Not Sufficiently Reassuring
- BuyMind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False by Thomas Nagel
Oxford, 130 pp, £15.99, November 2012, ISBN 978 0 19 991975 8
The universe has woken up. If the scientific picture we currently have is right, this was an accident, roughly speaking, and also something that happened very locally. At various places some highly organised physical systems – living organisms – have become aware of the world they are part of. In a few cases they have also become aware of their awareness. These living systems are products of evolution by natural selection, an undirected process that began in a fortuitous combining of chemical and physical conditions, whose course is dependent on accidents of history, and which is driven by the slight reproductive advantages some organisms enjoy over others. Even if Earth is not the only place where this has happened, the vast majority of the universe contains no awareness, no life, no reasoning. We, the awoken parts of the universe, can look around and reflect on all this, including the fact that there is no overall purpose to our being here. So the universe has ‘woken up’, but in a local, accidental and low-key sense.