The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice and Freedom

January 29, 2015

7:00 pm
Portland State University

Dr. Michael Shermer


Oregonians for Science and Reason will sponsor Dr. Michael Shermer on his book tour for his latest book. This talk is free and open to the public.

Book signing will follow and copies of the book will be available for sale at a special events reduced rate.

Smith Memorial Student Union ~ Room 355/38 (the Ballroom) ~ 1825 SW Broadway ~ Portland State University ~ Portland, Oregon


For tens of millennia, moral regress best described our 

species.  But then, the Scientific Revolution led to the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, changing everything.  In The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity Toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom [Henry Holt and Company; January 20, 2015; $32; Hardcover], bestselling author Michael Shermer demonstrates that we are living in the most moral period in our species’ history, and explains why scientific rationalism makes it so.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” said Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the steps of the capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.  It also bends toward truth and freedom, argues Shermer, and these positive outcomes have largely been the product of societies moving toward more secular forms of governance and politics, law and jurisprudence, moral reasoning and ethical analysis.

Shermer introduces the concept of the ever-expanding “moral sphere”: the burgeoning conscience of humanity which has grown to include not only the well-being of ourselves, our families, and our communities, to include those unlike ourselves, even to concern for other mammals, all sentient beings, up to and including the biosphere itself.  Since the Enlightenment, the moral sphere has grown enormously, resulting in a more just world. 

From Galileo and Newton to Hobbes and Jefferson, thinkers throughout history have consciously employed scientific techniques to better understand the nonphysical world. Shermer traces this story in THE MORAL ARC, with the same provocative wit and verve that made his previous books bestsellers. 


Michael Shermer is the author of Why People Believe Weird ThingsThe Believing Brain, and eight other books on the history and evolution of human beliefs and behavior.  He is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, and editor of, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and an adjunct professor at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University.  He lives in Southern California.


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

“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 SteelCollapse, and The World until Yesterday.

“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

“I suspect that people will be arguing with Michael Shermer’s premise before they read a page: ‘The moral arc is bending toward truth, justice, and freedom? Is he hallucinating? Just look at…’ In these cynical times, where right and left foresee disaster and despair (albeit for different reasons), Shermer’s monumental opus, spanning centuries, nations, and cultures, is bound to provoke debate and open minds. Exactly what an important work of skepticism, science, and reason should do.”—Carol Tavris, Ph.D., social psychologist and author of The Mismeasure of Woman and coauthor of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)

“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 our society, and hopefully this book will do just that.”—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