Interesting comments by David Berlinski

The following is my transcription of some excerpts from a Hoover Institution (“Uncommon Knowledge”) interview with David Berlinski. Not a blanket-endorsement or agreement of everything Berlinski says of course, but some interesting quotes nonetheless.

David Berlinski: “Darwinism provides a mythological framework for a scientific theory. It provides an account of human origins; it provides an account of biological origins; it provides an account of change. And that account, at every point, is the substitute for a biblical account. That is, the accounts that we had all been led to believe, say, before 1859 were essentially biblical…in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”


Peter Robinson: “If there were a God, how could such a thing [as the holocaust–CD] happen?”

David Berlinski: “It’s a terribly difficult question. But look. If we take the period from 1939 to 1945. Look at 1945: The Jewish people yet live…the Third Reich, that lies smashed to smithereens under the tank treads of Russian tanks…blown to bits by American and British airplanes, and everyone who survived the Third Reich, must survive drowned in mourning or consumed with grief. That doesn’t strike me as a whole lot less than a biblical adjudication of those war years. Not pleasant, but no one reading the Old Testament comes away convinced that the God of wrath is essentially a Rotarian; He is a God of wrath. If He chose to kill nine million people to make a point, and then destroy their persecutors. Remember Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, the conclusion he reaches: We must still say, as was said long ago: Righteous and just are the decisions of the Lord. He was talking about a terrible war too.”


Peter Robinson: “Here we have another question submitted over Ricochet by Lo Fon:

‘Dr. Berlinski vigorously and hilariously critiques the arguments of atheists such as Dawkins, Dennet, et al. Why would a true Agnostic take the time, and make the effort to make such arguments?'”

David Berlinski: “Good question. Why would he?”

Peter Robinson: “You’re not an agnostic?”

David Berlinski: “I didn’t say that.”

Peter Robinson: “That’s true…you describe yourself as secular though.

David Berlinski: “That’s because I live by the principle, have a good time all the time.”

Peter Robinson: So, you’re a believer of some description?”

David Berlinski: ” … What I reject, often with florid indignation, is the idea that these particular descriptive categories are of much use. I can be a believer, I can be an agnostic, I can be a serious believer; it all depends. I think that’s true for every human being.”


David Berlinski [speaking of allegedly difficult questions posed by atheists –CD]: “The traditional question that is supposed to flummox believers, is the existence of evil. Certainly there’s no question that there’s a lot of rottenness in the Universe. But whether that is quite so imperative a consideration with respect to atheism and religion, as it’s commonly said to be, I’m not sure.”

Peter Robinson: “Well, we talked about the Holocaust when we were taping the program proper…so let’s take it an one level of abstraction: How do you handle the problem of evil?”

David Berlinski: “Surely I’m the wrong person to address it, it’s Upstairs that we bounce that problem back. But I must say, the book of Job gives one explanation that I’ve always found very satisfying: Who are you? Who are you to ask the question? Were you there when I created the earth? Were you there when I laid the foundations of the earth? Did you teach the eagle to fly? …. the fact that evil is one of the questions for which, a) we don’t have a good answer, and b) we cannot imagine a good answer, seems to be part of the general human intellectual experience.”

[And then Berlinski comments on the Bible, specifically the Old Testament–CD]

David Berlinski: “I would suggest any student entering college now, 2011, to do what I’m sure he hasn’t done: Go read the Old Testament…I always ask my students…have you ever read the…ever read the bible? ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Sure. But when I interrogate the students, it turns out ‘reading the bible,’ means, they have a bible on their bookshelf. I said: Have you opened it? ‘Yeah, we’ve opened it.’ But opening it, doesn’t mean reading it.

The Old Testament is the greatest repository of human knowledge and wisdom in the history of civilization, in any culture, in any time, in any place. And that really should be the first point of discussion; because every attitude current today in the discussion, from Richard Dawkins, to me, to Christopher Hitchens, to lonely pastors in the bible-belt on Sunday morning ranting from a particular text, is discussed in the bible. There’s a character in the bible who expresses that point of view, and there’s sympathy expressed for that point of view, and there are reservations expressed by the sympathy. It’s an enormously complex, rich, dramatic piece of work.”