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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well justified and timely challenge to extreme materialism, 13 April 2013
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This review is from: Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (Kindle Edition)
Peter Hichens recently concluded a review of A.C. Grayling's recent book The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanismwith an interesting question. He said that the interesting question about God was not so much whether he exists or not, but why both sides of the argument want their answer to be right. Are protagonists on both sides of the debate more worried about being right, or being wrong?

This book is interesting because it comes from an Atheist philosopher, who is challenging some of the most sacred and cherished beliefs of atheism. Specifically he challenges whether the reduction of all life and knowledge to smaller and smaller parts provides an adequate explanation of the world as it is, or as it is experienced in our consciousness. His conclusion is that it is not an adequate or complete explanation of how things are. He does not think this is just because of gaps in current knowledge that will eventually be filled. He thinks the idea of reducing everything to physics and chemistry is neither sensible nor justifiable, or even a rational hope.

Nagel is really pointing out a flaw in the paradigm of materialism. I think he achieves what he is trying to show, and in this he is echoing the work of many others who have challenged the attempt to reduce all life and experience to physics and chemistry.

In saying this Nagel is going against the current atheistic materialist consensus advocated strongly by many of the disciples of Dawkins. They will dislike this book and think it is wrong -as they deny the existence of anything that is not material as nonsense, no existence and utterly immaterial. They say they will alter their minds if "new evidence emerges to support extra-ordinary claims"; but they have such tight rules of evidence that there's no type of evidence they could admit as credible.

Nagel has written a well argued critique of materialism and reductionism and it is well worth reading. It joins a growing list of significant books such as Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity and Philosophical Foundations of Neurosciencethat challenge the idea that we are nothing but physical and chemical reactions. I think he achieves the demonstration of the incompleteness of materialism well. I am less sure his suggested alternatives are fully successful.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Nov 2013 21:13:14 GMT
Mr. T Holton says:
Didn't Mary Midgley say all this about 20 years ago? Dawkins' followers don't like her either, and she isn't religious.

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Nov 2013 21:23:59 GMT
Possibly yes. This is newer and more direct than Mary Midgley. I think he hits the target more firmly.

I still love Mary Midgley's book Science and Poetry (Routledge Classics)

Posted on 20 Jun 2014 22:47:04 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 Jun 2014 22:50:18 BDT
Graham Lyons says:
Thank you for such a clear review.

The trouble is, if anything that is conceived to be not material can be shown to exist, then it is material. Also, to avoid privileging life in the make up of the cosmos, whatever cannot in principle be reduced to physics and chemistry must be a constituent of, or have an effect on, not only humans and everything that lives but on inanimate matter as well.
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