Are We Becoming Morally Smarter?

Science writer Michael Shermer argues that we are in the March 2015 issue of Reason, based on his new book The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom. He writes,

Since the Enlightenment, humans have demonstrated dramatic moral progress. Almost everyone in the Western world today enjoys rights to life, liberty, property, marriage, reproduction, voting, speech, worship, assembly, protest, autonomy, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberal democracies are now the dominant form of governance, systematically replacing the autocracies and theocracies of centuries past. Slavery and torture are outlawed everywhere in the world (even if occasionally still practiced). The death penalty is on death row and will likely go extinct sometime in the 2020s. Violence and crime are at historic lows, and we have expanded the moral sphere to include more people as members of the human community deserving of rights and respect. Even some animals are now being considered as sentient beings worthy of moral considerationAbstract reasoning and scientific thinking are the crucial cognitive skills at the foundation of all morality.

His evidence?:

  • “Numerous studies from the 1980s onward, for example, find that intelligence and education are negatively correlated with violent crime. As intelligence and education increase, violence decreases, even when controlled for socioeconomic class, age, sex, and race.”
  • “[N]ewer evidence that shows a positive correlation between literacy and moral reasoning, most particularly between reading fiction and being able to take the perspective of others.”
  • Negative correlation between high cognition and low demands for punitive punishment.
  • Positive correlation between high intelligence and classical liberal views.
  • “Positive correlation between the IQ of British children at the age of 10 and their endorsement of anti-racist, socially liberal, and pro-working women attitudes at the age of 30, holding the usual potentially intervening variables constant.”

And more. Check it out.