Review of 'Mind and Cosmos:
Why the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false.' by Thomas Nagel
'I would be willing to bet that the present right-thinking consensus [naturalistic materialism] will come to seem laughable in a generation or two – though of course it may be replaced by a new consensus that is just as invalid.'
This is one of the most interesting books I’ve read for a long time.
The author, Thomas Nagel, is a leading philosopher of science, and an atheist – so it isn’t likely I would agree with his conclusions. But I am still very happy to recommend the book.
In 'Mind & Cosmos,' Nagel argues that the naturalist / materialist understanding of life and the Universe is simply wrong – or at least, is missing something so importantl as to make it wrong.
The naturalist explanation says that the Universe arose through blind impersonal laws operating on matter and energy – giving rise to life in all its complexity. Nagel says that this view cannot account for consciousness, for our ability to think, or for our awareness of right and wrong.
I think Nagel’s critique of naturalism is right on the nail. What is surprising is that he only briefly mentions the possibility of God, and then only to reject it. In place of God, Nagel tries to imagine some kind of purposefulness that is built into reality, but without any personal intention lying behind it. In trying to do this, he ties himself in knots of incomprehensibility. But Nagel doesn't give any reasons for rejecting God, other than his personal preference.
This is a short book, but it isn't a quick read. The ideas in it aren’t simple, neither is the language in which these ideas are expressed. But whether you agree with Nagel or not, it is a worthwhile read, which will certainly make you think.