David Berlinski Writer, Thinker, and Raconteur

Human Nature

Conventional wisdom holds that the murder rate has plummeted since the Middle Ages; humankind is growing more peaceful and enlightened; man is shortly to be much improved — better genes, better neural circuits, better biochemistry; and we are approaching a technological singularity that well may usher in utopia. Human Nature eviscerates these and other doctrines of a contemporary nihilism masquerading as science. In this wide-ranging work polymath David Berlinski draws upon history, mathematics, logic, and literature to retrain our gaze on an old truth many are eager to forget: there is and will be about the human condition beauty, nobility, and moments of sublime insight, yes, but also ignorance and depravity. Men are not about to become like gods.


Polymath David Berlinski’s appraisal of a transcendent human nature is really a military history, a discourse on physics and mathematics, a review of philosophy and linguistics, and a brilliant indictment of scientific groupthink by an unapologetic intellectual dissident. Read it and learn something original and incisive on every page.

Victor Davis Hanson, Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, author of The Second World Wars

Berlinski is a modern Hannah Arendt, but deeper, more illuminating and wittier (i.e., smarter). His ability to use science and mathematics to illuminate history is nearly unique. If I were assembling a list of essential modern books for undergraduates at my college or any college, this book would be number one. Not only would students learn a tremendous lot from this book; many would also love it. Likewise their teachers. Berlinski’s gift to mankind is gratefully received.

David Gelernter, Professor of Computer Science, Yale University

As the lights of Western civilization go out, it is nevertheless a treat to read these deep reflections on what we can be proud of, and where we went badly astray. Wonderfully unconventional and stimulating, with David Berlinski’s characteristic wit and penetrating insight!

Greg Chaitin, pioneer of algorithmic information theory and metamathematics, and Emeritus Researcher, IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in New York, whose festschrift Unravelling Complexity: The Life and Work of Gregory Chaitin is forthcoming

Berlinski combines mastery of classical culture and deep knowledge of mathematics and the natural sciences with sharp, elegant, and insightful writing. The man is fearless in pursuing lines of reasoning that are considered taboo by current standards. A wonderful display of common sense and reason at a time of great confusions.

Sergiu Klainerman, Eugene Higgins Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University

“These essays represent a reflection on man and modern times as erudite as the finest history, as profound as the most searching philosophy, as beautifully wrought as the loveliest prose, and as shocking and indignant as the best journalism. The work of a magnificent mind.”

Peter Robinson, Murdoch Distinguished Policy Fellow at the Hoover Institution, host of Uncommon Knowledge

“Another tour de force by David Berlinski. Few writers indeed, about science or society, can boast such a thoroughgoing command of the significant ideas of the past century, the confident mastery of every centrally significant scientific theory. Yet if Berlinski derives obvious joy from the great theories that unify the world, he is never more memorable than when he vividly displays its irreducible particulars, holding the quiddities of place and person more clearly before our imagination than we might even see them ourselves.

Indeed, if Berlinski glories in science’s achievements, he is no less dismissive of those attempts to see pattern and abstraction born not of vision but of ignorance; and he repeatedly marshals his exceptionally deep historical and scientific knowledge (and his inimitable wit) to drive facile theories of man and the world into the shoals. He is a relentless and devastating enemy of all attempts to reduce the tragic, bizarre, glorious world that confronts us to simple answers or easy slogans at the expense of the facts. We will treasure this book.”

Stephen McKeown, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, University of Texas at Dallas