Evolutionary hand waving is an example of the tendency to take a theory which has been successful in one domain and apply it to anything else you can't understand -- not even to apply it, but vaguely to imagine such an application. It is also an example of the pervasive and reductive naturalism of our culture. 'Survival value' is now invoked to account for everything from ethics to language.
Even if randomness is a factor in determining which mutation will appear when (and the extent of the randomness is apparently in dispute), the range of genetic possibilities is not itself a random occurrence but a necessary consequence of the natural order. The possibility of minds capable of forming progressively more objective conceptions of reality is not something the theory of natural selection can attempt to explain, since it doesn't explain possibilities at all, but only selection among them.
This sounds very similar to the Argument from Reason, that some of the properties of mind are inconsistent with naturalism. Victor Reppert has referred to Nagel a few times at Dangerous Idea 2.
Yet while Nagel appears to be anti-naturalist, he is also an atheist. In The Last Word he writes:
In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper -- namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is not a God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that. ...My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time.
A critique of Nagel's recent essay is at Pure Pedantry. The main point of contention is that Nagel is unaware that science is intrinsically naturalistic. The comments over there are interesting as a lot of them seem to disagree with this pronouncement. Via Keith Burgess-Jackson, another atheist who sides with Nagel.
(cross-posted at Agent Intellect)
Discuss this post at the Quodlibeta Forum