books book reviews

creationist books

reviewed by T. Nelson


Human Nature

by David Berlinski
Discovery Institute 2019, 328 pages
reviewed by T. Nelson

R eading this collection of essays by David Berlinski elicits a sense of mystery: you know the author is going to start talking about intelligent design, but when? He weaves and darts, criticizing the idiocies that led to World War I, criticizing Steven Pinker and Stanley Fish, and questioning the idea that crime rates have declined since the Middle Ages.

Berlinski finally drops the shoe on page 105 in his article “Necessary Nature” in which he tries to use modal logic to argue that man's nature is fixed—a type of essentialism—and therefore he could not have evolved. He writes:

The human species is real, permanent, enduring, and unique. [p.117]

From this, he takes Plantinga's argument that if there is a possible world W such that x necessarily exists in W, x must exist. He says that this is hard to refute, and therefore the existence of human nature means that we now have the first ever proof of the existence of God.

Sigh. Even Plantinga has said that his proof is only sound if one accepts the premise. This is an old, old argument going back to Anselm in the 11th century.

The argument can be restated like this: If the ‘possible world’ containing x exists, then x exists. ‘Possible’ is just another word for ‘hypothetical‘. If the possible world with x in it does not exist, then x need not exist. It's a fancy way of saying ‘if a world with God in it exists, then God exists’; or more simply, ‘if God exists, then he exists’—a simple tautology.

Most of the rest of the book consists of some brief biographies and snarky comments about biology. At first I was puzzled why he spends so much time trying to convince us that the 20th century was the bloodiest time in history. Then I realized: Charles Darwin.

Too bad. I lent David Berlinski my ear, hoping he had something new to say. He knows a little about a lot of things, but in the end this book just drives a deeper wedge between religion and science.

mar 07 2020