Professor Gross reviews Berlinski

| 39 Comments

University Professor (emeritus) Paul Gross, who has co-authored with Barbara Forrest (of the Dover trial fame) the well-known book (2004) about the ID “movement,” has now reviewed the recent book by the notorious anti-evolutionist David Berlinski. This review will soon appear in the Free Inquiry magazine, but it can already be read in full in this post.

39 Comments

So Berlinski, a non-scientist, writes a book about science, with endorsements from three non-scientists and one ex-scientist, William Behe. So where do they plan to sell this abortion? At the Answers In Genesis bookstore?

And to read that Berlinski thanks right-wing spokesharridan Ann Coulter (whose jaws are wired shut as we speak, thank Ghu) for her help just puts the frosting on the cake: This is just another science-denialist tract; another product of the Dishonesty Institute’s anti-think tank.

Faith, n:
That quality which enables us to believe what we know to be untrue. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?), “The Devil’s Dictionary”

This would seem to be a more plausible origin of the quip, given that the Alexander Abingdon book appears to be from no earlier than 1931 (according to my brief Google search).

Dear Mark,

As an aside I would note that not only is Paul Gross a professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Virginia, but he was also its provost, and, much earlier, director of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. He is also the most prominent conservative life scientist I know of (Others here at Panda’s Thumb may recognize him instantly for being the co-author, with philosopher Barbara Forrest, of “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design”.). Therefore he’s truly uniquely qualified to review Berlinski’s latest pathetic exercise in mendacious intellectual pornography. He’s so uniquely qualified that his forthcoming rebuke of Berlinski’s loathsome piece of “literary” trash is the best I have read so far.

Thanks for posting this early. It’s the best Christmas present that I - or anyone else interested in condemning Berlinski and the rest of the Dishonesty Institute - should except to receive this year.

Appreciatively yours,

John

P. S. I meant to say.…

It’s the best Christmas present that I - or anyone else interested in condemning Berlinski and the rest of the Dishonesty Institute - should expect to receive this year.

Appreciatively yours,

John

P. P. S. Obviously didn’t do a good job of proofreading before posting my previous comment.

To John Kwok: I fully share your opinion of Paul Gross. He is a great guy and I admire him wholeheartedly.

I try to avoid ad-hominem arguments even for Ann Coulter but …

Paul Burnett said:

… right-wing spokesharridan Ann Coulter (whose jaws are wired shut as we speak, thank Ghu) …

I can now sympathize with her plight, because I just almost BIT MY TONGUE right out of my mouth.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

John Kwok said:

Therefore he’s truly uniquely qualified to review Berlinski’s latest pathetic exercise in mendacious intellectual pornography.

That phrase is getting a bit overused. I propose that it be abbreviated to PXIMIP … pronounced “pixymip” … the acronym MIP might be used when convenient. Consider this a contribution to the list of “Pandaspeak” terminology.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Dr. Berlinski is a man who, for several years, falsely claimed his PhD was in mathematics. I think that Richard Dawkins summed up this nutball most succinctly, “Anyone who rejects the theory of evolution is either ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked (bu he didn’t want to consider that). Berlinski is neither ignorant, stupid, or insane.

I never read his book, but went to his opening talk on his book tour. I’m gratified to learn that it was basically the same information in the talk and the book, though he never read from the book in the opening talk of the book tour. I also asked him about the strange lack of reference to significant recent scientific discoveries, as he seemed to feel that evolution was unique in being unaccepted by the masses, and he seemed to have great difficulty in answering my question. I posted my impressions and some video of his speech and Q&A on my blog, if anyone is interested - http://biosaari.blogspot.com/2008/0[…]ensions.html

Berlinski seems to take considerable stock in Tom “Never Met Fringe Science I Didn’t Like” Bethell. I’ve said it before, the evidence for modern evo science is only half the reason I buy it … the other half is the fact that, considering all the effort expended, if there was really anything seriously wrong with evo science they wouldn’t sound like they were trying to bluff their way through finals after staying up watching the Movie Channel all night before.

White Rabbit (Greg Goebel) http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

SLC said:

Dr. Berlinski is a man who, for several years, falsely claimed his PhD was in mathematics.

And IIRC, an expert at differential topology no less.

John Kwok Wrote:

As an aside I would note that not only is Paul Gross a professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of Virginia, but he was also its provost, and, much earlier, director of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. He is also the most prominent conservative life scientist I know of (Others here at Panda’s Thumb may recognize him instantly for being the co-author, with philosopher Barbara Forrest, of “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design”.). Therefore he’s truly uniquely qualified to review Berlinski’s latest pathetic exercise in mendacious intellectual pornography. He’s so uniquely qualified that his forthcoming rebuke of Berlinski’s loathsome piece of “literary” trash is the best I have read so far.

Gross, perhaps more than any other critic, hits them where it hurts. When other critics “expose” IDers as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the “religious right,” their private reaction must be the same big yawn that we get from the public. But when Gross shows how they use the same antics (“postmodernism”, teaching “revisionist prehistory”, playing the victim, etc.) that the religious right accuses of “the left,” that must really smart.

Flint,

I’ll dig a little deeper, but a quote attributed to Yogi Berra might also apply to Twain:
“I really didn’t say everything I said.”

Mark Twain probably leads the list of people to whom attribution is falsely credited.

From “Following the Equator,” Chapter 12, by Mark Twain:

There are those who scoff at the schoolboy, calling him frivolous and shallow: Yet it was the schoolboy who said “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
- Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar.

The utter irony is just palpable!

Mark Perakh said:

To John Kwok: I fully share your opinion of Paul Gross. He is a great guy and I admire him wholeheartedly.

…as I admire you, sir - thank you for your book Unintelligent Design.

If nobody else here will mention it, I will: Everybody should look at your pertinent post “The Assault of IDists on Professor Gross is unsubstantiated,” Posted on November 21, 2003. “This is a letter regarding a dispute between Professor Paul R. Gross and a group of ID advocates.…” Much more at http://members.cox.net/perakm/Gross_andothers.htm

To Paul Burnett: Thanks for your kind words.

I don’t know whether Lilly is Bobby, and have no interest for researching this question. I saw no reason to ban his(her) comments as long as he(she) did not resort to obscenities. His (her) comment about beating one’s wife made me hesitate for a while - whether or not to delete that disgusting comment, but finally I decided to let it remain - it speaks about Lilly more than about his/her opponents, so let it expose the character of that commenter - it was his (her) own choice.

On the other hand, I felt compelled to delete a comment by “Science Avenger” where he used profanities. Please avoid such a style, creos can be hit without descending to their level.

Regarding the original comment that invoked the discussion of Berlinski’s PhD degree, Lilly’s question about sources of the information was legitimate, regardless of his/her overall position which we may detest. It seems that, while Berlinski was several times referred to as a “mathematician with a PhD degree,” he himself did not claim it, but rather wrote that his PhD degree was in philosophy, hence the accusation was apparently misleading. In no way can this exonerate Berlinski whose record is appalling enough without attributing to him something he was not guilty of.

You people have no tolerance for outside views! Berlinski is a controversial figure, even entertaining at times, sure. In fact, one sometimes wonders if he is even serious, based on his radical ID associations.

But just because ONE scholar wrote a hard-hitting, negative review, doesn’t mean that everyone has to have a celebration. What about Berlinski’s actual arguments. Does anyone here care to address those?

Until then, I’m afraid it’s the evolutionists, not Dr. Berlinski, who “can’t be taken seriously.”

NS http://sciencedefeated.wordpress.com/

Did you not bother to read the article in the link, either?

I guess not.

NotedScholar said:

You people have no tolerance for outside views! Berlinski is a controversial figure, even entertaining at times, sure. In fact, one sometimes wonders if he is even serious, based on his radical ID associations.

But just because ONE scholar wrote a hard-hitting, negative review, doesn’t mean that everyone has to have a celebration. What about Berlinski’s actual arguments. Does anyone here care to address those?

Until then, I’m afraid it’s the evolutionists, not Dr. Berlinski, who “can’t be taken seriously.”

NS http://sciencedefeated.wordpress.com/

Dear NotedScholar:

You might do a search on GOOGLE or at National Review to see what John Derbyshire has written on Mr. Berlinski. After that, you may - if you are intellectually honest - wish to disown these inane remarks of yours:

NotedScholar said:

You people have no tolerance for outside views! Berlinski is a controversial figure, even entertaining at times, sure. In fact, one sometimes wonders if he is even serious, based on his radical ID associations.

But just because ONE scholar wrote a hard-hitting, negative review, doesn’t mean that everyone has to have a celebration. What about Berlinski’s actual arguments. Does anyone here care to address those?

Until then, I’m afraid it’s the evolutionists, not Dr. Berlinski, who “can’t be taken seriously.”

NS http://sciencedefeated.wordpress.com/

If you’re read Paul Gross’ accurate review of Berlinski’s latest pathetic example of mendacious intellectual pornography, then you might understand why Berlinski’s “work” has been dismissed as hopelessly inane from the likes of Gross and Derbyshire, among others.

Until then, if anyone can’t be taken seriously, then it is you, not the “evolutionists”.

Live Long and Prosper (as a Dishonesty Institute IDiot Borg drone),

John Kwok

noscholar wrote:

“What about Berlinski’s actual arguments. Does anyone here care to address those?”

Well he really didn’t make any arguments that I could see. He certainly presented no evidence, nor did he address any of the evidence that does exist. He did however state an opinion:

“Berlinski grants that only a few of the examples he mentions “exhaust” the concept of science and are worthy of respect. He names four – only four – products of the scientific revolution that began in the seventeenth century, shaking man’s view of himself and his world. Berlinski’s list: Newtonian mechanics, Maxwell’s field theory, special and general relativity, and quantum mechanics.”

Well, I must respectfully disagree. I believe that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and Mendel’s Laws of inheritance rank right up there with the four things that he cited. Dismissing an entire field of science, simply because you are completely ignorant of it, or religiously biased against it, doesn’t seem to be very sound reasoning. It really does not appear that this guy has earned the right to cirticize evolutionary theory. Indeed, he seems to completely lack the knowledge and competence to do so with any credability. He’s certainly free to write any books he wants and everyone if free to completely ignore them.

Mark Perakh said:

I don’t know whether Lilly is Bobby, and have no interest for researching this question.

You should, unless you want your thread to end up a 1,000-comment mess of troll manure. Lilly/Bobby delights in asking multiple questions while ignoring all the answers, and projecting all its intellectual deficiencies on others. It’s intent is to cause chaos, nothing more, and it should be junked immediately.

On the other hand, I felt compelled to delete a comment by “Science Avenger” where he used profanities. Please avoid such a style, creos can be hit without descending to their level.

Oh please, let’s have a bit more elevated critique than schoolyard bromides shall we? The creo level is intellectual dishonesty writ large, with no regard for the hard work of others, or with ideas in general, of which you are of course aware through your research for your excellent dissections of their follies.

One does not sink to their level by mere use of a perjorative, any more than one sinks to the level of a bully by beating the shit out of him in self-defense. Likewise, one does not sink to the level of a creationist troll by identifying it as the lying scum it is. Reality is what it is, however it may offend, and respect should be reserved for those who’ve earned it.

Here you are, folks:

“David Berlinski Ph.D. received a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Princeton and was later a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University. He has been a professor at several universities and is now an author of books on science.” - http://www.creation.or.kr/library/d[…]keptics.html

But on the other hand:

“David Berlinski Says: September 9th, 2007 at 8:54 am - I have never claimed to have a Ph.D in mathematics from Princeton University. My Ph.D. from Princeton is in philosophy. This is what my resume says; it is how I am described at the DI website; and it is how I am described on the dust jacket of my books. If there is a website that claims otherwise, I revile and denounce it. As long as I am correcting misapprehensions, I might add that I am a critic of intelligent design and not one of its supporters. In this regard, you might consider my essay “Has Darwin met his Match,” in the December 2002 issue of Commentary. It is devoted perceptively to attacking Johnson, Behe and Dembski. I cannot say that my friends at the DI were pleased to see what I wrote, but they were made wiser by reading it. My feelings toward intelligent design remain what they have always been: Warm but skeptical. Nonetheless, I regard the general hysteria about these issues as intellectually disgusting. As for the question why so many editors are interested in publishing what I write, I suspect that this is because so many readers are interested in reading it.” - http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/[…]press/?p=596

Um, the first is not a quote from Berlinksi but from a Korean creationist society. I’m not aware of Berlinski ever claiming he has a PhD in mathematics. He may very well have done so but one needs better evidence.

The truth is that Berlinsky does not have a degree in biology, has never studied biology, knows nothing about biology and has no right whatsoever to cirticize professional biologists. He makes no real argument and in fact ignores all of the evidence. All he offers is uninformed opinion and misguided logic.

Everyone is free to question the validity of general and special relativity. However, if one does not have a degree in physics, has never studied physics and knows nothing about physics, then they really have no right to critize Einstein. If the same person insists that 1/4 + 1/4 = 1/8 then it is fair to assume that they do not have the math skills to understand Einstein let alone criticize him. This is the level of Berlinsky’s “argument”. He doesn’t even understand the basics, so his uninformed opinion is worthless.

The troll of many names should take a lesson here. Refusal to read scientific references automatically disqualifies one from criticizing those who write the references. Demonstration of complete lack of knowledge in a field is sufficient cause for everyone to ignore anything you say about that field. Using over fifty different aliases in direct violation of the rules of this site should be grounds for immediate and irreversible banishment.

DS said: (snip)… and has no right whatsoever to cirticize professional biologists.

I have a quibble here, DS. Berlinski has every right to criticise anyone, professional biologists included. He just has no authority or valid position from which to criticize such subject matter experts. He’s free to make the criticism, but it would be foolish for anyone to take his criticism seriously. This quibble applies to your comment regarding the right to criticize Einstein as well.

Robin said:

This quibble applies to your comment regarding the right to criticize Einstein as well.

My mother can’t stand Einstein: she tells me that if I ever let my hair become as unpresentable as his, she’d kick me out of the house.

Stanton said:

Robin said:

This quibble applies to your comment regarding the right to criticize Einstein as well.

My mother can’t stand Einstein: she tells me that if I ever let my hair become as unpresentable as his, she’d kick me out of the house.

LOL! And I’m sure she has every right to say so, however is she criticizing Einstein’s application of science here or just his apparent lack in sense of style? ;)

When I suggest that our side should not descend to using profanities and calling names, I don’t mean to say the creos have not earned such epithets - many of them worked hard to deserve such a treatment. However, I believe being rude is counter-productive. Let me ask the following question: which of the two following statements is stronger (1) “Professor X’s assertion is insufficiently substantiated” or (2) “The assertion of that idiot X is garbage.” I maintain that the first statement is stronger and more effective. Understatements usually work better than overstatements. (Exceptions may exist).

Back to Berlinski and his PhD. The commenter who wrote that Berlinski falsely claimed to have a PhD in mathematics, imho should have indeed retracted his statement and, perhaps, even apologize. However, this should not be construed as an exoneration of Berlinski. Apparently he has not claimed having a degree in mathematics, but there have been other occasions when Berlinski made false and sometimes libelous statements. One such case was when Berlinski published an article in a Californian newspaper where he falsely accused the TalkReason site of using a derisive distortion of Dembski’s surname. When this lie was revealed (TalkReason never posted a single piece wherein Dembski’s surname would be distorted in any manner) Berlinski, instead of apologizing, tried to bury the indisputable facts in a semantic fog, maintaining that his (quite unambiguous) accusation was just misunderstood. The set of Berlinski’s letters to Talk Reason and of answers to them, discussing that matter, is found in the Letters section on Talk Reason (click on “Index of Letters,” and then on Berlinski’s name). Moreover, his appearance in the mendacious pseudo-documentary “Expelled” is another telltale display of serious deficiencies in Berlinski’s not quite straightforward mettle. We should not, though, behave a la Berlinski.

Mark Perakh said: Let me ask the following question: which of the two following statements is stronger (1) “Professor X’s assertion is insufficiently substantiated” or (2) “The assertion of that idiot X is garbage.”

But you are forgetting option 3: “The assertion of that idiot Professor X is garbage because it is insufficiently substantiated.” Sometimes invectives are appropriately descriptive - as long as they aren’t used as a substitute for reason.

I’d also say the idiot label is warranted after X has made many many unsubstantiated posts. So while it may be unacceptable to leap on a first-time poster with such a label, I don’t particularly see an issue in using such terms to describe posters who have posted 500+ times without apparently reading a single scientific journal article.

Whatever Berlinski’s degree, to ignore the germ theory of disease in a list of top scientific discovieries is just plain ridiculous. Based on the review I would say Berlinksi does not appear to understand the impact of modern antibacterial practices/technologies on human civilization(s). He also does not appear to understand (again from the review) the term “atheism” if he thinks it means anyone who is not a monotheist.

Mark Perakh said:

When I suggest that our side should not descend to using profanities and calling names, I don’t mean to say the creos have not earned such epithets - many of them worked hard to deserve such a treatment. However, I believe being rude is counter-productive. Let me ask the following question: which of the two following statements is stronger (1) “Professor X’s assertion is insufficiently substantiated” or (2) “The assertion of that idiot X is garbage.” I maintain that the first statement is stronger and more effective. Understatements usually work better than overstatements. (Exceptions may exist).

Either way you say it, the facts remain. That idiot X has been informed, repeatedly, in excruciating detail, both politely and rudely, that his assertions are unsubstantiated garbage. And yet he persists in repeating those same assertions, knowing them to be false. That idiot X has access to mountains of evidence showing that he is wrong, he has had his nose rubbed in it countless times. Yet he ignores it, hides from it, misrepresents it, lies about it. That idiot X is more than an idiot, he is a liar, a fraud, a promoter of falsehood, an apologist for delusion and stupidity. And he should be exposed as such.

There really is no polite way to call someone a liar. But that is what creationists are, liars. Their delusions force them to cower in terror from the facts and spread deliberate falsehoods. Lying is what they do, it is who they are, who they always have been and always will be. Lying, both to themselves and others, is the entire foundation of creationism and its deformed bastard child ID.

Politeness does not work with these asshats. No argument, no matter how polite or rude, no matter how rational, no matter how well-supported, will ever have any effect on someone who would rather die than accept the facts. There is no hope of reaching a creationist brain, they have turned them off. Rudeness at least makes it obvious that their fraudulent bullshit will not be tolerated.

Noted Scholar writes: “But just because ONE scholar wrote a hard-hitting, negative review, doesn’t mean that everyone has to have a celebration. What about Berlinski’s actual arguments. Does anyone here care to address those? Until then, I’m afraid it’s the evolutionists, not Dr. Berlinski, who “can’t be taken seriously.”

Well, I’ve not read Berlinski’s newest tome, nor do I intend to. I am quite comfortable, however, in being of the opinion that he canot be taken serioulsy.

Two reasons (there are many more, but these were the icing on the cake fo rme):

1. His youtube spiel about how he made a list of 50,000 differences between whales and camels, and declared that therefore whales could not have evolved from camels.

2. His recent claim that the existence of mathematics is ‘evidence’ for ID.

Robin said:

Stanton said:

Robin said:

This quibble applies to your comment regarding the right to criticize Einstein as well.

My mother can’t stand Einstein: she tells me that if I ever let my hair become as unpresentable as his, she’d kick me out of the house.

LOL! And I’m sure she has every right to say so, however is she criticizing Einstein’s application of science here or just his apparent lack in sense of style? ;)

Maybe Stanton needs to get a room somewhere :-)

I’m not sure about anyone else here, but I would consider “Darwinism” a perfectly reasonable term to describe just one aspect of modern evolutionary biology, though it certainly seems to be the most important one.

Richard, posted 12/01/08 10:13 PM I’m not sure about anyone else here, but I would consider “Darwinism” a perfectly reasonable term to describe just one aspect of modern evolutionary biology, though it certainly seems to be the most important one.

When used by a reasonable person, yes. The trouble is when it’s used by an anti-evolutionist as a substitute for actually specifying which hypothesis of the theory they disagree with, or giving an evidence based reason for that disagreement.

Henry

The back cover of Dr. Berlinski’s Newton’s Gift can be found here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/074[…]#reader-link

He is described as a mathematician in spite of the fact that Dr. Berlinski flatly claimed none of his books describe him thus.

John Farrell said:

The back cover of Dr. Berlinski’s Newton’s Gift can be found here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/074[…]#reader-link

He is described as a mathematician in spite of the fact that Dr. Berlinski flatly claimed none of his books describe him thus.

So is he going to sue his own publisher for libel?

When a creationist uses a word, they don’t mean anything remotely similar to the actual definition. They’re just twisting the language into whatever knots they need to to promote their lies. You will never, ever, ever get a creationist to use the real definitions of words. They will move the goalposts, make shit up, and bear false witness without the slightest hint of remorse.

Henry J said:

Richard, posted 12/01/08 10:13 PM I’m not sure about anyone else here, but I would consider “Darwinism” a perfectly reasonable term to describe just one aspect of modern evolutionary biology, though it certainly seems to be the most important one.

When used by a reasonable person, yes. The trouble is when it’s used by an anti-evolutionist as a substitute for actually specifying which hypothesis of the theory they disagree with, or giving an evidence based reason for that disagreement.

Henry

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