Ending Science as We Know It
October 16, 2012
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Elliot Sober (Wisconsin) reviews Thomas Nagel‘s (NYU) Mind and Cosmos.
Mind and Cosmos is dominated by a set of very strong assumptions about explanation: remarkable facts must have explanations; those explanations must show that the remarkable facts have fairly high probabilities; and remarkable facts cannot be byproducts. Nagel does not take seriously the possibility that the world may not be so obliging.
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Current science may suffer from fundamental flaws, but Nagel has not made a convincing case that this is so. And even if there are serious explanatory defects in our world picture, I don’t see how Nagel’s causally inexplicable teleology can be a plausible remedy. In saying this, I realize that Nagel is trying to point the way to a scientific revolution and that my reactions may be mired in presuppositions that Nagel is trying to transcend. If Nagel is right, our descendants will look back on him as a prophet—a prophet whom naysayers such as me were unable to recognize.