Book Summary: The Science of Good and Evil

I recently prepared a series of book summaries for my human rights presentation for Leadership Calgary. I thought it might be good to put them on my website as well. These were intended to be "capsule reviews" and summaries of important parts of the book.

The Science of Good and Evil
Michael Shermer
2004, Henry Holt
ISBN 0-8050-7769-3

This book proposes an “evolutionary ethics” approach to attempt to combat the fear of relativism in rights. Once religions were no longer a common standard with which to compare rights to, most thinking devolved into relativistic rights. Harshly put, extreme relativism states that you can commit atrocities in your country as long as you make the practice legal and don’t do it in our country, where it is illegal. This book attempts to counter that argument by proposing an evolutionary basis to rights and rights thought. Since evolution can’t really be questioned the way religions can as “standards of reference”, Shermer argues that evolution is the correct standard to use for judging the merits of various rights.