WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
The New York Times Sunday magazine has a marvelous feature on one of the pre-eminent scientists of our time, 85 year old Freeman Dyson. A contemporary and peer of so many scientists of our age, Mr. Dyson has recently gained most notoriety for his intellectual opposition to the general consensus on Global Warming.
Although that bit is interesting, what's really more fascinating is a peek into the mind 0f this remarkable and unique individual. Here're some excerpts from this must-read feature:
"FOR MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson has quietly resided in Princeton, N.J., on the wooded former farmland that is home to his employer, the Institute for Advanced Study, this country’s most rarefied community of scholars. Lately, however, since coming “out of the closet as far as global warming is concerned,” as Dyson sometimes puts it, there has been noise all around him..."
"Among Dyson’s gifts is interpretive clarity, a penetrating ability to
grasp the method and significance of what many kinds of scientists do.
His thoughts about how science works appear in a series of lucid,
elegant books for nonspecialists that have made him a trusted arbiter
of ideas ranging far beyond physics.
Dyson has written more than a
dozen books, including “Origins of Life” (1999), which synthesizes
recent discoveries by biologists and geologists into an evaluation of
the double-origin hypothesis, the possibility that life began twice;
“Disturbing the Universe” (1979) tries among other things to reconcile
science and humanity. “Weapons and Hope” (1984) is his meditation on
the meaning and danger of nuclear weapons that won a National Book
Critics Circle Award.
Dyson’s books display such masterly control of complex matters that smart young people read him and want to be scientists; older citizens finish his books and feel smart."
There is much in the piece about his views on Global warming, and the reactions from many of his critics. It's all very interesting stuff...but what I found particularly charming is this conversation towards the end with his wife Imme of 51 years, who is convinced that Al Gore is on the right track:
"...one evening last month they sat down in a living room filled with Imme’s running trophies and photographs of their children to watch “An Inconvenient Truth” again. There was a print of Einstein above the television. And then there was Al Gore below him, telling of the late Roger Revelle, a Harvard scientist who first alerted the undergraduate Gore to how severe the climate’s problems would become. Gore warned of the melting snows of Kilimanjaro, the vanishing glaciers of Peru and “off the charts” carbon levels in the air. “The so-called skeptics” say this “seems perfectly O.K.,” Gore said, and Imme looked at her husband. She is even slighter than he is, a pretty wood sprite in running shoes. “How far do you allow the oceans to rise before you say, This is no good?” she asked Dyson.
“When I see clear evidence of harm,” he said.
“Then it’s too late,” she replied. “Shouldn’t we not add to what nature’s doing?”
“The costs of what Gore tells us to do would be extremely large,” Dyson said. “By restricting CO2 you make life more expensive and hurt the poor. I’m concerned about the Chinese.”
“They’re the biggest polluters,” Imme replied.
That's an example of his famous inter-disciplinary thinking...looking beyond the science and the whole picture, as much as one possibly can.
Recommend this piece regardless of which side of the climate debate you find yourself.