Re: [asa] Berlinski vs. the New Atheists

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Tue Oct 20 2009 - 17:58:04 EDT

Gregory (with a comment for Merv as well):

Good points, Gregory.

It is interesting that at the point in the interview where he is asked whether or not he is religious, he adds "Not yet" -- as if that could be a possibility for him. This would set him apart from, say, Jerry Coyne, who has made a firm decision in the negative.

It's important to point out that, while Berlinski is a Senior Fellow at Discovery, he does not formally endorse ID or regard design as formally proved by any argument advanced by the ID people. He is, rather, someone who is open to design arguments.

However, as you've divined from his talk, he does seem to regard design as a very strong candidate for the "best explanation" of what we see in nature.

I loved his response to Dawkins's fatuous "argument" of "Who designed the Designer?" And the lovely swipe at Hitchens drew a spontaneous laugh from me and the interviewer simultaneously. (Well, not literally simultaneously, since the interview was recorded, but you know what I mean.)

Several years ago Berlinksi published an article in *Commentary* expressing serious doubts about Darwinian theory. He was thumped in letters by a Who's Who of top Darwinian theorists and polemicists, including the NCSE people and several well-known evolutionary biologists. He then gave a set of rejoinders which showed that, intellectually speaking, he was simply above the class of most of them. It was like Gulliver among the Lilliputians. He's got a mind of rare power. And, because he has spent his life hobnobbing with the greatest scientists, philosophers, writers, etc. of the USA and of France and so on, he is familiar enough with the bullying tactics of the elite that he doesn't back down before the blustering and the arrogance of the professionals, the way most people would. He can dish out the polemics as well as they can. I'm glad that Mike Behe and Steve Meyer are the polite gentlemen that they are, but (being Canadian I'll use a hockey analogy), just as every team needs an "enforcer" to protect its Bobby Orrs and Wayne Gretzkys from cheap physical attacks by the thugs on the other team, so ID needs Berlinski to patrol the scientific ice and respond to goon behaviour in kind. The only difference is that in hockey, the enforcer is usually not one of the most skillful players on the team, and that clearly doesn't apply to Berlinski.

Merv, regarding Wikipedia, anyone who has perused its articles on evolution and intelligent design knows that virulently anti-ID, aggressively pro-Darwinian editors completely control the show. The fact that they call ID "creationism", and reject any edits that correct this willful lie, would alone be enough to prove this, but the many untruths regarding Discovery and its Fellows (often carefully inserted by means of framing and slanting rather than outright prevarication) are also noteworthy. The frequent use of Panda's Thumb and other such barbaric sites as "reliable sources" is quite striking. If you read the discussions on the Wikipedia talk pages you'll see positively venomous put-downs of editors who aren't even championing ID but are just trying to make the articles fairer and more balanced by removing factual errors and deliberate slanting. Berlinski would naturally be disliked for being a Discovery Fellow, and for his attacks on Darwinism. I therefore expect that he will be treated unjustly. I haven't read the article on Berlinski there, and have no plans to. All I can tell you is that I wouldn't trust anything they say about him beyond his date of birth.

Wikipedia is fine if you want to know the height of Mt. Everest. For any controversial subject, it is an extremely unreliable source, even as a starting point. Anyone can edit Wikipedia, and it's anonymous, which allows editors to act egotistically and irresponsibly without personal consequences, which in turn means that those with no knowledge, little intellectual honesty, and much time on their hands can control every article. Wikipedia targets ID much more than TE, but it's only a matter of time before the editors turn on people like Collins, if they haven't already. Wikipedia is no friend of truth generally, and certainly no friend of Christianity.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Gregory Arago
  To: Cameron Wybrow ; asa
  Sent: Tuesday, October 20, 2009 4:24 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Berlinski vs. the New Atheists

  thank for the link! yeah, Berlinski is a unique fellow. there is much to the 'new atheists' that many TEs don't seem to take seriously, yet which nevertheless provides food for thought. one needn't be a 'culture warrior' to be stimulated by this sort of stuff. but he does seem quite confident in himself, doesn't he, this Berlinski? perhaps because of his foundation-education in mathematics; he seems to think he knows 'reality' yet at the same time still accepts that he is a secular Jew. and he responds 'not yet' to being called 'religious.' it is almost as if he realizes there is a better path to walk, on a *personal* level, but for some reason doesn't want to walk it. i listened to at least 20 minutes of the discussion, but wonder if he has gone on record about why he doesn't accept the 'reality of religion' in his own life. if this were accepted, then he could potentially transform himself into being a 'religious Jew', perhaps on the basis of his acceptance of logical, rational, emotional or intuitive belief in the 'real' existence of an 'Intelligent Designer.' so much for the pure mathematics of it, don't you agree, Cameron?

  From: Cameron Wybrow <>
  To: asa <>
  Sent: Tue, October 20, 2009 7:06:28 PM
  Subject: [asa] Berlinski vs. the New Atheists

  As there seems to be a fair bit of interest in refuting the "new atheists" here, people might be interested to know that David Berlinski's book, The Devil's Delusion, has finally been re-issued in paperback. (The hardcover sold out in two months last year, and the original publisher inexplicably refused to put out a second print run, or a paperback! So a new publisher has put out the paperback.)

  Berlinski has been in the States promoting the book. There is a substantial new interview with him which is very good. He discusses the flaws in the arguments of the new atheists, but also religion and science generally. Information and links are here:

  As the interviewer points out, in no way can Berlinski's critique of certain leading scientific personalities and theories (including neo-Darwinism) be construed as based on fundamentalism or literalism of any kind, as he's not even a Christian, but identifies himself as a secular Jew. And Berlinski is just a joy to listen to, formidably learned and articulate, yet in a sense a rebel against the elite scientific and cultured class that he belongs to. He does not worship what they worship, and he does not flatter what they flatter, and he does not cringe before their opinion. He's also delightfully witty, and one thing that is very much missing in all the Darwinism-ID-TE debates is a sense of humour.

  I missed the book last year, and wasn't going to pay $200 for an e-bay copy, so I haven't read it yet. But I imagine it is very good.


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Received on Tue Oct 20 17:58:55 2009

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