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Reviewer: Non-materialist atheist philosopher’s book “flawed but valuable”

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Philosopher Thomas Nagel has been getting a lot of ink these days, pro and con, for trying to rescue serious traditional atheism from the materialist dump site (in which we all evolved so that we would not believe in materialism—which is really true anyhow—so, go figure … ).

So who is Thomas Nagel and why should we care? Nagel is best known for his famous essay, “What is it like to be a bat?”, in which he acknowledges the limits of human understanding of animal minds. What is less well known is that he named Steve Meyer’s ID-friendly Signature in the Cell (Harper One) a Book of the Year for 2009, for raising key issues. After questioning whether the human intellect is explicable on Darwinian principles, he went on to publish Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford University Press: 2013). He is one of the most significant defectors from Darwinism to date. Yet he says, “I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”*

Reviewer Terry Scambray thinks Nagel is on to something, but that no accommodation with materialism really works:

Nagel’s probes or “speculations,” the word he consistently uses, are characteristic of the style of much of the book which is sketchy when it isn’t down right contradictory.

For example, while he trashes Darwinian natural selection as a phony explanation for how minds were made, nonetheless, he continues to believe that natural selection has explanatory power. And though he correctly understands that a materialist explanation of mind destroys any notion of “values” while skewing even the baked-in imperatives of logic, nonetheless, he sees Darwinian evolution as the only credible support for materialistic solutions to all the big issues, including the mind problem.

And while he is grateful to individuals like Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer for showing the weaknesses in evolutionary explanations, Nagel notes that they both “are motivated at least in part by their religious beliefs.” And whereas David Berlinski is also given a pat on the head for dissecting Darwin’s theory without having ulterior “religious” motives, he is also commended for refraining from advocating design.

Apparently Dr. Nagel, wants to have his cake and eat it too. Read, for example, this sentence: “Those who have seriously criticized these arguments have certainly shown that there are ways to resist the design conclusion; but the general force of the negative part of the intelligent design position—skepticism about the likelihood of the orthodox reductive view, given the available evidence—does not appear to me to have been destroyed in these exchanges.”

Hard to track ? More.

Hard to track? Hard to say. Nagel’s biggest problem is probably to hold off Darwin’s thugs, which even the great Karl Popper was unable to do.
These days, only a person who just does not care what some government’s tagged herd is currently fed can afford to really genuinely doubt Darwin or any key materialist hero.

See also:

Movies: The History of the World in Two Hours and, oh, on two legs …

Where human uniqueness apparently does NOT lie

Linguist: What we can and can’t learn about vanished languages, and how

Can we really identify words that have come down to us from 10,000 years ago?

* Thomas Nagel, The Last Word (Oxford University Press: 1997), pp. 130-131: http://tinyurl.com/4yh27e5

Sorry, wrong blog InVivoVeritas
When I read this blog entry I thought first about the title of Thomas Nagel essay: “What is it like to be a bat?” and how come these scientists were able to know how it is to be a (German) cockroach - and even have the arrogance to judge its tastes? You know: de gustibus non est disputandum (in my translation from Latin: "the tastes should not be discussed"). Going above this first level of inquiry, I wonder if there were some other possible scenarios that - based on what transpired here - were not considered by the scientists. For example, what about if there was a strain of German cockroaches that from the beginning didn't like sugar in the same manner as some of us do not like broccoli? Or, alternatively, from the beginning they didn't like the poison intended to kill them? Then when the people started using poison-coated sugar to exterminate German cockroaches this strain was the single surviving kind. See for example Behe's explanation in 'The Edge of Evolution' why individuals with sickle-cell anemia are resistant to malaria. I am not sure if this is the same point that Bilbo tried to make at # 2 above. InVivoVeritas
In The Brain Book, Peter Russell writes: “The more that is learned about the human brain, the more its capacities and potentials are found to go far beyond earlier speculations.” In regard to memory, for instance, our brain has an enormous capacity. “Memory is not like a container that gradually fills up,” says Russell, “it is more like a tree growing hooks onto which the memories are hung. Everything you remember is another set of hooks on which more new memories can be attached. So the capacity of memory keeps on growing. The more you know, the more you can know.” Why does the human brain have such vast, untapped reserves? The theory of evolution offers no reasonable answer. Relying heavily on the notion of survival of the fittest, evolution leaves thinking people baffled as to what drove the human brain to develop its enormous capacity. By way of illustration, why build a huge truck if all you will ever carry is a mere shovelful of sand? Barb
OT: You may appreciate this Ms. O'Leary Kurt Gödel: Modern Development of the Foundations Of Mathematics In Light Of Philosophy (1961) - A reading of perhaps the best lecture that was never delivered - video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgZ_9gQfitc bornagain77

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