by Denyse O'Leary
Of course, Berlinski became notorious primarily for his direct assault on scientism's sacred cow, Darwinian evolution - the miraculous process whereby mud becomes mind and faith becomes science:
"The effort by Darwinian biologists to promote Darwin is simply explained. Within the English-speaking world, Darwin's theory of evolution remains the only scientific theory to be widely championed by the scientific community and widely disbelieved by everyone else. No matter the effort made by biologists, the thing continues to elicit the same reaction it has always elicited: You've got to be kidding, right? There is wide appreciation of the fact that if biologists are wrong about Darwin, they are wrong about life, and if they are wrong about life, they ar wrong about everything." (p. 186)
In Devil's, he doesn't say nearly as much about Darwinism as he has elsewhere - scientistic atheism, after all, generates a great many opportunities for a debunker. He does however point out the ongoing "computer simulation of evolution" as one case where reality bytes deeply and hard:
Computer simulations of Darwinian evolution fail when they are honest and succeed only when they are not. Thomas Ray has for years been conducting computer experiments in an artificial environment that he has designated Tierra. Within this world, a shifting population of computer organisms, met, mate, mutate, and reproduce. (P. 190)
As duly reported by Sandra Blakeslee in the New York Times, it became "Computer 'Life Form' Mutates in an Evolution Experiment: Natural Selection Is Found at Work in a Digital World", but
... as Blakeslee observes with solemn incomprehension, "the creatures mutated but showed only modest increases in complexity." Which is to say, they showed nothing of interest at all. That is natural selection at work, but it is hardly work that has worked to intended effect.
In Berlinski's view, the key science theorem demonstrated by these computer models is, "There is a sucker born every minute."
Essentially, Berlinski comes off as a premodern sort of thinker who has never accepted a duty to come to the aid of the Party by believing the big science scams of our times. Agree, disagree ... he's still fun and original - and I suspect he is usually right.
Some further resources:
Videocasts of David Berlinski discussing his ideas. Note especially the first, a five-minute summary.
The Council of Europe's attack on design
Berlinski on his Devil's Delusion
Berlinski gets Expelled: His appearance in the Expelled movie
A collection of his essays and other writings is here.
Back to Introduction: David Berlinski's exceptionalism
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the new The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).
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