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The Moral Arc, by Dr. Michael Shermer
The Moral Arc: How Science Makes Us Better People
In this book, Dr. Michael Shermer claims that we are living in the most moral period of our species’ history. It is a book about moral progress that demonstrates through extensive data and heroic stories that the arc of the moral universe bends toward truth, justice, and freedom. Of the many factors that have come together over the centuries to bend the arc in a more moral direction, science and reason are foremost. The Scientific Revolution led by Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton was so world-changing that thinkers in other fields consciously aimed at revolutionizing the social, political, and economic worlds using the same methods of science. This led to the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, which in turn created the modern secular world of liberal democracies, civil rights and civil liberties, equal justice under the law, open political and economic borders, and the expansion of the moral sphere to include more people—and now even animals—as worthy of moral consideration. Epic in scope, The Moral Arc is the Cosmos of human history.
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Praise for The Moral Arc
The Moral Arc displays the impressive depth of Michael Shermer’s scholarship, wisdom and empathetic humanity, and it climaxes in a visionary flight of futuristic optimism. A memorable book, a book to recommend and discuss late into the night.
—RICHARD DAWKINS, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion
A thrilling and fascinating book, which could change your view of human history and human destiny. If you wanted a sequel to The Better Angels of Our Nature, one which explored all of our spheres of moral progress, not just the decline of violence, this is it.
—STEVEN PINKER, Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and author of The Blank Slate and The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
It is difficult to imagine how the arc of morality can bend toward justice without rational examination of the consequences of one’s actions. As Michael Shermer passionately describes in this ambitious, thoroughly researched, yet remarkably accessible work of scholarship, the fabric of modern morality derives not from religion, but in large part from secular notions of rational empiricism. This message needs to be shared more broadly for the good of our society, and hopefully this book will do just that. —LAWARENCE M. KRAUSS, Foundation Professor and Director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, and bestselling author of A Universe from Nothing, and The Physics of Star Trek
Michael Shermer argues that science, reason, and critical thinking come first; these are the ideas that produce stable, peaceful democracies. He documents and assesses society’s successes and failures through the troubled history of humankind—and he’s relentless. He connects the arc of the rise of reason and science with a country’s economic success, and the overall worldwide decline in violence and suppression of our fellow humans, especially women. If you are religious, have a look. Shermer takes your faith to task and celebrates science as a path to the better moral future that citizens everywhere long for. —BILL NYE, The Science Guy, CEO, The Planetary Society
This is one of the best recent books that I have read, and it’s the one that I expect to re-read most often. It’s an honest, clear account of morality and justice that makes those theoretical concepts come alive as ubiquitous real-life choices. In the process of reading it, you’ll learn about wrenching moral dilemmas such as paying ransoms to Somali pirates, maintaining nuclear weapons as deterrents, good people becoming Nazis, and the immorality of the Bible and of the Ten Commandments. —JARED DIAMOND, Pulitzer-prize-winning author of the best-selling books Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and The World Until Yesterday
Shermer’s thought-provoking, multidisciplinary book will engage anyone who wishes to understand rationalism as a force for morality.
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