Thomas Nagel - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Nagel - is a philosopher who "believes in altruism," but also seems to be some sort of religionist.
In a review - https://ssl.tnr.com/p/docsub.mhtml?i=20061023&s=nagel102306 - in The New Republic of Richard Dawkins’ new book ([i:b1abd0b204]The God Delusion[/i:b1abd0b204]), he properly recognizes Dawkins over all "message" as just more arrogant, unsophisticated anti-religiosity. Nagel seems to understand that, though properly drawing a hard line between religious literalism and science, Dawkins shows no real understanding of what religion is - beyond literal supernaturalism - or why it is important to so many people (beyond pat answers a la the ‘religion-as-a-crutch’ "analysis.")
Still, in trying to dismiss Dawkins’ parochial atheism (not his claims of methodological scientific naturalism vs. literal or fundamentalist supernaturalistic religion), Nagel seems to cross those lines between what is known, knowable or unknowable as per ultimate origins and ultimate reality. His particular language/examples used via refuting Dawkins’ atheism, may be easy to dismiss* as he misunderstands reality as much as Dawkins ignores the deeper issues of religiosity - but his essay is still worth reading for the underlying search he, and so many others, are undergoing.
There must be a way for scientific naturalists, while articulating the absurdity of supernaturalism, to address religion and spirituality as a whole much better than Dawkins (or Sam Harris, for that matter), does, if we are to evolve (pun intended) into a more humanistic society.
It is interesting to note, as an aside, that the New Republic enjoys publishing reviews which critique scientists who argue for natural altruism, cooperation, and other such ideas on human nature which may seem "Leftist" (such as publishing Pinker’s strawman attack on Lakoff), but that they are also willing to publish Nagel (who seems to be a liberal, if religious, person) because he criticizes atheism (even when the atheist in question is an arrogant Neo-Liberal). Goes to show that Neo-Liberals, Conservatives and Libertarians all would rather argue against Leftist politics or economics than against religion - even liberal religion. How hard is it to be an anarchist/libertarian-socialist AND an atheist these days!!!
*Nagel points out that evolution only explains life from first life, and not how life itself came from nonlife, or why anything exists at all and how did it all come about - thus he claims that Dawkins’ arguments for the ‘blind watchmaker’ as enough to promote atheism is nonsense. Of course, he is correct in this, but Nagel misses the "little point" that science HAS explained how life itself could have come from non life and how it came about since the Big Bang, and makes no claims (as of yet) on why something exists rather than nothing, or of ultimate causes. Of course, if Nagel thinks THOSE last points prove God exists, he is arguing from the fallacy of ignorance.
PS: Bare in mind that I have not read cover to cover Dawkins’ new book -and do not own it. I have read much of his past essays on his take on God and atheism, but I do not know if Dawkins truly fails at responding to what Nagel claims, re ultimate cause and reality, he doesn’t in this new work. I only know I have not been convinced by what I’ve allready seen. If indeed Dawkins responds, and responds well, in this manor in [i:b1abd0b204]The God Delusion[/i:b1abd0b204], please share that in this forum.
Barry F. Seidman