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August 31, 2015 / 16 Elul, 5775
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When a Heretic Speak Heresy Against Heretics

For deviating from the orthodox scientific position, Nagel has been abused, maligned, outcast, and insulted.
Thomas Nagel

Thomas Nagel

But perhaps most of all, Nagel’s opponents are correct. Nagel’s book does give the believer a glimmer of hope in a scientific world that is perceived as anti-religion. Thanks to Nagel, it is possible that even within the scientific community, not everything can be attributed to pure materiality. Nagel won’t call it God, but perhaps we can.

Thank God for Thomas Nagel.

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About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.

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3 Responses to “When a Heretic Speak Heresy Against Heretics”

  1. Stephen Leavitt says:

    Interesting article.

  2. Gil Gilman says:

    This hub bub is not really about science. It is about power. Why should it matter to those espousing evolutionary precepts what anyone thinks? Evolution is not a monolithic edifice. It has cracks, which they choose to ignore, or fill with putty. Furthermore not all scientists espouse contrary view points for religious reasons. Some are just as brilliant, and have as good or better pedigrees thatn those in the lockstep formation. What is more they have courage. It is no great credential to follow the bandwagon. No! Those who critcise Nagel, are much like those in Roman Catholicism who denounced the idea that the world was round.

  3. Asher Kay says:

    Rabbi Fink – I think you're mistaken about a few things.

    First, to my knowledge, no-one has argued that Nagel's ideas are true but dangerous. He was criticized for saying positive things about intelligent design arguments by people who believe that those arguments are both dangerous *and* wrong.

    Second, Nagel has not been abused, maligned or outcast by his peers. His ideas have been strongly criticized. A few of Nagel's critics got a bit personal (Pinker, for example, referred to him as a "once great philosopher"), but none of the published articles about Nagel's book contain criticisms any stronger than Nagel himself has used in his reviews of others' work. And the published criticisms of Mind and Cosmos find fault with its arguments, not with Nagel as a person or his "unorthodoxy".

    In fact, Nagel's ideas are not particularly unorthodox within Philosophy of Mind. Many philosophers are dualists; many have issues with the explanatory power of evolutionary theory; and many believe that the problem of consciousness cannot be solved by scientific inquiry. These are minority positions, but not heretical ones.

    It's important to consider that, for the most part, Nagel is not making a *scientific* argument at all — he's making a *philosophical* one, which many scientists find unconvincing. He makes a few (flawed) probabilistic arguments, but most of his points hinge on either philosophical ideas about moral realism, distinctions between subjective and objective knowledge, or the claim that evolutionary reasoning is circular.

    Though the narrative of Nagel as a "heretic" seems enticing to some, it simply does not fit the facts.

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