Is David Berlinski the smartest person in the world?

I don’t know. I do not have the wit to figure it out. But he has a clear sharp and deeply well informed mind. Treat this conversation as a part of your liberal education, in the proper sense of that word. His book Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions sticks a skewer or two into some targets, such as Richard Dawkins, who badly need a skewering. His other books are highly recommended too.

If you want a very short indication of why I think he is so smart, hear his exposition of innate capacities residing in human beings at 28:30. How is it that a child taken from an Amazonian tribe of head hunters could be sent to be educated in Boston and that, as a real possibility, it could eventually excel in mathematics at the MIT. We can can conceive of such a thing happening, however unlikely. What does it mean for the Darwinian theory of evolution that a whole set of capacities can lie dormant in a human being for 50 or 500 thousand years and suddenly be evoked by a change of circumstance? How come the kid from a tribe of head-hunters never exposed to civilization could, if taken out of that circumstance, excel in mathematics, or, for that matter, at diplomacy?

One has only to think about this possibility for a minute to realize that Darwin’s theory is radically incomplete. Gigantic features of human life cannot be explained by evolutionary theory.

And that is just an example.

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