Bestselling author Michael Shermer's exploration of science and morality that demonstrates how the scientific way of thinking has made people, and society as a whole, more moral
From Galileo and Newton to Thomas Hobbes and Martin Luther King, Jr., thinkers throughout history have consciously employed scientific techniques to better understand the non-physical world. The Age of Reason and the Enlightenment led theorists to apply scientific reasoning to the non-scientific disciplines of politics, economics, and moral philosophy. Instead of relying on the woodcuts of dissected bodies in old medical texts, physicians opened bodies themselves to see what was there; instead of divining truth through the authority of an ancient holy book or philosophical treatise, people began to explore the book of nature for themselves through travel and exploration; instead of the supernatural belief in the divine right of kings, people employed a natural belief in the right of democracy.
In The Moral Arc, Shermer will explain how abstract reasoning, rationality, empiricism, skepticism--scientific ways of thinking--have profoundly changed the way we perceive morality and, indeed, move us ever closer to a more just world.
Humanity is creating an increasingly just and equitable world, according to Shermer (Why People Believe Weird Things). He argues that this is occurring in large part because our understanding of the natural world has come to depend on reason and science. Shermer ranges broadly across such fields as economics, philosophy, politics, and biology to provide evidence for his thesis. An engaging writer, he offers persuasive data to demonstrate the moral progress that has been made with women's rights, LGBTQ rights, and animal rights. He also documents the abolition of slavery, the reduction in violence (particularly murder rates), and the decrease in war. Shermer is less successful, however, in demonstrating that a scientific worldview should be seen as the cause for all this, and his polemical outbursts detract from the seriousness of his message. More frustrating are his blinkered views on such matters as income inequality and his omission of rampant ecosystem destruction and an increasing extinction rate in his moral calculus. Essentially an apologia for Shermer's libertarian politics, there is still ample material here that warrants attention.