The pseudo-religion of atheistic scientism that Berlinski exposes in the Devil's Delusion reflects the tendency of scientists to become what Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset called "barbarians of specialization." Knowing much about one thing gives them confidence to pontificate grandly about other subjects on 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 airhead empyrean chattering vacuously about anything and everything like George Clooney or Al Gore, Carl Sagan or James Watson, Richard Dreyfuss or Steven Weinberg--actors, politicians, scientists...in the giddy glow of the tube who can tell them apart in their common babble of moral relativism and anti-capitalist eschatology?
The supreme pontiff of the new religion is Richard Dawkins, an Oxford biologist who rode high on the best-seller lists for months with a book entitled [[The God
Delusion]]. Venerated by the media for his alleged scientific genius, he can say almost anything and no one seems to laugh or scoff. For example, The New York Times Book Review late last year published Dawkins' shockingly inept essay on Michael Behe's new book on the limits of Darwinism, despite Dawkins' undisguised personal bile and his amazing idea that the case for the Darwinian origin of new species is aided by invoking a "baying chorus" of the many diverse breeds of dogs.
Now Dawkins has met his nemesis in Berlinski, a Princeton PhD, secular Jew, and a former fellow at the Institute des Hautes Scientifique in France. Now with the Discovery Institute, Berlinski commands a range of scientific disciplines and philosophical skills that project him well beyond the camp of Ortega's barbarians. The polymathic author of several formidable books on mathematics and logic, he in recent years has written a series of incandescent essays on biology, physics, psychology, and mathematics in Commentary magazine that have subsequently evoked an overflow of dumbfounded responses in its letters pages (Berlinski's replies are feloniously sharp). The Devil's Delusion makes the compelling argument that the anti-God fetish of modern science has driven many scientists into a mad nihilism that has crippled their scientific work as well.
Turning to economics in researching my 1981 book Wealth & Poverty, I incurred new disappointments in Darwin and materialism. Forget God — economic science largely denies intelligent design or creation even by human beings. Depicting the entrepreneur as a mere opportunity scout, arbitrageur, or assembler of available chemical elements, economic theory left no room for the invention of radically new goods and services, and little room for economic expansion except by material “capital accumulation” or population growth. Accepted widely were Darwinian visions of capitalism as a dog-eat-dog zero-sum struggle impelled by greed, where the winners consume the losers and the best that can be expected for the poor is some trickle down of crumbs from the jaws (or tax tables) of the rich.