Michael Shermer is researching and writing another book: The Moral Arc of Science. He introduced his book on SkepticBlog in a post entitled “Towards a Science of Morality: A Reply to Massimo Pigliucci.” Shermer has asked for feedback either in the comments or directly by email to email@example.com. I am posting my reply to Shermer here because I would like feedback from Canadian Atheist readers.
Shermer gives the etymology of the word morality, which is “derived from the Latin moralitas, or ‘manner, character, and proper behavior.’” In Shermer’s view, “Morality has to do with how you act toward others.” Thus, he offers a Principle of Moral Good:
Always act with someone else’s moral good in mind, and never act in a way that it leads to someone else’s moral loss (through force or fraud).
The Principle would be equally valid if the word moral were removed and the Principle read,
Always act with someone else’s good in mind, and never act in a way that it leads to someone else’s loss (through force or fraud).
Either way, Shermer’s Principle of Moral Good is similar to Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism: “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.”
Most disturbing about Shermer’s post is he mentions Bill Gates as support for the Principle of Moral Good, as if Gates has always acted with someone else’s good in mind and never acted in a way that lead to someone else’s loss.
Shermer quotes from Gates’ 2013 Annual Letter:
“I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition. You can achieve amazing progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal.”
Shermer appears convinced that Gates’ graphs, in the 2013 Annual Letter track “moral progress because we can say objectively and absolutely that reducing extreme poverty by half since 1990 is real moral progress.” Shermer is also convinced that
This is why Bill Gates is backing with his considerable wealth and talent the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals program that is supported by 189 nations, in which the year 2015 was set as a deadline for making specific percentage improvements across a range of areas including health, education, and basic income.
Yes, Bill Gates does have “considerable talent,” but it is his “considerable wealth” and generosity that mask his questionable business practices and allow him to take part in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Michael Shermer could find someone other than Bill Gates to use as moral example or role model.
The link to this post will be emailed to Michael Shermer tonight.