Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Naturalism and The Modern Heretic: Thomas Nagel

"Nagel occupies an endowed chair at NYU as a University Professor, a rare and exalted position that frees him to teach whatever course he wants. Before coming to NYU he taught at Princeton for 15 years. He dabbles in the higher journalism, contributing articles frequently to the New York Review of Books and now and then to the New Republic. A confirmed atheist, he lacks what he calls the sensus divinitatis that leads some people to embrace the numinous. But he does possess a finely tuned sensus socialistis; his most notable excursion into politics was a book-length plea for the confiscation of wealth and its radical redistribution—a view that places him safely in the narrow strip of respectable political opinion among successful American academics.
"For all this and more, Thomas Nagel is a prominent and heretofore respected member of the country's intellectual elite. And such men are not supposed to write books with subtitles like the one he tacked onto Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False." ~ Andrew Ferguson, "The Heretic"

Yesterday I wrote about an info-graphic that claims that "science" is opposed to religion and attempts to shame religion. I argued that the graphic has a faulty view of science and that the clash is not between the Bible and science but between philosophical theism and philosophical naturalism. I did not write much about the failures of naturalism itself, however. And, that brings me to today's post.

There are a lot of important books written that address (in varying degrees) the failures of naturalism: C. S. Lewis, Miracles; Richard Taylor, Metaphysics; Victor Reppert, C. S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea; Kenneth Richard Samples, A World of Difference; and Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism, to name a few. However, I think the book mentioned above in Ferguson's article "The Heretic" (please do read that article)—Mind and Cosmos—will prove to be one of the most important of our time. I say that because of who Thomas Nagel is. The above quote should be enough to give you a taste of his prestige in the philosophical community and why a book on the failures of naturalism by him is so frightening to men like Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and many others.

Alvin Plantinga has written an excellent review of Nagel's book. If you plan to begin your education on the failures of naturalism, start with Plantinga's review of Nagel's book. Then, once you understand Nagel's good and bad points, go read Nagel's book. If you are a Christian, you will not agree everything he says (particularly why he rejects theism) but you will enjoy his devastating critique of naturalism. Then, go read one of the other works I mentioned above.

By His Grace,

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