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A Protopian View of Moral Progress

The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. By Michael Shermer. Henry Holt and Company, 2015. ISBN 9780805096910. 541 pp. Hardcover, $32.00.

Religion has often positioned itself as the originator (and for some the sole provider) of morality. In The Moral Arc, Michael Shermer argues that “most of the moral development of the past several centuries has been the result of secular not religious forces” and that it is science and reason that bend the moral arc toward justice, truth, and freedom. For the few who don’t know Michael Shermer, he is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and the writer of a number of successful books, including Why People Believe Weird Things. For those wondering what the moral arc is, the book’s first section, “The Moral Arc Explained,” covers it. In brief, the moral arc is a metaphor Shermer borrowed from a nineteenth-century abolitionist preacher named Theodore Parker that “symbolizes what may be the most important and least appreciated trend in human history—moral progress.”

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