Thomas Nagel, formerly critical of Kitzmiller vs. Dover case, publishes new book questioning Darwinism

Thomas Nagel

NYU philosophy professor and author Thomas Nagel is shown in 2008. (ASSOCIATED PRESS — FILE)

Thomas Nagel is no stranger to controversy when it comes to arguments over intelligent design, Darwinism and evolution. His criticism of the federal court’s decision in Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, which banned the teaching of intelligent design in public school biology classes, caused a fury among philosophers and scientists.

Nagel had argued that “The political urge to defend science education against the threats of religious orthodoxy, understandable though it is, has resulted in a counterorthodoxy, supported by bad arguments…”

Now, Nagel is back in the news for his most recent book, “Mind and Cosmos: Why the Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False.” The New York Times published an article in Thursday’s paper titled “An Author Attracts Unlikely Allies,” detailing the praises from conservative publications and advocates of intelligent design.

The Discovery Institute, a nonprofit best known for its arguments for intelligent design, declared Nagel’s book to be a “defection from Darwinism” by the atheist philosopher, which contained “respectful evaluation of arguments for intelligent design.”

The Times’ article explains that, in “Mind and Cosmos,”

“Mr. Nagel calls for an entirely new kind of science, one based on what he calls ‘natural teleology’ — a tendency for the universe to produce certain outcomes, like consciousness, but without any help from a Godlike agent.”

 Do you remember the Kitzmiller vs. Dover case? Did you agree or disagree with the court’s decision to ban intelligent design teachings in public schools? Leave a comment below.

What was at stake in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District
End of Kitzmiller v. Dover leaves void
Read the full New York Times article on Nagel’s new book
Read more religion-related news in southcentral Pa. at Belief & Beyond

About Sarah Chain

I'm an avid reader and book lover living and working in downtown York. Follow me on Twitter at @sarahEchain.
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3 Responses to Thomas Nagel, formerly critical of Kitzmiller vs. Dover case, publishes new book questioning Darwinism

  1. Byron Borger says:

    Thanks for this fabulous update on this important philosopher, whose recent book came out from Oxford University Press. This is an interesting example of those who find something lacking about the utter strictness of the orthodox Darwinist position — that evolutionary changes had to happen by chance, without cause. So, this is one more voice indicating how wrong the majority opinion, even in the local press, was, that mostly anybody who disagreed with old school atheistic Darwinism is a mindless fundamentalist. This guy is a famous atheist intellectual himself and yet dissents.

    You asked if we agree about the court banning the teaching about intelligent design. While most everybody realized that there are many ways the Dover School Board acted foolishly, and perhaps dishonestly, let us be clear about what the case was about. They were asking teachers to read a 2 minute statement saying that other books about the subject could be borrowed from the school library. That was what was contested, the brief indication that some people disagree with the standard materialism of Darwin’s explanations, and that the library might be a helpful place to go to read more widely. That many folks found this troubling strikes me as truly bizarre. Can’t read a statement saying some people disagree with conventional teachings and students should read widely in their school library? Geesh.

    So, I think the court was wrong, and I think the judge woefully misunderstood the fundamentals of the arguments.

    There have been several really well written books about all that, by the way, at least three favoring the judge. They all had lots of York area stuff and great local color. One was by Charles Darwin’s grandson, who sat in on the trial, and a great one was by a former YDR reporter, which was fantastic and quite moving.

    • Sarah Chain says:

      Thanks for the comment, Byron. I did see that Lauri Lebo had written a book based on her YDR coverage — I imagine it would be fascinating. I’ll have to put it on my list of books to read!

    • Monimonika says:


      You omitted mentioning the REASON WHY the 2 minute statement was being required by the school board to be read to the students. As was clearly shown during the trial, the reason was so that a religious viewpoint would be impressed upon the students. Secular reasoning was pretty much non-existent. The book, “Of Pandas and People”, that was being referred to (by title within the statement itself!) was proven to be based on creationism, which in turn was earlier ruled as being blatantly religious.

      Interesting that you don’t consider as being even somewhat inappropriate that public school employees were encouraging students to go out and read a religious book in order to get an alternative “scientific” viewpoint.

      Your argument is similar to saying that a U.S. public school is allowed to have the Christian Lord’s Prayer blare out over the intercom every morning to the classes because, come on, it’s just words. Students who happen to not be Christian can just ignore the stuff. What’s the big deal?

      (I REALLY hope that you don’t honestly agree with the above example.)

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