Reality about Human Morality

Recommended Readings

The Scientific Review Panelists were asked to suggest a “basic shelf” of no more than five books that would be helpful as guidance toward an understanding of the naturalistic foundations of human morality. The following items of "best background reading" are the result of this request.

Note: If you decide to buy any of these items for your personal library (or any library!), please consider supporting the Brights movement at the same time by using our special Amazon affiliate link.

Readings Suggested by the Majority of Reviewers

The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature
By Steven Pinker

Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong
in Humans and Other Animals

By Frans de Waal

Readings Recommended by More than One Panelist

Moral Psychology (Vol. I-III)
By W.P. Sinnott-Armstrong

^ n.b. Dr. Pierce notes this as an excellent collection but very dense for the lay reader.

Moral Tribes:
Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them

By Joshua Greene

The Origins of Virtue:
Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation

By Matt Ridley

Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior
By Evan Sober & David Sloan Wilson

Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals
By Mark Bekoff & Jessica Pierce

Some Other Mentioned Readings (one nomination each)

The Age of Empathy:
Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society

By Frans de Waal

The Bonobo and the Atheist:
In Search of Humanism Among the Primates

By Frans de Waal

Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality
By Patricia S. Churchland

Evolutionary Origins of Morality: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives
By Leonard D. Katz

Experiments in Ethics
By Kwame Anthony Appiah

The Expanding Circle: Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress
By Peter Singer

Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil
By Paul Bloom

The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are
By Robert Wright

Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved
By Frans de Waal

The Righteous Mind:
Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

By Jonathan Haidt

The Science of Good and Evil:
Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule

By Michael Shermer

The panelists were also asked to suggest any “single article” that would provide a good introductory overview of recent work on the evolution of human morality. Three items* immediately resulted from this request.

"Morals Without God?"
By Frans de Waal in The New York Times , 17 October 2010 .

“The Biological Basis of Morality”
By Edward O. Wilson in The Atlantic, April 1998.

"The New Science of Morality: An Edge Conference"
By various authors in The Edge, 2010.

“The Moral Instinct”
By Steven Pinker in the The New York Times, 13 January 2008.

"The Moral Life of Babies"
By Paul Bloom in the The New York Times, 5 May 2010 .

"Special report: Morality put to the test"
By various authors in New Scientist, 2010.

Recently Added Readings

The Evolution of Morality
By Todd K. Shackelford and Ranald D. Hansen

God Is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human
by Dominic Johnson

* The committee is compiling further suggestions and will post them in due time.

Select Language:





Português (Brasil)

Português (Europa)





Bahasa Indonesia









More translations
coming soon!

The Brights' Net
P.O. Box 163418
Sacramento, CA 95816 USA

To be counted as a Bright, please use the registration form.

Copyright © 2022 The Brights' Network. All rights reserved.


Creative Commons License
"the brights" logo by The Brights' Net is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at