David Berlinski

It's only fitting that I dedicate my 100th blog post to the great David Berlinski; mathematician, writer, polymath and probably the single most dangerous heretic alive today.

With a fiercely talented and mathematically trained mind, Berlinski has become the scourge of establishment academics as he questions the most basic assumptions upon which disciplines such as physics and evolutionary biology currently rest. The reason he is such a threat to the status quo is that he identifies and calls out the articles of scientific faith which are cunningly disguised as settled facts...plus he's just a lot smarter than they are.

Perhaps being the child of Holocaust refugees has something to do with Berlinski's uncanny ability to sniff out patterns of thought and systems of belief that masquerade as established scientific principles, despite their being nothing of the kind. Probably the best example of this surgical separation of what we know from what we think can be found in The Devil's Delusion, Berlinski's masterful deconstruction of “scientific” atheism. As a secular Jew, Berlinski doesn't argue for or against the existence of any First Cause or Creator; instead he merely exposes the many, many questions left unanswered by astrophysics and evolutionary biology by deflating their claims to know an awful lot more than they actually do.

This is why Berlinski invokes the ire of so many “rational” people within the scientific community: he dares to confront academia's pontificating pomposity as it ironically assumes the role of a modern priesthood, pronouncing its rationalist writ on anything and everything it encounters, no matter how preposterous and illogical its ideas might seem. Berlinski's forensic assault on our modern religion of rationality is often discomfiting because it lays bare the startling inadequacy of so many ideas we merely assume to be unassailable.

From the Devil's Delusion to The Deniable Darwin, Berlinski's work is characterised by a systematic separation of what science really knows from what it likes to tell people it knows, making his observations one of the major influences behind a burgeoning interest in the idea of intelligent design. Whilst he does not claim to support such a position, Berlinski forcefully and convincingly argues that such concepts can no longer be dismissed as the philosophical contortions of humiliated priests. Indeed, Berlinski is not alone in this opinion, as a growing number of serious scientists are conceding that every new fact we learn about our universe makes our existence look less and less like some spectacularly unlikely string of random events, and more like the result of some unfathomably intricate and mysteriously executed plan.

This is why Berlinski so infuriates the academic and scientific establishment: he's one of the smart boys so he should side with them, yet this secular Jew steadfastly refuses to bow before the altar of rationalist reductionism. Instead he prefers to whisk back the curtain to reveal that the edifice is a lot more about clever lighting and stage scenery than the immovable blocks of irrefutable truth they first seem to be.

Who knows if Berlinski is right in his theorising, but that's scarcely the point. What makes his modern heresy so destructive to the establishment is that the limits of rationality have been effectively exposed for the first time since the Enlightenment. Ironically, Berlinski uses his own razor sharp tools of rational observation to point out that the ideas of Thomas Aquinas might very well be just as valid as those of Albert Einstein.

In the end, Berlinski's central contention is that we are much more than just thinking, rationalising, logical brains; and established academia would not be so offended by his conclusions if they were so sure that he's wrong.