Monday, April 09, 2012

Thomas Nagel's New Book

With enemies like this, who needs friends?

HT: Steve Hays

56 comments:

Zach said...
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BenYachov said...

Zack are you confused?

What is the difference between an Atheist like Nagel writing a book that Materialism and Neo-Darwinism fails vs either a Thomist or an ID proponent doing it?

Naturalism is a failed philosophy.

BTW Zack are you a Theist or an Atheist because reading your posts to date I can't tell.

Seriously I can't tell.

BenYachov said...

Besides what does Nagel's positive review and recommendation of The Signature in the Cell have to do with this work on materialistic neo-Darwinism?

Leiter can't get past his politics. Indeed for him politics and philosophy are the same thing.

unkleE said...

Ben said: "BTW Zack are you a Theist or an Atheist because reading your posts to date I can't tell.

Seriously I can't tell."


Congratulations Zach. This is a seriously interesting achievement, to be able to comment without making your opinions and biases immediately clear. It makes people think and makes it harder for them to pre-judge you. I wish I was able to do that.

(This is not having a go at you Ben, I just took your comment at face value and thought about its implications.)

BenYachov said...

No worries bro.

But seriously I can't figure out what Zack is & I'm not saying that to heckle him.

Nagel is a first class Atheist philosopher. Granted fundamentalist Atheists and Neo-Darwinists might be cheesed at him but they are no different then some of the ID people & the YEC fundies crabing at someone like Francis Collens.

Matt DeStefano said...

"Nagel is a first class Atheist philosopher. Granted fundamentalist Atheists and Neo-Darwinists might be cheesed at him but they are no different then some of the ID people & the YEC fundies crabing at someone like Francis Collens."

This isn't true, and Reppert should know better than this. Apparently, however, the search for knowledge is a team game wherein we classify those who disagree with us as "enemies" and don't bother to properly assess the source.

Nagel's best work is in moral philosophy, and his only notable contribution to materialism is "What is it like to be a Bat" (which IMO isn't much of a contribution as it is an argument from incredulity - much like his newest book seems to be).

Nagel has been shown (as Zach posted above), on more than one occasion, to be woefully inadequate in discussing scientific matters. Leiter's politics have very little to do with it, and you can see the outrage from the TLS as well as other prominent philosophers.

Crude said...

Man, I gotta say... Zach's link does absolutely nothing to show any issues with Nagel. It's basically a freakout over the fact that Nagel would dare endorse a book by a prominent ID proponent.

Quick, we better not criticize Larry Krauss' pathetic excuse for a book either. That, too, would be 'ammunition for the creationists'. And that, apparently, is all that matters.

And I say this as a guy who's a TE, and an ID skeptic. I suppose Fodor's jumped the shark too - he's harder on Darwinism than Nagel is, arguably.

Crude said...

Apparently, however, the search for knowledge is a team game wherein we classify those who disagree with us as "enemies" and don't bother to properly assess the source.

Man, there's something amazing about seeing this, in the same comment that endorses Leiter's post on the matter as decisive. A post which is basically one big rant that 'What Nagel did will embolden the Other Team (in this case, The Creationists), and that means he's a traitor to the team!'

I find it sad that of all the links Zach could have possibly given to criticize Nagel, he focused on this one - him getting yelled at for daring to endorse a book. With the strongest argument against the book being 'Experts disagree with the conclusions'. (Well, no shit they do. That's the point of the book - suggesting why the mainstream thought on the topic is incorrect.)

BenYachov said...

>And with that understanding comes the clear realization that there is no need for humanity to remain a perpetual captive to its genetic predisposition.

I guess Nagel is to certain Atheists what Hans Kung is to Traditional Catholics....

Very telling.

As for accusations he is not competent in science I take that with a grain of salt when it comes from Atheist Scientists who are not competent in the ways of philosophy(Krauss or Dawkins anyone?).

I reject ID since it's philosophically incompatible with Thomism.

But I think of Atheist philosophers like Bradley Monton who have defended ID with actual arguments I can't take Leiter's rant seriously.

"What is it like to be a Bat" was flawlessly logical.

BenYachov said...

BTW Nagel is also an expert on philosophy of mind, & epistemology not just moral philosophy.

How those don't touch on materialism is anybody's guess.

Apparently Leiter left that part out.

finney said...

Leiter leaves out that most of the argument seems to be by logical implication. Of course, if there is no physicalist explanation of consciousness, there can be no adequate evolutionary explanation, either.

BenYachov said...
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BenYachov said...

I dug up Nagel's response to Fletcher


QUOTE"Sir, – Stephen Fletcher objects to my recommending Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell in Books of the Year. Fletcher’s statement that “It is hard to imagine a worse book” suggests that he has read it. If he has, he knows that it includes a chapter on “The RNA World” which describes that hypothesis for the origin of DNA at least as fully as the Wikipedia article that Fletcher recommends. Meyer discusses this and other proposals about the chemical precursors of DNA, and argues that they all pose similar problems about how the process could have got started.

The tone of Fletcher’s letter exemplifies the widespread intolerance of any challenge to the dogma that everything in the world must be ultimately explainable by chemistry and physics. There are reasons to doubt this that have nothing to do with theism, beginning with the apparent physical irreducibility of consciousness. Doubts about reductive explanations of the origin of life also do not depend on theism. Since I am not tempted to believe in God, I do not draw Meyer’s conclusions, but the problems he poses lend support to the view that physics is not the theory of everything, and that more attention should be given to the possibility of an expanded conception of the natural order.

-THOMAS NAGEL" END QUOTE

This reminds me of fundies, both Theist and Atheist who have told me I really don't believe in the Bible unless I believe it teaches the world was literally created during a literal 144 hour period of time.

Zach said...
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BenYachov said...

Zach you just confirmed my claim this shit is all about politics.

You sound like Tony Hoffman. He's an Atheist who once bitched over New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy
by Robert J. Spitzer
because one of the contributes was Bruce L. Gordon PhD (philosophy of Science, Physics).

Dr. Gordon is a Research Director for Discovery Institute so in Gnu freakout mode that automatically tainted this book in his eyes.

Well the Book itself has been endorsed by none other Dr. Stephen Barr, accomplished physicist, faithful Catholic and known ID opponent!

These objections are just embarrassing & naked politics.

It's silly.

Zach said...
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BenYachov said...

>What bugs me is that Nagel is bad for ID: his "arguments" amount to appeals to intuition.

Name one.

Zach said...
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Zach said...
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Crude said...

Sorry Thomas it isn't your antireductionism that bugs them. It is that you allied yourself with the ID movement, the Discovery Institute, etc.. There are tons of antireductionists that don't generate such bile: Chalmers, Fodor, Kim, Putnam, etc..

Chalmers is openly sympathetic to the ID idea, just not the ID movement. See his papers regarding simulationism.

But yes, you've nailed it. Unfortunately this undermines your case here, and directly defeats Matt's. The attack on Nagel you linked is tribalism through and through.

Non-materialists are tolerated, only if they keep their mouths shut. Just as when Fodor wrote his criticism of Darwinism (which was absolutely not even an endorsement of ID), suddenly everyone insisted he was crazy. For much the same reason: "You're giving ammo to the Creationists!"

What bugs me is that Nagel is bad for ID: his "arguments" amount to appeals to intuition. He can only hurt ID in the long run with his anti-intellectual approach to problems.

Yeah, because you care so much about the ID movement having success, right?

Nagel's views are not just "appeals to intuition", and the ID case is not merely 'X is out of reach of certain types of processes' but 'X is within reach of designing agents'. Criticize that argument - and there's plenty to criticize there - but neither Nagel nor the ID movement generally are locked to mere skepticism. They claim to have quite a positive case for their claims.

By the way, Zach. You say you're a good thomist. I take it you'd regard Dawkins as a moron for thinking he refuted the Five Ways? And you, as a good thomist, would say that Jerry Coyne is an idiot when it comes to intentionality, eh?

Zach said...
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Crude said...

That was my point. Nagel missed it, though, as it isn't his antireductionism that bugs people. It is his ID-sympathies.

So people dump on Nagel and regard him as having nothing good to say because he's sympathetic to ID? Sounds like tribalism to me.

It's not just his "ID sympathies" which bothers people. Fodor has zero ID sympathies, and he received much the same treatment. The 'problem' for guys like Nagel shows up when they at all suggest their views pose a problem for materialism or mainstream scientific theories in a public way that attracts attention. Few give a crap about these guys, no matter what their views are, when they are out of the spotlight.

And it doesn't seem to have been 'your point' either. You cited a link to show how Nagel is unimaginative, has 'jumped the shark', and he's 'easy pickins'. Your evidence: Leiter has declared him to be on the wrong team.

Not impressive.

Chalmers is not particularly sympathetic to simulationism: he just unpacks it as a logical possibility that he can't conclusively refute.

He's sympathetic enough to regard it as an idea worth seriously entertaining, even when the idea is connected with ID. And Chalmers gets his share of shit too for suggesting that materialism, certainly materialism as conceived by guys like Rosenberg, are inadequate to deal with qualia.

All this willingness to call people idiots and morons is pathetic. Is it the second coming of John Loftus wtf

Yeah, Dawkins' supposed take-down of Aquinas specifically, and theism generally, is moronic. Coyne's views on intentionality are uninformed and, yeah, idiotic. Sorry, should I be freaking gentle just because Dawkins was a scientist decades ago? I'm not interested in faux piety, particularly towards guys who make it a point to be as obnoxious as possible.

And really, coming from you? Hot on the heels of 'who would kick whose arse' and a string of put downs on Nagel, just because he suggested that maybe ID proponents have some reasonable criticisms? C'mon.

BenYachov said...

Zack you are full of shit and a troll.

>would recommend Feser over Nagel for discussion of all of these issues. Nagel is effectively an atheistic ID proponent.

I saw you post this nonsense over at Feser's blog yet you recommend him to me a notorious Feser fan?

QUOTE"godinputty{i.e. the lasted Gnu Troll] was the only reasonable person in this thread until I showed up. I am dumber for having read this thread. That is not a joke.END QUOTE

The topic of the Post is Feser's take down of Rosenberg on the philosophy of mind!

You are full of shit and a phony!

Crude don't be fooled by this jerk.
He's most likely J or djindra with a phony profile.

Zach said...
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Matt DeStefano said...

"It's not just his "ID sympathies" which bothers people. Fodor has zero ID sympathies, and he received much the same treatment. The 'problem' for guys like Nagel shows up when they at all suggest their views pose a problem for materialism or mainstream scientific theories in a public way that attracts attention. Few give a crap about these guys, no matter what their views are, when they are out of the spotlight."

I have to admit my reluctance to respond here: the more involved I become in Reppert's blog, the more I realize how bold the lines in the sand are. However, I still think you are missing the entire point of why Nagel (in this instance) was denounced so harshly.

This has nothing to do with Nagel being a "non-materialist" (as you indicated earlier), and I don't even think it has to do with criticism of evolution (which, AFAIK, he hasn't offered) but his endorsement of ID as a "scientific disagreement" and his subsequent endorsement of obviously false claims about evolutionary theory.

It's not just Leiter (who apparently you have colored as this monstrously polemic figure): Check out these words from Mohan Matten:

"Things are very different today. We should ask: Is there a scientific problem on which ID sheds new light? Does it shed new light on mutation? Does it offer us a systematic alternative to evolutionary theory? And surely, the answer to all of these questions is: No! For a time, the notorious bacterial flagella were touted as a problem better addressed by ID – but this has been thoroughly discredited (as demonstrated in the Dover School District case). As for mutation, none of the tests of Motoo Kimura’s neutralist hypothesis or of junk DNA reveal bias suggesting divine intervention – and something should have showed up if ID is correct about this. And what perspective of scientific value does ID offer us, what prospect of new research? Admission to the biology curriculum requires more than non-infinitesimal prior probabilities; it requires scientific utility now, and utility is temporally dependent. (Remember Lorentz contraction: a theory that might have been useful in the 1890s, but one that became scientifically jejune after Special Relativity.)"

There's plenty more, and I highly suggest reading the whole post.

Zach said...
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John W. Loftus said...

Nagel is not our friend. ;-)

BenYachov said...

What is hysterically funny about Loftus post is he seems to think one has to be a reductionist materialist to be an Atheist or at least to be an "orthodox" atheist.

I've said it before and I really enjoy saying it again. Loftus' Atheism is just fundamentalism without god-belief.

BenYachov said...

@Matt

Well of course I already reject ID & your quote here doesn't saying anything I haven't read Physicist Stephen Barr a Catholic say negatively about ID.

If ID where successful at best it could imply the God of Abraham & Aquinas, Zeus or a natural alien intelligence(a Q like being from Star Trek) engineered us. But it can't tell us anything about the nature of God unlike philosophy.

The ID people, Nagel and Fodor are good at showing us the limits of Darwinism(till science finds a solution to those limits or it's abandoned entirely and another hypothetical natural solution is explored) nothing more.

It has little meaning to most Thomists. The 5th way has nothing to do with Paley's bullshit views on design.

As a devout Catholic I am a strong Atheist in regards to the existence of Paley's "god".

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/05/id-versus-t-roundup.html

Cheers my friend.

BenYachov said...

Zach,

Nobody knows what you mean because it's clear you have no definitive opinions or position.

Matt DeStefano said...

@ Zach

"Crude never chnages his position (i.e., learns) so don't bother."

Yeah, I've gleaned as much from his posts here, on Feser's blog, and his own. That's why I haven't bothered to respond.

"The ID people, Nagel and Fodor are good at showing us the limits of Darwinism(till science finds a solution to those limits or it's abandoned entirely and another hypothetical natural solution is explored) nothing more."

Sure, but Nagel wasn't lambasted for pointing out the limits of "[neo]-Darwinism" (and again, AFAIK, he hasn't done this at all), but instead for misrepresenting ID as a scientific theory rather than some sort of religious speculation. I haven't picked up his newest book yet that Reppert mentions, but his gross misunderstanding of what to demarcate as "science" makes me hesitate in bothering to do so.

BenYachov said...

@Matt
>but instead for misrepresenting ID as a scientific theory rather than some sort of religious speculation.

If I deny God tomorrow why should I believe ID isn't a scientific theory?

Nagel thinks it is thought no doubt not a very compelling or useful theory.

Even Atheist philosopher Bradley Monton has defended it as a scientific theory & wrote a book about it.

Is there some type of Scientific Atheist Pope who rules Ex Cathedra on these matters?

As a Catholic Thomist who rejects the idea God is proven by some base Empiricism vs philosophical argument I wouldn't call the neo-Paley "deity" Id envisions "god".

BenYachov said...

To put it another way I can with ease envision living in a godless universe with ID(it was The Preservers from Star Trek who seeded out world with engineered proto-DNA that brought about life) as a scientific theory. Better than as a Thomist I can envision ID presently as a "religious theory". It's not any that jives with my Religious Tradition let me tell ya.

True some Catholics have jumped on the ID band wagon but as Catholic Apologist Karl Keating once quipped we Catholics are a very open minded people but sometimes the openness goes all the way threw.

Steven Carr said...

Hip, hip hooray!

A new gap!

This raises the interesting question -

If there is a gap, what can it be filled with?

BenYachov said...

Who knows or cares? A God-of-the-gaps can't be the God of Abraham & Aquinas.

Blue Devil Knight said...

The book isn't out, so people should probably relax a bit. What if it is just a good-faith attempt to struggle with the issues?

Perhaps Nagel has something new. Maybe the focus will be on some cool new positive story about consciousness that explains the data of consciousness better than anything else. Maybe it won't just be a critique of "naturalism", but a substantive new way of thinking about the phenomenon.

I understand the concern that his work will be used, and likely twisted, by Creationist-type evangelists. But that is a separate issue from the arguments and their merits. Having annoying consequences is not enough to make your arguments false.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Note my hope that Nagel offers a positive substantive view is not entirely genuine. Just consider the book's length (144 pages) and subtitle (Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False).

But I would love to be wrong about that.

BenYachov said...

BDK once again the voice of sanity.

Hope the little one is good bro.

cheers.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Good to see you still here Ben. Ella is almost two now, a lot of fun to spend time with. Usually. :)

Matt DeStefano said...

@BDK

Nobody's upset about Nagel's new book, it's about his endorsement of Meyer's "hatchet job". Having said that, I'm not holding my breath that Nagel will contribute anything worthwhile.

AmirF said...

"...his gross misunderstanding of what to demarcate as 'science' makes me hesitate in bothering to do so."

Last I checked, there isn't a clear consensus in the philosophy of science about what "science" even is.

Crude said...

Crude your reading comprehension is bad, you missed my point, assumed you didn't, assume the worst, and hurl insults based on such.

Bud, you rolled in here with a post that you suggested would illustrate how Nagel has 'jumped the shark', how his imagination has failed, etc.

All it was, was Leiter bitching and moaning about how Nagel endorsed a book he didn't like, and how that endorsement would embolden The Wrong Team.

Then Matt showed up to whimper and gnash his teeth about how terrible it is that some people get tribal about these subjects - when the very post you linked was just one big display of tribalism. It couldn't be more clear.

What have you contributed insult monkey.

Illustrating that you're full of shit, as usual. ;)

I am dumber having participated in this discussion with you.

I admit you've gotten dumber, Zach. But don't blame me - that one's squarely on your shoulders.

Crude never chnages his position (i.e., learns) so don't bother.

You don't even know my positions, or what changes I've made. All you know is that I've insulted you (deservingly) and exposed you as a blowhard multiple times in the past, and ow, it stings.

Suck it up, kid. You can't be a crybaby forever.

Crude said...

Matt,

This has nothing to do with Nagel being a "non-materialist" (as you indicated earlier), and I don't even think it has to do with criticism of evolution (which, AFAIK, he hasn't offered) but his endorsement of ID as a "scientific disagreement" and his subsequent endorsement of obviously false claims about evolutionary theory.

I said that non-materialists who keep their mouths shut are tolerated. What was the problem in Nagel's case, as well as Fodor, was this utter freakout over not just the claims they were making making, but the actually effects on discourse everyone was petrified it may have, coming from men like them. Obviously Fodor isn't even a 'non-materialist', but his book caught him hell.

And why? Because 'it will be used by creationists!'

Pathetic.

There's plenty more, and I highly suggest reading the whole post.

Considering that your quoted snippet makes reference to 'divine intervention', as if that ID bills itself as a scientific theory about miracles in history, I'll spare myself witnessing the stupidity. (Not to mention other mistakes made there - 10 to 1 the bacterial flagellum claim is reference to evidence that parts of the flagellum existed in biological precursors, in completely different roles - an observation entirely compatible with ID's claims.)

See, I disagree with ID and I don't think it's science - but I've bothered to actually read Behe, Dembski and others' writing on this. I don't run to the nearest atheist, tug their pantleg, and beg them to yell at the Scary Men who got Nagel to endorse one of their books.

I also don't, like Leiter, yourself, and precious Zach over there, flip the fuck out just because someone happens to think the core ID arguments (which I highly doubt you could even give an accuracy summary of) have merit. I happen to believe people can reasonably disagree on many of these subjects. The problem is I have little patience for pretentious h-jobs who act like they know far, far more than they do.

Which would be why you and Zach get on my bad side so damn easily. ;)

Crude said...

Ben,

Nobody knows what you mean because it's clear you have no definitive opinions or position.

Nobody knows what Zach means because he himself doesn't know. He loves to snark and bitch, but actually reading and comprehending? That takes too long, and is not nearly as fun.

Zach said...
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Crude said...

Crude self-refer much. lmao

Run away, little boy, run away. ;)

Matt DeStefano said...

@ Amir

"Last I checked, there isn't a clear consensus in the philosophy of science about what "science" even is."

This is a bit of a vague statement, so I apologize if I don't quite catch your meaning. While there is significant debate about the ontology behind scientific statements, I think we are certainly prepared to make proclamations about non-scientific propositions or claims.


@ Crude

I've really got no interest in dealing with anonymous internet trolls, especially when they can't complete a sentence without hurling insults. Cheers.

AmirF said...

Matt: "...his gross misunderstanding of what to demarcate as 'science' makes me hesitate in bothering to do so."

"I think we are certainly prepared to make proclamations about non-scientific propositions or claims."

The problem, Matt, is that we currently can't without getting into conceptual difficulties that have yet to be resolved. The demarcation problem that I alluded to - the problem of separating science from non-science - in the philosophy of science is still a notorious problem to this day.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarcation_problem

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/

Of note is the concluding sentence of the latter entry (emphasis mine):

"It is in a sense paradoxical that so much agreement has been reached in particular issues in spite of almost complete disagreement on the general criteria that these judgments should presumably be based upon. This puzzle is a sure indication that there is still much important philosophical work to be done on the demarcation between science and pseudoscience."


It's with this in mind that I think we ought to be extremely cautious when labeling things as "science" or "pseudoscience," rather than doing so under a baseless confidence, and most assuredly to abstain from engaging in the intellectually worthless cultural attitude of "only take as knowledge the verdicts of a system that follows a narrowly defined scientific method!"

Bottom line, we still aren't clear on what science - at a conceptual level - even is, and should conduct ourselves accordingly.

Matt DeStefano said...

Amir, you're certainly right that we ought to be careful in demarcating between science and pseudoscience, but I think you're assuming that the denial of ID is a result of "baseless confidence" which simply isn't the case. It's not a serious debate anywhere but the pews of the church or the halls of the Discovery Institute.

In fact, the Hansson (SEP) article you cite on Psuedoscience reads:

"The conflict between science and pseudoscience is best understood with this extended sense of science. On one side of the conflict we find the community of knowledge disciplines that includes the natural and social sciences and the humanities. On the other side we find a wide variety of movements and doctrines, such as creationism, astrology, homeopathy, and Holocaust denialism that are in conflict with results and methods that are generally accepted in the community of knowledge disciplines."

Notice that it labels creationism as a psuedoscience, and rightly so. To further understand why it's widely dismissed, check out philosopher of Biology/Science Michael Ruse's article on the SEP about Creationism which also has a brilliant section on ID (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/creationism/#ComIrr).

While the article points out difficulties in distinguishing between science and non-science, I think that if we look at the multi-critierial approaches of demarcation(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/#MulCriApp), we can see why ID is almost unanimously dismissed by philosophers and scientists alike as bunk. It fits the bill for (2)-(7).

Crude said...

Matt,

I've really got no interest in dealing with anonymous internet trolls, especially when they can't complete a sentence without hurling insults. Cheers.

Matt, your performance here has been sad. I particularly loved the moving little aside about 'team games' and 'enemies', in the same comment where you endorse a post that explicitly knocks Nagel *precisely* because he emboldens the wrong 'team'. Between that and your mangled arguments and bad references - particularly your crappy understanding of ID - there just ain't much to you so far.

And please. We all insult here, save for a very, very choice few. The difference is I'm explicit about it. You're more in the 'passive aggressive' style.

Zach said...
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mattghg said...

What if it is just a good-faith attempt to struggle with the issues?

Well yeah, the charitable thing to do would be to assume that in advance of having actually ready the book.

BenYachov said...

@Zack

Project much?

Crude is correct here. I can with ease envision being an Atheist like Nagel or Bradley Monton and think ID is respectable scientifically even if ultimately unconvincing.

From the perspective of Thomistic Philosophy there is a lot to find fault with ID & a host of intelligent arguments on why it fails.

But snarky claims that it is mere "Creationism" isn't one of them.

That's just lame.

Zach said...
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BenYachov said...

Cut the shit Zack.

I never said, you said it was mere Creationism.

I was backing up Crude's response to Matt.

Against you I claimed you where engaging in projection with your "ome mix in intelligent discussion with their insults. You have been called out," crack.

Give it a rest.

BenYachov said...

BTW Zack Matt clearly equates ID with Creationism.