David Berlinski on the link between evolution, science and progressivism

This is a rush transcript from "Life, Liberty & Levin," April 29, 2018. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARK LEVIN, HOST: Hello, America, I'm Mark Levin, and this is "Life, Liberty & Levin," and it's an honor to have Dr. David Berlinski with us. How are you, sir?

DAVID BERLINSKI, AUTHOR AND ACADEMIC: I'm just fine, thank you for having me.

LEVIN: Thank you for coming all the way from Paris to our little place.

BERLINSKI: It was endless.

LEVIN: It was endless. Okay, imagine a hundred years ago, now that was endless.

BERLINSKI: It was worse. My trip was worse.

LEVIN: David Berlinski, I want to talk today with you and you're uniquely qualified to do this, about evolution, science and progressivism because there's a link through them all and you've written about this and spoken about this many, many times.

You received your PhD in Philosophy from Princeton University, later a Post Doctoral Fellow in Mathematics and Molecular Biology at Columbia University. I am glad I didn't take any of those courses. Senior Fellow in the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture.

You've you taught Philosophy, Mathematics, English at Stanford, Rutgers, City University of New York and in Paris and you're now the editor of "Inference: International Review of Science."

Let's get started. You wrote a book about a decade ago that I read about a decade ago. And in doing this program, I started to think about it, and I said, "I think it's important that we have this discussion about science, evolution, progressivism," and I want to start where you started.

Let me read you one paragraph, "I'm a secular Jew," you write. "My religious education did not take. I can barely remember a word of Hebrew, I cannot pray. I've spent more years than I care to remember in studying Mathematics and writing about the Sciences." Yet, as you wrote in the preface of this book, the book that follows is in some sense a defense of religious thought and sentiment."

"Biblical verses are the least of it. A defense is needed because none has been forthcoming. The discussion has been ceded to men who regard religious belief with frivolous contempt. The books have poured from every press and although differing widely in their style, they are identical in their message because scientific theories are true, religious beliefs must be false." From your book "The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Scientific Pretensions." And that is the thesis -- that is the foundational point of your book. Can you can expand on that?

BERLINSKI: Well, something -- something particular and peculiar seems to have come over American intellectual life -- Anglo-American intellectual life perhaps 20 years ago.

In the 1950s and the 60s, the position that was academically tolerated. It was a kind of cheerful agnosticism with respect to religious tradition of mankind. It could be with respect to God's existence, maybe, maybe not, but this isn't an issue that vexes us profoundly as members of the scientific community. That all changed.

Now, we are kind of very, very vociferous and dogmatic. Atheism has become obligatory in the scientific community. There are exceptions. There are always going to be exceptions.

For all I know, some distinguished physicist may be plotting jihad, I have no idea. But by and large, atheism has replaced any kind of tolerant and forbearing agnosticism as the de facto standard in Anglo-American scientific intellectual life.

And as a result, the religious tradition that is a very, very long 5,000- year-old tradition has been made into an object of faint derision among sophisticated men and women much to the consternation of people who deeply, deeply admire that tradition, and that, I think, is a change in the diapason of life that we need to pay attention to.

It is relatively new, I think it started around 1980-1985, but become an accelerating force in intellectual life. If you are minded to be a serious Christian or extremely devout and orthodox Jew, or even a serious Muslim, better not go into the scientific community and tell your fraternity brothers that that is what you are, best to keep your mouth closed.

And I think that's generally true. It's among the various topics about which it is not a particularly good idea to make broadcast your views.

LEVIN: And then you add, following up on your point, "No scientific theory touches on the mysteries that the religious tradition addresses. A man asking his days are short is not disposed to turn to algebraic quantum field theory for the answer. The answers that prominent scientific figures have offered are remarkable in their shallowness. The hypothesis that we are nothing more than cosmic accidents have been widely accepted by the scientific community."

And you say, basically science has nothing to say about life and love and death and meaning.

BERLINSKI: Hardly a controversial point, is it? I mean, if I am asking certain kinds of questions. Look, look around you. There's something there. Open your eyes, you're struck by the existence of the universe. Why is that there?

Look at the answers forthcoming from the physics community. They can be described in one of two ways. Well, what do you expect? We're here; therefore there is something there, or it's kind of an accident.

These are not the kind of answers intelligent men and women are searching for. They correspond to no deep intellectual need, they're frivolous. Physics really has nothing to tell us, for example, about the origins and appearance of the universe.

It has a lot of interesting things to say about cosmology, but it's not the same question. The most radical question you can ask is: Why is there something -- anything rather than what, nothing? Why is that?

It's perfectly possible to propose that there could have been nothing whatsoever. I don't mean some preexisting stuff. I mean nothing. Well, that's not the world we live in. How come? It's a good question. What's your answer?

And when you actually look at the physicists or the biologist or the chemist, their answer is, we know how it happened. We open our eyes, too. There's something, and we can explain the origin of all that by appealing to some preexisting something. Are you satisfied with that? If not, well, you're not scientifically literate. Lawrence Krauss makes exactly that same argument. Well, the reason that the universe popped into existence was the preexisting quantum field from which it arose by a probability...


LEVIN: And they have no real solid idea, do they?

BERLINSKI: None, whatsoever.

LEVIN: And yet, they continue to push their theories out as if it's science.

BERLINSKI: Well, let's be fair, wouldn't you do the same thing if you were a leading physicist? I sure would. If I had a theory that deep down I knew it was no good, but there are sorts of emoluments, richness, awards, prestige associated with it, I would push it for all its worth, too.

LEVIN: Is this why we get these arguments about climate change where the same scientists can't tell you...

BERLINSKI: No, I am talking about the top physicists. Climate change, you have to go down that ladder all the way into the bottom.

LEVIN: And yet, for a lot of us, it's just a mush out there. In other words, you're saying the top physicists and what I'm saying is, when we take a look at climate change, we have a community that can't tell us the temperature in a week within 10 degrees, but they can tell us the temperature in 100 years within one degree. What I'm saying is, you're saying these top physicists, but isn't it pervasive? Isn't this a pervasive problem throughout science?

BERLINSKI: To a certain extent. Look, science is an enormous enterprise. How many guys, how many women, men and women affirm themselves as scientists worldwide today? Do you happen to have the number? It's seven million. Seven million people are engaged in the scientific enterprise.

And, of course, you are going to find very repetitive sociological patterns when there is something as important as environment or climate, you're going to find groups forming factions splitting all from the initial group, a tremendous amount of propaganda. Elaborate approaches to government resources. There's a great deal of money to be had and it's not coming from the private sector, it's coming from the Federal government.

When I talk about fundamental questions about the origin of the universe, we're appealing to the very top of the intellectual ladder. When I talk about climate change, we're talking about some competent people, not many, some competent people with moderately conflicting views, both about the origins climate change, yes, the world is getting warmer.

The nature of climate change, the reliability of the climatic models and theories that go into them, and prognostications for the future. It's not entirely clear exactly which group has the most overwhelming and persuasive evidence.

LEVIN: Well, let's talk about the top. What do you think of this fellow, at least arguably, Darwin -- a lot of theories, arguments, a lot of science, so to speak what is Darwinism. What is that?

BERLINSKI: Well Darwin comes mid-19th Century figure. In 1859, he published what is arguably his masterpiece, "The Origin of Species" and the question that Darwin asked himself is a question that all of the 19th century biologists were asking, what is the nature of life? What is the origin of individual species? How did life emerge from inorganic matter? And what are the dynamic laws that change one species into another, if there is such a thing as a change of species?

Don't forget Alchemy promoted a very similar thesis when it said base metals could be transmuted into gold. It was an argument for transmutation of elements. Darwin provided an alchemical explanation for biology.

Species could be transformed into other species. Well, how can this come about? We don't see it every day. It comes about because there are small variations within each species and these variations are seized upon by the mechanism of natural selection which simply means some survive, some don't survive.

Over vast periods of time, these small variations accumulate. They converge on a different structure and various different structures in turn converge on a new body, plant, a new organism, a new species, a new entry in the vast pharmacopeia of life. That's Darwinism and it's a position which is being increasingly held as a secular doctrine. Comparable -- comparable to the Book of Genesis.

LEVIN: Was he right?

BERLINSKI: I have a lot of doubts. I have a lot of doubts and so do other people. There are many, many places when one looks at Darwinism, one would say, "Look, this just isn't a scientific theory, it's a collection of anecdotes." Why did the giraffe develop such a long neck? Well, he wanted to reach the trees on the top. Well how come other animals didn't develop the long neck? Well, they didn't want to reach the trees on the top.

How come certain kinds of European eels have to swim across the Atlantic in order to mate? Other kinds of eels are perfectly happy fornicating close to home. Well, it worked for one eel, it didn't work for the other.

Why aren't women born with tails like cats? Well, women don't seem to need the tails, even though it would make them even more alluring than they are. Why don't cats rule the world, considering they have every reason and every opportunity to do so? Well, they're content being our domestic masters. I mean, the anecdotes pile on interminably and there is no fundamental leading principle.

LEVIN: Do you find that most atheists, more prominent atheists embrace Darwinism.

BERLINSKI: Every last one.

LEVIN: And why do they do that?

BERLINSKI: Because it's a secular myth. Even atheists need some compelling myth how we got here, what we are doing here, what our purpose is? How we got here? It was an accident. What are doing here? We have no idea. What is our purpose? It's replication -- fornication and replication, that's about it, but it's a very, very viable myth. People believe it. They act according to it.

LEVIN: And it also doesn't tolerate much, as you are right, and as people experience it, it doesn't tolerate much religion for people of faith. I want to continue with this in just a moment with you.

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Dr. Berlinski, so atheism, Darwinism -- they can't really tolerate religion, can they?

BERLINSKI: Not with any degree of enthusiasm. I mean, everyone will say religion is a matter of what you do in the privacy and therefore, the confines of your own home. As long as it doesn't come into the academic world and pollute the stream of vigorous science, you can do whatever you want.

That is a way of maintaining the fiction of certain kinds of constitutional protections and at the same time upholding the values of the academy. which are frankly anti-religious. There's no question about that. What's the title of Christopher Hitchens' book? "Religion Poisons Everything."

LEVIN: And I look at this and then you look at our Declaration of Independence, natural rights, natural law, God-given, unalienable rights. How can this notion of Darwinism, atheism, really progressivism, which I want to get into with you in a moment, they really don't work with constitutionalism, do they?

BERLINSKI: We told these truths to be self-evident, that all men are endowed by their creator. Oh, wait a second. That has nothing to do, it is flatly inconsistent with the Darwinian hypothesis.

All men are not endowed by their creator. All men are not brothers. Quite a different scenario that is playing out in the biological world. If you want a comparison, look to our nearest neighbors, you would never say all chimpanzees are brothers endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Why should we say that about that? But we do. That's the crucial point. We tolerate the inconsistency because we're forced to.

LEVIN: We tolerate the inconsistency, but when it comes to actual governance, the inconsistency in many ways isn't even tolerated. What I mean by that is, it's a point of propaganda. It's a point of an emotion, but there are parties, there are efforts, right, that adopt this notion of progressivism and the old progressives who take a lot of their arguments from Hegel and Marx, Woodrow Wilson or all of these fellows -- Dewey. They would attack the Declaration. They would attack the Constitution. They would attack these traditions. This is old stuff. It's time to move along.

BERLINSKI: "All that is holy is profaned," Marx said.

LEVIN: Right, and so, in America today, do you think this notion of Darwinism that you were talking about, this push towards, I would argue public atheism -- in other words, religion out of the public square. We've got to clean it off out of the parks. We have got to clean it out of the schools.

BERLINSKI: Get rid of it wherever.

LEVIN: Wherever it is.


LEVIN: Doesn't this undermine the foundational principles of the United States?

BERLINSKI: Probably. Probably. But, look, let me put the point to you in a slightly different way. Suppose you were coming from outer space, you're a biologist, right? You come to the Earth and you listen to a long lecture about Darwin, the immense importance of Darwinian biology, but then, you open your own eyes, say you're from Mars, you open your eyes.

What are the two things that would most strike you about living systems on the face of the Earth? Not the Darwinian rhetoric, but it's just the evidence of your own eyes. One is that all life is related. There's no question about that.

Biochemistry is the same throughout life. All life has very, very many of its properties in common. There's one living system on the face of the planet. Not a multitude of species, one living system. That's the first thing you'd notice.

The second thing you'd notice, if you are honest is that there is a vast inseparable distinction between two kinds of living systems -- human beings and all the rest. That is something that's rarely noticed, rarely emphasized.

The distance between a human being and our nearest chimpanzee-like ancestors, common ancestors is much, much, much greater than the difference between a chimpanzee and a flower. We're talking about a bifurcation in the manifold of Biology. Human beings on one side, the rest of the animal kingdom or the plant kingdom on the other.

These are facts that I think that any untroubled observer, and by untroubled, I mean someone who is not previously adhered to any kind of ideology such as Darwinism. Would it once recognize life is connected? It's in some sense one living system, but profoundly divided between human beings and all the rest.

That's the first step towards some sort of system of reconciliation because it prompts the inevitable question. "Hey, how come? Why are human beings so different? Why do they organize themselves differently? Why do they have mathematics, literature? Why do they speak to one another? Why do they have creative thoughts?

A chimpanzee is probably a lovable animal, but nobody ever asked the chimpanzee a question that was possible for the chimpanzee to answer. So, these are I would say, orthogonal to the main axis of ideology.

LEVIN: But in public schools today, in colleges and universities today, you get a broad stroke -- even engage in that kind of discussion.


BERLINSKI: Forbidden.


LEVIN: Forbidden, exactly. And so, what we are really talking about is we're supposed to accept, I think Hegel called it the "final end," we're supposed to accept the absolute. The only quibbling is how we get there, and so when we have people teaching like that, people pressing that kind of dogmatism, it become much more difficult to have the discussion that even we're having right now?

BERLINSKI: It becomes very difficult. We all know that. That is part of the problem that any secular society faces. The minute that the society becomes secular, it needs to embrace a certain kind of ideological system which largely replaces religious thought and tradition.

Once that ideological system is in place, of course, the natural self- protective mechanism clicks into place and an effort is made to eradicate any form of dissent. Did you expect anything else?

LEVIN: Well, I hope so. But you know, when this country was founded, they did something very unique in the Declaration of Independence. They wrote this down where few other countries ever...

BERLINSKI: What's the date?

LEVIN: I agree, 1776, then they set up this Constitutional construct -- 1781 and thereafter, 1787. Why did they do that? In order to preserve the principles in the Declaration of Independence, which raises an interesting point then in response to your question.


LEVIN: Can there ever be a lasting society that embraces anything other than this notion of Darwinism which might lead to progressivism, some forms of Marxism or whatever those isms answers. I want your answer, right after the break.

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LEVIN: Welcome back. So is Darwinism and these various political tributaries really in many respects that lead to forms of tyranny in my view, in my opinion, because government replaces essentially faith, replaces all of these other traditions and customs, or at least lords over them. Is that inevitable?


LEVIN: It's inevitable.

BERLINSKI: Inevitable. I think you're looking at the wrong focal length.

LEVIN: Right.

BERLINSKI: Darwinism is a particular kind of scientific doctrine. It's largely anecdotal. It's very far removed from Physics or Mathematics and it plays a certain role with the ceremonies of democratic life and it has played that role for half a century or so. But, of course, it's like everything else, it's changing. It's undergoing change because of the intense intellectual pressure that's being brought on any scientific theory dealing with these profound questions.

For example, we know perfectly well that questions about the origins of life from the standpoint of 2018 are hopeless. We do not understand how life emerged from whatever muck it did emerge. We are simply unable to make a coherent chemical account.

Jim Tour, a very good synthetic chemist at Rice University has written about this, for "Inference," the journal that I am editing. And he says, it's time to call for a moratorium in our origins of life research. It's not going anywhere. That's one thing.

And then as inevitably happens, Darwinian biologists by calling attention to themselves so very flamboyantly have called in to question the very structure of the theories they're defending, because the physicists have said, "Hey, you know, that's interesting, the kind of claims you guys are making, it's all nonsense, but we physicists can handle it a lot better."

So, you get somebody, for example, I think his first name is Donald Fisher at Stanford. A topnotch physicist and I have seen a preprint of his, and he said, "Well, you know, Darwin has a very, very interesting theory, but it has no quantitative properties. It's not like a theory in Physics," and there is a kind of collective heart attack among the Darwinian biologists, not like Physics, not like gravity, say it isn't so, but it isn't so.

And so the physicists are suddenly changing the profile.

LEVIN: But what I'm trying to get at.

BERLINSKI: Was it inevitable?

LEVIN: Is that -- that science, which is applied by the progressives, by the communists, political science, behavioral science, social science and so forth, had their birth out of, among others Darwinism. Are they as amenable to rethinking these scientific theories from which they borrow in order to organize man? I don't think so.

BERLINSKI: Max Planck said, "Science progresses one funeral at a time." It's true. A certain generation is going to die out, the next generation is going to be very careful about the kinds of claims they are making.

Darwinism is a movement, it is an ideology, it is a position of thought, it is a triumphant. Creation is like any other movement or thought. It has its ups and its downs and it's clearly on the point of radical dissolution, right now. What's going to replace it? Whether it will evoke the same clamorous contingent of supporters that Darwinism has evoked? I don't know. We'll see.

A lot of sinister developments are happening, I mean, big data is itself a response of a kind to the absence of theory and Biology and Psychology.

LEVIN: Big data, you mean, the collection of health records, social media...

BERLINSKI: Tons and tons of data, together with artificial intelligence probing the data. If you don't understand what's going on Psychology, and we don't, if you don't understand what's going on in Biology, you might as well heap together a ton of data and start looking at it. That's a response. That's something different. That was not expected.

LEVIN: Yes. I think a lot of our viewers hearing what you've talked about atheism, Darwinism and so forth, and I read you're a secular Jew, do you reject the idea that there is a supernatural? That there is a God? How do you deal with that?

BERLINSKI: Do I reject it personally?

LEVIN: Yes, and how do you deal with it?

BERLINSKI: God forbid, I should reject such a thing. There's a vast difference between being a believer, having a commitment, obeying a certain set of religious prescriptions. Vast difference between that and fundamental rejection. No, I don't reject it. I can't live with it. I admit that.

LEVIN: And what does that mean?

BERLINSKI: It means I'm like everyone else. I'm a secular individual. I'd like to think that I'm better than I am. I'd like to think that there is certain forms of consciousness, certain imperatives that I respect which are religious in nature, but I know I'm kidding myself.

I'm a secular human being who tries to do for the most part pretty much what he feels like doing. Have a good time all the time is a secular motto, right?

LEVIN: You have a good time all the time?

BERLINSKI: It's hard.

LEVIN: You try, but it's hard.

BERLINSKI: Any form of faith is difficult.

LEVIN: Now, when we return, I want to get back to this idea of progressivism and its relationship to these sciences, or what I guess you would call pseudo-sciences in some respect.

BERLINSKI: They're all the same.

LEVIN: They're all the same.

You can catch me every week night on LevinTV on CRTV. I hope you will join us. All you have to do is give us a call on our toll-free number, 844- LEVIN-TV. 844-LEVIN-TV.

Dr. Berlinski, I want to pick up where we left off. You get into these debates with atheists. You defend not in your view, there necessarily is a God or right religion and so forth, but that you don't know.

And what you seem to be saying is the scientists don't know what they don't know, and yet they insist, not all, I'm talking about certain specific ones, the atheists, and yet they insist that there is no God and religion is bad and so forth and so on.

How do you struggle with this? Or do you struggle with this?

BERLINSKI: Look, the struggle begins by making an important distinction. I can say, I believe there is no God. It's one kind of commitment and that's essentially an atheist position.

I believe for whatever reasons that God does not exist, but I can say in a much more ameliorative sense, I don't believe that God exists. Quite different. I withdraw some form of assent.

I believe God does not exist, it's not the case that I believe God exists. I believe the proposition God does not exist, I can defend that. That's the atheist speaking.

I would say, I don't have an intense belief with respect to God's existence. It hasn't been vouched saved me. It's not the case. It's not the case that I believe that God exists, but I'm not tempted to say I believe that He does not exist. I'm tempted to only temporize, and I think that is fundamentally the way most people in a secular society think.

LEVIN: And yet, you aggressively, from an intellectual point of view, battle the atheists, which is your point, who insist that God does not exist, and what you seem to be saying is look, I don't know, but I can't reject it out of hand, and I can't embrace what you're selling as a replacement. Is that about right?

BERLINSKI: That's absolutely the way I feel. I do battle with the atheists, that's a wonderfully vivid image, chiefly because I think there are wind bags, and if they were arguing another position, do I battle with it.

LEVIN: Hawkins, Harris?

BERLINSKI: Yes, the whole crew of Jerry Coyne, Dawkins, Chalet (ph), Harris -- Christopher Hitchens was different. He was a very sophisticated guy and he knew that a lot of what he was saying was absurd.

I mean he would get up and say, "Never believe anything without evidence." And I would say, "What about what you just said? What's your evidence for never believe anything without evidence." And he would say, "Well, it's just a sentence." Which is literally what he said. It's just a sentence, something I say.

But yes, I think dogmatic atheism, the movement of atheism is an embarrassment in contemporary thought and I think I'm pretty much alone in thinking that. It is a very popular, a very effervescent movement. There are whole societies consecrated to upholding atheism, and of course, the first thing they do when they gather together at ecumenical devotion is form factions and start hurling anathemas...


LEVIN: Against each other.

BERLINSKI: Oh yes, there is atheism, atheism plus, and when they finish hurling anathemas, of course, the women discover, they have been oppressed by the men, and spend endless amounts of time denouncing sexual harassment in the atheist movement. And of course, for somebody like me, it's just a joy to watch.

LEVIN: The atheist movement tends to be a movement on the left.


LEVIN: I don't know many conservatives, so-called conservatives, some are, but most aren't, who are atheists, why is that?

BERLINSKI: Well, to the extent that Marx offers a substitute for religion, you would not expect the dogmatic or an orthodox communist to say, "Yes, the scientific system of society is what Marx has given us as a tool of analysis, but it all is contingent upon the whims of the deity."

That doesn't fit very well with communism or with Marxism. It seems an irrelevant postulate. But there are plenty of rotten guys on the conservative side, for example, the Nazis, you don't think of the Nazis in terms of radical atheism...


LEVIN: ... are conservatives then?

BERLINSKI: They were pretty lousy. They were pretty lousy. But so what? I mean, with respect to the Nazis, even if the SS executioners took communion after murdering a lot of elderly Jewish men, who cares?

LEVIN: When we come back, what I am trying to expose, I think, and you may disagree is that Hegel, Marx, Russo, this whole collective philosophy with their differences and so forth, they have to reject religion. They have to reject traditions. They have to reject customs or their philosophies don't make any sense.

We'll discuss that more broadly when we return.

So, Dr. Berlinski, we have these various philosophers, ideologues, their progeny, various intellectuals in the turn of the last century pushing this agenda of human sciences they call them, behavioral sciences, political sciences, and they're built on this notion of science, and yet they also embrace, you were saying, you know, Russo, Hegel, Marx, this sort of thing, who really do insist that basically have to destroy the existing society in order to get to the promise land for a variety of reasons, materialism or whatever it is.

BERLINSKI: We've heard that before.

LEVIN: We've heard that before. The modern incarnation of this, of this attitude of this belief system, the progressives, the so-called democratic socialists, isn't this where they're dragging countries or maybe not dragging them, where people want to go in these various countries in Europe and the United States?

BERLINSKI: Sure, everybody wants to go there, provided they can go there without any personal inconvenience. Me, too, I'm not objecting to universal health care.

LEVIN: It doesn't work, that's the only problem.

BERLINSKI: Yes, it worked for me. That's all I care about.

LEVIN: Exactly right.

BERLINSKI: And if you have 40 million other people who say exactly the same thing, you will have a system exactly like the socialized system of medicine in France, which I must say did a great job on me.

They gave me a new aortic valve and pacemaker.


LEVIN: But the guy next to you may not...

BERLINSKI: Yes, but that's not really my problem. And there, you've touched on a crucial point. These usufructs destroy the bonds of solidarity, don't they? You cannot endlessly profit from a state subsidized system and spend a lot of time worrying about your obligations to other people in the same situation.

You can spend a lot of time talking about your obligations, but worrying about them, that's quite different.

LEVIN: You said, "I'm doing well, this guy may not be."

BERLINSKI: I've got no complaints.

LEVIN: But isn't that the point, when you are unmoored from these principles, when you're unmoored from values, belief systems or faith, where everyone believes they come from. That's what it comes down to. I got what I want. He didn't get it, that's his problem.

Aren't societies developing more and more in that direction, unfortunately?

BERLINSKI: Well, secular societies tend to atomize very frequently. They dissolve into individual constituents and the social sciences that used to be called methodological individualism.

That unit of analysis is always the individual, but the unit of agency is also the individual, and I think that is a feature of a secular society and seems to be a feature of secular society that is deeply desired by the inhabitants of the secular society.

One thing we have to understand and accept however reluctantly is something like the second law of thermodynamics works in the social science.

LEVIN: Can we get to that in a minute?


LEVIN: That's a mouthful and I don't want to give it a short riff. We'll be right back.

Second law of thermodynamics.

BERLINSKI: You got it.

LEVIN: What is it?

BERLINSKI: Things go from bad to worse and they go in only one direction. It's a great law of physics. It's true, right?

LEVIN: Is that where we are headed?

BERLINSKI: I'm telling you what the second law of...

LEVIN: There has got to be another law.

BERLINSKI: As far as I know, that is it. Things go from bad to worse. Look at us. It goes in one direction, we were young ones and getting old now, right? I am only speaking the truth. Speak truths to power. The second law of thermodynamics embodies the most ancient part of human wisdom -- things go from bad to worse.

LEVIN: How about societies?


LEVIN: Do they ever...

BERLINSKI: Do you doubt it?

LEIN: Do they recover?

BERLINSKI: No, but new societies from. After all, every human birth is an achievement in violating the second law of thermodynamics, isn't it? Every time a flower buds, we have a violation. So, it's not all bad. Societies do change very radically and they generally change in one way.

LEVIN: The only problem is what takes place when they change? If it is a violent change then we have a problem on our hands.

I want to thank you. I could have done this for five hours with you. It's been a great pleasure.

BERLINSKI: Thank you for having me.

LEVIN: My pleasure. We will see you next time on "Life, Liberty & Levin." Thanks for being here.

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