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David Berlinski

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David Berlinski
Born1942 (age 79–80)
New York City, U.S.
EducationColumbia University (BA)
Princeton University (PhD)

David Berlinski (born 1942) is an American author who has written books about mathematics and the history of science as well as fiction. An opponent of evolution, he is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, an organization dedicated to promulgating the pseudoscience of intelligent design.[1][2]

Early life

David Berlinski was born in the United States in 1942 to German-born Jewish refugees who had emigrated 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 BA from Columbia University and PhD in philosophy from Princeton University.[3][4]

Academic career

After his PhD, Berlinski was a research assistant in the Department of Biology at Columbia University.[5] He has taught philosophy, mathematics and English at Stanford University, Rutgers, the City University of New York and the Université de Paris.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]


Mathematics and biology

Berlinski has written works on systems analysis,[6] 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), aimed to redeem astrology as "rationalistic"; Publishers Weekly described the book as offering "self-consciously literary vignettes ... ostentatious erudition and metaphysical pseudo-profundities".[7] 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."[8]

Berlinski's books have received mixed reviews. Newton's Gift, The King of Infinite Space and The Advent of the Algorithm were criticized on MathSciNet for containing historical and mathematical inaccuracies.[9][10][11] 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,[12] 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."[13] Likewise, a review in the Notices of the AMS found that Berlinski's metaphor-heavy prose made his "tour" of calculus like a trip along the Amazon River, isolated in an air-conditioned boat with tour guides who are "chatty and slightly manic, willing to invent a bit when certain knowledge runs out."[14]


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).[15]

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".[16] Berlinski dedicated The Advent of the Algorithm to Schützenberger.


He is the author of several detective novels featuring 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.

Opposition to evolution

An opponent of biological 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 rejection of the evidence for evolution, but does not 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 critic of evolution, yet, "Unlike his colleagues at the Discovery Institute,...[he] refuses to theorize about the origin of life."[1]

Personal life

Berlinski's daughter Claire Berlinski is a journalist and his son Mischa Berlinski is a writer.[17][18]


Non-fiction books

Fiction books

Articles in peer-reviewed journals

Articles in journals and newspapers


  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 April 20, 2008. Retrieved January 10, 2014.
  2. ^ Brauer, Matthew J.; Forrest, Barbara; Gey, Steven G. (2005). "Is It Science Yet?: Intelligent Design Creationism and the Constitution". Washington University Law Review. 83 (1).
  3. ^ Berlinski 1968
  4. ^ Columbia College (Columbia University). Office of Alumni Affairs and Development; Columbia College (Columbia University) (1991–1992). Columbia College today. Columbia University Libraries. New York, N.Y. : Columbia College, Office of Alumni Affairs and Development.
  5. ^ Berlinski 1972
  6. ^ Cartwright, T. J. (1979). "Review of On Systems Analysis: An Essay concerning the Limitation of Some Mathematical Methods in the Social, Political, and Biological Sciences". Computers and the Humanities. 13 (4): 326–327. ISSN 0010-4817. JSTOR 30207292.
  7. ^ "The Secrets of the Vaulted Sky: Astrology and the Art of Prediction". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  8. ^ Berlinski 1988, p. 167
  9. ^ MR1815707 (subscription required).
  10. ^ MR3014396 (subscription required).
  11. ^ Philosopher Wilfried Sieg pointed to problems ranging "from tedious discussions of logical calculi to incorrect formulations of the conversion rules for the λ-calculus, from an unsatisfactory definition of primitive recursive functions to the claim that Gödel already in 1931 gave "for the first time" a precise mathematical description of the notion of an algorithm. These are just examples where important technical material is not properly "under control" and where significant historical matters are not accurately presented." MR1766416 (subscription required).
  12. ^ 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 January 17, 2014.
  13. ^ Meskens, Ad (1996). "Review of A Tour of the Calculus". The Mathematical Gazette. 80 (489): 624–625. doi:10.2307/3618551. ISSN 0025-5572. JSTOR 3618551. S2CID 125487095.
  14. ^ Zorn, Paul (December 1996). "Book Review: A Tour of the Calculus" (PDF). Notices of the AMS. 43 (12): 1520–1521.
  15. ^ 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."
  16. ^ Wilf, Herbert S. (1996). "Marcel-Paul Schützenberger (1920–1996)". Electronic Journal of Combinatorics. 3 (1). ISSN 1077-8926. Retrieved January 17, 2014. Synopsis: "A memorial page for Marcel-Paul Schützenberger, with contributions from Herbert Wilf, Dominique Foata, David Berlinski, Dominique Perrin, Richard Askey and Moshé Flato."
  17. ^ "Mathematical Challenges to Darwin's Theory of Evolution – YouTube". Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved July 28, 2020 – via YouTube.
  18. ^ "Christopher Hitchens vs. David Berlinski | Does Atheism Poison Everything? Debate – YouTube". Retrieved July 28, 2020 – via YouTube.


External links