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“Relentless and Devastating”: Mathematician Stephen McKeown on Berlinski’s Human Nature


More terrific endorsements for Human Nature! Here is mathematician Stephen McKeown on the latest from David Berlinski:

Another tour de force by David Berlinski. Few writers indeed, about science or society, can boast such a thoroughgoing command of the significant ideas of the past century, the confident mastery of every centrally significant scientific theory. Yet if Berlinski derives obvious joy from the great theories that unify the world, he is never more memorable than when he vividly displays its irreducible particulars, holding the quiddities of place and person more clearly before our imagination than we might even see them ourselves.

If Berlinski glories in science’s achievements, he is no less dismissive of those attempts to see pattern and abstraction born not of vision but of ignorance; and he repeatedly marshals his exceptionally deep historical and scientific knowledge (and his inimitable wit) to drive facile theories of man and the world into the shoals. He is a relentless and devastating enemy of all attempts to reduce the tragic, bizarre, glorious world that confronts us to simple answers or easy slogans at the expense of the facts. 

For many of us who have read his previous work, Berlinski himself is among these unexpected blessings of the world, to be cherished rather than classified. We will treasure this book.

A very hearty YES, in particular, to the part about Berlinski being “relentless and devastating” in blowing away easy answers to the great questions. Dr. McKeown is Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas, Dallas.