David Berlinski

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David Berlinski
New York City, USA
ResidenceParis, France
OccupationAcademic philosopher (PhD in philosophy from Princeton University)
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David Berlinski
New York City, USA
ResidenceParis, France
OccupationAcademic philosopher (PhD in philosophy from Princeton University)

David Berlinski (born 1942) is an American philosopher, educator, and author. Berlinski is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. A critic of the theory of evolution, Berlinski is theologically agnostic and refuses to theorize about the origins of life.[1] He has written on philosophy, mathematics and a variety of fictional works. His daughter, Claire Berlinski, is a well known journalist.

Early life[edit]

Berlinski was born in the United States in 1942 to German-born Jewish refugees who had immigrated to New York City after escaping from France as the Vichy government was collaborating with the Germans. His father was Herman Berlinski, the noted American composer, organist, pianist, musicologist and choir conductor, and his mother was Sina Berlinski (née Goldfein), an American pianist, piano teacher and voice coach. Both were born and raised in Leipzig where they studied at the Conservatory, before fleeing to Paris where they were married and undertook further studies. German was David Berlinski's first spoken language. He received his PhD in philosophy from Princeton University.[2]

Academic career[edit]

Berlinski was a research assistant in molecular biology at Columbia University,[3] and was a research fellow at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in France. He has taught philosophy, mathematics, and English at Stanford University, Rutgers University, The City University of New York, the University of Washington, the University of Puget Sound, San Jose State University, the University of Santa Clara, the University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and taught mathematics at the Université de Paris.[clarification needed] [4][better source needed] [5]


Mathematics and biology[edit]

Berlinski has written works on systems analysis, the history of differential topology, analytic philosophy, and the philosophy of mathematics. Berlinski has authored books for the general public on mathematics and the history of mathematics. These include A Tour of the Calculus (1995) on calculus, The Advent of the Algorithm (2000) on algorithms, Newton's Gift (2000) on Isaac Newton, and Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics (2005). Another book, The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky (2003), compares astrological and evolutionary[disputed ] accounts of human behavior.[citation needed] In Black Mischief (1988), Berlinski wrote "Our paper became a monograph. When we had completed the details, we rewrote everything so that no one could tell how we came upon our ideas or why. This is the standard in mathematics."[6]

Berlinski's books have received mixed reviews; Newton's Gift and The Advent of the Algorithm were criticized by MathSciNet for containing historical and mathematical inaccuracies[7][8] while the Mathematical Association of America review of A Tour of the Calculus by Fernando Q. Gouvêa recommended that professors have students read the book to appreciate the overarching historical and philosophical picture of calculus.[9]


Berlinski, along with fellow Discovery Institute associates Michael Behe and William A. Dembski, tutored Ann Coulter on science and evolution for her book Godless: The Church of Liberalism (2006).[10]

Berlinski was a longtime friend of the late Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1920–1996), with whom he collaborated on an unfinished and unpublished mathematically based manuscript that he described as being "devoted to the Darwinian theory of evolution."[11] Berlinski dedicated The Advent of the Algorithm to Schützenberger.


He is the author of several detective novels starring private investigator Aaron Asherfeld: A Clean Sweep (1993), Less Than Meets the Eye (1994) and The Body Shop (1996), and a number of shorter works of fiction and non-fiction.


A critic of the theory of evolution. Berlinski is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a Seattle-based think tank that is a hub of the intelligent design movement. Berlinski shares the movement's disbelief in the evidence for evolution, but does not openly avow intelligent design and describes his relationship with the idea as: "warm but distant. It's the same attitude that I display in public toward my ex-wives."[1] Berlinski is a scathing critic of evolution, yet, "Unlike his colleagues at the Discovery Institute,...[he] refuses to theorize about the origin of life."[1]

Berlinski appeared in the 2008 film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, in which he told interviewer Ben Stein that "Darwinism is not a sufficient condition for a phenomenon like Nazism but I think it's certainly a necessary one."[12] He also says:

It'd be nice to see the scientific establishment lose some of its prestige and power...Above all, it'd be nice to have a real spirit of self-criticism penetrating the sciences.[12]

In his 1996 article, The Deniable Darwin, published in Commentary, Berlinski says he is skeptical of evolution for a number of reasons, including the appearance "at once" of an astonishing number of novel biological structures in the Cambrian explosion, the lack of major transitional fossils transitional sequences, the lack of recent significant evolution in sharks, the evolution of the eye, and (in his view) the failure of evolutionary biology to explain a range of phenomena ranging from the sexual cannibalism of redback spiders to why women are not born with a tail.[13] The article was described by historian of science Ronald L. Numbers as "a version of ID theory", and was ridiculed by philosopher Daniel Dennett as "another hilarious demonstration that you can publish bullshit at will—just so long as you say what an editorial board wants to hear in a style it favors."[14] Richard Dawkins said similarly: "David Berlinski's article reminds me of the tactics employed by a certain creationist with whom I once shared a platform in Oxford. The great evolutionist John Maynard Smith was also on the bill, and he spoke after this creationist. Maynard Smith was, of course, easily able to destroy the creationist's case, and in his good-natured way he soon had the audience roaring with appreciative laughter at its expense. The creationist had his own peculiar way of dealing with this. He sprang to his feet, palms facing the audience in a gesture eloquent of magnanimous reproof. "No, no!" he cried reproachfully, "Don't laugh. Let Maynard Smith have his say. It's only fair!" This desperate pretense that the audience was laughing at Maynard Smith, when in fact it was laughing with Maynard Smith at the creationist himself, reminds me of Mr. Berlinski... As for the identity of the creationist who tried to pull this little stunt on Maynard Smith, it was none other than David Berlinski. The audience, by the way, saw through his tactic instantly and treated it with hoots of derision."[15]

Berlinski replied to Dawkins: "Richard Dawkins has succumbed to the endearing weakness of revising the history of an unpleasant encounter in one's own favor. I have done as much myself. But a public charge calls for a public response. In 1992, Mr. Dawkins, John Maynard Smith, and I did share a podium at Oxford University. His hands trembling with indignation, Mr. Dawkins proposed to attack organized religion; I proposed to attack Richard Dawkins; and John Maynard Smith, seeing that it was required, proposed to defend Mr. Dawkins from my attack. The intellectual drubbing that Mr. Dawkins imagines I received, I recall in distinctly different terms. But why argue over the past? I have a videotape of our encounter, which I would be happy to make publicly available. If he wishes to debate again, Mr. Dawkins need only set the time and the place."[15]

He also stated: "Daniel C. Dennett is under the curious impression that the best rejoinder to criticism is a robust display of personal vulgarity. Nothing in his letter merits a response.

Still, one general point deserves attention. Both Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins have fashioned their reputations as defenders of a Darwinian orthodoxy. Their letters convey the impression of men who expect never to encounter criticism and are unprepared to deal with it. This strikes me as a deeply unhealthy state of affairs. Ordinary men and women are suspicious of Darwin's theory; Dennett and Dawkins hardly go far here in persuading them that their intellectual anxieties are in any way misplaced."[15]

Berlinski is a secular Jew and agnostic.[16] Berlinski's views towards criticism of religious belief can be found in his book The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions (2008).[16] In summary, he asserts that some skeptical arguments against religious belief based on scientific evidence misrepresent what the science is actually saying, that an objective morality requires a religious foundation, that mathematical theories attempting to bring together quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity amount to pseudoscience because of their lack of empirical verifiability, and he expresses doubt towards the Darwinian variation of evolutionary theory.

Mark Perakh, a critic of the intelligent design movement, contended that Berlinski's writings are not scientific, but popular, and that Berlinski "has no known record of his own contribution to the development of mathematics or of any other science."[17] Berlinski himself prefers to be known as a writer rather than as a mathematician.[18]

The Deniable Darwin has also been criticized by Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education.[15]


Non-fiction books
Fiction books
Articles in peer-reviewed journals
Articles in journals and newspapers


  1. ^ a b c Engber, Daniel (April 15, 2008). "A Crank's Progress". Slate. The Paranoid Style in American Science (Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company). Archived from the original on 2008-04-20. Retrieved 2014-01-10. 
  2. ^ Berlinski 1968
  3. ^ Berlinski 1972
  4. ^ "David Berlinski, Senior Fellow - CSC". Discovery Institute. Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  5. ^ Phy-Olsen 2010, p. 73
  6. ^ Berlinski 1988, p. 167
  7. ^ "MR: Search Publications database". MathSciNet. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society.  Database search for MR1815707: Newton's Gift by Berlinski. Subscription required.
  8. ^ "MR: Search Publications database". MathSciNet. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society.  Database search for MR1766416: The Advent of the Algorithm by Berlinski. Subscription required.
  9. ^ Gouvêa, Fernando Q. (January 1, 1996). "A Tour of the Calculus". Mathematical Association of America (Book review). Washington, D.C.: Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  10. ^ Coulter 2007, p. 319: "I couldn't have written about evolution without the generous tutoring of Michael Behe, David Berlinski, and William Dembski, all of whom are fabulous at translating complex ideas, unlike liberal arts types, who constantly force me to the dictionary to relearn the meaning of quotidian."
  11. ^ Wilf, Herbert S. (1996). "Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1920-1996)". Electronic Journal of Combinatorics (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania) 3 (1). ISSN 1077-8926. Retrieved 2014-01-17.  Synopsis: "A memorial page for Marcel-Paul Schützenberger, with contributions from Herbert Wilf, Dominique Foata, David Berlinski, Dominique Perrin, Richard Askey and Moshé Flato."
  12. ^ a b Frankowski, Nathan (Director) (April 18, 2008). Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Motion picture). Premise Media Corporation. 
  13. ^ Berlinski 1996b
  14. ^ Numbers 1998, p. 20
  15. ^ a b c d David Berlinski and Critics (September 1996). "Denying Darwin". Commentary (Letters to the editor) (New York: American Jewish Committee). ISSN 0010-2601. Archived from the original on 2014-11-10. 
  16. ^ a b Berlinski 2009a, p. xiii
  17. ^ Perakh, Mark (December 4, 2003). "The assault of ID advocates on Professor Gross's essay is poorly substantiated". Talk Reason. Retrieved 2014-01-17. 
  18. ^ "David Berlinski—Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions" on YouTube


External links[edit]