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 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.
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a longtime friend of the late Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1920–1996), with whom he collaborated on an unfinished and unpublished mathematically based manuscript that he described as being "devoted to the Darwinian theory of evolution." 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." Berlinski is a scathing critic of evolution, yet, "Unlike his colleagues at the Discovery Institute,...[he] refuses to theorize about the origin of life."
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.
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. 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."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."
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."
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."
Berlinski is a secular Jew and agnostic. Berlinski's views towards criticism of religious belief can be found in his book The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions (2008). 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." Berlinski himself prefers to be known as a writer rather than as a mathematician.
—— (2001) [Originally published 2000 with different subtitle]. The Advent of the Algorithm: The 300-Year Journey from an Idea to the Computer (1st Harvest ed.). San Diego, CA: Harcourt. ISBN0-15-601391-6. OCLC46890682.
—— (April 2008) [Published 2008 in chapter 8 of The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions as "Our Inner Ape, a Darling, and the Human Mind"]. "The God of the Gaps". Commentary (New York: Commentary Inc.). ISSN0010-2601. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
^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."