Sunday, March 24, 2013

Darwinism doesn't explain consciousness

One would hope that conventional wisdom could always be questioned without fear of reprisal. When it comes to Darwinism though, this doesn't seem to be the case.

Professor Thomas Nagel, a philosopher and atheist, discovered this after publishing his recent book called Mind and Cosmos.

This is just some of what Joseph Brean tells us in yesterday's National Post:

The vicious reception handed Mind & Cosmos, which urges deep skepticism about evolution’s explanatory power, illustrates the perils of raising arguments against intellectual orthodoxy.

One critique said if there were a philosophical Vatican, Prof. Nagel’s work should be on the index of banned books for the comfort it will give creationists. Another headline proclaimed Prof. Nagel is “not crazy.”

The book has won a British booby prize for “Most Despised Science Book” and prompted sneering remarks the author is centuries behind the times, and somehow missed the Enlightenment.

“What has gotten into Thomas Nagel?” tweeted Steven Pinker, the Canadian cognitive scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Pinker also called Mind & Cosmos “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.”

Prof. Nagel’s thesis is provocative, no doubt. In just 128 pages, Mind & Cosmos argues the modern scientific story of the origin of life through evolution is “ripe for displacement” and it represents “a heroic triumph of ideological theory over common sense,” which will be seen as “laughable” in a couple of generations.

Its main failing, he argues, is it fails to account for how consciousness fits into the natural order. Instead, it regards it as an afterthought, an accidental quirk, a trinket on the tree of life, less important to life’s story than the random physical mutations of genes.

By putting physics at the top of a scientific hierarchy, he argues, modern Darwinism offers a dogmatic system of thought that is intoxicating precisely because it offers the illusion of freeing us from religion.

“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,” he writes in the book, which is subtitled “Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False.”

“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 [about the origin of life] as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science.”

He acknowledges he is a scientific “layman,” however well read, but his point is not a scientific one. It is a philosophical one about the limits of a science that subordinates biology to physics. He calls it “reductive materialism” and argues the more we learn about life, the less believable it gets, and the more central mind and consciousness seem to the true picture.

Believing, as Darwinists do, life arose first from accidental chemical reactions in the primordial ooze, and, once established, progressed via the mechanism of natural selection to create all the wonders of human consciousness, “flies in the face of common sense,” Prof. Nagel writes.

Prof. Nagel says his book is meant to be a defence of “the untutored reaction of incredulity.”
‘I realize that such doubts will strike many people as outrageous, but that is because almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten’.

Consciousness is the second great puzzle for the atheists (how the universe began being the first).

Great article. Well worth reading it all.

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