David Berlinski on Religion, His Teaching, and His Life in Paris

ENV: You describe yourself as a “secular Jew” and “remarkably indifferent to the religious life.” Yet so much of your writing bears directly on whether religion has been intellectually defeated by secular, science-flavored ideologies. You can’t have given no thought to religious questions. Would you share with us your hunches and suspicions about spiritual reality, the trend in your thinking, if not your firm beliefs? DB: No. Either I cannot or I will not. I do not know whether I am unable or unwilling. The question elicits in me a stubborn refusal. Please understand. It is not an issue of privacy. I have, after all, blabbed my life away: Why should I call a halt here? I suppose that I Read More ›

David Berlinski on the Darwinian Guild

ENV: Darwinism is fiercely guarded by a scientific guild. What does the guild have at stake in this? Prestige? Money? To some observers, the defense seems impermeable. Do you see cracks in the fortress wall opening up? DB: Fiercely guarded, but not, mind you, effectively guarded. If the Darwinian Guild, to adapt your phrase (since science has nothing to do with it), was interested in rational self promotion, the Guild would have never allowed its members to display in public their characteristic attitude of invincible arrogance and sheep-like stupidity. Just listen to them as they limber up in the insult room: Dumbski, Little Mikey Behe, Stevie Meyer (a regression to school yard taunts irresistible at both the Panda’s Thumb and Read More ›

Who Influenced David Berlinski?

ENV: Did anyone in particular, a colleague or friend, influence the conclusions you reach in these essays? DB: No, I don’t think so. Daniel Gallin has been an influence on my thinking, but our friendship ended more almost thirty years ago, and so his influence is no longer of this time or place. Daniel introduced me to model theory. That was his gift to me. After studying with Church at Princeton, I regarded model theory as an immersion into cool water. Such ease, such elegance, such freedom! Had I stayed in mathematics as a research mathematician, I would have stayed in model theory. In the 1980s, I wrote a monograph for the Princeton University Press in which I reached the Read More ›

How David Berlinski Came to Doubt Darwin

ENV: When did you start thinking, as a critic, about Darwinian evolution? Did anything in your biography incline you to freethinking in that area? It was the fall of 1965. My graduate school roommate Daniel Messenger and I were ambling along Nassau Street in Princeton. We were munching the kind of wonderful Winesap apples that seem to have disappeared as a variety. I wonder why that is? Daniel’s girlfriend, Sandra Petersen, was there too. Daniel was a fine philosopher and Sandra was doing a degree in classical philosophy. We walked over to Darwin’s theory of evolution, living at the time in one of Princeton’s back alleys. A back alley was the right place to look for Darwin. No one in Read More ›

The Making of a Skeptic: David Berlinski’s Childhood

ENV: Were you always subversive? Tell us about the childhood David Berlinski. I am not sure that I would care to think of myself as subversive. It is a mole-and-badger kind of word, isn’t it? So long as we are searching for similes, I would prefer lion-like. Regal is another fine word. I was from an early age indisposed to accept what I had been told. Having been urged not to insert a fork into an electrical outlet, I stuck one in anyway; I was shocked to discover that it was a poor idea, just as my mother had maintained. An impatient child, I became a school yard terror, and a high-school bully. At the Bronx High School of Science Read More ›