Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False

by Max Andrews

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.

(Oxford University Press)

13 Responses to “Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False”

  1. I like Nagel as he seems to approach things honestly. I can’t help but wonder if he isn’t stripping out the design aspects of God that he needs to explain our presence in the world and then ignoring the rest. I guess we will have to wait for the book release to know more

    • I agree. I really appreciate philosophers like Nagel and Monton on things like this. Nagel is very intelligent and his “Bat” paper was very paramount.

  2. I should check it out

  3. What would you rate the reading level of this book?

  4. Bradley Monton is not an atheist, he believes in the Christian God and rejects natural processes which he believes are better explained by supernatural intelligent design. Ok perhaps some atheists do believe in the supernatural they would still be atheists but Monton has expressed his belief in the Christian God, he is a theist. The ID Discovery Institute is a con who like to pretend they have agnostics or atheists on their side but they don’t, they are all fundamentalist Christians from America.

    Sorry but I think it is also ignorant to call Nagel a “materialist” he has written three books attacking both dualism and materialism. He has also endorsed intelligent design, so he may well be a theist, deist or panthentheist etc. Hes never been on record admitting to be an atheist.

    • Have you ever read anything of Monton’s or even listened to him talk about his atheism WITH the DI? It seems you’re just trying to pull a ‘no true Scotsman’ with these two. You’re factually wrong. If you can provide an interview or a paper in which Monton claims to believe in the Christian God I’d be more than happy to concede to your comment otherwise I’m afraid you’re sadly mistaken.

  5. Hi Max:

    Nice site – just found it.

    This may sound incredibly naive, but here goes – after 40 years of trying to understand materialist skeptics (and at least 15 years prior to that, growing up as a dogmatic materialist/atheist) I’m coming to think that perhaps I just don’t understand what they mean when they use the word “physical” or “material”.

    I think critics of materialism give away to much when they say that we don’t understand how a “material” brain gives rise to consciousness.

    What is a “material” brain – where does one find one? What does it mean to say something is “physical” that has no sensory, affective or cognitive qualities? (I’m not advocating idealism or for that matter, any other philosophic position, by the way).

    I just have no idea how to conceive of such a thing.

    Say you’re looking at a white teacup on your dining room table. Materialists call that a “physical object”.

    What does that mean? I have no idea. It seems like “physical” and “object” are placeholders with no sensible meaning.

    Think about it (I’ve written more extensively on this at integralworld.net, and at the integral world forum)

  6. Just because Nagel quite rightly questions the inadequacy of the reductionist Darwinian misunderstanding about the nature of Reality does NOT in any sense mean and imply that the naive childish mommy-daddy “creator”-God which you promote is in any sense correct or superior.
    Where for instance do you or any of the various outfits that are featured in your Resources section even begin to write or talk about Consciousness with a capital C, or the intrinsically self-evident fact that all of THIS is Energy of Light. That all of this is quite literally a Light Show spontaneously arising in Consciousness. That all of this is entirely and only Conscious Light!

  7. ^^LOL^^ I bet someone has a few tinfoil hats in their closet.

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