In his new book, Science After Babel, David Berlinski concludes an essay (“Ovid in His Exile”) with the observation, “Seventeenth-century Jesuits wondered why dogs do not talk. Their conclusion bears repeating. They have nothing to say.” In an interesting conversation with Becket Cook on YouTube, Berlinkski explains that this wasn’t a joke. Certain Jesuits did speculate along those lines, but perhaps that’s because they didn’t keep pets. Dog owners know that to look into your dog’s eyes is very often to perceive that the dog has something he wishes to say but, like all animals other than man, he lacks the “machinery for externalization” that we have.
That’s a problem for Darwinian thinking, says Berlinski. What Darwinism should expect is continuity — “incremental improvements should be smeared across the palette of animal life.” That humans possess the machinery of speech where animals don’t represents a “radical discontinuity.” And the fact that we can speak to each other, Dr. Berlinski reminds us, is the necessary condition for all the summits of human achievement, including science. In the Biblical story about the Tower of Babel, it was the confusion of speech, the disruption of their communication, that stopped the builders of the tower in their tracks. Every time we open our mouths to exchange thoughts, it is a refutation of Darwin. In that sense, the wide-ranging conversation between Becket Cook and David Berlinski is accurately titled, “The Death of Darwin.” Watch and enjoy: