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Deniable Darwin & Other Essays Paperback – 1 Oct 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 558 pages
  • Publisher: Discovery Institute; 1 edition (1 Oct. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979014123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979014123
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 485,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ISD on 3 May 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anything from the pen of Berlinski is worthy of study. He never lets you down, This is the sort of boo that has to be read and re-read in order to digest it all. A worthy five stars.
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Amazon.com: 28 reviews
57 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Not easy to find fault with 25 Mar. 2010
By Paul Vjecsner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It almost makes me feel guilty not to give Dr. Berlinski all the five stars. It is merely because I find some of his views somewhat misleading and in need of some criticism. He is of course, as other reviewers testified, an outstanding writer, of irresistible wit, and of unquestionable intelligence that often stifles the opposition.

In the essay of the title repeated for the book, he notes the improbability that random changes in DNA be usable for evolution. His argument is in the book outlined in a response by H. Allen Orr (pp.66-7): "His worry...is this: DNA is...a...language of A's, T's, G's, and C's that somehow encodes all the designs we find in organisms. But how can random perturbations in such a language yield usable material for evolution? In every other language we know of, Mr. Berlinski writes, 'randomness...is the enemy of order.' Random changes in English yield gibberish... And so, he argues, look what Darwinism really asks of us: it demands we believe that selection uses random changes in DNA, when--by analogy with any other...language--such changes should yield mere gibberish, hopelessly 'jamming' organisms."

This argument, that random changes in organisms cannot be expected to yield the probabilistically virtually impossible usefulness required, appears quite convincing. And see how Dr. Orr responds: "Mr. Berlinski's objection is one of those beautiful theories that gets killed by an ugly fact. The fact is: whether or not random DNA changes should invariably jam organisms, they do not... The existence of subtle, functional, usable mutations in DNA is a simple fact that no amount of analogizing...can make go away". But Dr. Orr! This is a ridiculous question-begging argument! We all know the fact that the changes in organisms are functional, useful! The very question is, can these changes occur randomly? And Dr. Berlinski convincingly argues they cannot.

Another argument by Dr. Berlinski that Dr. Orr responds to is that evolution has not been observed: "Examples are a dime a dozen. When antibiotics were first introduced, most bacteria were susceptible. ...now, many bacteria are resistant. And...when we threw DDT at insects: they evolved insecticide resistance". This is to demonstrate Darwinian, undirected, evolution. And here is a point where I may depart even from Dr. Berlinski.

Developing resistance needn't at all be attributed to Darwinian processes. We know very well that through inoculation we develop resistance to various diseases. And we know equally well that this is owing to the body's directed, not undirected, action toward self-preservation. This is a fundamental distinction overlooked in the debates about whether or not organisms were designed.

Dr. Berlinski devotes considerable space to William Paley's 19th-century argument in which the functionality of organisms was compared to that of human artifacts, with the contention that organisms likewise imply design. Dr. Berlinski's assessment of the argument is slightly gloomy. He ends a pertinent essay with (p.309): "And Paley, poor Paley? Dead at last, or at least not very vigorously alive". But the design argument is not only alive, but it can be improved upon, going beyond mere analogy, to demonstration. Left out in the comparison of organisms to human artifacts was the decisive difference that organisms are alive. As live beings, compared to deceased ones, they are in constant pursuit of the goal of self-preservation. The existence of such a goal, of purpose, in organisms is denied by Darwinism, focused narrowly on the organism's structure, in the tradition of Paley. It is, however, an easy step from finding that live organisms aim at the purpose of self-preservation, to inferring that their adaptation to circumstances, ascribed by Darwinism to purposeless natural forces, is part of that purpose.

One other subject where I depart from Dr. Berlinski is on the significance he assigns to logicians Kurt Gödel and, to a lesser degree, Alfred Tarski. He mentions them in connection with "meta-theory", devised in hope of a solution to logical paradoxes, and illustrated by "Tarski's theorem on the indefinability of truth" (p.543).

This purported theorem was spurred by the ancient "Liar" paradox, which states: "This statement is false". As easily confirmed, if the statement is true then, by its content, it is false, and if false then, by that content, it is true. It was accordingly decided that truth must be defined in a "meta-language", not "within any language in which it is expressed" (p.157). Although this is held demonstrated, it isn't by any means. Any dictionary defines truth by its own language, and we are at liberty to include and define any word in any chosen language, there being no restriction to such choices.

It seems this review is not the place for more on these matters. I go into details in other reviews and elsewhere. I only wish to say that I see Gödel's theorem and related contentions as false, counting as "A Scientific Scandal", an expression Dr. Berlinski used concerning evolutionary claims.

Let me though emphasize that I would recommend this book for its overall brilliance.
43 of 58 people found the following review helpful
David Berlinski, Critic of Contemporary Science and Scientists 3 Dec. 2009
By Raymond C. Togtman - Published on Amazon.com
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In the essays in this book, David Berlinski turns the skeptical eye of science upon science itself. Such criticism of science, which has never been encouraged by the scientific community, is especially necessary at this time, when the traditional skepticism of science has been dramatically transformed. For under the influence of Darwinism in biology, cosmology, and psychology, credulity has become a virtue and incredulity a vice.

Jerry Coyne states peremptorily on page 231 of his book Why Evolution is True that "evolution operates in a purposeless, materialistic way," through random mutation and natural selection. But most people in human history would have disagreed that the natural world can be understood in purely material terms and as devoid of purpose or intelligence. Kenneth Miller in Only a Theory worries that the notion of intelligence in nature could lead to a closing of the scientific mind. But everyone from Anaxagoras to Aristotle to Leonardo to Newton to Leibniz to Maxwell to Einstein has thought that the natural world displays intelligence. That there is nothing in reality except matter is not a conclusion of any science, nor is it a conclusion of science that there is no causation that cannot be explained by physics and chemistry.

It is against the unthinking dogmatism of Coyne, Miller, and most other publishing scientists that Berlinski argues. In The Deniable Darwin he turns his penetrating, skeptical, and erudite mind not only upon the scientific influence of Darwin, but also upon the unscientific spirit that he engendered. My favorite essay in this collection is The End of Materialist Science, which has been incorporated with small alterations as the final chapter of his excellent book The Advent of the Algorithm. The repartee displayed in the three articles subtitled "David Berlinski and His Critics" is very delightful. The State of the Matter, a reflection on recent developments in physics that is the final essay in the book, is probably also the most important.
24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
One Man's Opinion in a Sea of Dissent 16 Feb. 2012
By Duffy Sullivan - Published on Amazon.com
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David Berlinski is intellectually gifted. I don't think very many would be eager to cross intellectual swords with this guy! He is a free thinker who isn't swayed by ideas, no matter how popular or in vogue they may be, that are not able to stand up to his criticism. Bring forth your strong reasons! Berlinski will take them on.

And that is what he does in this book, a series of essays that brings into question dearly held beliefs of Darwin's theory. He takes the master to task by asking fundamental questions and bringing forth examples that show some serious flaws in his system of thought, and consequently his conclusions. Of course Darwin is no longer with us, and so is unable to retort, which is most unfortunate. However, he has plenty of supporters, avid believers, who are eager to come to his defense! Dawkins, Dennett, Gross, Shapiro, Rubin, and a host of others - men of renown - are given opportunity to respond, and so the book takes on the air of debate.

It is not light reading, but it is very passionate seeing that David is attacking a belief system that proponents cling to with religious tenacity. Anyone who rejects the evolutionist view of reality is regarded as bewildered, lost, to be pitied, and if they cannot be persuaded to convert, excommunicated.

There are some other subjects David writes on. Like I say, the book is a collection of essays that touch on varied topics. But most tie in to Darwin's general theory of random mutation, natural selection and how, in David's opinion, it falls short of being convincing, let alone proved. If you have been hearing this theory of Darwin, seen it presented as unassailable truth, yet still retained serious doubts or questions, this book will be a breath of fresh air. Check it out.
25 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Is Darwin Deniable? 27 Nov. 2009
By The Professor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Berlinski is an award winning writer those work was twice honored in the Best American Science Writing series. He has a PhD from Princeton, did a postdoc in math and molecular biology at Columbia, and has taught at Stanford and 3 other leading universities. This work reprints many of Dr. Berlinski's articles first published from 1996 to 2009. Many of the articles I have read in their original, including those from Commentary which put Berlinski in the limelight as a Darwin Doubter. As I reread the essays, I have noticed things that I never noted before, thus the chapters in this book seem fresh. Berlinski is an excellent writer, although his style for me, as one who reads mostly in the area of cell biology, takes some thought to adjust to. He noted that many people believe in God and others believe in science, creating a deliberate dichotomy which over generalizes but makes a clear point. Clarifying the title, Berlinski writes that what he denies is more than what Darwin concluded about the origins of life, but also especially the spirit that Darwinism has engendered in science today, namely the dogmatism of many scientists that prevents them from seriously considering doubting Darwinism, the problems with evolutionism. The main group that defends this dogmatism is the so-called misnamed National Center for Science Education. His main theme is "the sense of skepticism engendered by the sciences would be far more appropriately directed toward the sciences ... not a view that the scientific community has ever encouraged. The sciences require no criticism, many scientists say, because the sciences comprise a uniquely self-critical institution, with questionable theories and theoreticians passing constantly before stern appellate review. ... Individual scientists may make mistakes, but like the Communist Party under Lenin, [they claim that] science is infallible because its judgments are collective. Critics are not only unwelcome, they are unneeded." Berlinski then eloquently documents that science is very fallible.
22 of 32 people found the following review helpful
The Incorrigible Berlinski 17 Jan. 2010
By Gord Wilson - Published on Amazon.com
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From the title, it would appear that the essays collected in this book, which span the years 1996- 2009, might all be subtitled, "Doubts About Darwin". Could they? Yes and no. Page 17 reveals where these essays first appeared. Three of them, "The Deniable Darwin" (1996), "Has Darwin Met His Match?" (2002), and "A Scientific Scandal" (2003) appeared in Commentary magazine. Here they are reprinted in their entirety, along with letters about the articles (many of them taking issue with Berlinski), and, what is even more delightful, Berlinski's replies, which also appeared in the magazine. These essays, the subsequent letters, and the author's replies easily fall under the "Doubts About Darwin" rubric.

That barely exhausts this volume, however, which spans more than 550 pages. Two essays, "On the Origins of the Mind" and "What Brings a World into Being?" were reprinted in The Best American Science Writing. Berlinski considers, respectively, the brain and physics; and information and DNA. Anyone who has dipped into A Tour of the Calculus A Tour of the Calculus knows what a delightful and unique writer Berlinski is. I've read numerous popular science writers, from Carl Sagan to Nigel Calder, Paul Davies to Heinz Pagels, Steven Weinberg to Rene Thom, and with a few exceptions like Rudy Rucker, few approach the prose style of Berlinski. The best pieces here in that vein include "The Soul of Man Under Physics"; "The End of Materialist Science?"; "Godel's Question"; "Was There a Big Bang?"; "Where Physics and Politics Meet"; and the not-to-be-missed final essay, "The State of the Matter.

What of the rest? These include short, imagined conversations with the Argentine writer Jorges Luis Borges, book reviews, and humorous and thoughtful op ed pieces, some of them from Commentary. Editor David Klinghoffer had to pick and choose from the author's prolific output. One essay I wish had been included is Berlinski's rejoinder to Daniel Dennett's article in Nature magazine about Darwin's theory being like a universal acid. But that will have to wait. May one hope for a second volume? But for everyone who closed The Devil's DelusionThe Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions wanting more, or even those who have perused his popular science books: the incorrigible Dr. Berlinski.
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