By Chet Yarbrough
By: Thomas Nagel
Narrated by: Brian Troxell
Thomas Nagel believes Darwin’s theory of natural selection is wrong. Nagel suggests natural selection fails to encompass the concept of mind. Even though Nagel acknowledges biology and physics have made great strides in understanding the nature of life, he suggests the mind should be a starting point for a theory of everything. Nagel infers that science research is bogged down by a mechanistic and materialistic view of nature. Nagel suggests science must discover the origin of consciousness to find the Holy Grail; i.e. an all-encompassing theory of nature.
Nagel does not believe Darwinian evolution can explain consciousness. Nagel offers a sliver of hope to believers in God as the Creator but, as an atheist, he suggests there is a teleological (an account of a given thing’s end or purpose) explanation for consciousness that is yet to be discovered. In that discovery, he believes there will be a theory of everything that encompasses the true nature of life. He acknowledges God may be the answer but places that idea near the level of space aliens leaving seeds of life on earth. He argues that discovery of the origin of consciousness through science will be the key to open the door to a theory of everything. Like Einstein and Newton, Nagel believes humans live in a world of cause and effect. But, like Newtonian’ physics failure to encompass the universe’s laws of motion, and Einstein’s belief that God does not play with dice, Nagel believes Darwin’s concept of natural selection is, at best, incomplete. (Both Newton and Einstein failed to incorporate laws of quantum mechanics in their respective theories of nature.)
Without agreeing or disagreeing with Nagel’s idea, it seems propitious for the United States to fund and begin their decade-long effort to examine the human brain. Though nearer term objectives are to understand Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, the longer term result may be to discover the origin of consciousness. Contrary to Nagel’s contention that natural selection cannot explain consciousness, brain research may reveal consciousness rises from the same source of mysterious elemental and repetitive combinations of an immortal gene that Darwin dimly understood. Brain research offers an avenue for extension or refutation of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
Mind and Cosmos is a tribute to Nagel’s “outside the box” philosophical’ thought. Like some who say string theory is a blind alley for a theory of everything, natural selection may be a mistaken road to the origin of life.