Freeman Dyson on “Heretical Thoughts About Science and Society”

VIDEO: Distinguished Lecture Series

November 1, 2005

Prof. Freeman Dyson, the 2005–2006 Pardee Visiting Professor of Future Studies at the Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, presents the 2005 Frederick S. Pardee Distinguished Lecture, where he offers his “heretical” thoughts about the future. With dry wit and self-effacing good humor, Dyson explains that by heretical he means ideas that go against prevailing dogmas, and that in his self-appointed role as heretic, he is unimpressed by conventional wisdom. In recounting his long relationship with the sciences, he underscores the unpredictability of the future with stories about people whose work helped change the world—just not in the way they thought they would. He makes a case for the need for heretics to help keep our vision of the future open and offers “heresies” on such diverse topics as the United States’ status as “top nation,” global warming, the domestication of biotechnology, and the end of Darwinian evolution.

Video length is 01:26:00.

About the Speaker

Freeman Dyson has been called a Renaissance scientist because of the broad range and variety of his interests. Born in England, he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cambridge and was a professor of physics at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies from 1953 to 1994. He has written more than half a dozen books and won the National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction in 1984.

Dyson holds honorary degrees from nearly two dozen universities and is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of Britain’s Royal Society. He has served as a consultant to many government departments and agencies and was chairman of the Federation of American Scientists.

As well as publishing in many learned journals, Dyson has written for general audiences in the New Yorker and in Scientific American. He has won many prizes, including the Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize and the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. Rockefeller University has honored him for embodying the scientist as poet, and his fields of study range from natural theology to quantum electrodynamics, from the ethical problems of war and peace to solid state physics.