By Joseph Brean | National Post
The philosopher Thomas Nagel is not taking phone calls.
His secretary at New York University says there have been hundreds, all wanting to reach the modern “heretic,” as a current magazine cover labels him, but he is not taking the bait.
All he did was argue in a new book the evolutionary view of nature is “false,” and now grand forces have descended upon him. He does not want to talk about it.
The vicious reception handed Mind & Cosmos, which urges deep skepticism about evolution’s explanatory power, illustrates the perils of raising arguments against intellectual orthodoxy.
One critique said if there were a philosophical Vatican, Prof. Nagel’s work should be on the index of banned books for the comfort it will give creationists. Another headline proclaimed Prof. Nagel is “not crazy.”
The book has won a British booby prize for “Most Despised Science Book” and prompted sneering remarks the author is centuries behind the times, and somehow missed the Enlightenment.
“What has gotten into Thomas Nagel?” tweeted Steven Pinker, the Canadian cognitive scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Mr. Pinker also called Mind & Cosmos “the shoddy reasoning of a once-great thinker.”
The impassioned shunning of Prof. Nagel parallels the experience of some climate-change skeptics. By the time it became a political mega-issue a decade ago, environmentalism had come to resemble religion, complete with myths of the Fall and the Apocalypse, pilgrimages, iconography, scripture, prophecies, tithes and Al Gore as a secular saint.
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