May 31, 2009
Interesting—and brief: Watch Andrew Sullivan interview science writer Robert Wright. The two "blur the lines between Buddhism and Christianity."
In 2003, Tricycle interviewed Bob Wright, who uses natural selection to explain, among other things, why happiness is so fleeting:
Considering the many thousands of years of evolution that have shaped us, if spiritual practice is designed to counter what comes “naturally,” we face quite a challenge.
Yes, and I think the scale of that challenge is something that Buddhism implicitly recognizes. Evolution designed us to pursue self-interest and get our genes into the next generation. But it did not design us to be happy. In fact, happiness is something that is designed by natural selection to evaporate. It is designed not to last but to keep you motivated. If you imagine an animal that upon having sex says, “Okay, I’m happy forever now,” that’s an animal whose genes are going to lose out to a different animal that says, “Well, that was fun, but I want to do it again, you know.” This is the reason that gratification is so fleeting, and this is something that Buddhism addresses very fundamentally. Unhappiness - suffering - is a given, and at the very heart of the Buddhist teachings. Buddhism recognizes that it is an illusion to think that the things you desire are going to bring you lasting happiness; in fact, the opposite is true. Once again we will find ourselves in the state of thirst, in the state of hunger, the state of unhappiness. If you think about it, there was a crying need for somebody to diagnose the problem, to stress that happiness is fleeting and just leaves us craving more.