The Deniable Darwin And Other Essays David Berlinski Wikipedia

Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing is a 2004 anthology edited by William A. Dembski in which fifteen intellectuals, eight of whom are leading intelligent design proponents associated with the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture (CSC)[1][2][3] and the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design (ISCID),[4] criticise "Darwinism" and make a case for intelligent design.[5][6] It is published by the publishing wing of the paleoconservativeIntercollegiate Studies Institute. The foreword is by John Wilson, editor of the evangelical Christian magazine Christianity Today. The title is a pun on the principle of biology known as common descent. The Discovery Institute is the engine behind the intelligent design movement.[3]


The fifteen dissenting intellectuals are:

  • William A. Dembski, mathematician, philosopher, theologian, leading intelligent design proponent, CSC Senior Fellow, ISCID Founder
  • Robert Koons, philosopher, theologian, Christian apologist, CSC Fellow, ISCID Fellow
  • Phillip E. Johnson, law professor, Christian apologist, "father" of the intelligent design movement, CSC Program Advisor
  • late Marcel-Paul Schützenberger, mathematician
  • Nancy R. Pearcey, Christian apologist, CSC Fellow
  • Edward Sisson, attorney
  • J. Budziszewski, philosopher, CSC Fellow, ISCID Fellow
  • Frank J. Tipler, mathematical physicist, ISCID Fellow
  • Michael J. Behe, biochemist, leading intelligent design proponent, CSC Senior Fellow, ISCID Fellow
  • Michael John Denton, biochemist
  • James Barham, independent scholar
  • Cornelius G. Hunter, biophysicist, CSC Fellow, ISCID Fellow
  • Roland F. Hirsch, analytical chemist
  • Christopher Michael Langan, ISCID Fellow
  • David Berlinski, popular mathematics author, CSC Senior Fellow

Phillip E. Johnson's contribution is a reprint of his 1990 First Things essay "Evolution as Dogma". Marcel-Paul Schützenberger's "The Miracles of Darwinism" is a reprint of a 1996 interview with La Recherche. David Berlinski's "The Deniable Darwin" is a reprint of a 1996 Commentary essay, along with his responses to critics. The other contributions were specifically commissioned for Uncommon Dissent.

In a 2004 review on its Web site, the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture describes Uncommon Dissent as "a summary of the widespread attack upon Darwinism by some of today’s leading intellectuals."[7] Mathematics professor and intelligent-design critic Jason Rosenhouse points out that the subtitle says "intellectuals", not "scientists", and adds that "[v]ery few of the contributors hold PhD's in any field related to biology. ... The ID folks are constantly telling us that evolution is failing as a scientific paradigm, and that scientists are jumping ship in droves. But when they have a chance to put together an anthology of testimonials authored by people who dissent from modern evolutionary theory, they have to resort to philosophers, lawyers or scientists who do not work in any field related to biology."[8]

Topics addressed[edit]

The book contains four sections: Part I: A Crisis of Confidence; Part II: Darwinism's Cultural Inroads; Part III: Leaving the Darwinian Fold; and Part IV: Auditing the Books. Part I, consisting of three essays, offers opinions on why Darwinism is questioned by the public at large. Part II, consisting of four essays, discusses the authors' opinions on the effects Darwinism has had on society and culture. Part III, consisting of three essays, deals with the personal intellectual journeys of contributors Behe, Denton, and Barham, whose attitudes toward Darwinism have changed through their lives. Part IV, consisting of four essays, presents the authors' opinions on the consistency and scope of Darwinism.

The book's introduction characterizes Darwinism by the "central claim" that "an unguided physical process can account for the emergence of all biological complexity and diversity".[9]

Contributor James Barham argues that "it is incorrect to simply equate Darwinism with belief in evolution." He distinguishes empirical Darwinism ("the idea that the formation of new species is due to random changes in individual organisms that happen to be 'selected' by the environment") from metaphysical Darwinism (the claim that "the theory of natural selection has successfully reduced all teleological and normative phenomena to the interplay of chance and necessity, thus eliminating purpose and value from our picture of the world"). For Barham, the "real problem with the evolution debate" is not empirical Darwinism, but a sort of "theory creep" in which a "bold but circumscribed scientific claim" (empirical Darwinism) becomes conflated with "a much more sweeping philosophical claim" (metaphysical Darwinism).[10]

Robert C. Koons says in Uncommon Dissent that "if evolution is defined broadly enough, there's little doubt that it has occurred." He sees the "defining differential element" of the modern synthesis as the view that "the probability of the occurrence of any mutation is unrelated to its prospective contribution to the functionality of any structure, present or future", and argues that "the natural presumption about the cause of life" lies against this view, and instead with a teleological "intelligent agency position".[11]

Contributor Edward Sisson sees the key question in the debate over biological evolution as whether all life is "the result of chance events occurring in DNA (or perhaps elsewhere) that are then 'selected' in some fashion without the need of any guiding intelligence", thereby undergoing "unintelligent evolution", or whether at least some of the diversity of life on earth can be explained only through "intelligent evolution", in which "an intelligent designer (or designers)" causes preexisting species to undergo designed changes in DNA. His view is that "no data has been found that amounts to real evidence for unintelligent evolution as the explanation for the diversity of life", that "science is ignorant of how the diversity of life came to be", and that "an intelligent cause is necessary to explain at least some of the diversity of life as we see it".[12]


Evolution has broad acceptance within the scientific community,[13][14][15] and that community rejects intelligent design,[16] with critics such as Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross saying that design proponents seek to destroy evolution and that they employ intentional ambiguity and conflation in using "Darwinism" synonymously with evolution.[17][18]

Of Uncommon Dissent computational physicist and an assistant professor of physics Taner Edis writes:

"...they appear to have taken this as an excuse for an astounding display of pomposity, conspiracy theorizing to explain why their brilliance has been rejected by mainstream science, and patting themselves on the back for intellectual courage. Surely the authors do not expect the sort of posturing they engage in to get them a sympathetic hearing in scientific circles -- so what does all this amount to? An excuse for an all-out culture war, since obviously mainstream science is so corrupt it will not change its evil Darwinian ways unless forced to repent by outsiders?" --Taner Edis[19]

The testimony of Barbara Forrest in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial contributed to the ruling that intelligent design is not science and essentially religious in nature.[20] In her expert witness report Forrest presented Nancy R. Pearcey's section in Uncommon Dissent as evidence of that religious nature.[21]

Evolutionary and historical researcher John M. Lynch describes Uncommon Dissent:

"a collection of (largely) non-scientists bemoaning evolution and it’s perceived moral effects while rehashing arguments lifted from older anti-evolutionary sources. The tone is the usual paranoid delusion that American creationism seems to specialize in; Darwinism is an 'ideology' which exhibits 'overweening ambition', it’s a theory that is held 'dogmatically and even ruthlessly' by the 'Darwinian thought police' who are 'as insidious as any secret police at ensuring conformity and rooting out dissent'." --John M. Lynch[22]

Of the fifteen intellectuals in the book he says:

"It's indicative of something that the initial best case for the failure of Darwinism is given by a philosopher (Koons) with no apparent background in biology and the last word is given to an eight year old piece by a popularizer of mathematics, novelist, and 'accomplished poet'. In between we get a poor sandwich - all filling and no substance." --John M. Lynch[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^Fellows, Center for Science and Culture, Discovery Institute.
    "Q. Has the Discovery Institute been a leader in the intelligent design movement? A. Yes, the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. Q. And are almost all of the individuals who are involved with the intelligent design movement associated with the Discovery Institute? A. All of the leaders are, yes."Barbara Forrest, 2005, testifying in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. Kitzmiller Dove Testimony, Barbara Forrest
    • "The Discovery Institute is the ideological and strategic backbone behind the eruption of skirmishes over science in school districts and state capitals across the country." Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive Jodi Wilgoren. The New York Times, August 21, 2005.
    • Who is behind the ID movement? Frequently Asked Questions About "Intelligent Design", American Civil Liberties Union.
    • "Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank established in 1991. The institute, which promotes a conservative public-policy agenda, has occupied a lead role in the ID movement recently, most notably through its Center for Science and Culture, which boasts a number of leading ID proponents among its fellows and advisers." The Evolution of George Gilder Joseph P. Kahn. The Boston Globe, July 27, 2005.
    • "Who's Who of Intelligent Design Proponents," Science & Religion Guide Science and Theology News. November 2005. (PDF file)
  2. ^Intelligent Design and Peer Review American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  3. ^ ab"The engine behind the ID movement is the Discovery Institute." Defending science education against intelligent design: a call to action Journal of Clinical Investigation 116:1134–1138 (2006). doi:10.1172/JCI28449PMID 16670753. A publication of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.
  4. ^ISCID fellows
  5. ^pp. 62, 72, 75, 77, 87, 88, 101, 113, 125 Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing
  6. ^Review of Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing by Chris Banescu December 10, 2004
  7. ^Uncommon Dissent, Intellectuals who find Darwinism Unconvincing Center for Science and Culture, June 1, 2004.
  8. ^Review of Uncommon Dissent Jason Rosenhouse. Evolutionblog, June 23, 2004.
  9. ^Dembski, Uncommon Dissent, p. xx.
  10. ^Barham, Uncommon Dissent, pp. 177–8.
  11. ^Koons, Uncommon Dissent, pp. 4, 17.
  12. ^Sisson, Uncommon Dissent, pp. 75–76, 84.
  13. ^National Association of Biology Teachers Statement on Teaching Evolution
  14. ^IAP Statement on the Teaching of Evolution Joint statement issued by the national science academies of 67 countries, including the United Kingdom'sRoyal Society (PDF file)
  15. ^From the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society: 2006 Statement on the Teaching of Evolution (PDF file), AAAS Denounces Anti-Evolution Laws
  16. ^"Before discussing Defendants’ claims about evolution, we initially note that an overwhelming number of scientists, as reflected by every scientific association that has spoken on the matter, have rejected the ID proponents’ challenge to evolution." Kitzmiller v. Dover page 83
  17. ^"As I stated earlier, Johnson, Dembski, and their associates have assumed the task of destroying 'Darwinism,' 'evolutionary naturalism,' 'scientific materialism,' 'methodological naturalism,' 'philosophical naturalism,' and other 'isms' they use as synonyms for evolution." Barbara Forrest’s Letter to Simon Blackburn Barbara Forrest. March 2000.
  18. ^"In [Berlinski's] latest Commentary essay on 'Darwinism' - as it is often called by those who do not know much evolutionary biology..." Darwinism Versus Intelligent Design Paul Gross. Commentary Magazine, Vol. 115, March 2003, No. 3
  19. ^Uncommon Dissent, The SKEPTIC annotated bibliography Taner Edis.
  20. ^Ruling, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, Case No. 04cv2688. December 20, 2005
  21. ^Expert Witness Report Barbara Forrest, April 1, 2005, page 28.
  22. ^ abUncommon Dissent John M. Lynch. Stranger Fruit, August 4, 2004.

External links[edit]

David Berlinski is an American philosopher and intelligent design advocate. He is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.[1] He has also written on mathematics, including a rather well-received introduction to calculus, though his books “Newton's Gift” and “The Advent of the Algorithm”, his only two books to be reviewed on MathSciNet, were criticized for containing historical and mathematical inaccuracies. It is worth noting that his books on mathematics are popular books. Although often referred to as a “mathematician”, Berlinski has done no research in mathematics.[2] He has also written several books of fiction - cynics would probably claim that he’s written more of these than he thinks - and has a PhD in philosophy from Princeton University.

He claims to be a secular Jew and agnostic, and denies that he is an advocate of intelligent design but rather claims to be a skeptic on the matter of evolution. However, his articles and books are filled with religiously-based creationist arguments.[3] Although he officially refuses to speculate about the origins of life, critics argue that he is pretty obviously a shill for intelligent design.[4] Berlinski is a signatory to A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.

Intelligent Design[edit]

In his 1996 article “The Deniable Darwin”, Berlinski lays out several reasons for his skepticism of evolution,[5]. These include

  • the appearance “at once” of an astonishing number of novel biological structures in the Cambrian explosion, to which Wesley Elsberry commented that “I personally like my 'at onces' to refer to events significantly shorter than ten million years.”
  • the lack of major transitional fossils and transitional sequences
  • the lack of recent significant evolution in sharks
  • the evolution of the eye, and (in his view)
  • the failure of evolutionary biology to explain a range of phenomena ranging from the sexual cannibalism of redback spiders to why women are not born with a tail. As Arthur Shapiro points out, Berlinski “wants evolutionary biologists to explain from first principles why one species of widow spider commits sexual suicide while another does not,” knowing perfectly well that “the chain of causes is too long, with too many opportunities for historical contingency to operate, for anyone with less than the omniscience of the deity to do that.”

The article elicited a number of responses from real scientists,[6] and was described by Daniel Dennett as “another hilarious demonstration that you can publish bullshit at will – just so long as you say what an editorial board wants to hear in a style it favors.” Eugenie Scott described Berlinski's arguments thus:

“”The content of David Berlinski's article does not differ from more traditional creation-science material, though his tone is more genteel and his writing a lot more literate […] But true to the creation-science genre, his approach consists of constructing strawmen, then knocking them down with misinterpreted, faulty, or nonexistent data as well as carefully selected quotations from evolutionary scientists.

In his appearance in Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed he told Ben Stein that “Darwinism is not a sufficient condition for a phenomenon like Nazism but I think it's certainly a necessary one,” apparently because race-based genocide had never happened before The Origin of Species, which was, by the way, banned in Nazi Germany.

Berlinski, along with fellow Discovery Institute associates Michael Behe and William Dembski, tutored Ann Coulter on “science and evolution” for her book “Godless: The Church of Liberalism.” According to the credit section: “I couldn't have written about evolution without the generous tutoring of Michael Behe, David Berlinski, and William Dembski, all of whom are fabulous at translating complex ideas, unlike liberal arts types, who constantly force me to the dictionary to relearn the meaning of quotidian.” Of course, Coulter was in absolutely no position to write about science after their tutelage either.[7]

One of Berlinski’s main argument strategies is to name-drop people, in particular mathematicians, who were allegedly skeptical of evolution.[8] He is rarely able to document any skepticism of evolution from the people he mentions, but claims to have heard about their skepticism from his friends, who may have met some of them.

PZ Myers has summed up Berlinski as a bad case of delusional narcissism.[9]

The enumerative “cows cannot evolve into whales” argument[edit]

One of Berlinski’s most celebrated anti-evolution arguments is his calculation that at least 50,000 changes were required to change a cow into a whale (he stopped counting). Of course, since even if he was capable of listing out these differences at an implausibly fast average rate of one every ten seconds, it would still take more than 5 days of non-stop 24h-hour activity to accomplish this, few believe that he actually did what he claimed to have done.[10] Berlinski does not, of course, know anything about the evolution of whales, missing such rather central details as the fact that cows did not evolve into whales.[11]

Anti-evolution books by David Berlinski[edit]

  • The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky (2003), which compares astrological and evolutionary accounts of human behavior.
  • The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions (2008), which is a defense of religion asserting that atheists misrepresent science, that an objective morality requires a religious foundation, that mathematical theories attempting to bring together quantum mechanics and relativity amount to pseudoscience, and that evolutionary theory is doubtful. It's filled with ad hominems and strawman arguments, without even a single citation.
  • Deniable Darwin & Other Essays (2009)


  1. ↑David Berlinski, Senior Fellow - CSC
  2. ↑Mark Perakh, “The assault of ID advocates on Professor Gross's essay is poorly substantiated,” part of Scientists Respond to the Orchestrated Assault of IDists on Professor Gross, December 4, 2003.
  3. ↑Denying Darwin
  4. ↑Ronald Numbers (1998). Darwinism Comes to America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 20
  5. ↑Berlinski (1996), the article in pdf version.
  6. ↑Letters from Readers in response to “Denying Darwin”].
  7. ↑She called the theory of evolution "the flatulent raccoon theory", and failed to exhibit even the most cursory understanding of it. Some of her points are discussed in this post, Pharyngula, post from June 18, 2006.
  8. ↑Good math, Bad math, Post from November 9, 2009
  9. ↑Pharyngula, Blogpost from July 3, 2007
  10. ↑ The Bad Idea Blog, post from August 29, 2007
  11. ↑Sandwalk, Post from August, 2007.


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