Atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel continues to get sassed by his fellow atheists for reviewing favorably, in the Times Literary Supplement, Stephen Meyer’s Intelligent Design book, Signature in the Cell (2009). Philosopher and legal scholar, Brian Leiter, at the University of Chicago, is representative of the level of contempt being displayed toward Nagel, and because Leiter provides links to others sassing Nagel (and Meyer) on the Internet, you can look at those as well (if you’re so inclined):
What else can one say when a prominent, and formerly reputable, philosopher lends the fame of his name to endorse the latest misleading hatchet job on biological science by Stephen Meyer, one of the key figures in the Discovery [sic] Institute? Scientists are already taking note of this embarrassing display (and see here), which just invites ridicule of the profession . . . It is sad, but it is also a reason to be angry, since he’s not simply making a fool of himself, he’s giving ammunition to those who campaign, relentlessly, to undermine biology education in the public schools. (The pathological liars at the Discovery [sic] Institute are already all over this and other creationists also realize the public relations value of this endorsement.) Regarding what actual experts think of Mr. Meyer’s work, do see this and this and this. There is also a patient dissection of the book from a religious biochemist here. (And for even more on Meyer and the Discovery [sic] Institute, these two items are illuminating.)
Biologist Jerry Coyne, also of the University of Chicago, apparently can’t even bring himself to write out the title of Meyer’s book, and has taken to putting the title in this curious way:
Nice news: WEIT has not only been put on the list of Amazon’s ten best science books of 2009 (note the good company of Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth, and the unwelcome company of The Evolution of God — not a science book! — and Stephen Meyer’s S____ in the C____) . . .
Coyne is either unwilling to promote the book’s title to his blog readers, or he wishes to have his readers insert a profanity (like Sh— in the Commode). Perhaps both? In any case, Thomas Nagel has yet to formulate a response to the New Atheist blog venom being spewed at him. If you’re wondering, by the way, what all the fuss is about—what started this—here’s all that Nagel said:
Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperCollins) is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter – something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin. The controversy over Intelligent Design has so far focused mainly on whether the evolution of life since its beginnings can be explained entirely by natural selection and other non-purposive causes. Meyer takes up the prior question of how the immensely complex and exquisitely functional chemical structure of DNA, which cannot be explained by natural selection because it makes natural selection possible, could have originated without an intentional cause. He examines the history and present state of research on non-purposive chemical explanations of the origin of life, and argues that the available evidence offers no prospect of a credible naturalistic alternative to the hypothesis of an intentional cause. Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.
Robert Wright has some interesting observations at Foreign Policy on the Robespierre-like enthusiasm for ideological purity among the New Atheists. Maybe Thomas Nagel should read Wright’s piece before replying to them.