|Nagel: Mind and Cosmos
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|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Mon May 30, 2016 4:09 am ]|
|Post subject:||Nagel: Mind and Cosmos|
That is not a dilemma, it is a simple statement of logic. X -> Y. Naturalism means no God.
If you say people have a dilemma, you have some obligation to say what that dilemma is. Nagel and Chomsky are not sympathetic to Discovery Institute Liberty University Young Earth Creationist junk science.
Science is skeptical. All scientists are intellectual skeptics. That does not mean that scientists who are not corrupted by religion have any doubt about the scientific consensus on evolution. The doubts within science are about areas where consensus is difficult such as the nature of social evolution. The punctuated equilibrium debate is another good case in point which involves no skepticism about the Neo-Darwinian synthesis on evolution.
Nagel presents interesting challenges to evolutionary theory, but these are at the philosophical level of how we can define ideas as matter in motion. That idea is so far from our normal intuition that it creates a gap between perception and logic into which God can comfortably slide.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind_and_Cosmos is the wiki for the book by Thomas Nagel in 2012 that made him a creationist pinup boy. I have read some of the critical essays linked at the wiki, and unfortunately they show that Nagel is terminally confused.
The key theme is teleology in evolution. One of the essays summarized below opens a debate about the arrow of evolution, whether it always proceeds from simplicity to complexity. I believe it does, for the following reasons.
Evolution in a context of punctuated equilibria involves long periods of steady slow increase in complexity, followed by sudden collapse into a new simplicity due to external factors. The reason for the growth of complexity is that the force of mutation is always pushing at the boundary of what is possible.
Wherever a mutation finds something that is possible, it goes through that gap and starts something new, creating a new additional activity. The new system created by a successful mutation is always more complex than the old system, with some exceptions such as where a superbug destroys human civilization, but that is a punctuation point in the equilibrium. Even where something new evolves that by itself is simple, it is part of an overall system that is more complex than previously, by virtue of having more separate parts.
Teleology enters the evolutionary picture by defining purpose as the potential of an ecosystem. Humans had a potential to develop global civilization, indicating that this potential was inherent in the nature of the world when humans first evolved. If global civilization is the most complex equilibrium possible with our current genetic endowments, there is a real sense in which it is the inherent purpose and goal of evolution within the current epoch.
Unfortunately that is not an argument from Nagel, who exhibits the highly confused and stupid argument that because he cannot understand how consciousness evolved, therefore it could not have happened by the mechanistic principles of Darwinian science. The scathing critics quoted below help to show that Nagel is incoherent. "The shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker," is the opinion of Steven Pinker. Daniel Dennett said Nagel’s work "isn't worth anything—it's cute and it's clever and it's not worth a damn." Jerry Coyne wrote, "Nagel is a teleologist, and although not an explicit creationist, his views are pretty much anti-science."
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Mon May 30, 2016 4:10 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Nagel: Mind and Cosmos|
http://www.bostonreview.net/books-ideas ... able-facts says
http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/20 ... nd-cosmos/
http://chronicle.com/article/Where-Thom ... ong/139129
|Author:||Robert Tulip [ Mon May 30, 2016 5:13 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: Nagel: Mind and Cosmos|
I think Nagel's position as a prominent secular philosopher together with his serious confusion regarding evolutionary theory help to illustrate that intellectual debate about teleology is not as simple as it seems. Nagel does his best to raise questions about how purpose can be inherent in matter, but in the end he fails.
I think Nagel is wrong in his key argument that mind and matter are different in kind. Nonetheless if we look at an adaptive meme today, such as our knowledge of ancient Greece, it is impossible in practice to explain how this meme reduces to its material substrates, although science maintains that it is possible in principle. But then it is also impossible in practice to reduce biology to physics, although science holds it is possible in principle.
Where Nagel's argument mainly falls down in my reading is that he denies that either of these reductions are even possible in principle. His concept of 'moral realism' denies that morality is explainable in principle within a materialist philosophy. He holds that claims about right and wrong, or good and evil, are as objective as scientific facts like the height of a mountain, so these spiritual ideas of right and wrong are as real as matter.
This issue, the relation between facts and values, is where I do think there is a difference of type or kind. As David Hume argued, a value statement is never an expression of fact, but rather of sentiment or preference. The only way to maintain that your subjective preferences are objective is to believe in God as the guarantor of your moral objectivity. Or like Nagel, just assert that his moral opinions are objective and refuse to say why.
Even if we pare morality back to its simplest form, such as arguing that life is good, that always only has the status of assumption, not fact. By treating values as facts, Nagel exhibits logical bewilderment of a sort that is amazing for such a prominent philosopher.
I suppose it shows that even many supposedly logical people just have a really strong emotional attachment to religious thought patterns. I do as well, but I maintain that religion can be explained in a way that is compatible with science, and that religious imagination can always be explained by logic and evidence. Instead Nagel twists basic scientific assumptions to support a transcendental faith.
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