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How Thomas Nagel Reckons Without the Drug War

a philosophical review of Mind and Cosmos

by Ballard Quass, the Drug War Philosopher

February 18, 2023

n 2012, the American philosopher Thomas Nagel published "Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False." His purpose in writing this politically incorrect book was "to defend the untutored reaction of incredulity to the reductionist neo-Darwinian account of the origin and evolution of life." For, according to Nagel, "it is prima facie highly improbable that life as we know it is the result of physical accidents along with the mechanism of natural selection." Nagel argues that the latter notions have become doubtful in light of what we now know about the astonishing complexity of cellular life and the genetic code. "Certain things are so remarkable," the author tells us, "that they have to be explained as non-accidental if we are to pretend to a real understanding of the world."

Of course, Nagel could get away with saying that in 2012, if only just. Not only was he one of America's best known philosophers, but he was nearly 80 years old at the time of publication and a lifelong atheist into the bargain. It wasn't easy for origin scientists to dismiss his ideas out of hand or to shame Thomas by labeling him a creationist. Thomas Nagel is still listed as a bona fide philosopher in Wikipedia despite his apostasy. That said, however, the researchers who helped inspire his book have not fared so well. Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer and David Berlinski have all been libeled as pseudoscientists in Wikipedia, apparently with the help of an organized hit team of digital materialists who police the Wiki platform to ensure that non-materialist explanations of life are never taken seriously by readers. In "Mind and Cosmos," Nagel decries such ad hominem attacks as "manifestly unfair."

By this time, of course, the wide-awake reader (you, perhaps?) are asking themselves: What does this have to do with drugs?

Well, just this: Nagel tells us that he does not believe in a divine being. He says that he lacks the "sensus divinitatis" that seems to naturally incline some people toward such belief. (He champions what philosophers call "neutral monism" instead.) But here's the problem. Nagel, like almost all philosophers (and scientists too, for that matter) reckons without the Drug War. I mean that, if Nagel were to imbibe certain psychoactive substances, he could very well have an experience that would inspire him with this sensus divnitatis, which he now so glibly tells us that he lacks, as if that shortcoming (assuming that it is one) was predetermined and unchangeable, world without end, amen.

But if our modern-day accounts of psychedelic experiences prove one thing (the accounts of drug researchers like James Fadiman and Stanislav Grof), it's that such seemingly unchangeable aspects of one's personality and understanding of life can be changed under the properly guided influence of psychedelic substances - obviously not always and for everybody, but they can be changed.

My views about the origins and meaning of life were certainly influenced by the mesoamerican imagery that I saw "in my mind's eye" during my peyote trip four years ago in Arizona. The mental slide show of pre-Columbian iconography suggested to me very strongly that life and consciousness were somehow a unified whole and that I was not a brain in a vat and that life is, indeed, far more than the sum of its parts. Why else would the consumption of a cactus give me visions of a bygone culture that I never thought about consciously in my waking life? To be sure, my psychedelic experience did not "prove" that the world was a unified whole, that consciousness was in some sense fundamental, but it gave me plenty of experienced-based reasons to think so.

But Nagel, again like almost all philosophers, would never even THINK of using the word "philosophy" and "drugs" in the same sentence, except perhaps with the goal of tossing off some throwaway line designed to cast the latter term in a dubious light in fealty to the Christian Science metaphysic of the Drug War. The idea that drug use could tell us something about the world is entirely alien to Nagel*, who seems never to have even heard of the well-documented psychedelic research referenced above, which dates back to the 1950s, when LSD was successfully being used to fight alcoholism. This, incidentally, is why the Drug War has lasted so long: because scientists are blind to the censorship (and self-censorship) that substance prohibition naturally imposes upon science and philosophy. When you outlaw and demonize substances for a long enough time, the world forgets that such substances ever had positive uses in the first place, especially when you give the children of such cultures teddy bears and gold stars for "saying no" to time-honored medicines that had inspired entire religions in the past.

My personal belief is that there is no philosophically acceptable way for science to escape the mystery of life, despite the ongoing attempts of materialists to look at the universe and soberly tell us: "Nothing to see here. It all had to be this way, after all." Nagel himself said that ultimate reality may be unknowable and that science may have to settle for the notion that life just "had to be that way," i.e., the way that we find it. But no curious mind is satisfied with that answer. It amounts to the materialist positing a causeless cause, or inexplicable initial state of the universe, and that presumption is itself every bit as mysterious as the idea of a deity. An uncaused cause baffles the mind, and yet both materialism and theism ultimately embrace it. It's just that materialists take a sort of "Copenhagen approach" to the problem of first causes, saying that to discuss that topic is beyond their bailiwick. This in itself is not problematic. The problem is that they then go on to talk as if they have explained life, forgetting that they have dogmatically ruled out the discussion of life's principal mystery, namely, how did we get something out of nothing in the first place?

It's all well and good to say that such questions are "meaningless," but that's a philosophical conclusion, not a scientific one - in other words, it's a conclusion that is open to credible refutation.

Nagel, it might be said, is coming to the anti-materialist idea of wholeness the hard way. Instead of being experientially convinced of the concept by drug use and/or a sensus divinitatis, he has reasoned his way thither by cold logic and brave honesty. And this is to be commended in a world where non-materialists are regularly libeled as "creationists" by diehard materialists.

This is a truth that I learned to my cost at a summer retreat one year ago. I had woken up on the wrong side of the bunk bed one morning, so when I joined the crew at breakfast, I launched into a less-than-lighthearted monologue about my pet peeve: namely, the fact that neo-Darwinists would not calmly debate evolution with their critics but rather preferred to yell at them and evince all manner of intolerance toward opposing viewpoints. Little did I realize that the dude sitting across from me that morning was a dyed-in-the-wool neo-Darwinist himself.

The bad news is: he yelled at me and evinced all manner of intolerance toward my opposing viewpoints.

The good news is: he thereby proved that I wasn't crazy, that my complaint about neo-Darwinism was justified, and that Thomas Nagel was right: materialists were indeed being "manifestly unfair" toward their philosophical opponents.

*This is less excusable than it might at first sound, considering the fact that the philosophy of William James was inspired and based on his experiences with psychoactive substances such as laughing gas.

Author's Follow-up: February 18, 2023

Nagel refers to the religious motivations of Behe and Meyer, but reminds us that their arguments must be accepted on their own terms. He might have said the same thing about the materialists, however, like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett. The ferocity with which they defend materialism seems inexplicable unless one considers that they are fighting to defend a world view and not simply a scientific theory. Materialism as they champion it seems to be a religion itself, insofar as it is held to contain (either potentially or actually) the answer to every single question about the world. True, this religion does not worship a god, but it comes close to worshiping nature in a kind of animism, so great is the materialist's belief in the power of inanimate objects to coalesce and ultimately produce wonders: wonders that boggle the mind -- the latter, however, being a mere epiphenomenon according to the consciousness-spurning gospel of materialism.

Author's Follow-up: May 3, 2023

Materialism is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Drug War, for the reductionism that it champions tends to pooh-pooh the use of holistic medicine, medicines that simply work without having been proven to affect any supposedly relevant brain chemicals. This has blinded us to endless wonderful uses of drugs under the purblind assumption that non-reductionist cures do not "really" work. For just one of endless examples, one could use opium every other weekend (like the 19th-century poets in "a series of magnificent quarterly carouses") -- and thereby improve one's mood overall. Your mood improves, not just through the chemical action of the drug, but thanks to the anticipation that such a protocol would generate. You thereby have created a virtuous circle, psychologically speaking But anticipation is subjective and one of those touchy-feely aspects of life that the materialist shuns. "Talk to me about brain chemicals," says the Big Pharma drug maker, "not anticipation." The result? Today, 1 in 4 American women are dependent for life on Big Pharma meds, generated by this reductionist approach, one which fails to work even on its own terms, since the attempt to chemically end depression has created the biggest pharmacological dystopia in human history, all while failing to put a dent in the numbers of Americans who self-report as depressed. To the contrary, those numbers seem to be rising higher still -- and this in a country that outlaws substances that could cure most depression overnight!

Author's Follow-up: January 2, 2024

picture of clock metaphorically suggesting a follow-up

I add these follow-ups, by the way, because I am one of those people who actually change over time and therefore may even come to a point where he objects to his own arguments -- or at least to the tenor in which they were maintained. Take this essay, for instance. I'm wondering now if I weren't a trifle dismissive -- nay, even presumptuous -- in rebuking Thomas Nagel like this. All I can say in my defense is that I'm a working stiff who necessarily writes this stuff in a hurry and "on the fly." I'm also so used to being ignored by the mainstream (or even by the pseudo mainstream) that I despair of being read by anyone, least of all by the established sources whom I have seen fit to reprove. So it's sometimes hard to keep one's audience in mind when one believes that no audience even exists. Moreover, I am honestly angered by the way that the war on drugs has prevented me from being all that I can be in this life (while outlawing my religion into the bargain), so it's often not easy for me to write dispassionately on these topics. So while you're welcome to blame me for any undue snarkiness in the foregoing harangue, I think some blame must be reserved for prohibition itself, which refuses to let me "chill out" with godsend medicines and thereby adopt a less strident tone toward the movers and shakers of this world.

I hope that such board-certified brainpans will recognize my occasional stridency for what it is: a cry for help -- for help, that is, in ending America's hateful Christian Science war on godsend medicines.

Next essay: Snoop Pearson's muddle-headed take on drugs
Previous essay: Drug War? What Drug War?

More Essays Here


The book "Plants of the Gods" is full of plants and fungi that could help addicts and alcoholics, sometimes in the plant's existing form, sometimes in combinations, sometimes via extracting alkaloids, etc. But drug warriors need addiction to sell their prohibition ideology.

If psychoactive drugs had never been criminalized, science would never have had any reason or excuse for creating SSRIs that muck about unpredictably with brain chemistry. Chewing the coca leaf daily would be one of many readily available "miracle treatments" for depression.
That's why we damage the brains of the depressed with shock therapy rather than let them use coca or opium. That's why many regions allow folks to kill themselves but not to take drugs that would make them want to live. The Drug War is a perversion of social priorities.
Weaponizing science is a bigger problem. Even as we speak, Laura Sanders of Sciam is promoting Shock Therapy 2.0 for the depressed, this in a world wherein reductive scientists aren't even sure that laughing gas will help the depressed.
It's because of such reductive pseudoscience that America will allow us to shock the brains of the depressed but won't allow us to let them use the plant medicines that grow at their feet.
David Chalmers says almost everything in the world can be reductively explained. Maybe so. But science's mistake is to think that everything can therefore be reductively UNDERSTOOD. That kind of thinking blinds researchers to the positive effects of laughing gas and MDMA, etc.
"Can I use poppies, coca, laughing gas, MDMA?" "NO," says Jonathan Stea, "We must be SCIENTIFIC! We must fry your brain and give you a lobotomy and make you a patient for life with the psychiatric pill mill! That's true SCIENCE!"
In "The Book of the Damned," Charles Fort writes about the data that science has damned, by which he means "excluded." The fact that drugs can inspire and elate is one such fact, although when Fort wrote his anti-materialist broadside, drug prohibition was in its infancy.
In other words, materialist scientists are drug war collaborators. They are more than happy to have their fight against idealism rigged by drug law, which outlaws precisely those substances whose use serves to cast their materialism into question.
Drug warriors have harnessed the perfect storm. Prohibition caters to the interests of law enforcement, psychotherapy, Big Pharma, demagogues, puritans, and materialist scientists, who believe that consciousness is no big "whoop" and that spiritual states are just flukes.
There are endless drugs that could help with depression. Any drug that inspires and elates is an antidepressant, partly by the effect itself and partly by the mood-elevation caused by anticipation of use (facts which are far too obvious for drug warriors to understand).
But materialist puritans do not want to create any drug that elates. So they go on a fool's errand to find reductionist cures for "depression itself," as if the vast array of human sadness could (or should) be treated with a one-size-fits-all readjustment of brain chemicals.
The search for SSRIs has always been based on a flawed materialist premise that human consciousness is nothing but a mix of brain chemicals and so depression can be treated medically like any other physical condition.
I'd like to become a guinea pig for researchers to test the ability of psychoactive drugs to make aging as psychologically healthy as possible. If such drugs cannot completely ward off decrepitude, they can surely make it more palatable. The catch? Researchers have to be free.
The drug war ideology of substance demonization actually outlaws such investigations. Why don't at least the saner half of the prohibitionists understand that this makes no sense in a purportedly free and scientific country?
Caveat: the experimentation must be done holistically, and not with the presupposition that brain waves and molecular analysis is more important than my perceptions -- for my perceptions are what really matter viz. psychological health.
I don't want purblind researchers telling me when I am happy or optimistic. Materialist researchers need not apply, especially those so immersed in minutia that they cannot even figure out if laughing gas could help the depressed!
To understand why the western world is blind to the benefits of "drugs," read "The Concept of Nature" by Whitehead. He unveils the scientific schizophrenia of the west, according to which the "real" world is invisible to us while our perceptions are mere "secondary" qualities.
This is why we would rather have a depressed person commit suicide than to use "drugs" -- because drugs, after all, are not dealing with the "real" problem. The patient may SAY that drugs make them feel good, but we need microscopes to find out if they REALLY feel good.
This is why the foes of suicide are doing absolutely nothing to get laughing gas into the hands of those who could benefit from it. Laughing is subjective after all. In the western tradition, we need a "REAL" cure to depression.
Both physical and psychological addiction can be successfully fought when we relegalize the pharmacopoeia and start to fight drugs with drugs. But prohibitionists do not want to end addiction, they want to scare us with it.
Materialist scientists cannot triumph over addiction because their reductive focus blinds them to the obvious: namely, that drugs which cheer us up ACTUALLY DO cheer us up. Hence they keep looking for REAL cures while folks kill themselves for want of laughing gas and MDMA.
It's "convenient" for scientists that their "REAL" cures happen to be the ones that racist politicians will allow. Scientists thus normalize prohibition by pretending that outlawed substances have no therapeutic value. It's materialism collaborating with the drug war.
In the Atomic Age Declassified, they tell us that we needed hundreds of thermonuclear tests so that scientists could understand the effects. That's science gone mad. Just like today's scientists who need more tests before they can say that laughing gas will help the depressed. Science today is all about ignoring the obvious. And THAT's why scientists are drug war collaborators, because they're not about to sign off on the use of substances until they've studied them "up the wazoo." Using grants from an agency whose very name indicates their anti-drug bias: namely, the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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You have been reading an article entitled, How Thomas Nagel Reckons Without the Drug War: a philosophical review of Mind and Cosmos, published on February 18, 2023 on For more information about America's disgraceful drug war, which is anti-patient, anti-minority, anti-scientific, anti-mother nature, imperialistic, the establishment of the Christian Science religion, a violation of the natural law upon which America was founded, and a childish and counterproductive way of looking at the world, one which causes all of the problems that it purports to solve, and then some, visit the drug war philosopher, at (philosopher's bio; go to top of this page)