Late last year prominent philosopher Thomas Nagel published the book “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.” Nagel, a New York University professor of philosophy and law, is an atheist whose unique approach to philosophy first garnered notoriety nearly four decades ago.
The article “An Author Attracts Unlikely Allies” in Thursday’s New York Times details how, in the four-plus months since Nagel published “Mind and Cosmos,” the people praising his book have generally been proponents of intelligent design — while Nagel’s fellow atheists have been bashing the book like a piñata.
“In his cool style Mr. Nagel extends his ideas about consciousness into a sweeping critique of the modern scientific worldview, which he calls a ‘heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense,’” Jennifer Schuessler wrote for the Times. “Consciousness, meaning and moral value, he argues, aren’t just incidental features of life on earth, but fundamental aspects of the universe. Advocates of intelligent design have certainly been enthusiastic. The response from scientists and most of his fellow philosophers, however, has ranged from deeply skeptical to scorching.”
Schuessler’s article linked to positive appraisals of Nagel’s work from The New Republic (“His important new book is a brief but powerful assault on materialist naturalism”) and the Discovery Institute (“In ‘Mind and Cosmos,’ Nagel serves notice on Darwinists that their coercive tactics at ensuring conformity have not worked with him”).
Last week physicist Adam Frank blogged about “Mind and Cosmos” for NPR: “(Nagel) is not using this work to push a vision of a Deity into the debate about the nature of reality at a fundamental level. His arguments are, for the most part, those of a philosopher steeped in philosophical tradition, laying out an argument that the Mind has its own unique place in the structure of the Universe. In the early chapters of the book he attempts to cast doubt on the traditional Darwinian account for both the origins of life and the development of species. I found his arguments to be quite brave, even if I am not ready to follow him to the ends of his ontology. There is a stiff, cold wind in his perspective. Those who dismiss him out of hand are holding fast to a knowledge that does not exist.”
Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-236-6051.