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Beyond Bad cover
Beyond Bad

'I love the prose. I wish more scientists wrote like this... Paley thinks that in the modern world our moral certainty is not only misguided but dangerous. After reading his book, so do I... The book is distinguished by its author's brilliantly unillusioned thinking. For me his basic argument is irrefutable. It could hardly be more necessary in these all-too-moralistic times.'

James Marriott, THE TIMES

'Truly thought-provoking. Paley puts forth an astonishingly original hypothesis and defends it eloquently, marshalling cutting-edge science to argue against the very idea of morality.'

Kurt Gray, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


‘There is a serious challenge here to received ways of thinking for the lay public and professional moral philosophers alike.’

John P Burgess, John N Woodhull Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University 

Morals have held empires together, kept soldiers marching under fire, fed the hungry, passed laws, built walls, welcomed immigrants, destroyed careers and governed our sex lives. But what if morality's all meaningless rubbish, a malfunctioning relic of our evolutionary past?

This is the provocative argument that Chris makes. This isn't an attack on one set of moral codes or one way of thinking about ethics: it's a call for abolishing the whole caboodle.

He uses evolutionary psychology to show how and why morality emerged: they
enabled our forebears to survive and prosper in tribal groups. Today, our morals constrain us, bias us, and push us in the wrong direction.

The biggest challenges our species faces, whether global warming, nuclear proliferation or the rise of the robots, are pan-human. These challenges are beyond what our moral minds were designed to cope with. You can't build smartphones with stone-age axes, and you can't solve modern humanity's problems with tools that are designed to create primitive, competitive groups.

‘Hold your breath! If you believe that moral values are the foundations of humanity, you are fundamentally wrong. In his exciting and exceptionally well written book, Chris Paley will convince you about the many downsides of morality. It is a challenge, but highly recommended.’

Fritz Strack, Professor Emeritus, University of Würzburg


‘A fun and fascinating journey through the surprising world of human morality.’

Will Storr, author of The Science of Storytelling


‘One to watch’, and 'hard to ignore'

The Bookseller

'A groundbreaking study of how human morality itself is at the root of much of our modern woes' 

Neil Mackay, THE HERALD

'Refreshing gumption...  undeniably on to something in depicting contemporary moral thinking as not fit for purpose'

Joe Humphreys, THE IRISH TIMES

‘I am a fan of Chris Paley. His 2014 book Unthink does an outstanding job of unpacking what experimental psychology says about how our cognitive minds actually work, in contrast to how we (incorrectly) imagine them to work based on our subjective experience. He has a gift for distilling and illuminating the implications of science and scholarship reminiscent of Richard Dawkins’ early work.


'In Beyond Bad Paley applies these same tools to understanding human moral reasoning. He will surprise you repeatedly with useful insights (while also offending your moral sense), but this book is worth this price of admission. Many of the insights he describes will startle.

I have one fundamental disagreement with his analysis; Paley thinks our ethical sense is a malfunctioning evolutionary relic, while I think it remains completely essential to contemporary human (and humane) social cooperation, with all the human welfare it can produce. 

'Never mind this disagreement. Beyond Bad is a brisk, clear, thought-provoking read.’

Paul Bingham, Associate Professor, Stony Brook University, and co-author of Death from a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe

Buy Beyond Bad on Amazon or Waterstones.

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