Sunday, March 29, 2009

"The Civil Heretic"

The Civil Heretic, by Nicholas Dawidoff, in today’s New York Times Magazine is a really good article about an unlikely opponent of the theory of climate change. At age 85, Freeman Dyson is an eminent scientist among the many who live within one of grandest ivory towers, The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. Mr. Dyson isn’t merely a preposterously decorated, endlessly vetted, and widely esteemed physicist, he is a man who has integrated the role of science as a tool for happiness in life.

Part of the article is absolutely inspiring: Dyson’s early autodidactic education, his thrill at the thought of coming to America where “all sorts of weird things could happen,” his interactions with Feynman, Oppenheimer, and Fermi, to drop just a few names, and his interesting brand of pithy wisdom. “Being bored is the only time you are creative,” “life is always changing,” and “humans have a duty to restructure nature for their survival,” are just a few of the great lines attributed to him in the article. Further than his scientific credentials, the great respect afforded him by other eminent scientists, and his uncommon wisdom, Dyson’s car still sports an Obama bumper sticker. By this, I simply mean to imply that he can not easily be brushed aside as a right-wing climate change denier.

Dyson, whose own climate studies range back into the 70s, describes how local warming, not global warming is occurring. While he admits that many scientists have jumped on the “Grand Guignol” of climate change, he accuses the “chief propagandist”, what he calls Al Gore, and NASA’s Jim Hansen of using “lousy science”, further stating that “Hansen has turned his science into an ideology.” The result of their misguided and at times disingenuous efforts, Dyson explains, is that people are distracted from real devastating issues, such as war and poverty. He thinks that global warming has become “the primary article of faith for ‘a worldwide secular religion’ known as environmentalism.

Unable to convince even his wife of 50 years that the polar bears will be okay and that the Prius is a toy for the rich, Dyson acknowledges that his opinion may be viewed as heresy, but doesn’t seem too bothered by the epithet.

Further Reading:

Dyson, F.J., 1977: Can we control carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Energy, 2, 287-291.

Some Inconvenient Thinkers

Tierney Lab: Tragedy is not Freeman Dyson's Business

Heretical Thoughts About Science and Society

3 Apr 09: The grammar police stopped by.

1 comment:

Fiddler said...

DH mentioned this article to me this afternoon. Innnnnnnnnnteresting!