Book review: The Moral Arc, by Michael Shermer

Moral Arc - cover

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 this provocative and compelling book, 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.

Here is my Feb 22, 2015 book review:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Martin Luther King Jr.

I would recommended this book as a fantastic follow up to Steven Pinker’s “Better Angels of our Nature” and Matt Ridley’s “The Rational Optimist”. Beginning with the famous march to Selma, Alabama led by Martin Luther King Jr to fight for the right to vote, Shermer takes the reader on a journey that makes the irrefutable case that morality is on an upward swing (arc). Using easy to read prose and references to several reputable scholars such as Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, etc, the author delves deep into the human psyche to explain how immoral acts can be committed by moral people, and that we are improving how we treat each other through education, communication, and a higher awareness. This book made me proud to be a member of the human race, flawed as we are – we are always getting better.

Darren Hancock


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