On his personal blog, evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne has given his opinion of Thomas Nagel’s review of Plantinga’s book. To those familiar with Coyne’s rantings about everything religious, it will come as no surprise that Coyne has no respect for Nagel’s appeal to Plantinga’s position. However, if you read Nagel’s review and Coyne’s review of Nagel’s review, I hope you will notice that Coyne shows himself in his review to be no philosopher. Nagel concludes his review as follows:
I say this as someone who cannot imagine believing what he believes. But even those who cannot accept the theist alternative should admit that Plantinga’s criticisms of naturalism are directed at the deepest problem with that view—how it can account for the appearance, through the operation of the laws of physics and chemistry, of conscious beings like ourselves, capable of discovering those laws and understanding the universe that they govern. Defenders of naturalism have not ignored this problem, but I believe that so far, even with the aid of evolutionary theory, they have not proposed a credible solution. Perhaps theism and materialist naturalism are not the only alternatives.
And Coyne concludes from this:
Nagel has fallen for the God-of-the-gap trap. The credible solution is to do more work to find out how the structure of the mind produces consciousness, and how natural selection might have acted to promote that feature.
This clearly shows (1) that Coyne has no clue as to what argument Nagel is actually making, and (2) that Coyne has more faith in science than most religious believers have in their own religion. Coyne here confesses to scientism, the faith in science, the trust that scientists will eventually uncover how the mind produces (!) consciousness. That such a faith is non-scientific, doesn’t seem to bother Coyne. For Coyne, solving Nagel’s problems is doing more work, as if Nagel’s argument is about the gaps in our knowledge of how the mind actually works. However, Plantinga’s and Nagel’s problems with evolutionary theory don’t revolve around the gaps in our present knowledge, but about the framework of evolutionary explanations in general and the foundational role that natural selection plays in that framework in particular.
Nagel and Plantinga are actually asking a very foundational question, and ironically Coyne’s response actually shows Nagel’s and Plantinga’s (and Fodor’s) claims that evolutionary theory is running out of steam when it comes to explaining crucial features of the animal and human world. Both Fodor and Nagel see (correctly in my view) no need for God as an alternative hypothesis, but both seem to claim that evolutionary theory is more about faith in science than about science. I must admit that initially I was very skeptic about Fodor’s and Nagel’s respective positions (and I still am skeptical about Plantinga’s need for God as the scientific hypothesis that solves all scientific problems; I lean more to Nagel’s agnosticism), but I can’t negate the fact that reading Coyne’s irrational ejaculations definitely gives the impression that when it comes to explaining consciousness and mind from an evolutionary perspective, perhaps all we are smelling is the scent of an empty vase.
Read Coyne’s review here: http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/nagel-reviews-plantinga-in-the-nyrb/