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Noted Atheist Philosopher Thomas Nagel: “Defenders of Intelligent Design Deserve Our Gratitude”

John G. West


In September, Oxford University Press officially releases the hardcover version of a new book by renowned philosopher Thomas Nagel at New York University. It’s a bombshell.

Already available on Kindle, Nagel’s book carries the provocative title Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. You read that right: The book’s subtitle declares that “the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.” Nagel is an atheist who is not convinced by the positive case for intelligent design. But he clearly finds the evidence for modern Darwinian theory wanting. Moreover, he is keenly appreciative of the “iconoclasts” of the intelligent design movement for raising a significant challenge to the current scientific orthodoxy. In chapter 1, Nagel cites with favor the work of three Discovery Institute Fellows in particular:

In thinking about these questions I have been stimulated by criticisms of the prevailing scientific world picture… by the defenders of intelligent design. Even though writers like Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer are motivated at least in part by their religious beliefs, the empirical arguments they offer against the likelihood that the origin of life and its evolutionary history can be fully explained by physics and chemistry are of great interest in themselves. Another skeptic, David Berlinski, has brought out these problems vividly without reference to the design inference. Even if one is not drawn to the alternative of an explanation by the actions of a designer, the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously. They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair.

Refreshingly, Nagel is not taken in by one-sided efforts to evade the arguments of intelligent design proponents by stigmatizing their presumed “religious beliefs.” As Nagel points out, “the empirical arguments” offered by ID proponents “are of great interest in themselves.” It’s the evidence that matters, and it’s the evidence that demands a response.
Nagel goes on to say something that likely will really rile some defenders of Darwinian orthodoxy:

I believe the defenders of intelligent design deserve our gratitude for challenging a scientific world view that owes some of the passion displayed by its adherents precisely to the fact that it is thought to liberate us from religion. That world view is ripe for displacement….

Wow. Anyone who still believes that the weight of the evidence supports the Darwinian view, and that no rational person can doubt the Darwinian consensus, needs to read Nagel’s book.

Nagel is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and recipient of the prestigious Balzan Prize for his work in moral philosophy. He has received fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among other institutions. He is one of America’s top philosophers. Obviously, he also is a man of great courage and independence of thought.

Get ready for the book burning parties by defenders of Darwinian orthodoxy. I wouldn’t even be surprised if there is an effort to convince Oxford University Press to disown Nagel’s book. So you might want to get the book while you can.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

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