Michael Shermer on science and science fiction

Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast features Skeptic magazine’s editor Michael Shermer this week. You can hear the entire podcast, but Wired has plucked out a few interesting tidbits to whet your appetite:

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.

“That’s what science fiction does,” says Shermer. “Pretty much every novel is transporting you to another world. And so I think all of that adds up—in addition to all these political and economic factors—to making us more moral.”

He also points to Star Trek as an example of how science fiction can promote moral progress. Creator Gene Roddenberry’s show frequently questioned war and bigotry, and also championed reason and logic through beloved characters like Mr. Spock.

“Roddenberry was a humanist,” says Shermer. “He believed we get our morals from reason, and from that you can expand the moral sphere, which he did in his vehicle, the magnificent starship Enterprise.”