Here was a signal to the Darwinist dittoheads that a mob needed to be formed. In an earlier book Nagel had dared to complain of “Darwinist imperialism,” though in his scrupulous way he added that “there is really no reason to assume that the only alternative to an evolutionary explanation of everything is a religious one.” He is not, God forbid, a theist. But he went on to warn that “this may not be comforting enough” for the materialist establishment, which may find it impossible to tolerate also “any cosmic order of which mind is an irreducible and non-accidental part.” For the bargain-basement atheism of our day, it is not enough that there be no God: there must be only matter. Now Nagel’s new book fulfills his old warning. A mob is indeed forming, a mob of materialists, of free-thinking inquisitors. “In the present climate of a dominant scientific naturalism, heavily dependent on speculative Darwinian explanations of practically everything, and armed to the teeth against religion,” Nagel calmly writes, “… I would like to extend the boundaries of what is not regarded as unthinkable, in light of how little we really understand about the world.” This cannot be allowed! And so the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Secular Faith sprang into action. “If there were a philosophical Vatican,” Simon Blackburn declared in the New Statesman, “the book would be a good candidate for going on to the Index.” I hope that one day he regrets that sentence. It is not what Bruno, Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, Voltaire, Hume, Locke, Kant, and the other victims of the anti-philosophical Vatican had in mind.
Ah yes, Simon Blackburn. He addressed a journalists’ seminar of which I was a part. I posed a philosophical question, which he haughtily refused to answer because it was premised on the possibility that atheist materialism might not be true. Let me be clear: I didn’t claim that atheist materialism was untrue, but rather asked a conditional question based on a philosophical point made by Kierkegaard. Blackburn repeatedly refused to answer it. It was like being in the presence of some brilliant but bigoted Counterreformation Jesuit.
Anyway, Wieseltier continues:
Yet too many of Nagel’s interlocutors have been scientists, because Mind and Cosmos is not a work of science. It is a work of philosophy; and it is entirely typical of the scientistic tyranny in American intellectual life that scientists have been invited to do the work of philosophers. The problem of the limits of science is not a scientific problem. It is also pertinent to note that the history of science is a history of mistakes, and so the dogmatism of scientists is especially rich.
Wieseltier blasts the “fideism” of scientists, who are all too willing to attack Nagel because even though he does not believe in God, his idea that there is probably more to the universe than mere matter might give aid and comfort to the left’s culture war enemies, which makes Nagel a traitor to his class.