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Old 7th May 2008, 08:56 PM   #1
grayman
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The Devils Delusion Reviewed by George Gilder

In the May 5th, 2008 edition of National Review, George Gilder does a book review of The Devil's Delusion written by David Berlinski.

To read it online you need to subscribe to the magazine or to NR online. May be easier to head down to your local library to read the review in full.

As I read the review, Gilder's tone struck me as smug. At least that's how I took it. If you have the opportunity to find the article (P.58-61), please post your thoughts.

I'll post a few excerpts here for any of you that it may interest. Hope it's not a waste of your time.

Quote:
David Berlinski’s new book describes the remarkable extent to which the dominant religion of the intelligentsia is now “science.” This new religion — which is based on atheism and materialism — is actually better termed “scientism,” since its religious claims far overreach its scientific content.

Scientism reflects the tendency of scientists to become what Ortega y Gasset called “barbarians of specialization.” Knowing much about one thing gives them confidence to pontificate about other subjects to which their expertise is irrelevant, or to inflate their own little patches of expertise into “grand unified theories.” Knowing more and more about less and less, they finally rise into the nation’s TV-empyrean, chattering vacuously about anything and everything. George Clooney or Carl Sagan, Al Gore or James Watson — actors, politicians, scientists — who can tell them apart, in their common babble of moral relativism and anti-capitalist eschatology?

Their shallow ideology is the target of Berlinski’s book. A Princeton Ph.D., secular Jew, and former fellow at the Institute des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques in France, Berlinski — now affiliated with the Discovery Institute, which I co-founded — commands a range of scientific disciplines and philosophical skills that project him well beyond the camp of Ortega’s barbarians.
Quote:
Detailing the horrendous record of massacres committed by aggressive atheists during the 20th century, Berlinski observes “what anyone capable of reading the German sources already knew: A sinister current of influence ran from Darwin’s theory of evolution to Hitler’s policy of extermination.” An implicit argument underlies all these horrors. A: “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.” B: “If science is true, then God does not exist.” C: “If science is true, then everything is permitted.” As Berlinski shows, these propositions led predictably (Dostoevsky and Nietzsche predicted it, after all) to the Holocaust.
Quote:
All the incompatible physical systems of modern science ultimately repose on a foundation of mathematical logic. Finally making a hash of all atheist materialism, therefore, is the paramount mathematical finding of the 20th century: the inexorable Gödelian incompleteness of mathematics. As Kurt Gödel, Alan Turing, Alonzo Church, and Gregory Chaitin have proven, mathematical logic, whether expressed in computer algorithms or in differential equations, finally relies on premises beyond itself. In other words, faith is critical to mathematics and computer logic, which are themselves abstract conceptual schemes not in any way reducible to materialist dogma.

Apparently to distract attention from this baffling paradox of atheism, scientists have clutched at a set of laughable chimeras. Richard Dawkins, for example, accepts the idea of a “megaverse,” a stupendous “Landscape” of infinitely parallel universes that explain away the absurd improbabilities of Darwinian materialism by the assumption that our own universe is only one of an infinite array.
Quote:
How do such absurd circularities come to be believed or respected by serious people? Berlinski concludes that “the willingness of physical scientists to explore such strategies in thought might suggest to a perceptive psychoanalyst a desire not so much to discover a new idea as to avoid an old one.” But the idea of a God in a hierarchical universe is essential to coherent thought or uplifting culture of any kind. A culture that does not aspire to the divine becomes obsessed with the fascination of evil, reveling in the frivolous, the depraved, and the bestial. Without a sense of the transcendent, science ends up pursuing reductionist trivia, from the next particle or dimension of string to ever more abstruse arguments for the animality of man and the pointlessness of the universe.
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Old 7th May 2008, 10:01 PM   #2
Robin
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Originally Posted by grayman View Post
In the May 5th, 2008 edition of National Review, George Gilder does a book review of The Devil's Delusion written by David Berlinski.

To read it online you need to subscribe to the magazine or to NR online. May be easier to head down to your local library to read the review in full.

As I read the review, Gilder's tone struck me as smug. At least that's how I took it. If you have the opportunity to find the article (P.58-61), please post your thoughts.

I'll post a few excerpts here for any of you that it may interest. Hope it's not a waste of your time.
All together now : "blah blah ... science is based on atheism and materialism ... blah blah ... moral relativism ... blah blah .. Hitler, extermination ... blah blah ...Godel, Turing etc ... blah blah blah ... no morality without God ... blah blah"

You could write a computer program to generate this kind of garbage.

PS. He forget Quantum Physics
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Old 8th May 2008, 12:12 AM   #3
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Initially I was expecting another ID book, but it appears from the amazon page that it's a response to "new atheism" and falls into a lot of the same traps that Expelled does or that Godless did. While I don't agree with "new atheism", I cannot take seriously any critique of it that basically personifies Godwin's Law.

The word pogrom existed before the Soviet Union.
Why are the Conquistadores never mentioned by these folks?
The Holocaust happened not because of atheism but because of:
- Bad archaeology (the Aryans were not "a race")
- European cheauvanism
- German and Catholic anti-Semitism
- Totalitarian statism and scapegoating of a minority
- Bad science manifested by Eugenics and Social-Darwinism.
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Old 8th May 2008, 05:11 AM   #4
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...infinitely parallel universes that explain away the absurd improbabilities of Darwinian materialism...
What is Darwinian materialism? From googling, it seems to be little more than an ill defined buzzword religious people use for their "enemy's" world view. Searching Wikipedia gives mainly results like Wedge strategy, Intelligent Design and Objections to evolution. Is it just an attempt to link Darwinism/evolution with materialism, so if you believe in God and therefore reject materialism, you have to reject evolution as well?
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Old 8th May 2008, 05:29 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by UnrepentantSinner View Post
Initially I was expecting another ID book, but it appears from the amazon page that it's a response to "new atheism" and falls into a lot of the same traps that Expelled does or that Godless did. While I don't agree with "new atheism", I cannot take seriously any critique of it that basically personifies Godwin's Law.

The word pogrom existed before the Soviet Union.
Why are the Conquistadores never mentioned by these folks?
The Holocaust happened not because of atheism but because of:
- Bad archaeology (the Aryans were not "a race")
- European cheauvanism
- German and Catholic anti-Semitism
- Totalitarian statism and scapegoating of a minority
- Bad science manifested by Eugenics and Social-Darwinism.
What gets me is that real biological science (as opposed to the politically driven pseudo science employed by those like the the Nazis which included phrenology, I kid you not) has shown that "race" is a human construct with no real biological basis. Far from promoting racism, evolutionary biology has refuted it.
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Old 8th May 2008, 05:37 AM   #6
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In the paragraphs from the book, he criticizes 'scientism', in which scientists, having specialized knowledge in one area, speak on a variety of subjects in which their expertise is irrelevant.

Berlinski is a mathemetician who regularly speaks about Evolution.
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Old 8th May 2008, 06:57 AM   #7
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Ahh, new phrases to poison the well!

"Scientism"

"Barbarians of specialization"


And the inevitable clownlike interpretations of real science and math:
Quote:
the inexorable Gödelian incompleteness of mathematics. As Kurt Gödel, Alan Turing, Alonzo Church, and Gregory Chaitin have proven, mathematical logic, whether expressed in computer algorithms or in differential equations, finally relies on premises beyond itself. In other words, faith is critical to mathematics and computer logic, which are themselves abstract conceptual schemes not in any way reducible to materialist dogma.
No, it doesn't rely on premises beyond itself. That's the whole point. There are no complete sets of premises, in the mathematical logic sense, for the general problem of computation.

Oh, I forgot this new, invented term:

Quote:
Apparently to distract attention from this baffling paradox of atheism, scientists have clutched at a set of laughable chimeras. Richard Dawkins, for example, accepts the idea of a “megaverse,” a stupendous “Landscape” of infinitely parallel universes that explain away the absurd improbabilities of Darwinian materialism by the assumption that our own universe is only one of an infinite array.
The "megaverse" is one such theory proposed by physicists, but not to overcome "absurd improbabilities of Darwinian materialism".


Oh, "Darwinian materialism", too. That makes four!


And a person who believes in invisible, viscious, angry sky daddies is in no position to wax incredulous regarding the possibility of parallel universes.


In any case, he's probably mis-portraying his words. Personally, I don't view the chances as all that spectacularly low. It may be statistically inevitable, given a universe of this size and age. So so much for this "disproof".
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Old 8th May 2008, 07:41 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Foster Zygote View Post
What gets me is that real biological science (as opposed to the politically driven pseudo science employed by those like the the Nazis which included phrenology, I kid you not) has shown that "race" is a human construct with no real biological basis. Far from promoting racism, evolutionary biology has refuted it.
Exactly! That is one of the most maddening things about this "new anti-evolutionist" tack that a lot of these cranks are taking (though it just Creationist boilerplate repackaged under the aegis of "intellectual freedom" and "teach the controversy"). Now you might disagree, but IMO race has a funciton in determining ethnicity and geographic origin, but it in no way determines fitness or "level of evolution" since every ethnicity, and species that is extant on the Earth today is equally fit and evolved.. be it nematodes, little neck clams, Basking sharks, Robins or Orangutans.

Race doesn't even measure up to the evolutionary standard of a ring species since an Inuit and a Belgian could have a child who could marry an Australian Aborigene the child of whom could marry a !Kung and have a child. Human populations in geographically disparate locations have evolved different characteristics in dealing with their environment over 10s and 100s of thousands of years, but that observed fact does not translate into the sexual selection of one population for persons of the same religion over 1,500 years or so into either or being more evolved or whatever perverted verbiage one uses to justify discrimination or genocide.

The anti-evolution crowd, be they Creationists, C/IDers, or those strange out of place folks like Behe and Berlinski who want to argue against atheism need a serious reality check about the actual causes of the bad things that happened in the 20th Century and why their war against the mythical phantasm of "Darwinism" is tilting at windmills.

Originally Posted by Btodd View Post
In the paragraphs from the book, he criticizes 'scientism', in which scientists, having specialized knowledge in one area, speak on a variety of subjects in which their expertise is irrelevant.

Berlinski is a mathemetician who regularly speaks about Evolution.
In one of those Internet collapsing in on itself ironies, it appears that ID folks have evolved out of their sense of irony.

Anyone here can disagree with me but when cranks like Berlinski who aren't specialists in biology raise a stink I roll my eyes and voice my disagreement with them, but when people who know better like Behe are so obsessed with Darwinism atheism, that they allow it to cloud their judgement, I can't help but descend into ad homs within the Crevo debate. Berlinski gets a sneer, but I want to spit in Behe.
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Old 8th May 2008, 07:47 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Foster Zygote View Post
What gets me is that real biological science (as opposed to the politically driven pseudo science employed by those like the the Nazis which included phrenology, I kid you not) has shown that "race" is a human construct with no real biological basis. Far from promoting racism, evolutionary biology has refuted it.
Race is a label, a convention, just as the categorization of species, classes, orders, etc, is a label system that is applied to things of similar nature. I suspect your objection is to the conflation of physical characteristic with a value judgment of worth, quality, good, evil, or whatever.

Whether or not the assumptioms made about outward appearances are valid is another matter. Plenty of bad science to be had there.

To pretend that race "doesn't exist" is to pretend that certain traits and markers do not exist. It is analogous to pretending that politics doesn't exist. Politics is a thing, so labeled, that has certain characteristics. You can call it a human convention, or a construct, or a label for a Thing in itself. (Hagel warning.) Like any label, it can be useful (perhaps in a limited sense) as an aggregation, and thus a descriptive, of a group or a subset of things. (In this case, humans. ) The conclusions drawn due to this grouping, as opposed to other groupings, is again another matter, and worth subordinating to more detailed analysis, scientific or otherwise.

The physical characteristics that make a Chinese face look Chinese (or more generallly Mongoloid/Asiatic as the convention goes) are not a fantasy. They are a physical reflection of an inner process at lower orders of physical reality. (Cell level, or tissue level, or DNA level, what have you.)

In the past year, I've read two different essays on red heads, and on sickle cell anemia. Both have genetic markers that correlate to the race (be it a sub set of Northern Celts, or West Africans) of the people with those characteristics. Race as a categorization becomes less relevant as populations mix more across the globe, to be sure, but to pretend that it doesn't exist, or wasn't a handy tool for labeling and describing sub sets of people seems to me an empty argument.

DR
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Old 8th May 2008, 08:03 AM   #10
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Quote:
Their shallow ideology is the target of Berlinski’s book. A Princeton Ph.D., secular Jew, and former fellow at the Institute des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques in France, Berlinski — now affiliated with the Discovery Institute, which I co-founded — commands a range of scientific disciplines and philosophical skills that project him well beyond the camp of Ortega’s barbarians.
Isn't there something awfully incestuous about this whole thing? This seems like no sort of review at all... it is an advertisement, and little else. The co-founder of the Discovery Institute writing a "review" of a book written by a fellow of the Discovery Institute is bad enough, but the National Review printing it shows a complete lack of journalistic standards.
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Old 8th May 2008, 08:48 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by JoeEllison View Post
Isn't there something awfully incestuous about this whole thing? This seems like no sort of review at all... it is an advertisement, and little else. The co-founder of the Discovery Institute writing a "review" of a book written by a fellow of the Discovery Institute is bad enough, but the National Review printing it shows a complete lack of journalistic standards.
To be fair, the National Review has also published an article by one of its regular writers, John Derbyshire, which excoriates Expelled, the Intelligent Design movement, the Discovery Institute, and the general anti-science tone of all of them.
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Old 8th May 2008, 09:16 AM   #12
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George Clooney or Carl Sagan, Al Gore or James Watson — actors, politicians, scientists — who can tell them apart, in their common babble of moral relativism and anti-capitalist eschatology?
George Clooney, an Actor from ER. Known for his devilish good looks. Has recently achieved noteriety for his political views.

Carl Sagan, a scientist who popularized Astronomy for many many individuals through the excellent series, Cosmos. Staunch atheist and supporter of skeptical thinking. Was pro-pot.

Al Gore, Former VP of the United States who made a documentary presenting the current evidence for global warming. Won Nobel Peace prize for his efforts, although much debate still exists about whether or not AGW is real.

James Watson, Nobel Prize winner for the discovery of the Double Helix and currently working at Cold Spring Harbor. Long history of male chauvinism. Much controversy exists regarding his recent views of genetics and intelligence.

I'm sorry, but How could we NOT tell these people apart.
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Old 8th May 2008, 09:43 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by joobz View Post
I'm sorry, but How could we NOT tell these people apart.
I could distinguish Sagan from the others by smell alone.
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Old 8th May 2008, 09:54 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Dunstan View Post
To be fair, the National Review has also published an article by one of its regular writers, John Derbyshire, which excoriates Expelled, the Intelligent Design movement, the Discovery Institute, and the general anti-science tone of all of them.
I don't think it excuses the general low standards, when their writers sometimes exceed them.
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Old 8th May 2008, 11:00 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by JoeEllison View Post
I don't think it excuses the general low standards, when their writers sometimes exceed them.
I'm not saying it excuses low standards. I'm just saying that I don't think they're completely in the tank for the Discovery Institute, which I thought was what you were implying in your "incestuous" comment. But that's about as far as I want to go in defending the National Review.
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Old 8th May 2008, 02:09 PM   #16
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Having been a National Review-reading right-winger in my misspent youth, allow me to translate from American Conservative to English...

Quote:
...who can tell them apart, in their common babble of moral relativism...

Translation:
Anyone who doesn't think that fetuses should have voting rights, children should wear chastity belts until their 35, and that homosexuals should be shot on sight are are out to destroy Western civilization, Christianity, and America!*

Quote:
and anti-capitalist eschatology?


Translation:
I've got my head so far up my ideological ass that I refuse to admit that market economics, for all their benefits, can just as easily create serious problems. Rather than listen to, and positively act upon, criticism of the system that enriches my worthless existance, I'll resort to red-baiting and imply the Sagan, Clooney, Gore, et al are all closet Marxists out to destroy Western civilization, Christianity, and America!

*Western Civilization, Christianity, and America: the Holy Trinity of the American Right.
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Old 8th May 2008, 03:10 PM   #17
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Second thoughts....
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Old 8th May 2008, 10:04 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by joobz View Post
Staunch atheist...
Really? I've seen him describe himself as an agnostic (IIRC an empirical one) until his death.
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Old 8th May 2008, 10:13 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by Dunstan View Post
I'm not saying it excuses low standards. I'm just saying that I don't think they're completely in the tank for the Discovery Institute, which I thought was what you were implying in your "incestuous" comment. But that's about as far as I want to go in defending the National Review.
No, I wasn't implying anything, but certainly not that. I meant the fact that they had a co-founder of DI "review" a book coming from a DI fellow is incestuous, sort of like having your way too permissive mommy as a teacher, or having your best friend do your job evaluations. Most people with even the faintest concept of sensible behavior would have avoided that sort of situation.
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Old 8th May 2008, 10:16 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by UnrepentantSinner View Post
Really? I've seen him describe himself as an agnostic (IIRC an empirical one) until his death.
You've seen him describe himself as an agnostic until his death?
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Old 8th May 2008, 10:52 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Robin View Post
You've seen him describe himself as an agnostic until his death?
I should have phrased that as "I've heard him describe himself and others like Ann" describe himself as an agnostic until his death, in reference to "Billions and Billions" and a Parade article she wrote after he died.

Probably should have added an IIRC to that as well.
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