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It almost makes me feel guilty not to give Dr. Berlinski all the five stars. It is merely because I find some of his views somewhat misleading and in need of some criticism. He is of course, as other reviewers testified, an outstanding writer, of irresistible wit, and of unquestionable intelligence that often stifles the opposition.
In the essay of the title repeated for the book, he notes the improbability that random changes in DNA be usable for evolution. His argument is in the book outlined in a response by H. Allen Orr (pp.66-7): "His worry...is this: DNA is...a...language of A's, T's, G's, and C's that somehow encodes all the designs we find in organisms. But how can random perturbations in such a language yield usable material for evolution? In every other language we know of, Mr. Berlinski writes, 'randomness...is the enemy of order.' Random changes in English yield gibberish... And so, he argues, look what Darwinism really asks of us: it demands we believe that selection uses random changes in DNA, when--by analogy with any other...language--such changes should yield mere gibberish, hopelessly 'jamming' organisms."
This argument, that random changes in organisms cannot be expected to yield the probabilistically virtually impossible usefulness required, appears quite convincing. And see how Dr. Orr responds: "Mr. Berlinski's objection is one of those beautiful theories that gets killed by an ugly fact. The fact is: whether or not random DNA changes should invariably jam organisms, they do not... The existence of subtle, functional, usable mutations in DNA is a simple fact that no amount of analogizing...can make go away". But Dr. Orr! This is a ridiculous question-begging argument! We all know the fact that the changes in organisms are functional, useful!Read more ›
In the essays in this book, David Berlinski turns the skeptical eye of science upon science itself. Such criticism of science, which has never been encouraged by the scientific community, is especially necessary at this time, when the traditional skepticism of science has been dramatically transformed. For under the influence of Darwinism in biology, cosmology, and psychology, credulity has become a virtue and incredulity a vice.
Jerry Coyne states peremptorily on page 231 of his book Why Evolution is True that "evolution operates in a purposeless, materialistic way," through random mutation and natural selection. But most people in human history would have disagreed that the natural world can be understood in purely material terms and as devoid of purpose or intelligence. Kenneth Miller in Only a Theory worries that the notion of intelligence in nature could lead to a closing of the scientific mind. But everyone from Anaxagoras to Aristotle to Leonardo to Newton to Leibniz to Maxwell to Einstein has thought that the natural world displays intelligence. That there is nothing in reality except matter is not a conclusion of any science, nor is it a conclusion of science that there is no causation that cannot be explained by physics and chemistry.
It is against the unthinking dogmatism of Coyne, Miller, and most other publishing scientists that Berlinski argues. In The Deniable Darwin he turns his penetrating, skeptical, and erudite mind not only upon the scientific influence of Darwin, but also upon the unscientific spirit that he engendered. My favorite essay in this collection is The End of Materialist Science, which has been incorporated with small alterations as the final chapter of his excellent book The Advent of the Algorithm.Read more ›
David Berlinski is intellectually gifted. I don't think very many would be eager to cross intellectual swords with this guy! He is a free thinker who isn't swayed by ideas, no matter how popular or in vogue they may be, that are not able to stand up to his criticism. Bring forth your strong reasons! Berlinski will take them on.
And that is what he does in this book, a series of essays that brings into question dearly held beliefs of Darwin's theory. He takes the master to task by asking fundamental questions and bringing forth examples that show some serious flaws in his system of thought, and consequently his conclusions. Of course Darwin is no longer with us, and so is unable to retort, which is most unfortunate. However, he has plenty of supporters, avid believers, who are eager to come to his defense! Dawkins, Dennett, Gross, Shapiro, Rubin, and a host of others - men of renown - are given opportunity to respond, and so the book takes on the air of debate.
It is not light reading, but it is very passionate seeing that David is attacking a belief system that proponents cling to with religious tenacity. Anyone who rejects the evolutionist view of reality is regarded as bewildered, lost, to be pitied, and if they cannot be persuaded to convert, excommunicated.
There are some other subjects David writes on. Like I say, the book is a collection of essays that touch on varied topics. But most tie in to Darwin's general theory of random mutation, natural selection and how, in David's opinion, it falls short of being convincing, let alone proved. If you have been hearing this theory of Darwin, seen it presented as unassailable truth, yet still retained serious doubts or questions, this book will be a breath of fresh air. Check it out.