Distinguished Lecture Series

Heretical Thoughts About Science and Society by Freeman DysonHeretical Thoughts About Science and Society

November 1, 2005 (22 pages)

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Freeman Dyson illuminates the importance of having heretics to challenge assumptions, and gives six heretical predictions of his own. The first is that American hegemony will not last until the next century. The second is that global warming is not the enormous problem that people make it out to be, primarily because increasing topsoil can counteract the excess of carbon dioxide and also, our knowledge is still too limited to diagnose the situation. His third heresy is that the increase in carbon dioxide may take us back to that wettest and warmest point in the interglacial period when the Sahara Desert was wet, and that this may be a better climate overall, driving at the critical juncture between naturalists and humanists. The fourth heresy makes an analogy between the transition that computers made to become small and ubiquitous, and the direction that biotechnology perhaps ought to go. Number five elaborates on communal sharing of genes and a completely new path for biology and evolution, and his sixth is that rural poverty should be solved by increasing the productivity of rural activities using “green technology,” (based on biology) such that people are not forced to migrate to urban centers.

Based on Prof. Dyson’s Pardee Center Distinguished Lecture, which can be viewed on video here.

Freeman Dyson is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Born in England, he was a civilian scientist for the Royal Air Force during World War II, received a B.A. in mathematics from Cambridge University and then worked at Cornell University where he unified the three types of quantum electrodynamics. He has done mathematical work on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics, and biology, written a number of books, and was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 2000.