Word is spreading that acclaimed philosopher (and atheist) Thomas Nagel has praised Stephen Meyer’s new book Signature in the Cell. Nagel writes:

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.

Brian Leiter’s strong reaction is typical:

Nagel has become a disgrace. He was a philosopher who made some significant contributions, but in areas far afield of this one.

{In the original version of this blog post, I critized Leiter’s reaction; while I do disagree with Leiter, I now think that my particular criticism was unwarranted.}

For more by Leiter on this issue, go here. People in Leiter’s shoes should perhaps wonder if it’s not the case that Nagel, an incredibly smart and (at least until recently) well-respected philosopher, has “jumped the shark”, and instead it’s the case that Nagel’s position is more reasonable than they realize.