story to this thread.

We could be starting another book with these comments! :)

Me&theboys
06-11-2009, 09:05 PM
PS - Thank you for the links, Uncle Eb.

uncle ebeneezer
06-11-2009, 09:27 PM
You're welcome Bloggin'. It was the first thing I could think of to "prove" that I was the real Uncle Eb. I'll leave it to Bob to respond to you directly on your points although the phrase "Mexican Standoff" comes to mind ;-)

Me&, your critiques are scaring me more than just about anything I've read. Maybe Bob really DID need Mickey to proofread/edit it!! But I will still buy/read it and post my thoughts.

Bloggin' Noggin
06-14-2009, 11:45 AM
You're welcome Bloggin'. It was the first thing I could think of to "prove" that I was the real Uncle Eb. I'll leave it to Bob to respond to you directly on your points although the phrase "Mexican Standoff" comes to mind ;-)


Well, we won't get very far if Bob continues to assume that all of my criticisms are based on simple misunderstandings (which isn't to say that none of them were based on misunderstandings) -- and if he allows himself to insert words into my arguments that are not there.
Bob recognizes the existence of unconscious beliefs and desires and he often strongly implies the EP shows that our consciously altruistic motives are fronts for motives of ours that are selfish but unconsious.
In his monovlog he infers from a claim I made about belief (whether conscious or unconscious) that I must have meant CONSCIOUS belief. And thereupon he is able to assume I don't know the first thing about EP or his views. This inference from "belief" to "conscious belief" might have been understandable if he himself didn't believe that some beliefs and desires are unconscious.

What's funny is that WHILE supposedly correcting my mistake, he goes on to make precisely the inference I was objecting to:

From
1. Our motivations were formed by a certain Darwinian logic, of which we are unaware.
Bob seems to infer
2. The Darwinian logic which formed our motivations is unconsciously part of our motivations.

So he says that when we understand EP, we will understand that we are "REALLY AFTER" reputation as a means to other goods, like sex or power. I guess there's no problem in saying (metaphorically) that NATURAL SELECTION was really after those things on our behalf when it formed altruistic motivations. But to infer that this is what WE are after is simply fallacious.

I don't expect to Bob to take me seriously, but I hope he will read Richard Joyce's _Evolution of Morality_ which very explicitly avoids the confusions of _Moral Animal_ regarding altruism and egoism etc.

bjkeefe
06-14-2009, 07:46 PM
I don't expect to Bob to take me seriously ...

I do.

(Expect that.)

I'm SO awesome!
06-16-2009, 01:29 AM
how big was he? could you beat him in a fight?

uncle ebeneezer
06-16-2009, 02:43 AM
I would guess that he's about 6'3" but relatively skinny. He probably swatted alot of Mickey's shots when they used to play hoops together.

Any conflict between me and Bob would be solved through diplomacy or some sort of world court ;-)

bjkeefe
06-16-2009, 02:50 AM
Any conflict between me and Bob would be solved through diplomacy or some sort of world court ;-)

A non-zero lovefest, I'm sure.

;^)

Ocean
06-17-2009, 11:41 PM
Bob's presentation in Princeton was great. The audience was large and seemed very interested and knowledgeable about the topic. I got my book signed and I got to meet and chat with Jackie Shire.

I was looking around trying to guess whether other people there were from the BHtv crowd, but couldn't figure it out. The "locals" also looked very intellectual...

I haven't watched today's diavlog. I hope it isn't a spoiler considering that I haven't read the book yet.

My two cent.

uncle ebeneezer
07-04-2009, 01:30 AM
Jackie Shire...very cool.

Ocean
07-04-2009, 01:33 AM
Jackie Shire...very cool.

Indeed.

osmium
09-10-2009, 11:51 PM
I went to see (http://www.flickr.com/photos/osmium/3908693256/) Bob at the 92 Street Y here in New York. Got to talk to Bob, and he was really nice. Bruce Feiler was there, too, and he was also very nice.

While I was waiting on the rest room, a kindly, semi-crazy looking gentleman in a bolo tie said, "Did you just come from the lecture?" I said yes. He said, "Coupla really bright guys up there." Then he nodded knowingly.

Disclaimer: If you are the guy in the bolo tie, I am adapting your character to make an interesting story--you do not seem crazy at all.