atheist philosopher denies materialist darwinism in oxford press book – 05min

Posted: December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized
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MindAndCosmosBookCan everything that exists, stars, planets, love, hope etc, be explained in terms of atoms & neurons in your brain?

Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False (Oxford, 2012)

This book, published by a respected atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel of New York University simply states that the evidence doesn’t add up. This perspective from a non-theist is obviously what makes it more interesting. He doesn’t try to guess at what the ultimate cause & explanation of everything might be, but rejects the “consensus view” as utterly feebly supported.


I believe there are independent empirical reasons to be sceptical about the truth of reductionism in biology. Physico-chemical reductionism in biology is the orthodox view, and any resistance to it is regarded as not only scientifically but politically incorrect. But for a long time I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms came to exist hard to believe, including the standard version of how the evolutionary process works. The more details we learn about the chemical basis of life and the intricacy of the genetic code, the more unbelievable the standard historical account becomes. … 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. We are expected to abandon this naive response not in favour of a fully worked out physical/chemical explanation but in favour of an alternative that is really a schema for explanation, supported by some examples. (pp. 5-6)

My scepticism is not based on religious belief, or on a belief in any definite alternative. It is just a belief that the available scientific evidence, in spite of the consensus of scientific opinion, does not in this matter rationally require us to subordinate the incredulity of common sense. That is especially true with regard to the origin of life.  … I realize that such doubts will strike many people as outrageous, but that is because almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten into regarding the reductive research program as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science. (p. 7)

I have argued patiently against the prevailing form of naturalism, a reductive materialism that purports to capture life and mind through its neo-Darwinian extension. . . . I find this view antecedently unbelievable – a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense. . . . I would be willing to bet that the present right-thinking consensus will come to seem laughable in a generation or two. (p. 128)


  1. Interesting…
    There is always room for critics and definitely room for improvement when it comes to science, and when a non-religious scientist makes comments like these there might just be a point behind them that goes beyond “it’s not in the bible like that.”
    Our views on most scientific subjects are pretty primitive when we compare them to the actual complexity of the universe… therefor I am pretty sure there is more to the whole story than what we know/think and believe these days.
    It is in my belief though that these critics invite to look for better understanding and alternative viewpoints to the origins of life, and are not a call to abandon the scientific method altogether.

    • Servant says:

      The critique is surely not aimed at the scientific method, except where that same method is purported to be trustworthy in questions of “why” rather than “how”. It was never intended to deal with matters of purpose – yet, does it really take a keen observer to notice the prevalence of scientism in recent years? Is it that people don’t even want to consider the potential of being accountable to a moral God? …I can imagine the incredible bias that could introduce into any question – scientific or otherwise. How fair-minded does a person have to be if his whole worldview and practical way of life, and even reputation is at stake? Accepting the message of the Bible was never easy & will never be… even though it is convenient to many to relegate it to those that are feeble-minded.

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