Thomas Nagel is one of the leading philosophers of his generation. He is also an atheist. Here’s his candid evaluation of what evolutionary naturalism entails:
“As it is usually understood, evolutionary naturalism is radically antiteleological. This implies that it is not suited to supply any kind of sense to our existence, if it is taken on as the larger perspective from which life is lived. Instead, the evolutionary perspective probably makes human life, like all life, meaningless, since it makes life a more or less accidental consequence of physics,” T. Nagel, Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament (Oxford 2010), 15.
“The profoundly nonteleological character of this modern form of naturalism is concealed by the functional explanations that fill evolutionary accounts of the characteristics of living organisms. But any reference to the function or survival value of an organ or other feature is shorthand for a long story of purposeless mutations followed, because of environmental contingencies, by differential reproductive fitness–survival of offspring or other relatives with the same genetic material. It is in the most straightforward sense false that we have eyes in order to see and a heart to pump the blood,” ibid. 15.
“That conception, far from offering us a sense of who we are, dissolves any sense of purpose or true nature that we may have begun with. The meaning of organic life vanishes in the meaninglessness of physics, of which it is one peculiar consequence. It is widely thought that, without knowing the details, we now have every reason to believe that life arose from a lifeless universe, in virtue of the basic laws of particle physics or string theory or something of the kind, which did not have life or us ‘in mind,’ ibid. 16.
“A genealogy of this kind gives us nothing to live by. As Daniel Dennett says, it is ‘universal acid: it eats through just about every traditional concept.’ To live, we must fall back on our contingently formed desires, reserving the scientific world picture for intellectual and instrumental purposes. If naturalism means that everything reduces to physics, then there is no naturalistic answer to the cosmic question [i.e. ‘How can one bring into one’s individual life a full recognition of one’s relation to the universe as a whole?],” ibid. 16.