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Saturday, July 8 - 11:16amSanction this postReply
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In the chapter "Why Science and Reason are the Drivers of Moral Progress," Shermer cites the work of Joseph Henrich and his collaborators who examined about a dozen "primitive" societies in an attempt to tease out what, if anything, is "human nature."  Their paper, The WEIRDest People on Earth is here: http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/pdfs/Weird_People_BBS_final02.pdf  By WEIRD they mean Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rational, and Democratic. We discussed this paper before here in RoR: http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/Dissent/0263.shtml  That study was motivated by the fact that experiments in university psychology departments overwhelmingly tested only psychology undergraduates, their friends, and occasionally their children. In fact, other people around the world do not even perceive the same optical illusions that we do. And, moving from epistemology to ethics, only those who have experience with market economics actually share the way we do, either in quantity or social context.



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Saturday, July 8 - 6:02pmSanction this postReply
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Human nature is a description of what is common to all humans by their nature - because they are human (sometimes as a potential not actualized in a given individual or a given culture).  And as Objectivism makes clear, there are moral values that are objective, universal and absolute (quite different from individual or cultural preferences). 

 

I can't tell you how disgusted I get over many of the absurd psychology studies that roll out of the universities - often lacking in sound assumptions and often just a facade used to push some philosophical, sociological, or political talking point - such as the belief that there are no objective moral values.

 

Epistemology is also about objective, universal, absolute truths.  It doesn't matter that in culture A, the people tend to make this or that logical error twice as often as in culture B - a fallacy is a fallacy.

 

To equate differences in cultures with some implied or explicit belief that epistemology and/or morality are subjective or relative is to make a grave error.  They are no more relative or subjective than physics.  Does the fact that members of some primitive tribe in New Guinea all believe that witch doctors can transmute materials or make matter disappear make it true?  No.  Nor does their having different beliefs in the area of physics mean that physics is subjective or relative.



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Monday, July 10 - 4:29amSanction this postReply
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I saw the book on display in my local branch library.  I am a big fan of the public library, even with its attendent problems. If you do not want to buy the book, borrow it.  If reading is too much work, you can find out about the book by browsing online.

 

If you goto Amazon you will find

The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom by Michael Shermer (Henry Holt and Company, 2015)

https://www.amazon.com/Moral-Arc-Science-Better-People/dp/1250081327

  • And there, you will find a string of back jacket blurbs in praise from:
  • Jared Diamond, Pulitzer-prize-winning author of the best-selling books Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, and The World until Yesterday
  • Carol Tavris, Ph.D., social psychologist and author of The Mismeasure of Woman and coauthor of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)
  • 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
  • Lawrence 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
  • Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist, author of the best seller The Future of the Mind, and Physics of the Future
  • Bill Nye, The Science Guy, CEO, The Planetary Society
  • Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion

All of them, of course, are liberals, some we might call progressives.  Despite its praise for the market, the book does not mention Ayn Rand at all.  But, as I said in my review, I found the content to be consistent with the intention of Atlas Shrugged.

 

You can find other reviews online, of course, some close to the source.

"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." -- Shop Skeptic
http://shop.skeptic.com/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=b162HB

 

"In Dr. Michael Shermer’s latest book, The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom, he 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." -- Michael Shermer's own blog: http://www.michaelshermer.com/the-moral-arc/

"… Shermer argues that the rise of trade and rise of literacy through the Industrial Revolution's need for highly educated knowledge workers, has created a "moral Flynn effect" …"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Arc


You can find a précis of each chapter on the book's own website here:
http://moralarc.org/
Prologue: Bending the Moral Arc

Part I: The Moral Arc Explained

Chapter 1. Towards a Science of Morality
Chapter 2. The Morality of War, Terror, and Deterrence
Chapter 3. Why Reason Is the Primary Source of Moral Progress
Chapter 4. Why Religion Is Not the Source of Moral Progress

Part II: The Moral Arc Applied

Chapter 5. A Moral Science of Freedom Rights
Chapter 6. A Moral Science of Women’s Rights
Chapter 7. A Moral Science of Gay Rights
Chapter 8. A Moral Science of Animal Rights

Part III: The Moral Arc Amended

Chapter 9. Moral Regress and Pathways to Evil
Chapter 10. Moral Freedom and Responsibility
Chapter 11. Moral Justice: Retribution and Restoration
Chapter 12. Protopia: The Future of Moral Progress

Index
http://moralarc.org/

 

 

The paper by Joseph Henrich and his team was just one data point among many. I latched onto it because it came up here. I would have to dig deeper into the archives for more links, but it is pretty easy to pick Ed Thompson and Dean Michael Gores and search for "nature" (as in human nature) to find some of those.  As I recall, Ed Thompson cited university studies with toddlers to show that we have a "natural" sense of "fairness."  Henrich and his collaborators tested that claim and found it wanting.  But, there, too, if you are interested in knowing the facts, you actually have to read the paper... or at least online reviews of it...



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