David Berlinski

David Berlinski (born 1942) is an American author and philosopher who has written books about mathematics and the history of science as well as fiction. He is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a center dedicated to the promulgation of the pseudoscience of intelligent design.[1]

David Berlinski
Born1942 (age 77–78)
OccupationAuthor, academic
  • Claire Berlinski
  • Misha Berlinski

Early lifeEdit

David Berlinski was born in the United States in 1942 to German-born Jewish refugees who had immigrated to New York City after escaping from France while the Vichy government was collaborating with the Germans. His father was Herman Berlinski, a composer, organist, pianist, musicologist and choir conductor, and his mother was Sina Berlinski (née Goldfein), a pianist, piano teacher and voice coach. Both were born and raised in Leipzig where they studied at the Conservatory, before fleeing to Paris where they were married and undertook further studies. German was David Berlinski's first spoken language. He earned his PhD in philosophy from Princeton University.[2]

Academic careerEdit

After his PhD, Berlinski was a research assistant in the Department of Biology at Columbia University for less than one year.[3] He has taught philosophy, mathematics and English at Stanford University, Rutgers, the City University of New York and the Université de Paris. He was a research fellow at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in France.


Mathematics and biologyEdit

Berlinski has written works on systems analysis, the history of differential topology, analytic philosophy, and the philosophy of mathematics. Berlinski has authored books for the general public on mathematics and the history of mathematics. These include A Tour of the Calculus (1995) on calculus, The Advent of the Algorithm (2000) on algorithms, Newton's Gift (2000) on Isaac Newton, and Infinite Ascent: A Short History of Mathematics (2005). Another book, The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky (2003), compares astrological and evolutionary accounts of human behavior.[citation needed] In Black Mischief (1988), Berlinski wrote "Our paper became a monograph. When we had completed the details, we rewrote everything so that no one could tell how we came upon our ideas or why. This is the standard in mathematics."[4]

Berlinski's books have received mixed reviews. Newton's Gift and The Advent of the Algorithm were criticized by MathSciNet for containing historical and mathematical inaccuracies.[5][6] While the Mathematical Association of America review of A Tour of the Calculus by Fernando Q. Gouvêa recommended that professors have students read the book to appreciate the overarching historical and philosophical picture of calculus,[7] a review in The Mathematical Gazette criticized it for inaccuracy and lack of clarity, declaring, "I haven't learned anything from [Berlinski's] book except that the novel of mathematics is best written in another style."[8]


Berlinski, along with fellow Discovery Institute associates Michael Behe and William A. Dembski, tutored Ann Coulter on science and evolution for her book Godless: The Church of Liberalism (2006).[9]

Berlinski was a longtime friend of Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1920–1996), with whom he collaborated on an unfinished and unpublished mathematically based manuscript that he described as being "devoted to the Darwinian theory of evolution".[10] Berlinski dedicated The Advent of the Algorithm to Schützenberger.


He is the author of several detective novels starring private investigator Aaron Asherfeld: A Clean Sweep (1993), Less Than Meets the Eye (1994) and The Body Shop (1996), and a number of shorter works of fiction and non-fiction.


An opponent of the theory of evolution, Berlinski is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, a Seattle-based think tank that is a hub of the pseudoscientific intelligent design movement. Berlinski shares the movement's disbelief in the evidence for evolution, but does not openly avow intelligent design and describes his relationship with the idea as: "warm but distant. It's the same attitude that I display in public toward my ex-wives."[1] Berlinski is a forthright critic of evolution, yet, "Unlike his colleagues at the Discovery Institute,...[he] refuses to theorize about the origin of life."[1]

Berlinski appeared in the 2008 anti-evolution propaganda film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, in which he told interviewer Ben Stein that "Darwinism is not a sufficient condition for a phenomenon like Nazism but I think it's certainly a necessary one."[11]

In his 1996 article, The Deniable Darwin, published in Commentary, Berlinski says he is skeptical of evolution for a number of reasons, claiming an appearance "at once" of an astonishing number of novel biological structures in the Cambrian explosion, a lack of major transitional fossils, a lack of recent significant evolution in sharks, the evolution of the eye, and a failure of evolutionary biology to explain various phenomena ranging from the sexual cannibalism of redback spiders to why women are not born with a tail.[12]

Views on religionEdit

Berlinski describes himself as a secular Jew.[13] Berlinski's views towards criticism of religious belief can be found in his book The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (2008).[13] In summary, he asserts that some skeptical arguments against religious belief based on scientific evidence misrepresent what the science is actually saying, that an objective morality requires a religious foundation, that mathematical theories attempting to bring together quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity amount to pseudoscience because of their lack of empirical verifiability, and he expresses doubt towards Darwinian evolutionary theory.

Personal lifeEdit

Berlinski's daughter Claire Berlinski is a journalist and his son Mischa Berlinski is a writer.[14][15]


Non-fiction booksEdit

Fiction booksEdit

Articles in peer-reviewed journalsEdit

Articles in journals and newspapersEdit


  1. ^ a b c Engber, Daniel (April 15, 2008). "A Crank's Progress". Slate. The Paranoid Style in American Science. Archived from the original on 2008-04-20. Retrieved 2014-01-10.
  2. ^ Berlinski 1968
  3. ^ Berlinski 1972
  4. ^ Berlinski 1988, p. 167
  5. ^ "MR: Search Publications database". MathSciNet. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society.[permanent dead link] Database search for MR1815707: Newton's Gift by Berlinski. Subscription required.
  6. ^ "MR: Search Publications database". MathSciNet. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society.[permanent dead link] Database search for MR1766416: The Advent of the Algorithm by Berlinski. Subscription required.
  7. ^ Gouvêa, Fernando Q. (January 1, 1996). "A Tour of the Calculus". Mathematical Association of America (Book review). Washington, D.C.: Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  8. ^ Meskens, Ad (1996). "Review of A Tour of the Calculus". The Mathematical Gazette. 80 (489): 624–625. doi:10.2307/3618551. ISSN 0025-5572.
  9. ^ Coulter 2007, p. 319: "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."
  10. ^ Wilf, Herbert S. (1996). "Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1920-1996)". Electronic Journal of Combinatorics. 3 (1). ISSN 1077-8926. Retrieved 2014-01-17. Synopsis: "A memorial page for Marcel-Paul Schützenberger, with contributions from Herbert Wilf, Dominique Foata, David Berlinski, Dominique Perrin, Richard Askey and Moshé Flato."
  11. ^ Frankowski, Nathan (Director) (April 18, 2008). Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (Motion picture). Premise Media Corporation.
  12. ^ Berlinski 1996b
  13. ^ a b Berlinski 2009a, p. xiii
  14. ^ "Mathematical Challenges to Darwin's Theory of Evolution - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 2020-07-28.
  15. ^ "Christopher Hitchens vs. David Berlinski | Does Atheism Poison Everything? Debate - YouTube". www.youtube.com. Retrieved 2020-07-28.


External linksEdit