This is the subtitle to a new book, Mind and Cosmos, by Thomas Nagel with Oxford University Press. Nagel is a materialist, not a theist or creationist. You’ve probably heard of his famous 1974 paper, “What is it Like to be a Bat?” Many atheist philosophers are starting to doubt the Darwinian paradigm. For instance, atheist philosopher of science Bradley Monton has written extensively on intelligent design while promoting it as an atheist. Here’s the description of the new book given by Oxford University Press:
The modern materialist approach to life has utterly failed to explain such central features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, or value. This failure to account for something so integral to nature as mind, argues philosopher Thomas Nagel, is a major problem, threatening to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology.
In Mind and Cosmos, Nagel provides an insightful analysis of the Darwinian world view, offering a perspective quite different from that found in such books as Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker. What we know about how mind and everything connected with it depends today on our ideas about the origin and spread of living organisms as a result of the universe’s evolution. But Nagel states that “it is prima facie highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection.” What is the likelihood that self-reproducing life forms should have come into existence spontaneously? What is the likelihood that, as a result of physical accident, a sequence of viable genetic mutations should have occurred that was sufficient to permit natural selection? Nagel’s skepticism is not based on religious belief or on a belief in any definite alternative. He does suggest that if the materialist account is wrong, then principles of a different kind may also be at work in the history of nature, principles of the growth of order that are in their logical form teleological rather than mechanistic.
In spite of the great achievements of reductive materialism, it is a world view ripe for displacement. Nagel shows that to recognize its limits is the first step in looking for alternatives, or at least of being open to their possibility.