An Interview with David Berlinski, Part One

Posted by Chris Parker
Mar 15 2006

Photo: Berlinski flanked by “remarkably reptilian character”?

… Let me interrupt you. Can you be a little clearer on the difference, as you see it, between Darwin’s theory and Darwinism? …

DB: It is a matter of attitude and sentiment, Look, for thousands of intellectuals, becoming a Marxist was an experience of disturbing intensity. The decision having been made, the world became simpler, brighter, cleaner, clearer.

A number of contemporary intellectuals react in the same way when it comes to the Old Boy – Darwin, I mean. Having renounced Freud and all his wiles, the literary critic Frederick Crews – a man of some taste and sophistication – has recently reported seeing in random variations and natural selection the same light he once saw in castration anxiety or penis envy.

He has accordingly immersed himself in the emollient of his own enthusiasm. Every now and then he contributes an essay to The New York Review of Books revealing that his ignorance of any conceivable scientific issue has not been an impediment to his satisfaction.

Another example – I’ve got hundreds. Daniel Dennett has in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea written about natural selection as the single greatest idea in human intellectual history. Anyone reading Dennett understands, of course, that his acquaintance with great ideas has been remarkably fastidious. Mais, je divague …

In the case of both Crews and Dennett, it’s that God-awful eagerness to explain everything that is the give-away. The eagerness is entirely academic or even literary. But, you know, what sociologists call prole-drift is present even in a world without proles. Look at Christopher Hitchens – very bright, very able.

Just recently he felt compelled to release his views on evolution to a public not known eagerly to be waiting for them. What does he have to say? Pretty much that he doesn’t know anything about art but he knows what he likes.

The truth of the matter, however, is that he pretty much likes what he knows, and what he knows is what he has heard smart scientists say.

Were smart scientists to say that a form of yeast is intermediate between the great apes and human beings, Hitchens would, no doubt, conceive an increased respect for yeast. But that’s a journalist for you: all zeal and no content. No, no, not you, of course. You’re not like the others.

Click Here to Read Entire Interview from:

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Trackback URL for this entry