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David Berlinski has training both in science and philosophy and he writes like a modern polymath. He positions himself as a historian and critic of science. He likes science; he understands science; he reads science, but he is offended by scientific pretense and he is quick to label it as such. Because he highlights the areas of science in which our knowledge is shaky or highly tentative he is frequently accused of being a believer in intelligent design. He hastens to point out that he is not committed to intelligent design and that far from being a Christian fundamentalist (though intelligent design people are not necessarily Christian fundamentalists), he is actually an agnostic Jew.

He is fond of applying Occam’s razor and when he sees scientific explanations which stretch credulity and stretch the known facts he will point out that the simplest and most economical explanation may well be that God did it. Like many physicists, he is skeptical of biology as a science, reminding biologists that the phenomena which they study must be reduced, ultimately, to the realities of physics. This helps position him as a critic of Darwin. On the one hand you have the mathematics of quantum mechanics working out to a dozen+ decimal places, on the other gaps in the fossil record, the Cambrian explosion, and other underminers of confidence. The fact that contemporary atheists like Dawkins and Dennett lean heavily on Darwin (and have personality traits which offend Berlinski) make them a special target of his ire.

The book consists of a series of essays which principally appeared in Commentary (an unscientific, non peer-reviewed journal, his critics are quick to add). Some (including “The Deniable Darwin” and “Has Darwin Met His Match?”) have elicited a flood of strong, critical rejoinders. The book reprints them and then includes Berlinski’s response to his critics. The book is fascinating if for no other reason than that it provides an insight into the nature of scientific discourse and the fact that it can reduce to ad hominem attack just as easily as it can concern points of fact.

I must confess that I am unable to offer a professional judgment on much of the book. While trained in the history of science I lack the mathematics (one chapter, e.g., is almost completely mathematical) to follow Berlinski’s arguments, though they nearly always contain humorous elements, as when he positions monkeys at typewriters and provides the actual statistical possibilities that they could write six English words in sequence, much less write a Shakespearean sonnet.

As surprising as this might sound, the book has an internal rhythm to it which is captivating. There are narrative arcs and bona fide suspense everywhere. Though it consists of over 550 pp. and is filled with technical material I could really not put it down. The book will be maddening to some, reassuring to others. The one thing it will not be is dull.
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on March 1, 2017
Berlinski is really a smart guy who somehow can relate to us in words. You will enjoy his book. Thank GOD.
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on October 31, 2017
good reading
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on June 17, 2014
Berlinski the agnostic mathematician is the perfect scientist to examine the evidence for or against the Darwinian model of evolution after 150 years of massive evidence gathering designed to prove the theory. Berlinski simply, easily, and adroitly points out many of the falacies, holes, and down right misstatements in the arguments of those who what to threat the neo-darwinina theory as a fact. Berlinski shows up it is far from fact. In fact, it is far from theory and is still only a hypothesis that has never, ever been shown to work!!! Facts is facts, and if you do the math, the theory can not work. Darwinists must really dislike this guy, but I like his artful discussion on these topics.
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on May 21, 2011
This is a big, heavy book, with an awful lot of good stuff in it. David Berlinski is very obviously NOT what some "scientists" would like to find: "a brain-dead moron."

On the contrary! Berlinksi has one of the most interesting (and informed) minds on Planet Earth, and he has been further gifted with an excellent command of language. (Note well: in this volume, such occluded wits as Danny Dennett think to gain points by claiming that Berlinski is making mistakes in his use of the German language. Danny also calls Berlinski's essay "b**lsh*t," a new low in scientific / philosophical discourse. Berlinski calmly replies that German is his first language. Oh.)

In general, the neo-Darwinist Establishment simply cannot deal with Berlinski's questioning, so they try (as always) their usual tactics: (1) change the subject (2) ignore the facts (3) call your opponent names. I think Danny's primitive reaction of "b**lsh*t" is a perfect example of tactic #3, stupid as it is.

Stupid is not what Berlinski is about. He insists on proof where proof is absent, and he hammers the Comfortable Scientists who (like Dawkins) find in evolution an explanation for everything. "Once you have found a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail." Including, very mysteriously, the origin of the universe and the origin of life, subjects on which we are just as ignorant as Darwin, Dawkins, Berlinski, Dennett --- and everyone else.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality.

"It is enough if one tries to comprehend only a little of this mystery every day."
---Albert Einstein
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on October 13, 2012
To start off I think this book is a 3.5/5. I gave it a 3 simply because I could not round up and give it a 4. I'm unlikely to buy any more of David Berlinski's books. I say this as someone who does find problems with Darwinian evolution and is interested in reading more about the origin of the Big Bang and cosmology, the origin of life and holes in the evolutionary theory. Mr. Berlinski appears to be fair and critical throughout much of the book and it's a large book full of information. However, I have a problem with how it's written.

The book is written at a very high level - both in content and vocabulary. I graduated with an Honours degree in Math although my English has never been great. I'm not an idiot but I felt like one as I was always heading to an e-dictionary for some of these words he uses when a simpler and more common word is available. Even some of the words for latin species could have used a footnote on what they are referring to when a common person is reading. I know some of the works were published in scientific journals and aren't intended for an average audience but when you package it to sell to the world some further explanation is necessary imo.

Some of the chapters are overly long which include the published works and rebuttals. Interesting but a bit too long. I would have preferred the rebuttals be placed immediately after each letter but to each his own. The chapter on Gödel's Question is probably the worst one in the book. Just so technical as it's basically a high level mathematical paper far above the average person's head. Berlinski pays tribute to Stephen Jay Gould in part of the book and yet never references his unique views on evolution (static periods and then turbulent ones). He spends a lot of time covering only parts of some things like the Big Bang. He's infatuated on whether the universe is expanding and yet there are so many other interesting things in cosmology to discuss (what exactly happens in those first seconds and minutes, evolution of solar systems, etc). The essays are older so we don't even hear about dark matter or energy. Mr. Berlinski discusses the origin of life but doesn't go into enough detail with Miller's experiment or other theories that attempt to explain it. He does go over a lot of other things but it's clear he doesn't discuss everything involved in a subject - just the things he personally finds most interesting.

The stuff on Einstein and the evolution of science with stories on some of the scientists were some of my favourite parts and were good. The battles over Darwin's evolution are good but I had read quite a bit of some of this stuff in other sources - sources that were much easier to read and explained things better. I also enjoyed the discussion on the human language.

In the end the book had some interesting things but it was long (547 pages) and a fairly difficult read. I imagine those that are hard core evolutionists would not like this book although Mr. Berlinski gives his opponents plenty of space to criticize his papers (two large sections where this happens). For those that are inclined to believe God has a hand to make some of the improbabilities of our universe come true which include answering the questions about the origin of the universe (what caused the Big Bang) and the origin of life, this book may be for you. But just be warned that it's not an easy read, the book obsesses a long time over certain things while not fully exploring others in the same genre. I would suggest there are other books out there that would probably provide the same information you are looking for. I don't have any recommendations on new books. The one book I had read in the past (may be dated now) that was excellent was "Creation: Facts of Life" by Gary Parker. Mr. Parker is a young earth creationist (not what I personally believe) but his discussions on the origin of life, DNA, embryonic development, mutations and fossils actually covers a lot of what Mr. Berlinski goes over in these areas but in a much more interesting and easier to read style. Mr. Berlinski comes across as the brilliant teacher that is unable to connect to his students and it shows with how he chooses to write and get his point across. I wish I enjoyed the book more but I do feel disappointed considering how many good reviews this book received when I previewed it.
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on October 29, 2014
The author is bright, but this book comes across as mental masturbation for someone who is high on himself. The chapter on "Godel's Question" is not something that most people who don't have extensive training in mathematics can understand. It would have been nice if we were told that that was much of what this is from the very beginning.

I'd recommend instead God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John Lennox. He approaches a good number of the same topics that Berlinski does, but they are more understandable and approachable.

The chapters can be read out of order, since this book is actually a series of stand-alone essays that were written over many years. As for each essay, Your Mileage May Vary.

Verdict: Recommended at the price of about $10
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on March 10, 2010
HOW TO DO BETTER THAN TO QUOTE SOME BERLINSKI?

(FYI, this 2009 book "The Deniable Darwin" -- which adds to its title "& Other Essays" and runs 557 pages -- TAKES "The Deniable Darwin" part From the pathbreaking 1996 article by that name published in Commentary magazine in 1996. In its next 1996 issue, Commentary published responses as well as David Berlinski's "responses to the responses").

HERE I POST PART OF HIS 1996 REPLY TO HIS CRITICS (AND SYMPATHIZERS!):

DAVID BERLINSKI REPLIES:

SOME READERS SEEM TO have been persuaded that in criticizing the Darwinian theory of evolution, I intended to uphold a doctrine of creationism. This is a mistake, supported by nothing that I have written...

The rational alternative to Darwin's theory is intelligent uncertainty.

A number of letters raise similar points; I have distributed my comments over a number of responses.

IN MAINTAINING THAT EVOLUTION is a process that has not been observed, H. ALLEN ORR writes, I appear to have overlooked examples of evolution like the speckled moth, which undergoes mimetic changes in wing coloration as the result of environmental pollution, or the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Mr. Orr is correct that there are such examples; I scruple only at the conclusions he draws from them. Changes in wing color and the development of drug resistance are intraspecies events. The speckled moth, after all, does not develop antlers or acquire webbed feet, and bacteria remain bacteria, even when drug resistant. The most ardent creationists now accept micro-evolution as genuinely Darwinian events. They had better: such are the facts. But the grand evolutionary progressions, such as the transformation of a fish into a man, are examples of macro-evolution. They remain out of reach, accessible only at the end of an inferential trail...

PAUL R. GROSS IS anxious lest in criticizing Darwinian theory I give comfort to creationists. It is a common concern among biologists, but one, I must confess, to which I am indifferent. I do not believe biologists should be in the business of protecting the rest of us from intellectual danger.

I did not say in my essay that the fossil record contains no intermediate forms; that is a silly claim. What I did say was that there are gaps in the fossil graveyard, places where there should be intermediate forms but where there is nothing whatsoever instead. No paleontologist writing in English (R. Carroll, Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution, 1988), French O. Chaline, "Modalites, rythmes, mecanismes de l'evolution biologique: gradualisme phyletique ou equilibres ponctues?," reprinted in Editions du CNRS, 1983), or German (V. Fahlbusch, "Makroevolution, Punkwalismus," in Palaontologie 57, 1983), denies that this is so. It is simply a fact. Darwin's theory and the fossil record are in conflict. There may be excellent reasons for the conflict; it may in time be exposed as an artifact. But nothing is to be gained by suggesting that what is a fact in plain sight is nothing of the sort...

The idea that evolution proceeds by means of many different forces is both unanswerable and uninteresting. To his credit, this is something Richard Dawkins recognizes.

It may well be true that my concerns for the logical niceties of Darwinian theory are out of date, as Mr. Gross suggests. So much the worse for evolutionary biology. To those of us on the outside, Darwin's theory will continue to seem seriously infected by conceptual circularity.
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on December 29, 2010
I first came across Berlinski with his appearance in Expelled. He struck me as intelligent and articulate. This book is a collection of his writings over the past 15 years and covers many subjects, but most relating to the question of whether there is a god and the related question of whether evolution explains away the need for God. Berlinski is a refreshing voice in this debate because he is not a Christian nor seemingly even a theist. He is most definitely not a creationist. He is a true agnostic. He follows the arguments where they are and sniffs out the holes in both sides of the debate. Most of his fire is aimed at the new atheists like Dawkins, Dennett, etc., but he also levels criticisms at the intelligent design proponents.

If you are interested in this area of thinking, I highly recommend this book.

If you like this, check out his other book: The Devil's Delusion which is also a great text.
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on November 26, 2009
Dr. Berlinski is an award winning writer those work was twice honored in the Best American Science Writing series. He has a PhD from Princeton, did a postdoc in math and molecular biology at Columbia, and has taught at Stanford and 3 other leading universities. This work reprints many of Dr. Berlinski's articles first published from 1996 to 2009. Many of the articles I have read in their original, including those from Commentary which put Berlinski in the limelight as a Darwin Doubter. As I reread the essays, I have noticed things that I never noted before, thus the chapters in this book seem fresh. Berlinski is an excellent writer, although his style for me, as one who reads mostly in the area of cell biology, takes some thought to adjust to. He noted that many people believe in God and others believe in science, creating a deliberate dichotomy which over generalizes but makes a clear point. Clarifying the title, Berlinski writes that what he denies is more than what Darwin concluded about the origins of life, but also especially the spirit that Darwinism has engendered in science today, namely the dogmatism of many scientists that prevents them from seriously considering doubting Darwinism, the problems with evolutionism. The main group that defends this dogmatism is the so-called misnamed National Center for Science Education. His main theme is "the sense of skepticism engendered by the sciences would be far more appropriately directed toward the sciences ... not a view that the scientific community has ever encouraged. The sciences require no criticism, many scientists say, because the sciences comprise a uniquely self-critical institution, with questionable theories and theoreticians passing constantly before stern appellate review. ... Individual scientists may make mistakes, but like the Communist Party under Lenin, [they claim that] science is infallible because its judgments are collective. Critics are not only unwelcome, they are unneeded." Berlinski then eloquently documents that science is very fallible.
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