Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 12th 2016 Contents B4
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, 12 May, 2016
The Science of Good & Evil.
Henry Holt & Co, 2004.
ISBN 0-8050-7520-8; 350 pages.
There are thousands of books about
morality, and some of them are thou-
sands of years old. Yet, in terms of
moral thinking, human beings have
progressed very little in the past hun-
dred thousand years.
This is not to say that the species
has not progressed in terms of moral
action, for the world is a far less violent
and more compassionate place than it
was even five centuries ago. Yet, when
it comes to moral reasoning, most peo-
ple rely on the same intuitions that
their ancestors did.
Philosopher and Skeptic Magazine
publisher Michael Shermer treats with
this issue and many other aspects of
morality in this book. The Science of
Good & Evil is both empirical and
philosophical, as indeed any book about
morality must be (but which only a
minority of authors meld competently).
Shermer s book is divided into two sec-
tions and eight chapters. The first sec-
tion, titled The Origins of Morality, is
empirical; the second, titled A Science
of Provisional Ethics, is philosophical
and discusses thorny moral issues such
as pornography, abortion, cloning and
In the first section, Shermer examines
the links between human evolution and
ethics. He cites the Golden Rule as the
basis of morality, noting that it first
recorded 2000 years ago in Leviticus
and is universal to all complex societies
and many simple ones. In The Sabbath
in 30 BCE, Hillel Ha-Babli expresses
the rule thusly:"Whatsoever thou
wouldst that men should not do to
thee, do not do that to them. This is
the whole Law. The rest is only expla-
Not only does Shermer use evolution
to explain why human beings are moral
but, just as importantly, why we are
immoral. Examining war and violence,
this evolutionary perspective deals with
the problem of evil in a way that all
religions which posit an omnipotent
benevolent god have failed to do.
This leads to the first chapter of Sec-
tion 2, which asks, "Can we be good
without God?" In the second chapter,
Following last week s
article which defined
dyslexia and looked at
signs and symptoms of the
condition, today, founder
and chairman of the
Cathryn Kelshall will look
at what can be done to
help those who are dyslex-
ic.You can t prevent dyslex-
ia but there are many activ-
ities that you can do which
will help your dyslexic
child. Prevention is better than cure
so get in there early, but do remember
to have fun. If you get too serious and
anxious, you ll get resistance and it just
won t work.
• If your two-year old is not talking,
contact a speech and language therapist.
• Spend extra time on language
games and listening to stories.
• Games that help co-ordination
such as clapping games, hopping,
catching a beanbag are important.
• Have eyes and ears tested.
• If your child is taking longer than
his classmates to learn his letters, have
sight and hearing tested.
• Dyslexics learn differently. Make
sure that you find a tutor who has been
trained in specific methods for teaching
dyslexics. Contact the Dyslexia Asso-
ciation for screening and referral to a
tutor in your area.
• Read to your child daily. The
Dyslexia Association has a library of
audio for children. Audio books are also
available from the library.
• Give constant positive
• Provide time for activ-
ities your child excels in.
• Remember a dyslexic
has to put more effort into
written work than his
classmates. Ask the school
if you can scribe some of
his homework for him, or
advocate for less written
• Put your child s text-
books on your phone, tablet or any
other device for him to listen to. You
can also read the chapter to him before
he covers it in class.
• Proofread his work and help him
make a checklist of errors he makes so
that he can start checking for them
• Help him with organisational skills.
For example, paste a timetable on the
bedroom door so that he remembers
his games kit, or the science project
that is due.
• Praise effort.
• Blame your dyslexia for your dif-
ficulty with words but remember to
thank it for your talents with visual
images and your excellent spatial intel-
• Look into voice to print software.
• Ask your workplace for the tech-
nology you need.
• Search out dyslexic colleagues and
discuss coping strategies.
• For more information don't hesitate
to call the Dyslexia Association at 625-
5869 or visit us: www.dyslexiatt.org.
Shermer then looks at absolute, relative and provisional
ethics, noting that "Absolute morality generates
absolute intolerance. And the problem is endemic to
all absolute systems of thought, from religious to
nonreligious, from libertarian to communist."
He argues that: "Provisional ethics provides a rea-
sonable middle ground between absolute and relative
moral systems...they are true for most people in most
circumstances most of the time." The book includes
an eight-page appendix of moral universals.
It is in the section on provisional morality that
Shermer examines the issue now engaging public
debate here: abortion. In this context, he asserts that
whereas, "Moral and political decisions are grounded
in binary logic in which unambiguous yeses and noes
determine Truth," a scientific approach to moral
questions "is grounded in fuzzy logic in which
ambiguous probabilities determine provisional truths."
Fuzzy logic is non-binary, "one sees the world in
shades of gray, between up and down, in and out,"
Applied to abortion, he argues, "From a scientific
perspective, life is a continuum from sperm and egg,
to zygote, to blastocyst, to embryo, to foetus, to new-
born infant. Neither sperm nor egg is a human indi-
vidual, nor is the zygote or blastocyst because they
might split to become twins or develop into less than
one individual and naturally abort."
From this basis, he goes on to discuss the definition
of personhood and potentiality. Shermer s approach
to moral issues is rigorous and sophisticated, and it
is unfortunate that his prose tends to be turgid and
lacking in passion. Still, the sheer volume of ideas
makes up for this.
A moral reality check
What you can do about dyslexia
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