Science is the source of modern morality, says Michael Shermer, author of the new book The Moral Arc. Shermer's recent appearance on the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast is profiled in a piece up at Wired right now in which he extols the virtues of reason as the lifeblood of civilization's continued efforts against social strife. But if science is the root of morality, argues Shermer, literature is what boosts compassion and understanding:

"Recent studies suggest that those who read fiction become better at understanding and empathizing with others, particularly when those stories involve characters and cultures that are different or unfamiliar."

Thus, putting the two subjects together — science and literature — offers the best of both worlds. Shermer argues that science fiction has therefore made us better people. He points to Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek series as a notable example. Roddenberry infused Star Trek with humanist themes while portraying a world in which humanity had gotten beyond the silliness of bigotry and war. It's through stories like these, says Shermer, that we explore and discover new means by which we can pursue progress. 

Read more at Wired.

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